DEPARTING, MYLUTE, GOVENOR CHARLIE SET FOR ARRIVAL
(Nine 3-year-olds have been entered for the 138th Preakness Stakes: Orb, Departing, Goldencents, Govenor Charlie, Itsmyluckyday, Mylute, Oxbow, Titletown Five and Will Take Charge. The Preakness post position draw will be held at the International Pavilion in the Pimlico Infield at 6 p.m. Wednesday and will be broadcast live on HRTV.)
The Shug McGaughey-trained 3-year-old colt prepared for a start in the 138th Preakness Stakes (G1) by jogging once around the racetrack under exercise rider Jenn Patterson while accompanied by a pony.
“Everything was really good. He turned and jogged the wrong way. He was moving really well and full of energy. He appears to be settled in back here and I’m pleased with what I see,” said McGaughey while his Derby winner grazed in the grassy area near the Preakness Stakes Barn.
The son of Malibu Moon followed up his early-morning activity with a visit to Pimlico’s indoor paddock, where McGaughey plans to saddle him instead of the customary Preakness saddling area on the turf course. Orb walked around the saddling area under the cover of the grandstand and stood quietly in a stall while being attended to by Patterson, whose work with the likely Preakness favorite has received high praise from McGaughey.
“Without her, we wouldn’t be here. It’s not only her riding ability, it’s her horsemanship and dedication to the whole thing,” said McGaughey, who detailed the many miles logged and hours worked by Patterson while working with Orb in Florida and Kentucky. “Nobody will know how much I appreciate her and what I think of her and her abilities. The rapport we have between each other… I think it’s a pretty remarkable relationship.”
Orb, who came to Pimlico riding a five-race winning streak, including a 2 ½-length Kentucky triumph on May 4, has amazed his trainer with his development.
“I think there’s more there. What really surprises me is how he comes out of his races, not only mentally, but physically,” the Hall of Fame trainer said. “I looked at him just a second ago with the blanket off of him. Looking from behind, the sun was shining on him, and I was looking at a different horse than I saw a week ago and two weeks ago.
“His work at Belmont on Monday was something I had never seen, maybe before -- the way he finished up with very little urging, if any; the way he was striding out and the way he was holding his leads. He’s sure come a long ways since the Florida Derby. I think there’s more there, but he’s got to tell us that. I can’t wait to run him on Saturday afternoon and, maybe we’ll see something special.”
A victory on Saturday would put Orb in line to become the 12th Triple Crown champion and first since Affirmed (1978) with a triumph in the Belmont Stakes (G1). McGaughey admitted that that thought has crossed him mind.
“I wouldn’t be telling the truth if I said, ‘No.’ I try to block it out, but if you’re in this position, anybody would think about it. Of course, you get reminded of it quite often,” McGaughey said. “It’s a thrilling thought, but we’ve got to get by Saturday. If we get by Saturday, it’ll be quite an interesting three weeks.”
Shug McGaughey will be available at 8 a.m. Thursday and Friday during a press conference to be held adjacent to the Preakness Stakes Barn. On Friday, jockey Joel Rosario will follow McGaughey at 8:15 a.m., while jockey Rosie Napravnik will meet with the press at 8:30 a.m.
DEPARTING – Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Departing completed the Churchill Downs phase of his Preakness preparations by galloping 1 ½ miles and then standing in the starting gate on a warm and breezy Wednesday morning.
Regular exercise rider Trina Pasckvale was aboard for the morning activity for Departing, who was scheduled to fly to Baltimore this afternoon.
Trainer Al Stall Jr. said the trip to the gate was a normal part of Departing’s routine.
“He was fine in there. He stood in there for about a minute and a half and he never has had an issue that I have noticed,” Stall said. “You have to do your homework before you take the test.”
Stall expected to be in Baltimore for Wednesday afternoon’s Preakness post-position draw.
“The draw does not matter, because there is going to be speed in there,” Stall said. “Goldencents, Titletown Five, Oxbow – I know they will be in front of us.”
GOLDENCENTS – Trainer Doug O’Neill sent the Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner out for his usual 8:30 a.m. gallop and a brief schooling session in the paddock Wednesday at Pimlico Race Course.
The trainer of last year’s Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, I’ll Have Another, said his confidence is returning to the level that it was at Churchill Downs prior to Goldencents’ disappointing 17th-place finish in the Derby over a sloppy, sealed racetrack.
“We were definitely disappointed with our effort in the Kentucky Derby,” said the 44-year-old Southern California-based conditioner. “We thought we were coming into it in good shape, but we think it was the track. You’ve got a different track here, a shorter stretch and tighter turns. Our guy is doing really well here. And with a smaller field (nine) and good weather, I think we can turn the tables on Orb.”
Jockey Kevin Krigger, who came to Baltimore with Goldencents three days after the May 4 Derby, believes his decision to stay East will pay dividends.
“For me just being on him every day and making sure he’s doing everything the way he should be doing, it is a thrill for me,” he said. “I’m enjoying myself and the horse is enjoying himself. He trains like he’s ready to run a better race than the Derby.”
The atmosphere around Barn B at Pimlico is considerably more subdued than it was last year when I’ll Have Another was the center of attention.
“It is a different vibe, but it’s a good vibe,” O’Neill said. “I think it’s all good pressure really. Everyone here in management is so kind to us and has bent over backwards to make us feel at home. The Derby and Belmont are corporate events. There’s more of a small-town feeling here and it’s easier to relax and enjoy it.”
Dealing with the Derby disappointment is also becoming easier for him.
“It’s tough because we know how competitive and how tough Goldencents is, but it’s the first time Goldencents has ever been in that scenario where he was getting a lot of kickback (mud in his face),” O’Neill said. “That wasn’t one of your standard wet-fast kind of tracks. It was almost like peanut butter out there, and you could see that the horses that were involved early ended up being in the back of the pack and the horses that were in the back of the pack early ended up being first at the wire.”
Goldencents, who has three stakes victories on his resume, had never been worse than fourth in any of his previous six starts before the Derby. He won the Delta Downs Jackpot (G3) as a 2-year-old and the Sham (G3) in his 3-year-old debut in January.
“This business is definitely full of a lot more losses than wins,” O’Neill said. “So you celebrate all the wins and it re-energizes you.”
O’Neill said he plans to sit down with Krigger and review old tapes of Preaknesses past, much like he did last year with I’ll Have Another’s rider, Mario Gutierrez.
“Kevin and I have talked about that,” O’Neill said. “I think it’s good for Kevin. Probably he needs my input like a hole in the head, but I think it’s something where these tracks are all a little bit different. Here the turns are a little tighter, the stretch is a little bit shorter. Watching the past runnings of the Preakness can only be beneficial, so Kevin’s been kind enough to say, ‘Let’s do it, let’s watch and see what we can learn.’ ”
“You can never look at those old Preaknesses too many times,” said Krigger, who is riding in his first. “To sit down and watch them with Doug will open up a different mind frame about the races, because we’ll have our own ideas about each race. We’ll put them together and end up on the same page as we usually are.”
GOVENOR CHARLIE – Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is convinced that the Midnight Lute colt is ready for the Preakness and is capable of giving him his sixth victory in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
Mike Pegram’s homebred will be making his fourth career start in the Preakness. After finishing second in his debut on Jan. 19, he broke his maiden on Feb.17 and won the Sunland Derby (G3) by five lengths on March 24. He has recovered from a minor foot injury that caused him to miss the Kentucky Derby.
Baffert said Wednesday that Govenor Charlie must turn in a big performance at Pimlico to be a big factor in the Preakness.
“He needs to run his race back that he ran at Sunland,” Baffert said. “I think if he runs that race back, he’s going to be very, very competitive. That’s the way he’s been training. It’s a different group of horses he’s running with and it’s a classic, but he’s bred to run that far.”
Govenor Charlie’s grand-sire, Real Quiet, won the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1) in 1998. His second dam is Hall of Famer Silverbulletday, whose 15 career victories included a runaway win in the 1 1/4 miles Alabama (G1).
Baffert waited to commit Govenor Charlie to the Preakness until he saw how the colt came out of a timed work Monday at Churchill Downs. Govenor Charlie covered six furlongs in a sharp 1:10 4/5 and galloped out seven furlongs in 1:24 4/5.
Prior to boarding a plane for the trip to Maryland, Govenor Charlie jogged a mile at Churchill Downs Wednesday morning. Govenor Charlie was accompanied to Pimlico with a pair of stablemates: Zee Bros, who’s set to run in the $100,000 Chick Lang Stakes on Saturday, and Fiftyshadesofhay, who’s entered for the $500,000 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (G2) on Friday.
ITSMYLUCKYDAY – Trilogy Stable and Laurie Plesa’s Itsmyluckyday, who was vanned from Monmouth Park Tuesday, visited the racetrack at Pimlico Wednesday morning for a light jog.
“He was great. We couldn’t have asked for any better,” said Frankie Perez, assistant to trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. “He’s been giving us 110 percent training-wise. He’s happy. He was happy arriving here (Tuesday) and he’s doing great. He’s ready to run.”
The Gulfstream Park Derby and Holy Bull (G3) winner, who finished 15th in the Kentucky Derby, will be ridden for the first time by John Velazquez.
MYLUTE – GoldMark Farm and Whisper Hill Farm’s Mylute jogged a mile shortly after the track opened at Churchill Downs Wednesday morning before boarding a plane bound for Baltimore.
“He got new shoes yesterday and jogged a mile this morning, so we are good to go,” said trainer Tom Amoss, whose Kentucky Derby fifth-place finisher had worked a half-mile in 49 3/5 seconds Monday and walked on Tuesday.
OXBOW/TITLETOWN FIVE/WILL TAKE CHARGE – Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas sent his three-pronged Preakness threat onto the track early Wednesday morning for some light exercise, and he was more than pleased with the way they handled the 12-hour van ride the day before.
“They were great,” said the 77-year-old Lukas, who is looking for his sixth Preakness victory. “I was pleasantly surprised this morning. I did a little with them, just jogged them and tried to let them get their energy level up, but they were excellent out there this morning. I was really surprised at how well they shipped.”
Oxbow and Will Take Charge have an experience edge over Titletown Five and are coming off sixth- and eighth-place finishes in the Kentucky Derby, but Lukas gives all three a chance to be factors in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
“If you look at the aerial view of the Derby and study it, Will Take Charge ran one hell of a race,” Lukas said of the Rebel Stakes (G2) winner. “He was totally stopped. He was moving probably better than Orb at that point. Whether he’d have finished with him is speculation at best. I think he’d have been second. He’s not a stop-and-start horse.”
Oxbow chased the frantic pace set by Palace Malice in Kentucky and still managed to hold on for sixth while most of the others who went out early faded to the back of the pack. Lukas said he has come back to himself quickly despite the demanding Derby trip.
“He worked this week at Churchill (four furlongs in 49 4/5 seconds) and Gary (Stevens) said that was the most relaxed, the best he’s ever had him work, so he’s a factor in here,” Lukas said. “With the sixteenth of a mile shorter and everything, he’ll be OK.”
Stevens, who rode both Oxbow and Titletown Five in their respective last starts, will be replaced on Titletown Five by Julien Leparoux. Jon Court has been replaced by Mike Smith on Will Take Charge. Lukas said he wasn’t displeased with Court’s performance.
“I thought if we could get three world-class Eclipse (-winning) riders, I’d be remiss if I didn’t give my clients that opportunity,” Lukas said. “I ran it by them, and they were excited about it. Nothing against Jon Court; I rode him all spring with good luck, but I think it’s the coach in me. I always tell those riders we’re just gonna date, we’re not gonna get married.”
The unknown commodity of the Lukas trio is Titletown Five, co-owned by the trainer and two former Green Bay Packers (Paul Hornung and Willie Davis) among others. The colt’s name comes from the nickname for Green Bay and Hornung’s uniform number.
“He’s a very talented horse,” Lukas said of the son of Tiznow, who ran fourth in the Derby Trial (G3) after a ninth-place fade in the Louisiana Derby (G2). “He’s been behind all spring, but he’s got a lot of ability. He’s a beautiful mover; he’s got a high cruising speed. Willie Davis and Paul Hornung and those guys – it means a lot to probably be in the main arena here, and I own part of him, too, so I thought it was worth a shot.”
Lukas is hoping Titletown Five will be able to display a bit more restraint in the Preakness.
“I think Leparoux on him will get him to probably be forwardly placed, but not like his last two,” Lukas said. “He got in a speed duel in the Derby Trial and it really was ridiculous in the Louisiana Derby.”
Lukas, who has won 13 Triple Crown races to tie “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons for the all-time record, knows he is facing an uphill task, but he did it before here with a Derby also-ran, Tabasco Cat (6th in 1994).
“I think Orb’s the horse to beat,” Lukas said. “He has to come back a little bit to us and we have to move forward. I’m not running for second, however. That’s not my style. If I had my choice, I’d like to see 30 of them in here because I’d know Orb would be behind at least 25 of them. I think if he gets by this one he’s got a great (Triple Crown) chance.”