Bob Baffert is not having the Triple Crown year this year that he did in 2015. Of course, no one else has had that kind of year since 1978, either, so he doesn't need to feel too bad. His lone shooter in the Kentucky Derby, Mor Spirit, didn't have a particularly good day in finishing 10th and now sits on the sidelines waiting for his next start. It looked like Baffert could have three in this race a while ago - Mor Spirit, Collected, and the freakish-but-raw colt American Freedom. American Freedom was a total dud on the Derby undercard, though, and Mor Spirit didn't deserve another race so soon, so only Collected is here. It's far from ideal, but at least Baffert has the memories of last year to satisfy himself if things don't work out for him.
Last race: The Lexington Stakes is a Derby points race, albeit one with fewer points on offer than the more significant races at the same time on the calendar. Collected sat right behind the leader through fairly reasonable early fractions. Entering the final turn he reeled in the leader and took the lead. Never looking back, he won by four lengths and made it look easy. He was the second choice in the 10-horse field, so his effort was not unexpected, but it was still impressive. It was not a particularly strong field, though - the favorite hadn't raced since November, and no other horse was particularly intimidating.
Prior experience: He broke his maiden first time out in October and then came back to finish second in a graded stakes in November. Those two races were on turf, though, so his connections had a different path planned for him than the one he is on now. The move to dirt went smoothly, though, as he won the Sham in January. Laoban, a maiden who is also in the Preakness, was third in that race. Next it was the Southwest Stakes. Maybe it was the trip across the country to Oaklawn Park, or the track which was less than fast, but he did not have a good day. He was an unthreatening fourth as favorite. Essentially giving up on the Derby, he headed to Sunland Park to build confidence with a win, and then it was the Lexington. Every race except for the Southwest he was within spitting distance of the lead early on, though he has set the pace only twice.
Trainer: At this point we really don't need to say too much about Bob Baffert. He is the defending Preakness champion after winning it last year with Triple Crown winner American Pharoah. He's a master at winning the Preakness, having previously come out on top six times. This is far from the best horse he has ever brought here, but he is a great trainer who shines on big days.
Jockey: The horse will very likely not be good enough to win here, but the jockey won't be a viable excuse if he fails. Javier Castellano has won the Eclipse Award as top jockey in the nation each of the last three years, and has a comfortable lead as top earning jockey again this year. He has won the Preakness before - in 2006 with Bernardini.
Breeding: This is the biggest issue with this horse. The bloodlines are regal - both his sire City Zip and damsire Johannesburg are accomplished studs. Johannesburg was the two year old champion of both the U.S. and Europe. City Zip won four graded stakes. The problem, though, is that both tend to be better at shorter distances - both on the track and at stud. The distance is going to be a stretch for this horse. Given that the pace should be fairly aggressive in the Preakness, it will make it hard for this horse to be at his best late.
Odds: BetOnline has Collected at +2000 to win the Preakness. That has him as the fourth choice in the field - though he is far behind the top three of Stradivari, Exaggerator and heavy favorite Nyquist.
Bottom line: It's tough to see this horse as a viable contender. He will be looking to run much the same race that Nyquist will, and he just isn't nearly as good. He'll need to have his best day when no one else does to win. He also needs a fast track, so any weather issues will be a big knock against him.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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