Everything is proceeding according to plan.
With the first light of the sunrise barely visible over the horizon, the attitude in Barn 72 on the Keeneland backside was all work. The shedrow was quiet, the movements within deliberate and purposeful, as trainer Rodolphe Brisset prepped his bay 3-year-old Quip for his final work before taking on the May 19 Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course.
As WinStar Farm president and CEO Elliott Walden looked on, the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G2) winner hit the track with Brisset aboard at 6:30 a.m. ET. The Distorted Humor colt breezed a half-mile in :48 1/5 and galloped out to five furlongs in 1:00 3/5.
"It was a usual maintenance work for him," Brisset said upon arriving back at the barn. "He went off easy and came home nicely. Gallop out was strong. Looks like he's going out OK, so we're going to go from there."
Following a second-place finish in the April 14 Arkansas Derby (G1) behind then-unbeaten Magnum Moon, Brisset and Quip's connections made the tough decision to bypass the May 5 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) and point instead to the Preakness, allowing the colt more time before taking on another race in graded company.
Regardless of the wait time, Brisset remained confident the choice to focus their attention on the second jewel of the Triple Crown was best for Quip. As for the hype surrounding Kentucky Derby winner Justify, Brisset is more focused on his horse.
"We just monitored him week by week," Brisset said. "We meant to bypass the Kentucky Derby because he didn't want to run at three weeks, and now he's showing us some good signs. Everything is good, and we are happy to go. It's exciting, for sure, but we don't have time to think about nerves."
Owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, and SF Racing, Quip has won three of his five starts. His only other loss was a seventh-place run in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (G2) as a 2-year-old. WinStar Farm and China Horse Club are also co-owners of undefeated Justify, the sure favorite for Saturday's race.
"It's a race," Brisset said. "You have to be in the gate. We will see what will happen, but I think the draw may be important. I think it will determine what kind of plan that we can come up with (for jockey) Florent Geroux, but I don't think we need to overthink it, either. Hopefully, everybody will get a clean trip, and we'll go from there."
If everything continues to go to plan, Quip will remain at Keeneland until he ships to Baltimore on Wednesday—the same day as Justify.
"Hopefully, he'll look good tomorrow," Brisset said. "If he looks good leg-wise and jogging-wise tomorrow, we will put him in a plane."