BALTIMORE – The way trainer Bob Baffert tells it, if Kentucky Derby winner Authentic wins the 145th running of the Preakness Stakes on Saturday, he'll have won the first two legs of the Triple Crown.
Never mind the shortened version of the Belmont Stakes that was run in late June. There is a new Triple Crown, in his opinion, at least for this year.
"The Breeders' Cup [Classic], is the third leg," Baffert said of the $7 million race on Nov. 7. "But we got to get by here first."
By virtue of Authentic's upset win a month ago, the 3-year-old colt is the 9-5 favorite to win Saturday's race at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. Baffert also has Thousand Words (6-1) in the race. He was supposed to run in the Derby but reared up and fell on his side while being saddled and was an automatic scratch.
Missing from Preakness will be Tiz the Law, winner of the Belmont and second-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby. Added to the Preakness are Art Collector (5-2), undefeated this year, and Swiss Skydiver (6-1), a filly who finished second to Art Collector in the Blue Grass Stakes.
"Art Collector, I think he's a very good horse," Baffert said. "I always worry about the horses I haven't beaten yet."
Baffert hasn't had to worry much when he's brought the Kentucky Derby winner to the Preakness. In the five times he has done it, he has won every time. It started with Silver Charm (1997) and was followed by Real Quiet (1998), War Emblem (2002) and Triple Crown winners American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018). He also won the race twice without the Derby winner and, if he wins Saturday, will hold the record with eight wins.
"The reason I've won it so many times is I've always had the best horse," Baffert said. "That's why I won. I've won the Derby with the best horse and I've lost the Derby with the best horse. I think about the losses more, the ones that got away from me. The Preaknesses have never gotten away when I'm here with the best horse."
By all accounts, Authentic is the best horse at Pimlico.
"I've never come in here before with a month to get him ready," Baffert said. "But I can see a big difference. To me, he's getting better. He's getting stronger. ... He's really starting to fill out now, and I think he looks better now than he did before the Kentucky Derby."
Authentic might not have been mature enough to have won the Kentucky Derby if it had been run in May.
"Yeah, he benefited a lot," Baffert said.