Mr. Big News the value play of the 2020 Preakness

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

September 29th, 2020

The Sept. 5 Kentucky Derby (G1) produced a number of surprises just among the top three finishers.

A large swath of racing punditry, myself included, felt beforehand that Authentic would have a very difficult time seeing out 1 1/4 miles. Gobs of folks felt Tiz the Law couldn't lose, making him the first odds-on Derby favorite in nearly 30 years. And very few expected Mr. Big News, who was sent off at 46-1, would turn in such a strong effort to finish third.

The Preakness (G1) generally produces fewer surprises than the Derby, at least on the win end. From 1984 through 2010, a span of 27 years, there was exactly one Preakness winner that started at double-digit odds (Bernardini paid $27.80 in 2006). However, in the nine runnings since 2011, there have been three: Shackleford ($27.20, 2011), Oxbow ($32.80, 2013), and Cloud Computing ($28.80, 2017).

What will happen Saturday, of course, is a matter of opinion. But the recent trends certainly suggest taking a longer look at contenders who might at first glance seem less likely to reach the winner's circle.

Which horse represents the best value in the Preakness?

Morning lines can be fallible, but Pimlico's Keith Feustle is one of the better odds makers in the biz and I'll trust his early view of the Preakness is closer to what it will be at post time than not.

For those who felt iffy about Authentic in the Derby, now's definitely not the time to hop on board at 9-5. You were better off taking the 8-1 four weeks ago or, if you were like me, grabbing 15-1 in Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager last winter.

Art Collector is next at 5-2. We assume he would have run competitively in the Derby as the likely second choice, but it's hard to say where he would've finished. A talented son of Bernardini, he's undefeated this year and figures to keep Authentic somewhat honest early. Still, this seems a touch low given he's coming off a minor setback, is making his first start outside Kentucky since his debut, and facing the deepest field of his career.

Up next at 6-1 are the filly Swiss Skydiver, who already has several lengths to make up on Art Collector based on their previous head-to-head in the Blue Grass (G2), and Authentic's stablemate Thousand Words, who's only competitive running line was his last-out victory in the Shared Belief S. that seemed to come from nowhere. His unsettling in the paddock right before the Kentucky Derby, which necessitated his scratch, also gives cause for pause at the price.

Mr. Big News...

That brings us to the aforementioned #2 Mr. Big News. Although a potential candidate for regression off a peak performance in the Derby, anything in the neighborhood of his 12-1 morning line price would be enticing based on several factors.

Derby bettors were generally dismissive of Mr. Big News largely due to his distant sixth-place finish in the Blue Grass. It surely wasn't pretty, but in retrospect it was a reasonable effort given he hadn't run in the previous three months and had endured some adversity in running, from stumbling at the start to traffic trouble.

Although Authentic didn't seem to mind a gap of seven weeks between his final prep and the Derby, Mr. Big News' final prep was a full eight weeks before the classic. And as noted, he was even more behind the eight ball than that rival as the Derby was only his second race in nearly five months. He should be commended for running as well as he did off that less-than-ideal preparation. The much shorter turnaround of only four weeks to the Preakness might work to his benefit.

Finally, re-watch the Derby and note Mr. Big News' fine move into contention around the far turn at Churchill Downs. A turn of foot like that has spelled success at Pimlico in the past, and a similar bid might be aided Saturday by a more contentious pace if Art Collector, Swiss Skydiver, or Ny Traffic make Authentic work a little harder this time around.

Odds of 12-1 on a horse getting good at the right time arguably make Mr. Big News the value play in this belatedly-run Preakness.