Only a few weeks ago, Authentic overcame a wide post to secure the lead through moderately fast fractions and repel Tiz the Law on his way to a Kentucky Derby win. The fractions for 1 ¼ miles were not slow, but slow enough for him to continue in the stretch and hold on late.
With that result in mind, there two parts to analyzing the Preakness Stakes pace scenario. The race for 3-year-olds runs at Pimlico on Saturday at the 1 3/16-mile distance has a post time of 5:36 ET.
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First, handicappers must decide on the speed of the pace scenario. This is part of routine race analysis. Given the fast horses that are lined up in this year’s Preakness, a slow pace is not likely at first glance. But, it is important to keep an open mind too while going through the process.
The second step involves analyzing Authentic and his chances of securing the lead again. If Authentic does reach the front, can he lead the field in a comfortable manner?
For the first part, the most obvious way to analyze pace is by counting the number of speed horses. Without looking at pace figures, graphics or charts, the expected speed horses on the entries list are Authentic, Art Collector, Swiss Skydiver, Ny Traffic, Pneumatic and possibly Thousand Words. Based on those names, the pace tilts towards fast.
As for pace figures, graphics and charts found in various past performances, those are supplemental resources. Handicappers are supposed to use those tools to help them come to their own conclusion, rather than dictate their final decision on pace.
TimeformUS offers pace figures for each race and their own Pace Projector graphic on the top right with probable early positions of each horse, while BRIS Ultimate Past Performances categorize the horses into different pace labels and show two bottom charts organizing the “Early Pace Last Race” and “Late Pace Last Race” figures into high to low.
Pace Projector labels the Preakness in red, which means fast. But, it is important to note that the projector does not paint the entire picture.
Authentic posted an opening 145 TimeformUS Pace Figure for the Derby, which is moderate for Grade 1-level competition, but closer to fast than slow. Swiss Skydiver opened in 123 in the Kentucky Oaks, while Art Collector opened in 130 in the Ellis Park Derby. Those numbers counter the idea of a fast pace, as the figures do not sound crazy fast.
On BRIS, Authentic, Swiss Skydiver and Ny Traffic curiously all receive the “E” label. “E” simply means “Early,” or in other words it means a likely pacesetter. However, browsing through Swiss Skydiver and Ny Traffic’s running lines reveal that Swiss Skydiver does not need the lead, as she won the Alabama Stakes (G1) after pressing early, while Ny Traffic usually tracks in second, as he did in his last few starts.
But those added points are debatable. It just feels like Authentic is the only horse in this race who truly needs the lead for his best shot, while the others can rate.
The “Early Pace Last Race” BRIS chart paints a surprisingly slow picture, with Thousand Words posting the highest most recent E1 figure of 92. Art Collector and Swiss Skydiver follow in second and third with 91s, while Authentic is fourth on the list with a 90 E1 Derby pace rating.
From looking at those moderate E1 BRIS Pace Ratings though and the early TimeformUS Pace Figures, the main takeaway is that the field contains no crazy speed horses. Even Authentic is not uncontrollable once he reaches the front end. He normally leads by small margins.
Based on those facts, the Preakness pace will mostly likely turn out moderately fast, just as it did in the Kentucky Derby. The field contains some quality speed horses, but most of them are tactical speed types.
As for whether Authentic secures the lead from Post 9, he can reach the front by the first turn with a good break. In the Kentucky Derby, this speedy colt overcame Post 15 to cross over horses and secure the lead by the time the field hit the back side. He wins all his races up front.
Why would any other horse challenge Authentic if he secures the lead?
That strategy will only lead to a speed duel for any horse who tries the tactic. Unless one horse is special enough to overcome a head-to-head duel in a Preakness Stakes, a speed duel will inevitably lead to Authentic and his poor challenger fading, as a stalker or closer win.
Look at all the 1s in Authentic’s running lines. Using BRIS, this horse made the front by the first call in four out of six races. He gets a pass in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) because of the poor break. The other time he did not lead came in his career debut, a 5 ½-furlong maiden sprint.
No other horse in this field shows the same kind of consistency in hitting the front every time.
By the analysis above, Authentic wins on both fronts. He enters a Preakness featuring horses with moderate pace figures on both TimeformUS and BRIS, and arguably no other horse here shows the same desire to run specifically on the lead than him.
As long as Authentic breaks well, he is in a good spot to secure the lead and win the third leg of this odd Triple Crown series. But if he does not fire his race for any reason, then another quality speed horse such as Art Collector or Pneumatic figure to take advantage and get the job done. In other words, the Preakness Stakes favors speed horses.