LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - During this challenging year, you gotta tip your cap to thoroughbred racing for staging this year’s Triple Crown. So many changes had to take place to pull off this traditional series. The races were spread out across the calendar and held without spectactors.
Still for fans, the Belmont Stakes and Kentucky Derby were good theatre and a good escape from this troubling 2020. The final jewel in Baltimore offers up some interesting storylines and tibits.
We begin with trainer Bob Baffert. Five times his Derby winners have come to the Preakness and all five times Baffert came away with the Black-Eyed Susans. It’s a remarkable feat and his Authentic is capable of making it a six-pack for Baffert.
And the Hall of Fame trainer has another Preakness contender in Thousand Words, who was robbed of his shot at Kentucky Derby glory when he fell in the paddock minutes before the race. A victory by him or his stablemate will make Bob Baffert the winningest Preakness trainer of all time.
Next up is Art Collector, who was one of the Derby favorites until a last-minute injury knocked him out of the race. That disappointment had to be gut-wrenching for his Louisville-based connections. This hard-luck and talented colt gets a second chance on Saturday to grab his jewel.
That brings us to “the girl vs the boys” scenario. The filly, Swiss Skydiver, will challenge the males in the Preakness and the Kentucky Oaks runner-up is a major player.
Then there’s the gritty colt, Max Player, who’ll be the one and only 3-year-old to run in all three Triple Crown events. Third in the Belmont and fifth the Derby, this longshot is looking for a breakthrough performance.
So how will the Preakness play out? Authentic is a very good horse, coming off his courageous wire-to-wire triumph at Churchill Downs. But this time, he’ll have more company up on the front end. Art Collector should be right there putting on pressure and so could Swiss Skydiver, Ny Traffic, and Pneumatic.
Thousand Words could be a factor but his numbers just don’t seem to be fast enough to capture the Preakness. Max Player’s last victory came in February. He tries and tries but hasn’t been good enough against horses of this caliber. A month ago, I thought Ny Traffic might be a force in the Derby but his eighth place effort was a head- scratcher. Mr. Big News finished a respectable third at big odds in the Derby but I have to see him run another one like that before picking him to take this final jewel.
To me, Art Collector is the one to beat in Baltimore. He can go early, go fast and finish strong. But I’m picking the lady. At odds of 6-1, I think Swiss Skydiver offers a square price. Despite running second, she ran well in the Kentucky Oaks and prior to that, she sizzled in taking the mile and a quarter Alabama Stakes. Swiss Skydiver has been busy this year having run at eight different racetracks. But her trainer, Ken McPeek says she’s all-hickory and says she thrives on competition.
You can catch the Preakness Stakes Stakes Saturday at 4:30 P.M. on WAVE 3 News and NBC Sports.