Swiss Skydiver becomes sixth filly to win Preakness Stakes

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A historic 15 weeks after it began, the 2020 Triple Crown drew to a close as Swiss Skydiver crossed the line first in the 145th Preakness Stakes at a spectatorless Pimlico to become the sixth filly to win the race.

She was the first filly to run in the Preakness since Ria Antonia in 2014, who finished last. Hall of Famer Rachel Alexandra was the last filly to win the race back in 2009.

Bob Baffert’s Thousand Words, who was a last minute scratch in the Kentucky Derby after flipping over in the saddling area, took the early lead, followed closely behind stablemate and Kentucky Derby favorite Authentic. Swiss Skydiver moved in on the end of the backstretch for a furiously close homestretch battle with Authentic, battling to the very end.

Authentic opened as the 9-5 favorite and finished second as Baffert looked for a record eighth Preakness win. Jesus’ Team, a 40-1 longshot, was third, and G1 Blue Grass winner Art Collector was fourth.

Swiss Skydiver is trained by Kenny McPeek, ridden by Robby Albarado and owned by Peter Callahan. She set off with 11-1 odds and paid $25.40 to win, $8.40 to place and $5.80 to show. She previously won the G1 Alabama and was a surprising second in the Kentucky Oaks a month ago behind upset winner Shedaresthedevil.

A month earlier, Authentic held off heavy favorite Tiz the Law in a stretch dual to go wire-to-wire in the 146th Kentucky Derby. Tiz the Law, who won a rescheduled Belmont Stakes back in late June, sat out the Preakness since there was no Triple Crown on the line. Instead, he is resting up and preparing for the Breeders’ Cup Classic in November at Keeneland.

The COVID-19 pandemic scrambled this year’s Triple Crown schedule, as the Preakness ran 20 weeks after its original date of Saturday, May 16. The Kentucky Derby was moved from Saturday, May 2 to the first Saturday in September, and the Belmont was moved back two weeks but remained in the month of June. All three Triple Crown races were run without fans in attendance, and all other events (like Pimlico’s InfieldFest) and festivals associated with the races were called off.

The 2020 Triple Crown will always be remembered with an asterisk—because of a different race order, later dates for all three races (which gave horses more time to mature and prep), significantly more time in between each event and a shortened Belmont (9 furlongs instead of the traditional 12).

Last year’s Preakness was won by Gary Barber’s colt War of Will just two weeks after being majorly impeded by Maximum Security in the 145th Kentucky Derby. With now-Hall of Fame trainer Mark Casse and jockey Tyler Gaffalione, War of Will ran in all three Triple Crown races last year, finishing 7th in the Derby and 9th in the Belmont.

He went on to finish an underwhelming 9th in the Breeders’ Cup Classic last fall at Santa Anita before jumping from the dirt to the turf (grass) and focusing on the mile division. In July of 2020, he won the Grade 1 Maker’s Mark Mile at Keeneland.

Next on the racing calendar, the world’s best horses—not just the 3-year-olds that compete in the Triple Crown—head to Lexington, Ky. for the Breeders’ Cup World Championships on Nov. 6 and 7, with comprehensive coverage from NBC Sports. Though the event will be run without spectators, which has become standard for the industry during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Breeders’ Cup will return to Lexington again in 2022.

2020 Preakness Stakes full order of finish:

  1. Swiss Skydiver
  2. Authentic
  3. Jesus’ Team
  4. Art Collector
  5. Max Player
  6. Excession
  7. Mr. Big News
  8. Thousand Words
  9. Ny Traffic
  10. Pneumatic
  11. Liveyourbeastlife

Newgate wins Robert B. Lewis Stakes; Baffert runs 1-2-3-4

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ARCADIA, Calif. — Newgate won the $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes by a neck, with Bob Baffert as the trainer of all four horses in the Kentucky Derby prep race at Santa Anita.

Ridden by Frankie Dettori, Newgate ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.11 and paid $4 and $2.60 as the even-money favorite. There was no show wagering because of the field size.

Hard to Figure returned $5.20 at 12-1 odds. Worcester was another 1 3/4 lengths back in third. Arabian Lion was fourth.

“So much improvement in all these horses,” Baffert said. “I was actually nervous before the race, worried that something weird might happen, but I can relax now.”

The Lewis was a Kentucky Derby prep race, but no points were awarded because Baffert has been banned for two years by Churchill Downs Inc. The Hall of Fame trainer was in Louisville to testify in federal court as he seeks a temporary injunction to end the suspension, which runs through the end of the upcoming spring meet. It was meted out following a failed drug test by Medina Spirit after the colt finished first in the 2021 Kentucky Derby.

Newgate earned his first graded stakes victory. The colt was second, beaten by a neck in the Sham Stakes last month in his previous start.

“Frankie Dettori has been teaching him how to just sit back, relax and come with a punch and that’s what he did today,” Baffert said.

The victory, worth $120,000, increased Newgate’s career earnings to $241,975, with two wins in six starts.

Baffert: 2-year Churchill Downs suspension hurt reputation

bob baffert
Sam Upshaw Jr./USA TODAY NETWORK
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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Churchill Downs never gave advance notice nor reached out to explain its two-year suspension, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said in federal court, and reiterated that the penalty has caused irreparable harm to his business and reputation.

Baffert has sued the historic track and is seeking a temporary injunction to stop his suspension following a failed drug test by the now-deceased Medina Spirit after the colt came in first in the 2021 Kentucky Derby.

The suspension for a series of failed tests by his horses runs through the end of the upcoming spring meet and could exclude Baffert from the Derby for a second consecutive spring.

Almost a year ago, Kentucky racing officials disqualified Medina Spirit and suspended Baffert for 90 days for those failed tests. Churchill Downs elevated Derby runner-up Mandaloun to winner.

“They’ve hurt my reputation,” Baffert said during nearly two hours of testimony in U.S. District Court. “My horses should’ve made much more money. I didn’t run for 90 days, and I had to let people go.”

Churchill Downs wants the case dismissed, citing nine failed tests by Baffert-trained horses as justification for disciplining horse racing’s most visible figure. The list of violators includes 2020 Kentucky Oaks third-place finisher Gamine, who was ultimately disqualified.

Medina Spirit failed his test for having in his system the corticosteroid betamethasone, which Baffert and attorney Clark Brewster have argued came from an ointment rather than an injection.

Track president Mike Anderson said the decision by Churchill Downs CEO Bill Carstanjen stemmed from Baffert’s “refusal to take responsibility for repeat violations” during a news conference at his backside barn after Medina Spirit’s failed test was revealed.

“We wanted to make a statement that this was a consequence of not doing the right thing,” Anderson said.

Attorneys Matt Benjamin and Christine Demana, who are representing Churchill Downs, also disputed Baffert’s contention that business has suffered by noting his latest crop of promising 3-year-old colts on this year’s Derby trail.

One of them, Arabian Knight, won last week’s Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn by 5+ lengths to give Baffert his record sixth win in the race. The horse is ineligible to earn Kentucky Derby qualifying points as the winner because of Baffert’s suspension.

A slide presented also showed that Baffert horses made 477 starts from May 10, 2021, through December 2022 and won marquee races such as the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Corniche, the Eclipse winner) along with Grade 1 wins in the Pennsylvania Derby and Malibu Stakes (Taiba).

Friday’s 3 1/2-hour hearing followed four hours of testimony on Thursday. District Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings gave no indication when she would rule. But Brewster said he expects a decision “within several days.”

Baffert testified that he had had a good relationship with Churchill Downs, though he noted that he was paying for his seats at the track and having to “grovel” to get them. He also insisted that he tried to be a good ambassador for horse racing, especially after American Pharoah and Justify won the Triple Crown in 2015 and 2018, respectively.

“I think today was great because I finally got to tell my story in a nonbiased atmosphere,” he said. “I hope for the best, and hopefully we’ll be here.”