Keeler Johnson's Preakness 145 Selections

By J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman

Some 4 1/2 months after its originally scheduled date, the 145th running of the Preakness (G1) will take place on Saturday at Pimlico without spectators in attendance.

The historic 1 3/16-mile race will serve as the final leg of a unique Triple Crown restructured due to COVID-19. While an upset in the Kentucky Derby means there isn't a Triple Crown chance on the line, the quality of the Preakness field has arguably benefited from the postponement, with ten talented colts and one elite filly slated to compete.

Let's take a horse-by-horse look at the field:

#1 Excession: Took a big step forward when rallying to finish second in the Mar. 14 Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn Park, but he befitted from chasing hot fractions over a sloppy track, and he hasn't run since. His previous efforts were less inspiring, so I have to oppose Excession off the 6 1/2-month layoff.

#2 Mr. Big News: Much like Excession, Mr. Big News displayed dramatic improvement when charging hard to finish third in the Kentucky Derby (G1), beaten just 3 1/4 lengths with a strong 101 Beyer. Will this level of form be the new normal for Mr. Big News, who had never previously earned a Beyer higher than 88? Or was the effort a fluke? It's not uncommon for longshots to hit the board in the Kentucky Derby and regress in subsequent starts, so I'm tempted to lean against Mr. Big News until he proves he can repeat his Derby performance.

#3 Art Collector: I've been excited about Art Collector since last fall, and so far the son of 2006 Preakness winner Bernardini hasn't disappointed. The steadily-improving youngster has gone 4-for-4 this season, beating up on such quality opponents as Swiss Skydiver (see below), Pat Day Mile (G3) winner Rushie, and Indiana Derby (G3) winner Shared Sense during a productive campaign.

Art Collector has displayed the ability to win with any running style, but he's arguably best when using his blend of speed and stamina to grind his opponents into defeat. A tracking trip in the Blue Grass (G2) saw Art Collector score by 3 1/2 lengths with a 103 Beyer, and front-running tactics in the Ellis Park Derby contributed to an easy 3 1/4-length victory with a 100 Beyer.

Art Collector missed the Kentucky Derby with a minor hoof issue, but he's since bounced back with three sharp workouts and should be ready for a strong effort at Pimlico. Breaking from post three, I hope to see Art Collector come out running and challenge 9-5 favorite Authentic for the early lead. Letting the Kentucky Derby winner secure an uncontested advantage probably isn't in Art Collector's best interests, so why not make a race of it from the start? I think Art Collector has the resilience to put up a winning fight on the front end.

#4 Swiss Skydiver: Admirable filly crushed a strong renewal of the Alabama (G1) and enters off a runner-up effort in the Kentucky Oaks (G1). She has tactical speed coupled with tractability and brings competitive Beyer speed figures to the equation, but she's been racing non-stop since her debut last November and has already competed eight times in 2020. She'll need improvement to turn the tables on Art Collector, who defeated her by 3 1/2 lengths in the Blue Grass (G2), but can she produce the needed step forward after a long campaign? Swiss Skydiver can hit the board if she brings her A-game, but winning will be a tougher task.

#5 Thousand Words: Fired off a 104 Beyer when wiring the Shared Belief S. at Del Mar, but benefited from setting a slow pace in a small field. Sold for $1 million as a yearling, Thousand Words was a late scratch from the Kentucky Derby after acting up in the paddock and will enter the Preakness off an unintended two-month layoff. He's adding blinkers for his Grade 1 debut, but he doesn't appear to have the same pure speed as some of his rivals. Without the benefit of an uncontested lead, I suspect Thousand Words may take a step backward off his gritty Shared Belief effort.

#6 Jesus' Team: Admirable colt has tactical speed and hit the board in the Haskell (G1), Pegasus Stakes, and Jim Dandy (G2) during the summer, but he comes in a bit light from a Beyer perspective and will be chasing some pretty formidable opponents on Saturday. Jesus' team has already been defeated by four of his Preakness rivals, suggesting he'll need a step forward to vie for a spot in the superfecta.

#7 Ny Traffic: Speedy colt came within a nose of upsetting Authentic in the Haskell (G1), but weakened off a pace-tracking trip to finish 13th in the Kentucky Derby. If you draw a line through his Derby effort, Ny Traffic looks like a viable contender. But the son of Cross Traffic has been running hard all year-cracking the trifecta in four Road to the Kentucky Derby prep races-and might be starting to regress off his long campaign.

#8 Max Player: I'm surprised this son of Honor Code is 15-1 on the morning line, because he's been competing strongly against tough competition all year long. A late-running winner of the Withers (G3) during the winter, Max Player utilized his consistent pick-up-the-pieces style to finish third in the Belmont Stakes (G1), third in the Travers (G1), and fifth in the Kentucky Derby (G1).

Steve Asmussen took over training duties for Max Player shortly before the Derby and didn't have much time to work with the dark bay colt, but Asmussen has been tightening the screws since Derby Day, sending Max Player through a trio of workouts in preparation for the Preakness. I suspect we'll see a sharper effort at Pimlico, and if the pace is hot, Max Player can certainly rally to finish in the trifecta.

#9 Authentic: Here's a fun fact-Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is undefeated saddling Kentucky Derby winners in the Preakness, going 5-for-5, and Authentic will have every chance to keep Baffert's perfect record intact on Saturady. The speedy son of Into Mischief has won four graded stakes races in gate-to-wire fashion and was particularly impressive in the Kentucky Derby. After carving out a quick pace, Authentic was severely tested on the far turn by heavy favorite Tiz the Law, who appeared to stick his head in front for a few strides. But Authentic responded gamely to the challenge battling back to win by 1 1/4 lengths with a 105 Beyer.

This effort has stamped Authentic as a clear favorite to win the Preakness, though he does have one potential chink in his armor. Authentic enjoyed an uncontested lead at Churchill Downs and could be vulnerable if challenged for early supremacy at Pimlico. Authentic suffered his lone defeat when beaten to the lead in the Santa Anita Derby (G1), so if Art Collector gets aggressive pushing the pace, it's unclear how Authentic will respond.

#10 Pneumatic: Stoutly-bred son of Uncle Mo out of a Tapit mare has been specifically pointed to the Preakness since rolling to an easy triumph in the Aug. 15 Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park. Pneumatic gave the impression he had something left in the tank and posted a solid 98 Beyer, so with another small step forward on Saturday, this Winchell Thoroughbreds homebred can fight for a spot on the board. Remember, he finished just 2 1/2 lengths behind Max Player when fourth in the Belmont Stakes and appears to have improved in the interim.

#11 Liveyourbeastlife: Son of Ghostzapper has shown meaningfully progression since stretching out around two turns and produced a determined late charge to finish second in the Jim Dandy (G2) last time out. He holds the potential to improve even further while stretching out over 1 3/16 miles, though with a career-best 94 Beyer, he's technically the slowest horse on paper. The Preakness looks like a tough assignment.


For the purpose of single-race and multi-race exotic wagers, I'm tempted to use Art Collector and Authentic in equal strength. The latter is a deserving favorite and should win if he isn't pressured early, but Art Collector-with his blend of speed and stamina-could make things very interesting if breaks running from post three.

If forced to choose between them for a win bet, I would side with Art Collector, whose resilience and upside makes him an appealing play at 2-1 or higher.

1st: Art Collector
2nd: Authentic
3rd: Max Player
4th: Pneumatic

Now it's your turn! Who do you like in the Preakness?


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J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, videographer, voice actor, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He is the founder of the horse racing website

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