PREAKNESS: WHO’S IN, OUT, AND ON THE FENCE

War of Will
Who’ll wear the Black-Eyed Susans this year? Photo by Allison Janezic.

With Preakness 145 less than a month away, the race, contested this year as the final leg of a Triple Crown that will take nearly four months from beginning to end, has the potential to be quite a clash.

Trainer Bob Baffert has said he plans to bring both Kentucky Derby winner Authentic and Shared Belief Stakes winner Thousand Words to Baltimore.

His two stars had distinctly different Kentucky Derby experiences. Authentic, under John Velazquez, led throughout in the Derby and then fended off heavy favorite Tiz the Law to give Baffert his sixth Derby triumph. Following the race, in the infield winner’s circle, he wheeled around, sending people scattering and knocking his trainer to the ground.

Thousand Words, on the other hand, had his “tough to handle” moment prior to the race, when he reared up and came down on his side. In the process, he broke assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes’s hand, and he had to be scratched. Following the race, veterinarian Dr. Kathy Anderson said the horse was absolutely fine: “cleared for service with not a scratch upon him,” she said.

Runner-up Tiz the Law had entered the Derby with the aura of invincibility. He had won the first leg of the upside-down Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, with consummate ease and followed that up with a Travers score that proved the 1 ¼ miles of the Derby were well within his scope.

But by day’s end, he’d suffered just the second loss of his career – both, oddly enough, at Churchill Downs.

Now the question is whether he’ll post in Baltimore. Owner Jack Knowlton of Sackatoga has said he’s enthusiastic about the race, but trainer Barclay Tagg has indicated he’d prefer not to run in both the Preakness and the November 7 Breeders’ Cup Classic at Keeneland. How they’ll square the circle remains to be seen.

Derby show horse Mr. Big News also is planning on a Baltimore sojourn. The Bret Calhoun trainee – off at 46-1, longer odds than all but three other horses – made a huge run to reach contention rounding the far turn before flattening out a bit in the lane. Still, he significantly outran his odds and, as the winner of the Oaklawn Stakes, already had his Preakness bid sewn up.

Three other horses who’d been Derby hopeful but had been forced, for a variety of seemingly minor reasons, to scratch, also are eyeing the Preakness. Art Collector, the Ellis Park Derby winner, the lightly raced King Guillermo, and Finnick the Fierce all are considering the race.

Here’s the full list of who’s in, out, and on the fence:

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PREAKNESS CONTENDERS

  • Authentic Kentucky Derby winner is likely for the Preakness if all goes to plan.
  • Tiz the Law Belmont winner and Kentucky Derby runner-up is possible; owner Jack Knowlton (Sackatoga Stable) is enthusiastic about coming to Baltimore, while trainer Barclay Tagg is much cooler to it.
  • Mr. Big News – Kentucky Derby show horse is likely for the Preakness.
  • Thousand Words – Bob Baffert trainee was scratched from the Derby after flipping in the paddock, is slated to remain in Kentucky and train towards the Preakness.
  • King Guillermo Spiked a fever Derby week and had to scratch; is pointed to the Preakness.
  • Finnick the Fierce – Scratched the day before the Derby, is likely headed to Baltimore.
  • Art Collector – Minor foot injury kept the Ellis Park Derby winner out of the Kentucky Derby.
  • Mystic Guide Jim Dandy winner trains at Fair Hill and is possible for the Preakness.
  • Happy Saver Federico Tesio Stakes winner will have to supplement in if connex want him to race.
  • Pneumatic Pegasus Stakes winner was also fourth in the Belmont for trainer Steve Asmussen.
  • Azul Coast – The winner of the El Camino Real Derby is also trained by Bob Baffert, considered possible.
  • Lebda – Based at Laurel Park with trainer Claudio Gonzalez, he won the Miracle Wood and Private Terms earlier this year.
  • Mongolian Wind – The Manitoba Derby winner has won three straight.

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