Oct. 2 (UPI) — Saturday’s $ 1 million Preakness Stakes finds trainer Bob Baffert with another hot hand.
The morning-line favorite, Authentic, exits a mild upset win in the Kentucky Derby, while Baffert’s other Preakness horse, Thousand Words, seeks vindication after being scratched at Louisville minutes before the race when he reared and fell in the Churchill Downs paddock.
The race will be broadcast from Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore on NBC starting at 4:30 p.m. EDT, with post time at 5:45 p.m.
Authentic has looked the part of a Derby winner since arriving in Baltimore. He breezed a half mile Wednesday morning in 47 3/5 seconds, an effort Baffert described as “a little jog.”
“He looked good,” said Baffert, who is seeking a record eighth Preakness win to go with his record six Kentucky Derby victories. “Coming off that plane, he was like a keg of dynamite. He has so much energy, that horse. He’s just so full of himself.”
Art Collector, another late defector from the Run for the Roses, is second-favorite on the Preakness morning line with wins in the Blue Grass at Keeneland and the Ellis Park Derby in his last two starts. His odds open at 5-2.
Art Collector is owned by Bruce Lunsford, a Louisville businessman and former politician who came close to unseating U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in 2008.
Lunsford said he thinks the minor injury that kept Art Collector out of the Kentucky Derby might have changed the outcome of that race, as he could have applied more pressure to Authentic.
“The good thing is that speculation doesn’t matter because we’re going to get a chance to run against each other,” Lunsford said. “I’m hopeful both have a good trip, and I’d love to see them down the stretch together. … I’ve got to like our chances to hit the board. Anything above that gets to be gravy.”
Work rider Annie Finney said she might have caught Art Collector tipping himself Thursday morning on the track.
“We watched Authentic gallop by and, it could be a coincidence, but he [Art Collector] shook his head and was laughing a little bit,” Finney said. “I love him. I would like to keep him.”
Thousand Words and the lone filly in the race, Swiss Skydiver, are both 6-1 on the line with the others all at double-digit odds.
Swiss Skydiver, a daughter of Daredevil, tries male competition for the second time. Trainer Kenny McPeek, keeping his options open for a potential swing at the Kentucky Derby, sent the filly out in the Toyota Blue Grass at Keeneland on July 11, only to see her yield the lead in the stretch run to Art Collector.
She finished a solid second in the Blue Grass, though, 4 3/4 lengths in front of the third-place horse, Rushie, who went on to win the Grade II Pat Day Mile at Churchill Downs.
Swiss Skydiver subsequently won the Grade I Alabama at Saratoga and finished second in the Kentucky Oaks behind Shedaresthedevil.
“She’s doing super,” McPeek said Thursday morning after watching Swiss Skydiver’s easy gallop.
“She galloped a mile and a half and it was basic stuff. She had a nice breeze last week at Churchill Downs. The rest of it is up to Robby [Albarado, the jockey] and getting out there in the game Saturday.”
Mr. Big News, who blew up a lot of trifecta tickets when he finished third in the Kentucky Derby at odds of 46-1, is back, and trainer Bret Calhoun says he hopes he can make up the 3 1/4 lengths he trailed Authentic in Louisville.
“We’re going to have to,” Calhoun said after the Giant’s Causeway colt galloped Thursday morning at Pimlico.
“We’ve got to be better, and either he [Authentic] has got to take more pressure, which I don’t believe is going to happen — I think he’s too fast for the rest of them — or he doesn’t bring his ‘A game’. He looks pretty solid in there to me.”
With Belmont Stakes winner Tiz the Law finishing second in the Derby and top older horse Maximum Security finishing second to Improbable last weekend in the Awesome Again Stakes, an impressive showing in the Preakness would vault Authentic into the top ranks of Breeders’ Cup Classic contenders.
And there’s this: Tiz the Law, Improbable, Authentic and Thousand Words — all are trained by Baffert.
Did we mention he’s holding a hot hand?