Triple Crown produces 3 different winners, likely no closure

Watch Belmont Stakes 2021: Live stream online, TV channel, start time
Michael Karas/Northjersey.com via USA TODAY NETWORK
0 Comments

BALTIMORE — More than two months after Tiz the Law blew away the field in the Belmont, Authentic fended off his charge and won the Kentucky Derby. Four weeks later, filly Swiss Skydiver challenged and beat Authentic in the Preakness.

The Triple Crown races run out of order and later in the year produced three different winners and quite the competition for 3-year-old horse of the year. But it might be a long time – if ever – until Tiz the Law, Authentic and Swiss Skydiver all run against each other in the same race.

“It sure made it interesting to have a great debate: Which of the three winners would do it again if they, all three, were head to head?” said NBC Sports analyst Kenny Rice, one of the few people to witness all three 2020 Triple Crown races in person. “I would love to see all three of them be able to run against each other again, but I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon.”

Tiz the Law and Authentic should get their Derby rematch in the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 7, and Swiss Skydiver is eligible for that race. But trainer Kenny McPeek is more likely to enter her against other fillies and mares in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Distaff that same day.

“We can look at both races, I suppose,” McPeek said after Swiss Skydiver won the Preakness. “But I would say right now we would probably lean towards the older fillies and mares. But nothing set in stone.”

A head-to-head-to-head showdown with older stars like Improbable and Maximum Security and promising 3-year-old colt Art Collector also in the field would make the Classic the race of the year. But after McPeek said he would’ve avoided running Swiss Skydiver in the Preakness had Tiz the Law been entered, she’s probably going to take on a different kind of challenge in the Distaff.

The Classic with or without Skydiver is shaping up to feature tons of talent. Trainer Barclay Tagg said Friday things are going well with Tiz the Law, and Authentic will prepare to join Bob Baffert’s Improbable and Maximum Security in the race as long as he continues to train properly out of the Preakness.

“It should be a really good Breeders’ Cup, as it usually is, but the Classic could really be something special this year,” Rice said. “This could be one of the better Classics, and while people will want to see how the 3-year-olds match up, I think it’s going to be awful tough to beat Improbable or Maximum Security.”

Swiss Skydiver beat favored Authentic at 11-1 in the Preakness, completing the 1 3/16-mile race in 1:53.28 – 28 tenths of a second slower than Secretariat’s winning time in 1973 and faster than Curlin’s in 2007, also with Robby Albarado aboard.

McPeek likes the 1 1/4-mile distance of the Classic for Swiss Skydiver but said Sunday he and owner Peter Callahan wouldn’t make a rash decision. That doesn’t mean he doubts her abilities after she became the sixth filly and first since Rachel Alexandra in 2009 to win the Preakness.

“She’s entertained coast to coast: north, south, east, west,” McPeek said. “She’s amazing. She’s not even tired today. She’s a throwback horse.”

This unique Triple Crown season, with the races run out of order for the first time since the 1930s and in the summer and fall rather than the spring, produced rivalries reminiscent of the legendary Affirmed and Alydar and some of strong competition. There wasn’t one dominant champion horse, but even after injuries knocked Nadal, Charlatan and Maxfield off the trail, this 3-year-old crop showed it’s one of the deepest in recent history.

That’s perhaps a silver lining of an unusual year in horse racing.

“I can’t recall when we’ve had this many good 3-year-olds,” Rice said. “We got to see most of the good 3- year-olds still in training run in the Triple Crown races. That to me was the upside to it. We got three winners that all turned in impressive performances, what they had to to win the races and at least a great discussion as to who’s the best of the three.”

Taiba wins $1 million Pennsylvania Derby for Baffert

Getty Images
1 Comment

BENSALEM, Pa. – Taiba won the $1 million Pennsylvania Derby by three lengths for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.

Ridden by Mike Smith, Taiba ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.67 and paid $4.80, $3 and $2.60.

It was Baffert’s fourth win in the Grade 1 event at Parx Racing. He also won in 2014, 2017 and 2018. Smith won the race for the third time, all aboard Baffert horses.

Zandon returned $3.80 and $2.60. Cyberknife was another 3 3/4 lengths back in third and paid $3 to show.

Taiba was coming off a second-place finish in the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth in July. The colt was 12th in the Kentucky Derby under Tim Yakteen, who took over training him while Baffert was serving a 90-day suspension.

“He had a little bit of a rough trip in the Haskell, but we had some time to get him ready for this one,” Baffert said from his base in California. “He proved today he is a good horse. He is getting better and better.”

Baffert Taiba will be pointed toward the $6 million Breeders’ Cup Classic in November. The colt has three wins in five starts this year.

Kentucky Derby modifies qualifying, elevates prep races

kentucky derby
Andy Lyons/Getty Images
1 Comment

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Churchill Downs has modified paths to the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, awarding points to the top five finishers in qualifying races and increasing significance for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and late prep season events.

Most Derby prep races during the qualifying series for 3-year-olds will award points on a 10-4-3-2-1 sliding scale after using a 10-4-2-1 system since 2013. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, run during the season-ending championships on Nov. 4 at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky, will increase points from 20-8-4-2 to 30-12-9-6-3 to differentiate the Grade I event from others during prep season.

Select prep races for the 20-horse Derby field have elevated points from a 10-4-2-1 scale to 20-8-6-4-2 to increase their importance and motivate hopefuls to begin their 3-year-old campaigns earlier in the season, track officials stated in a release.

“We believe these modifications adhere to and amplify our goal of assembling the finest group of 3-year-olds in the starting gate for a race at the classic distance of 1\ miles on the first Saturday in May,” Churchill Downs vice president/general manager Mike Ziegler said.

The 149th Kentucky Derby and Oaks for fillies will be held on May 5-6, 2023. Derby qualifying season begins with Saturday’s $300,000, Grade III Iroquois for 2-year-olds at Churchill Downs.

The point changes apply to Oaks qualifiers.

Elevated Derby preps include the Lecomte at Fair Grounds in Louisiana; Southwest at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas; Withers at Aqueduct in New York; Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park in Florida; Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita in California; Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs; and John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park in Kentucky.