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 By Pimlico Press Staff  – Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Authentic will headline a field of 11 3-year-olds entered Monday in the 145th Preakness Stakes (G1), which will bring down the curtain on a most unusual 2020 Triple Crown campaign Saturday at Pimlico Race Course.

            The Bob Baffert-trained colt was installed as the 9-5 morning-line favorite during Monday’s post-position draw for the 1 3/16-mile classic that traditionally has been the ‘Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown’ in mid-May. Due to postponements forced by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Belmont Stakes (G1), the traditional third leg of the Triple Crown, went first on June 20, followed by the Kentucky Derby, which was postponed from May 2 to Sept. 5. The Preakness was originally slated for May 16.

            In a quest to win a record eighth Preakness, Baffert will also saddle Thousand Words, who is rated at 6-1. When Baffert saddled Triple Crown champion Justify for a victory in the 2018 Preakness, he tied the record for most wins by a trainer with 19th century Hall of Fame trainer Robert Wyndham Walden, who saddled seven winners between 1875 and 1888.

            Authentic, owned by Spendthrift Farm LLC, MyRaceHorse Stable, Madaket Stables LLC and Starlight Stable, led throughout in the 1 ¼ miles of the Kentucky Derby on his way to a 1 ¼-length triumph over Belmont Stakes winner Tiz the Law. The colt drew Post No. 9 for the Preakness,

            “I didn’t want to be in the 1-hole and I didn’t want to be in the 11 with him,” Baffert said. “But he’s got to get away from there well. He’s a good gate horse.”

            Video Bob Baffert:

            Video John Velazquez

            Albaugh Family Stables LLC and Spendthrift Farm LLC’s Thousand Words, who was a late Derby scratch after rearing and falling while being saddled in the Churchill paddock, drew Post No. 5.

            “He’s fine [there],” said Baffert, repeating his preference for avoiding Posts No. 1 and 11.

            Hall of Famer John Velazquez, who rode Authentic for the first time in the Derby, has the return mount. Florent Geroux is named to ride Thousand Words, who will be equipped with blinkers once again after running twice without them.

            Bruce Lunsford’s Art Collector is rated second at 5-2 in the Preakness morning line for his quest to win a sixth straight race. The son of 2006 Preakness winner Bernardini had earned his way into the Kentucky Derby field with a victory in the July 11 Blue Grass (G2) at Keeneland but missed a start in the Run for the Roses due to a minor foot issue. Art Collector, who hasn’t run since winning the Aug. 9 Ellis Park Derby, drew Post No. 3 for his first start in this year’s Triple Crown series.

            “That’s kind of the same spot we’ve been in every time,” said trainer Tommy Drury, whose Preakness contender broke from Post No. 4 for the Ellis Park Derby and Post No. 3 for his two previous races. “Obviously, this has kind of been our trip every time; we’re down inside like that.”

            Drury, who awarded the return mount to Brian Hernandez Jr., is expecting a competitive Preakness.

             “I think it’s a good race. When you get to this level, you can make a case for all of them. On any day, any of these horses can jump up and run a big race. You can see that from top to bottom,” Drury said. “Kenny [McPeek] is obviously high on his filly [Swiss Skydiver] or he wouldn’t be coming. Authentic is doing fantastic. I know he’s been training lights out at Churchill. Let the doors open, let everybody have a good clean trip, and let’s have the best horse win.” 

Peter Callahan’s Swiss Skydiver is rated at 6-1 in the morning line for her quest to join a group of five fillies that have captured the Preakness: Rachel Alexandra (2009), Nellie Morse (1924), Rhine Maiden (1915), Whimsical (1906) and Flocarline (1903). The Ken McPeek-trained daughter of Daredevil, a multiple graded-stakes winner who finished second behind Art Collector in the Blue Grass, drew Post No. 4 for her second start against males. Robby Albarado who celebrated a Preakness victory aboard Curlin in 2007, is scheduled to ride the Kentucky-bred filly for the first time Saturday.

Allied Racing Stable LLC’s Mr. Big News, who finished third at 46-1 in the Kentucky Derby, is rated at 12-1 for the Preakness. The Bret Calhoun-trained son of Giant’s Causeway, who won the Oaklawn Stakes before finishing a troubled sixth in the Blue Grass, drew Post No. 2 and will be ridden again by Gabriel Saez.

“I would probably have chosen something farther out, but I don’t think post position is a huge deal with my horse. I’m going to be sitting back off the pace. There looks like there are several horses to my outside with speed, so I should have plenty of room,” Calhoun said. “I don’t think there’s any bad post positions for too many of them. I’m sure there are some horses who have some quirks and prefer one trip as opposed to another. I think it’s a pretty fair race. With an 11-horse field, I don’t think anybody is going to be at too big a disadvantage.”

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen is scheduled to saddle three horses – George Hall and SportBLX Thoroughbreds Corp.’s Max Player, Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC’s Pneumatic, and Calumet Farm’s Excession – for the Preakness in search of his third win in the Maryland Jockey Club’s signature race.

            Max Player, who closed well to finish fifth in the Kentucky Derby, is 12-1 in the Preakness morning line.  The son of Honor Code, who drew Post No. 8, finished third in both the Belmont Stakes and Travers Stakes prior to his solid Derby run.

Pneumatic, who finished fourth in the Belmont and most recently captured the ungraded Pegasus at Monmouth Park, was rated at 15-1 after drawing Post No. 10. Excession, unraced since finishing second in the March 14 Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn Park, is rated at 30-1 and will break from Post No. 1.

             Asmussen saddled Rachel Alexandra and Curlin for their Preakness victories.

            Video Steve Asmussen

            Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas was the last trainer to saddle three starters, including victorious Oxbow, for the Preakness in 2013.

             Max Player will be ridden by Paco Lopez while Joe Bravo and Sheldon Russell have the mounts aboard Pneumatic and Excession, respectively.

            John Fanelli, Cash is King LLC, LC Racing, Paul Braverman and Team Hanley’s Ny Traffic, who was forwardly placed before weakening to eighth in the Derby, is rated at 15-1 in the morning line. The Saffie Joseph Jr.-trained son of Cross Traffic, who will break from Post. No. 7, had previously finished second by a nose behind Authentic in the Haskell (G1) at Monmouth Park. Maryland-based Horacio Karamanos is scheduled to ride Ny Traffic for the first time Saturday.

            “He obviously rides the track there; he’s got experience; he’s won graded-stakes already; and he’s won many races; so we feel comfortable with him,” Joseph said. “It’s not a difficult ride. He’s going to be prominent, on or near the lead.”

            William H. Lawrence’s Liveyourbeastlife and Grupo Seven C Stable’s Jesus’ Team, who finished second and third, respectively, in the Jim Dandy (G2) at Saratoga, are both rated at 30-1 in the morning-line. Trevor McCarthy has the call aboard Liveyourbeastlife, who drew Post. No. 11, while Jesus’ Team, who will break from Post No. 6, will be ridden by Jevian Toledo.

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