Enter Max Player and Excession to the Preakness Stakes field. Along with Country Grammer, the two Steve Asmussen-trainees bring the field for the third and final jewel of the 2020 Triple Crown to 10 horses.
They join Pneumatic, bringing Asmussen’s Preakness contingent to an appropriate three. The Hall of Fame conditioner seeks his third Preakness victory. His previous two Preakness victors, Curlin (2007) and Rachel Alexandra (2009), keep him company in the National Racing Museum and Hall of Fame.
The Oct. 3 Preakness, run at Pimlico in Baltimore, limits its field to 14 horses. Kentucky Derby winner Authentic (9/5 odds at Circa Sports) leads that 10-and-counting field. He sits as the favorite, with Art Collector (+305) on his heels. Authentic’s Bob Baffert stablemate, Thousand Words (7/1), is the only other horse in single digits on Circa’s board.
As for Max Player, opening at 15/1 on Circa’s board, he enters the Preakness as the only horse to date competing in all three legs of the Triple Crown. He finished third in the Belmont to Tiz the Law and Dr Post, and fifth in the Derby. In between, he finished third in the Travers Stakes to Tiz the Law and Caracaro. Max Player then moved to Asmussen’s barn to prep for the Derby.
Hall Strolls Into His First Preakness
“I’m very excited because I haven’t been in the Preakness yet,” said Max Player’s majority owner, George Hall, who owns the horse through the SportBLX Thoroughbreds company he founded. “Steve and I stay in close contact. He shares a lot of information with me and we discuss things. We both agreed we’d take a lot of things into consideration before there was a decision.”
Hall said the first factor was Max Player’s condition coming out of a tough Derby trip. One of the horses most adversely affected by his post position, Max Player broke out slow from post 2 (the most inside post) and struggled to handle the traffic cascading upon him. He still rallied to finish fifth, and Hall said Max Player looked like a horse who wanted to keep going.
“When we started to look at the Preakness, I think the view is that he’s in perfectly good health,” said Hall, who won the 2011 Belmont Stakes with 24/1 shot, Ruler On Ice. “He’s in good shape and he needs to develop.”
Excessive Racing Rust on Excession
So does Excession (22/1), who hasn’t raced since finishing second to Nadal in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park. That was six months ago. Asmussen turned the son of 2012 Belmont Stakes winner Union Rags loose at Churchill Downs this week and Excession responded with a bullet-like 1:00.6 five-furlong breeze.
Country Grammer (20/1) hasn’t entered a starting gate since finishing fifth in the Travers nearly two months ago. Before that, he won the Grade 3 Peter Pan Stakes by a nose on Saratoga’s opening day in July. He, too, is the product of a Belmont Stakes champion – 2014 winner Tonalist.
Earlier this week, Jesus’ Team (35/1) committed to the Preakness. He did so after his trainer, Jose D’Angelo, watched Jesus’ Team breeze a half-mile at Monmouth Park in 47.80 seconds. Last seen finishing second to Mystic Guide in the Grade 2 Jim Dandy at Saratoga the same day as the Derby, Jesus’ Team owns two victories. Both are in claiming events.
He finished a well-beaten fourth in his only Grade 1 event – July’s Haskell Stakes at Monmouth won by Authentic.