There was only one way Scrappy T would run in the Preakess (gr. I) Saturday at Pimlico...he had to win the April 30 Withers Stakes (gr. III). And, he did.
"He had to earn a spot. He had to win that race," trainer Robbie Bailes said Friday morning at Pimlico on a damp, chilly morning in Baltimore.
"Really, everything the last month has gone perfect with the horse," the 40-year-old trainer said. "He showed me that he deserved a shot to run (in this race).
"If your horse is doing good, then all you can ask for is to be here. As a trainer, you wouldn't just show up. You have to feel you have a chance...a shot."
Bailes is stabled in Maryland at Bowie but this year also took a string to New York, where he was stabled at Belmont Park. Among them was Marshall Dowell's Scrappy T, who won the Count Fleet Stakes at Aqueduct in January.
The Fit to Fight gelding ran third in the Whirlaway Stakes Feb. 12, and then jumped to grade I competition in the April 9 Wood Memorial. He finished third behind Bellamy Road and Survivalist, but while the winner won that day by 17 ½ lengths, Scrappy T was just three-quarters of a length from finishing second.
Of course Bellamy Road was the favorite in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) and finished seventh after contesting a hot early pace.
In the Withers, Scrappy T took over the lead early in the race and won by a length. He will be ridden for the first time by Ramon Dominguez in the Preakness.
"He doesn't have to be right on the lead but he has to be close," Bailes said. "That's what got us here and we're not going to change that now."
Scrappy T will break from post five.
"There are other horses that will have to go because of their post positions so we will come away from there and see how things set up, but we won't be far back."