Four From Derby, Nine Classic Rookies Set For Preakness 144
Baffert Seeks Record Eighth Win With Favored Improbable
By Margaret Ransom
WinStar Farm LLC, China Horse Club International and Starlight Racing’s Improbable, who crossed the finish line in fifth but was elevated to fourth after the disqualification of the winner in the Kentucky Derby (GI) at Churchill Downs two weeks ago, was installed the 5-2 favorite for Saturday’s 144th running of the Preakness Stakes (GI) at Pimlico Race Course. The chestnut colt bears a striking resemblance to last year’s Triple Crown winner Justify and carries the exact same connections into Baltimore, including his ownership and his Hall of Fame trainer and jockey, Bob Baffert and Mike Smith.
Should the 3-year-old son of City Zip capture the second jewel of the Triple Crown, he would give Baffert not only back-to-back Preakness victories but also establish the record for total winners of the race with eight. Currently tied with Robert Wyndham Walden, who won the Preakness seven times from 1875-1888 including five in a row, Baffert has been victorious with Triple Crown champions Justify (2018) and American Pharoah (2015), as well as Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), War Emblem (2002), Lookin At Lucky (2010) and Point Given (2001).
Of the the four Preakness runners who contested the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago, Improbable recorded the best finish and is Baffert’s lone man standing of the three he sent postward in the Run for the Roses. The colt will break from post position four, which has produced ten Preakness winners overall, including Triple Crown winner Citation. The most recent was Curlin in 2007.
“I’m fine with it,” Baffert said of the post draw. “I wanted to be in the middle somewhere. That’s pretty close. I didn’t want to be way outside. Mike will figure it out.”
Gary Barber’s grade 2 winner War of Will, who drew the rail in the Derby, drew the rail again in the Preakness. He was eighth two weeks ago and was part of the controversial incident on the final turn at the quarter pole which triggerd the eventual disqualification of Maximum Security for the win. How much War of Will was involved is almost a moot point at this point, and he heads to Baltimore as the 4-1 second choice in the field. Jockey Tyler Gaffalione will be back in the irons.
“It is what it is and we’re going to have to deal with it,” trainer Mark Casse said of the inside post. “Do I wish we had drawn farther outside? Of course, but we’re going to have to deal with it. Tyler is going to have to play the break and see how it works. I don’t think the one hole is quite as tough here, but I’m going to have to go study that. I didn’t study it on purpose because I was hoping not to get it.
“We have to play the hand we’re dealt. You never can tell how things can go. All we can hope for is a clean trip and I think if he can get that, he’s going to be tough to beat.”
Ten Preakness winners drew post position one, including Triple Crown winners Gallant Fox, War Admiral, Whirlaway and American Pharoah, the latter being the most recent winner from the inside.
Win Win Win and Bodexpress, who finished eighth, 10th and 14th in the Derby, respectively, round out the Preakness-bound Derby runners.
Live Oak Plantation’s Win Win Win, who is trained by local horseman Mike Trombetta and based out of Fair Hill just up the road, was tenth across the wire in the Derby and returns to give it another shot at a classic win. The son of Hat Trick drew the far outside and earned morning line odds of 15-1, and will again carry jockey Julien Pimentel, who has been aboard for the colt’s three career wins. One Preakness winner broke from post position 13 and that was the Hall of Fame filly Rachel Alexandra in 2009.
“The post has its ups and downs,” Trombetta said. “We’re not going to be in there long; we’ll be in and out. If we get away clean and get on over, hopefully we’ll find a space and we’ll settle in wherever the rider wants him to be. I’ve drawn good posts before, and ironically, the horse next to me bumps into me. We just have to work with what they give us.”
Top Racing LLC, Global Thoroughbred and GDS Racing Stable’s maiden Bodexpress, who was 14th (13th after the DQ) in the Derby, returns in Baltimore sill looking to visit the winner’s circle for the first time. The Gustavo Delgado-trained son of 2012 Preakness runner-up Bodemeister would become the first maiden to win the second jewel of the Triple Crown since Refund defeated just three rivals in 1888.
Bodexpress, who was second to Derby winner Maximum Security in the Florida Derby (GI), is 20-1 on the morning line and drew post position nine. Hall of Famer jockey John Velazquez will ride for the first time. Four Preakness winners broke from post position nine, the most recent was I’ll Have Another in 2012.
Anothertwistafate, Alwaysmining and Laughing Fox, who all earned automatic entries by winning Preakness “Win and In” races, are all also classic newcomers. Peter Redekop’s El Camino Real Derby winner Anothertwistafate was second in both the Sunland Park Derby (GIII) and Stonestreet Lexington Stakes (GIII), and drew Post No. 12. He is 6-1 on the morning line and will have Jose Ortiz aboard. Three Preakness winners broke from post position 12. the most recent was Afleet Alex in 2005.
Runnymede Racing LLC’s Alwaysmining, who is riding a six-race winning streak, was given 8-1 morning line odds and drew post position seven. The gelded son of Stay Thirsty would be the first Maryland-bred to capture the Preakness since Deputed Testamony in 1983 and also make his female trainer, Kelly Rubley, the first woman to saddle a Preakness winner. Seven geldings have won the Preakness, the last being Funny Cide in 2003. The others were Prairie Bayou (1993), Holiday (1914), Buskin (1913), Layminster (1910), Don Enrique (1907) and Shirley (1876). Geldings were barred from the Preakness from 1920 through 1934.
Twelve Preakness winners broke from post position seven, including the most recent, Triple Crown winner Justify, a year ago.
Alex and JoAnn Lieblong’s Laughing Fox, who won the “Win and In” Oaklawn Park Invitational on Kentucky Derby Day, could give Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen his third Preakness winner to add to Curlin (2007) and Rachel Alexandra (2009). The son of Union Rags drew Post No. 11 and is a 20-1 outsider. Two Preakness winners broke from post position 11, the most recent was Point Given in 2001.
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas is slated to saddle Robert Baker and William Mack’s Market King, who is 30-1 on the morning line. The $550,000 son of Into Mischief drew post six for the conditioner, who has saddled the record number of Preakness starters with 43 so far with six winners. Sixteen Preakness winners broke from post position six, the most for any slot in the gate. Triple Crown winners Omaha and Affirmed emerged from post six and the most recent winner to represent the spot in the gate was Oxbow in 2013 who, ironically, was also trained by Lukas.
Trainer Brad Cox is scheduled to saddle two Preakness starters, Rupp Racing’s Owendale, who will break from post five, and Warrior’s Charge, who drew post position three. The duo was given morning line odds of 10-1 and 12-1, respectively. Eleven Preakness winners broke from post position five, including Triple Crown winner Assault. The most recent was Exaggerator in 2016; twelve Preakness winners emerged from post position three, including Triple Crown winner Secretariat. The most recent was California Chrome in 2014.
Also entered in the Preakness are Bourbon Lane Stable and Lake Star Stable’s Bourbon War from post two with blinkers on for the first time, 12-1; and Tommie Lewis, Steve Crabtree, Dean Demaree, David Bernsen, Jim Chambers and Magdalena Racing’s Signalman who will wear saddle towel eight, 30-1. Calumet Farm’s Everfast is the longest shot and will break from post ten, and was assigned 50-1 on the morning line.
Ten Preakness winners broke from post position two, including Triple Crown winner Count Fleet. The most recent was Cloud Computing in 2017. Twelve Preakness winners broke from post position eight, including Triple Crown winners Sir Barton and Seattle Slew. The most recent was War Emblem in 2002. Two Preakness winners broke from post position 10. The most recent was Real Quiet in 1998.
The Preakness is the 13th race on the card with a post time of 6:48 p.m. ET. The weather is expected to be warm, sunny and beautiful all day with highs in the mid-70s.