Bob Baffert believes Kentucky Derby winner Authentic is in similar form heading into the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on Saturday as he was before his victory at Churchill Downs.
The Into Mischief colt dug deep to beat odds-on favourite Tiz The Law at Churchill Downs, and in this strangest of years now bids for another leg of the Triple Crown.
Whereas in normal years the races come thick and fast for the Classic generation, Baffert feels the longer gap between the Derby and Preakness can only benefit his charge, who will again be ridden by John Velazquez and is drawn in stall nine.
“Authentic has breezed really well. He’s coming into this race as good as he was going into the Derby. I think the break is going to be very important on Saturday,” said the Hall of Fame trainer.
“He’s a very energetic horse, he always wants to do a little bit more, so breezing by himself he’s more controllable. He wants to get out there and be very aggressive.”
Baffert also runs Thousand Words, who was denied his Derby chance when rearing over in the paddock before the September 5 showpiece, leading to long-time assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes suffering a broken hand.
“Thousand Words had a mind-burst last time and now he’s doing well again. In any case, no one would’ve beaten Authentic that day,” said Baffert.
“I don’t think the distance will be a problem for him and I expect him to run a good race.
“I enjoy Baltimore, unfortunately there are no fans (this year), so you don’t feel it so much. But once the gate comes open, I’ll feel it.”
Kenny McPeek has opted to run the high-class filly Swiss Skydiver, who was second in the Kentucky Oaks last time out and earlier in the season had been considered for an ambitious trip to Britain for the 1000 Guineas.
The daughter of Daredevil will become the 55th female to run in the Preakness, with the most recent of the five winners being the brilliant Rachel Alexandra in 2009.
Naturally, a key victory against the boys would greatly enhance Swiss Skydiver’s quest for year-end honours. In her first attempt against males, McPeek’s charge was second to fellow Preakness hope Art Collector in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.
She will be ridden by veteran jockey Robby Albarado, who won the Preakness in 2007 aboard future Hall of Famer Curlin.
“I know she will make the distance without any problem,” said McPeek, whose stable star will break from gate four.
“I think she will like that racetrack. Of course, she has raced everywhere. Whatever racetrack she has raced over she has handled great. It was a tough call between racing against straight three-year-olds or older fillies and mares or turf, which was briefly thought about. I think she will handle it fine.
“There are no three-year-old filly Grade Ones. She gets a little bit of weight off and she’s continuing to do good.
“I think if she wins a race like this, you’ve got to include her as a possible Horse of the Year, she’s danced every dance and she’s been hickory – and she has entertained the fan base like probably no filly in years.
“I think it’s a chance to make history.”