Having emerged from his victory in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) in fine fettle the morning of May 4, Art Sherman trainee California Chrome leads the slate of likely runners for the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md.
On the Churchill Downs backstretch the morning after the Run for the Roses, Maryland Jockey Club officials were building a list candidates plus some interesting additions to the next jewel of the Triple Crown series May 17. Speedsters Social Inclusion and Kid Cruz and Illinois Derby (gr. II) winner Dynamic Impact are chief among the new shooters.
Of the top four in the Derby, only California Chrome is definitely pointing for the Preakness. His connections plan to train him at Churchill leading up to the race, and he'll fly from Louisville to Baltimore about five days out from the Derby, assistant trainer Alan Sherman said.
Dallas Stewart, trainer of West Point Thoroughbreds' Commanding Curve, called his position "50-50" with the longshot runner-up but added, "I'm not rushing into anything. We'll consider all our options, see how healthy he is, seeing if he's doing as well as he was coming into this race. You just want to take care of the health of your horse...we all want to run in the Triple Crown races, but for me, it's got to all come together."
Danza, the Arkansas Derby (gr. I) winner who survived an abysmal trip to finish a commendable third, will ship back to New York while his Eclipse Thoroughbred connections evaluate their options along with trainer Todd Pletcher.
"We never take anything off the table, we keep all options open, but considering the fact that he ran two huge races in just a three-week timespan, our first course of action is to evaluate the horse," said Eclipse's Aron Wellman. "He's going to fly back to New York tomorrow (May 5) and we'll kind of let the dust settle. Nothing has been taken out of consideration, but the main thing is to get the horse back to New York and really allow him to tell us his energy level."
Trainer Jimmy Jerkens said fourth-place runner Wicked Strong will likely not contest the Preakness. He also returns to New York May 5.
"I'm not crazy about going to Pimlico," Jerkens said. "He's a tough little guy but he's not real stout, he's not a big horse that carries a lot of flesh. I'd much rather give him a little break. It's not really a break waiting for the Belmont (Stakes, gr. I), but (bypassing the Preakness) just seems like the right thing to do. As of now, I'd say it's probably a real good chance that we're not going to run."
Of the remaining Derby contenders, only trainer "Bronco" Billy Gowan confirmed he will definitely target the 1 3/16-mile Preakness. His starter, seventh-place finisher Ride On Curlin, will remain training at Churchill Downs leading up to the race.
"Once he got clear he came flying, but it was too late," Gowan said. "He never got a chance to run. You've got to look at the Preakness. The way he came out of it, the way he looks this morning, leg-wise he's perfect and he ate up pretty much everything. The way this horse is, after two or three days, he's ready to fight again."
Other potential Preakness starters include St. Elias Stable and West Point Thoroughbreds' Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) winner Ring Weekend, who missed the Derby with a fever after running second in the Calder Derby for trainer Graham Motion, and Bob Baffert trainee Bayern, disqualified from first to second in the April 26 Derby Trial (gr. III). Coolmore and partners' Pablo Del Monte, who could have drawn into the Derby field off a third in the Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I), was withheld in order to point for the Preakness by co-owner and trainer Wesley Ward.
In another Preakness-related development, trainer Steve Asmussen confirmed his Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) victress Untapable will not contest the race against the boys. The Winchell Thoroughbreds filly could next point to the Acorn Stakes (gr. I) or Mother Goose (gr. I) against her own division.
"We just didn't feel it was in her best interests to run back in two weeks at this stage," Asmussen said. "Given her temperament, two weeks, and the fact that she is a homebred, (the goal being) keeping her around, we want to have her great for a long time."
However, Asmussen pictures Untapable taking on male rivals in the future.
"I definitely do," he said. "I think not overdoing it now and the talent she has, I sure hope (she would face the boys) at some point."
Asmussen said Winchell's Tapiture, who finished 15th in the 19-horse field, came out of the race well and will likely be pointed to the 1 1/16-mile Matt Winn Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill June 14.
California Chrome the morning after the Kentucky Derby: