What a difference a day makes. With the arrival of two planeloads of horses from Louisville Wednesday morning, the joint is suddenly jumping. Just like that, there are horses everywhere. And Bob Baffert is here, and Wayne Lukas is here, and John Ward and Kenny McPeek are here. Suddenly, wherever you go, words of wisdom fill the air. Strategy talk is rampant. Now, this is the Preakness.
The first flight, arriving in Baltimore at approximately 7:30 a.m., contained Kentucky Derby runner-up Proud Citizen, along with Lukas' other starter, Table Limit, whom he insists is not a rabbit. Also on the flight was Derby favorite Harlan's Holiday, who looked terrific. We weren't expecting the son of Harlan to make the most favorable impression, but his coat looked better than it did in Kentucky, and he's really held his flesh well. If looks and condition mean anything, then he could very well fall into the category of top horses who finished out of the money in the Derby, then came back to win the Preakness. We'll be anxious to watch him on the track and see how he takes to the surface and how enthusiastically he goes about his gallops. Right now, he moves way up on our list of top contenders.
Proud Citizen looked a bit lighter than we remember him at Churchill, but that's to be expected for a horse who's been on the crash course he has. We fully expect him to blossom over the next couple of days, the way Saarland did after arriving at Churchill Downs.
After dropping off the first load, the Tex Sutton plane returned to Louisville and picked up the remainder of the horses. After another uneventful flight, the plane touched down a bit early, at 11:10. Derby winner War Emblem was the first off the plane, and looked exceptionally well. Baffert has trained him lightly, and he looks pretty much the same as he did before the Derby. His coat still has a nice shine to it. War Emblem had been a handful being walked back at Churchill, but was nice and settled on the van, and adapted nicely at Pimlico after being on the first plane flight of his life.
Also on the second flight was Booklet, who most believe will be War Emblem's main antagonist early in the race. Despite what Lukas said, Baffert believes it will be Table Limit who could try to take the track at the start. Ward, however, issued another warning that War Emblem will have an early visitor in Booklet. Ward said he figures Baffert will look to break from an inside post, while he'd be happy breaking on the outside of him. So, the mind games have already begun, and should add a lot of spark to this year's Preakness.
Although it likely means very little, one of the best-looking horses in the stakes barn in Menacing Dennis, who in all probability will be the longest price in the race. The biggest character award goes to Straight Gin, who is always busy doing something, and loves playing with the plastic ball hanging outside his stall.
Tomorrow, well discuss the post position draw, and how it will play into the strategy of the race, and take a look at Medaglia d'Oro's blowout at Belmont. On Friday, we'll go over the brief looks we've had of the participants, and who might be coming up to the race in great shape. As of now, it's looking like the Derby horses will dominate the race, but there are a couple of longshots who could be worth a long, hard look.