Preakness draw suits Baffert

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Pimlico race track will stage the Preakness Stakes this weekend

Bob Baffert played down the importance of the draw for this weekend’s Preakness Stakes, insisting a good break from the gates is more important for any horse with aspirations of winning.

The Hall of Fame trainer will saddle the Kentucky Derby winner Authentic in his attempt to land the final gem in the Triple Crown at Pimlico.

Authentic drew stall nine in the Preakness when the draw was made on Monday. His trainer wasn’t watching that unfold, Baffert insisting he prefers to focus on matters over which he has a degree of control.

Baffert has saddled five Kentucky Derby winners in the Preakness in the past – and they all won. Silver Charm (1997) broke from gate seven, Real Quiet (1998) from ten, War Emblem (2002) from eight, American Pharoah (2015) from the rail and Justify (2018) from stall seven.

The trainer, seeking a record-breaking eighth Preakness victory overall, suggests gate nine in what looks an 11-runner line-up at this stage will be “fine”. Getting away alertly will be the most important factor for John Velazquez and Authentic.

“The break is the most important,” Baffert said. “You’ve got to get away well. Authentic is on the outside. I like to be around the middle; I don’t like to be too far out. But 9? That’s fine.”

When it was put to Baffert that the likes of Art Collector, Swiss Skydiver and Ny Traffic might challenge his Derby winner for the early advantage, the trainer was keen to brush off any worries.

In a race like the Preakness “there’s always speed” was Baffert’s take on the possibility of an early pace contest.

“There’s always speed,” he said. “Everywhere you go there’s speed. You can’t worry about that.”

A minor setback forced Blue Grass and Ellis Park Derby winner Art Collector to sit out the Kentucky Derby. His trainer Tom Drury is happy with gate two in the Preakness.

Regular jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. will be in the plate and, according to Drury, there’s every chance they’ll go forward from a low draw. He’s keen to emphasise the tactical versatility of Art Collector however, given there’s no shortage of pace options.

“If he gets away cleanly, he’s tactical enough that I would expect him to be forwardly placed at least until they get into that first turn,” Drury told reporters after the draw was made.

“Ideally you’d like to be forward going by the stands for the first time and have Brian able to look around a little bit and see how the race is developing. Then he can make up his mind about what he wants to do.”

The first filly to contest the Preakness in six years, Blue Grass and Kentucky Oaks runner-up Swiss Skydiver drew stall four and trainer Kenny McPeek has hinted that new pilot Robby Albarado may be asked to hold her up in the early part of the race.

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