Two different ways of thinking about the rescheduled 2020 Preakness

Profile Picture: Vance Hanson

September 21st, 2020

We're less than two weeks away from the 2020 renewal of the Preakness (G1) at Pimlico, which begins a brief six-day meet on Thursday this week. Like the Belmont Stakes (G1) in June and Kentucky Derby (G1) earlier this month, the imposed adjustment to the scheduling of the Preakness due to the COVID-19 pandemic has altered the approach bettors perhaps should take when analyzing the race. Its postponement from the third Saturday in May to the first Saturday in October is unprecedented, and with it brings at least two different ways of thinking about the 1 3/16-mile classic.

1. The Kentucky Derby winner shouldn't automatically have a built-in edge

The normal two-week turnaround from the Kentucky Derby to the Preakness has often given the Derby winner an edge in Baltimore. Since 1970, 19 Derby winners out of the 46 that competed at Pimlico won -- a 41% strike rate. A further nine finished second, a 61% strike rate for Derby winners being in the Preakness exacta.

For years a common argument put forward by folks who advocated greater spacing between the Triple Crown events was that it would give horses that won the Derby less of an edge. With extra time to recuperate, more of the Derby vanquished would find the Preakness an appealing, reasonable goal and thus make the path to a classic double more difficult for the Derby winner.

While that point is debatable, the theory will partially be put to the test this year as the time between the Derby and Preakness is four weeks, a gap closer in tune with modern American training methods. As things stand, though, not many of the Derby vanquished are under consideration for the Preakness. That's not surprising as the postponement of the Derby itself resulted in a rather top-heavy edition. Still, it will be interesting to see if the unique four-week gap hurts or makes no difference to Authentic.

2. The "new shooters" shouldn't automatically be considered relatively suspect

In the same 50-year span since 1970, the Preakness was won by a "new shooter" (i.e. a horse that did not compete in the Kentucky Derby) eight times -- a rate of 16%. One might argue the rate should be closer to 12% if you exclude Aloma's Ruler winning a 1982 Preakness devoid of Derby winner Gato del Sol, as well as Bernardini's inconclusive victory in 2006 when Derby winner Barbaro suffered a tragic accident soon after the start.

"New shooters" have generally suffered from either...

  • a) a lack of relative sharpness compared to Derby winners or also-rans wheeling back in two weeks, or
  • b) a lack of class having not been deemed worthy or ready to compete in the Derby to begin with.
  • Most often the answer is c) both.
Article Image

Art Collector (Coady Photography)

One of the "new shooters" this year is Art Collector, who was unlucky to develop a minor foot ailment right before Kentucky Derby entries were taken and had to forfeit a shot at the roses.

Art Collector was widely expected to be second choice in the Derby wagering behind Tiz the Law. Technically a Preakness "new shooter," Art Collector really shouldn't be if only fate hadn't been so unkind.

This is a highly unusual circumstance as late withdrawals from the Derby have tended to need more time to recuperate and been more likely to point toward the Belmont Stakes, A.P. Indy in 1992 being a prime example. However, the extra time between the Derby and Preakness this year has given us "new shooters" in Art Collector and Thousand Words whose participation might not have been likely if the gap had been the conventional two weeks.