The prospective field for the Preakness (gr. I) grew by three confirmed starters when the connections of Musket Man, General Quarters and Terrain committed to the middle jewel of racing’s Triple Crown on May 6. The $1 million race now has nine definite starters, with Big Drama the first to arrive at historic Pimlico Race Course. The 1 3/16-mile event is on May 16.
Trainer Derek Ryan told Maryland Jockey Club officials that Musket Man, who finished third in the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) would be Preakness bound. The Illinois Derby (gr. II) and Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) winner has never finished off the board in seven lifetime starts.
“We’ve decided on the Preakness,” Ryan said from Monmouth Park. “We plan to work him between now and then, maybe 3/8ths next Tuesday. We will not be coming to Pimlico early. We want to stay here as long as possible.”
Eibar Coa will have the return mount.
Owner/trainer Tom McCarthy contacted Maryland Jockey Club stakes coordinator Coley Blind from Kentucky with the news that General Quarters will be making his way to the Preakness. The son of Sky Mesa galloped a mile and a quarter under exercise rider Julie Sheets May 6.
“I knew I couldn’t walk him another day and Julien couldn’t stop him,” McCarthy said. “He came out of this race better than any race yet. You never know until they gallop if there is anything wrong. You can see it right away. But he did so well this morning.”
General Quarters will leave Louisville May 12 via van. Julien Leparoux has the riding assignment.
Terrain galloped a mile and half at Churchill Downs under exercise rider Jimmy Valdez rather than boarding a plane to Texas for the May 9 Lone Star Derby (gr. III).
“We are not exactly sure what we saw last Saturday,” trainer Al Stall Jr. said of Mine That Bird’s upset victory in the Derby and the decision to go on to Baltimore.
Fourth in the Blue Grass in his most recent start on April 11, Terrain vanned to Churchill Downs on May 5 from Keeneland where he’s had two works since his last race.
No rider has been confirmed for Terrain.
Delta Jackpot winner Big Drama arrived at Pimlico May 6 after a 19-hour van ride from Calder Race Course. The son of Montbrook has won five-of-seven lifetime starts, including a rare sweep of the three races that comprise the Florida Stallion Stakes as a two-year-old. In his last start he broke the seven-furlong track record at Gulfstream Park in the grade II Swale but was disqualified and placed second.
Trainer David Fawkes said John Velazquez will have the Preakness mount.
“So far he’s proven that he can do anything you’ve asked him to do and handled everything very well,” said Celia Fawkes, exercise rider and assistant to her husband. “There’s no reason why he can’t compete against these horses.”
Celia Fawkes indicated Big Drama would jog around the Pimlico oval on May 7 . David Fawkes said his star will breeze May 11.
Papa Clem will be the second Preakness starter to arrive at Pimlico. Trainer Gary Stute said the fourth place finisher in the Derby will leaving Churchill Downs for Pimlico on May 9 or 10.
“My alternate plan was to breeze him five-eighths at Churchill Downs on Friday, then check his legs on Saturday and wait to ship,” Stute said. “But I am thinking now that I will go on to Baltimore and meet the horse there, gallop him a few days then breeze five-eighths either Monday or Tuesday.”
Longshot Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird galloped twice around Churchill Downs through a light drizzle May 6 with exercise rider Charlie Figueroa up. Mine That Bird is scheduled to ship to Pimlico May 12.
“He looked super and switched leads perfectly,” trainer Bennie “Chip” Woolley Jr. said. “I was happy with him yesterday (when Mine That Bird galloped a mile). He tried to run off a little bit and that surprised me. I will let him do a little bit more tomorrow.”
Woolley said he does not feel any extra pressure going into the second leg of the Triple Crown to quiet naysayers who viewed the 50-1 Derby victory as a fluke.
“He had a great run and came out on top,” Woolley said. “We are going to train him the way we trained here and hope things go well again. I don’t expect us to be the favorite – Pioneerof the Nile, if he runs, rightfully so. He may have stumbled a little bit in the Kentucky Derby, The Preakness is a sixteenth of a mile shorter and that is in his favor.”
The aforementioned Pioneerof the Nile, who is not a confirmed Preakness starter, was one of the first horses on the track May 6 at Churchill Downs, jogging once around accompanied by a pony.
“Everything is looking good this morning,” said Jim Barnes, assistant to trainer Bob Baffert of Pioneerof the Nile’s first day back at the track since his runner-up finish in Kentucky Derby 135.
The son of Empire Maker is expected to breeze Monday and if all goes well ship to Baltimore on May 13. Garrett Gomez will have the mount. Baffert lifted the Woodlawn Vase four times from 1997 to 2002.
Undefeated Hull galloped after the renovation break May 6 at Churchill Downs. Now 3-for-3 after winning the Derby Trial (gr. III) on April 25, Hull is scheduled to have his first work since that victory on May 9 before heading to Pimlico on May 13. Trainer Dale Romans, who never has had a Preakness starter, was asked what the deciding factor was in opting for the Preakness for the son of Holy Bull.
“It looks like a wide-open race,” Romans said. Miguel Mena, who rode Hull to his Derby Trial victory, has the Preakness mount.
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas had Flying Private gallop May 6 at Churchill Downs before the renovation break with exercise rider Taylor Carty up. The son of Fusaichi Pegasus returned to the track for the first time since running 19th in the Kentucky Derby on Tuesday to jog. Lukas said no rider has been confirmed for Flying Private, who is scheduled to ship to Pimlico on May 12.
Lukas has saddled 32 starters in Maryland’s signature race since 1980, the most of any conditioner. He tasted victory with Codex (1980), Tank’s Prospect (1985), Tabasco Cat (1994), Timber Country (1995) and Charismatic (1999).
Former Lukas protégé Todd Pletcher plans on running Take the Points in the Preakness. The son of Even the Score is two-for-six lifetime and finished second in the Sham Stakes (gr. III) and fourth in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) in southern California. Pletcher will breeze Take the Points May 9 or 10 at Belmont Park.
Others under consideration for the Preakness are Friesan Fire, Conservative, European invader Sky Gate and Laurel Park-based Tone It Down, who finished third in last weekend’s Tesio Stakes at Pimlico.