Art Collector has won all four of his starts in 2021, so has plenty going for him in the extended 1m 1f Grade 1 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on Saturday.
There will be no Triple Crown winner in this most extraordinary season after different three-year-olds won the Belmont Stakes and Kentucky Derby.
Art Collector skipped those assignments and is unbeaten since joining trainer Thomas Drury. After winning three claimers at Churchill Downs, this Bernardini colt made an effortless step up into graded company.
That came in the Grade 2 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, home of this year’s Breeders’ Cup. He ran out a comfortable 3 1/2 lengths winner over the re-opposing Swiss Skydiver.
The runner-up, who Art Collector now meets on better terms, has since finished second in the Kentucky Oaks. Rushie, beaten a further 4 3/4 lengths in third, has come out and won a Grade 2.
Art Collector has since confirmed form at Listed level with the fifth home that day, Attachment Rate, so the looks strong. A race like the Preakness Stakes demands more, but there is still scope for further progress.
Jockey BJ Hernandez is five from five aboard Art Collector and on a 25 per cent strike rate in the saddle in the last 14 days at the time of writing.
A low draw in gate three is another plus. Based on his last two runs over nine furlongs, this trip looks optimum for Art Collector. He is a value play against the favorite here.
Kentucky Derby winner Authentic heads the betting but drops back in trip. One of two entered in the Preakness Stakes trained by Bob Baffert, he has won four of his five career starts.
Although his hat-trick bid was foiled by Honor A. P. in the Santa Anita Derby, the son of Into Mischief bounced back with victory in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park.
Authentic only just scrambled home by a nose that day. He was all out, but just held off Ny Traffic for success. That unconvincing win saw him sent off at almost 17/2 with bookmakers for the big one at Churchill Downs.
Despite a pedigree with more speed than stamina in it, he relished stepping up in trip to 10 furlongs. When briefly headed by favorite Tiz The Law, Authentic dug in and rallied.
The way he retook the lead and kept on, holding the Belmont Stakes scorer by over a length, suggests dropping back in trip may not be ideal.
Baffert is looking to become the outright winningmost trainer of the Preakness Stakes here. Authentic has strong claims, but is also plenty short enough against some unexposed rivals.
Although he commands respect, the value in the market lies elsewhere. While it would be no surprise to see Authentic follow-up, he should be taken on as favorites only have a 30 per cent success rate in this race in the last decade.
In a race where a case can be made for a few making the show, Kentucky Derby third Mr. Big News looks each-way value.
The son of Giant’s Causeway made eye-catching headway down the outside at Churchill Downs and stayed on best of those in-behind the front pair.
Although there is more than three lengths to find on that run with Authentic, Mr. Big News is a big price here. If ridden more prominently in the Preakness Stakes, then he won’t lack for stamina.
Mr. Big News has always managed to outrun his odds and could well do so again. Jockey Gabriel Saez again takes the ride, and has a win and a third on two starts aboard.
A repeat of their latest effort puts him in with solid claims of making the frame again. This is because Mr. Big News has progressed since finishing sixth to Art Collector in the Blue Grass.
Trainer Bret Calhoun is bang in-form too. At the time of writing, the last three horses sent out from his stables have won.
Everything points to a big run again from Mr. Big News here, so an each-way bet is well worth considering.