With trainer Al Stall Jr. and jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. watching from the grandstand, Illinois Derby (gr. III) winner Departing worked a half-mile in :50 2/5 over a fast track at Churchill Downs the morning of May 12 in preparation for the Preakness Stakes (gr. I).
With former jockey Larry Melancon up, Departing worked on his own while producing fractions of :13 1/5, :25 2/5, and :38 1/5. He galloped out five furlongs in 1:03 4/5.
"I wanted him to go a little slower the first part than the second part, and he hit right on what we were looking for," Stall said. "He did enough to get the day off tomorrow. He is a gelding and doesn't carry a lot of weight. He had galloped two miles on Thursday and a spirited mile and half Friday."
Owned by his breeders, Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, Departing is scheduled to walk May 13 and then train May 14-15 before shipping to Pimlico Race Course the afternoon of May 15. Stall said he has a 2 p.m. EDT flight and would be in Baltimore in time for the Preakness draw that afternoon.
The Preakness is May 18.
The son of War Front will be the second Preakness starter for Stall, whose Terrain finished seventh in 2009 behind eventual Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra. Like Terrain, Departing did not run in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) prior to the Preakness.
Departing was third in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II), his only loss from five lifetime starts, before his 3 1/4-length win at Hawthorne Race Course.
"After the Louisiana Derby, the Kentucky Derby was off the table with the point system," Stall said. "It worked out well for us. The Illinois Derby billed itself as a prep for the Preakness, and hopefully we can make it successful for the Illinois Derby."
Waiting at Pimlico when Departing arrives will be Kentucky Derby winner Orb , who shared a paddock at Claiborne Farm in his early days with Departing. Orb is owned by Stuart Janney III and Phipps Stable.
"Those families have been down the road before," Stall said of the Hancocks of Claiborne Farm and the Phippses. "Seeking the Gold and Forty Niner ran against each other in big races like the Derby, Haskell, and Travers (in 1988), and I am sure they are all going to try to run their 'A' race."
As many as eight horses that ran in the Derby remain under consideration for the Preakness, headed by Orb, who captured the Run for the Roses by 2 1/2 lengths on a sloppy track May 4.
"Orb will be even-money or less," Stall said. "There have been horses that have rebounded from Derbys, like Louis Quatorze (16th in the 1996 Derby), that won or ran well in the Preakness. Goldencents trained well here and then ran a 32 Beyer (figure) in the Derby. Horses can come back to themselves and run 70 to 80 points higher."