Trainer Nick Zito said he is still trying to unlock the secrets of Hemingway's Key, but he does know the colt is much better than his recent form suggests.
"Believe me, this horse is better than he's been running," Zito said Friday morning while standing outside the Pimlico Stakes barn. "I'd like to see if this horse and I can't figure out a way to get a piece of the money."
Hemingway's Key gets the services of Jeremy Rose in Saturday's Preakness Stakes (gr. I). The pair will break from post three, and are listed at 30-1 on the morning line.
Owned by George Steinbrenner's Kinsman Stable, Hemingway's Key broke his maiden in his first career start at two and scored in an entry-level allowance win to close out his juvenile year.
The trainer then took an ambitious turn with the son of Notebook, sending him straight into graded-stakes company. He began his sophomore campaign with back-to-back unplaced efforts in the Holy Bull (gr. II) and Fountain of Youth (gr. II) Stakes, respectively. His best effort at three was a sixth-place effort in the Lane's End Stakes (gr. II) March 25 over the Polytrack at Turfway Park. Most recently, he finished eighth, beaten nine lengths, in the Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) at Keeneland.
Zito said the chestnut, Florida-bred could be gelded if his attitude and form doesn't show improvement.
"He's got a lot of ability, but head-wise he needs to settle down and get into a rhythm," the trainer said. "I'll find out Saturday and what better way to find out. Maybe he knows what will happen to him if he doesn't run good."
Even running his best race, Zito knows Hemingway's Key will face a tough challenge in defeating Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner and Preakness favorite Barbaro.
"Right now he's (Barbaro) undefeated, and somebody has to get past him to be put into his level," Zito said. "He's a tremendous horse. If we could run well, I would fell happy for the Belmont."