Preakness Notes: Baffert Pair Training Well, Brown Feeling ‘Very Confident’

After taking Medina Spirit and Concert Tour to the Pimlico track for training Wednesday morning, veteran assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes said he likes what he sees in the high-profile entrants in Saturday’s 146th Preakness Stakes (G1).

“I look for both of them to run very well on Saturday,” said Barnes, who is overseeing the training of the colts at Pimlico in the absence of trainer Bob Baffert.

Zedan Racing Stable’s Medina Spirit led the way throughout while finishing first in the May 1 Kentucky Derby (G1). Gary and Mary West’s Concert Tour will be making his first start since finishing third as the favorite in the April 10 Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn.

Medina Spirit and Concert Tour shipped from Churchill Downs to Pimlico Race Course by van on Monday. Barnes sent them out to jog a mile Tuesday and stepped up their exercise Wednesday, when they galloped about 1 ½ miles under Humberto Gomez. Beautiful Gift, the morning-line favorite for Friday’s Black-Eyed Susan (G2) on Friday, had the same routine earlier in the morning.

“All three looked beautiful on the track,” Barnes said. “They go over the track very well. It looks like a really good surface here. We’re very happy with that.”

Barnes said that Medina Spirit does not appear to be tired from his run in the Kentucky Derby.

“It was nothing for him,” Barnes said. “He came out of the other race so well and seemed to be fresh and happy. He’s been fresh and happy the whole time we’ve been here. We’ve had had good weather. We’ve had cool weather and that helps a lot. When you get that extreme heat it tends to knock you all out.”

Concert Tour won his first three career starts, but turned in a disappointing performance in the Arkansas Derby. Gary West and Baffert announced a few days after the race the colt would bypass the Derby and be pointed to the Preakness. Barnes also used “good and fresh” to describe Concert Tour.

Video Concert Tour:

“We’ve had weeks between races now. I think he likes that,” Barnes said. “He doesn’t like his races stacked on top of one another probably.”

In the post-position draw Tuesday afternoon, Medina Spirit drew Post No. 3 and was rated the 9-5 favorite. Concert Tour drew the outside in the field of 10 and is the second choice on the morning line at 5-2.

“The posts are good, 10 and 3,” Barnes said. “Both of our horses run. They both try to get away from there, play the break and stay clean, and give yourself a fair shot.”

Hall of Famer John Velazquez will have the return mount on Medina Spirit, while fellow Hall of Famer Mike Smith is set to ride Concert Tour for the first time.

Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Midnight Bourbon, who was sixth in the Kentucky Derby (G1), was introduced to the Pimlico racing surface Wednesday for a morning gallop after vanning from Louisville Tuesday.

“He went over the racetrack beautifully this morning, so no excuses until necessary,” said trainer Steve Asmussen, who will saddle Midnight Bourbon for a start in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes (G1) in search of a third success in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown, won by Horses of the Year Curlin (2007) and Rachel Alexandra (2009).

Asked about the pace in the Preakness, Asmussen centered his comments on the addition of Rebel Stakes (G2) winner Concert Tour, who was kept out of the Kentucky Derby after finishing third in the Arkansas Derby (G1).

“Concert Tour is as fast as you can be,” Asmussen said. “He’s obviously a very formidable horse. What will be very interesting is how the racetrack plays all week and what we would like to do in the Preakness.”

Concert Tour, ridden in his first four starts by Joel Rosario, picks up Hall of Famer Mike Smith, who rode Midnight Bourbon in the Derby.

“I would suggest that Mike thought he had a better chance to win on Concert Tour than Midnight Bourbon…. But that would be his question,” Asmussen said.

The Midnight Bourbon camp promptly engaged Irad Ortiz Jr., the reigning three-time Eclipse Award winner as North America’s outstanding jockey.

Midnight Bourbon broke tardily when the ground broke under his hind legs in the Derby, leaving the Tiznow colt much farther back than he figured to be. David Fiske, Winchell Thoroughbreds’ long-time racing and bloodstock manager, said he really likes Midnight Bourbon’s Post No. 5 for the Preakness.

“I like being in the middle of the gate,” Fiske said after the draw. “I like theoretically loading second-last (with the double load), like he should have in the Derby prior to King Fury scratching. I was just talking to Ron (Winchell) about ifs and butts. Given the fact that he blew the break, was that impactful that he loaded second instead of second-last. So hopefully nobody scratches and we get to load second-last.”

Fiske said Midnight Bourbon could turn out to be well placed, strategically, between Medina Spirit (Post No. 3) and Concert Tour (Post No. 10).

“I don’t think he will try to beat them to the turn. But I would think he would be up there with him, so he can breathe on Medina Spirit from the outside and hopefully cause Concert Tour to run wider than he would like. But who knows?” Fiske said. “As big as he is, and he has shown in his previous races to be pretty fast, he can take up some space and kind of dictate where some other horses are going to end up.”

Seven horses from four-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown got their first looks at Pimlico Wednesday morning, including his two Preakness Stakes entrants, Crowded Trade and Risk Taking, both of whom are owned by Seth Klarman’s Klaravich Stables Inc.

Under the supervision of Brown’s assistant, Jose Hernandez, both horses galloped a mile and a quarter on Wednesday and will do the same on Thursday.

Brown, who is in New York, said he expects to be in town on Friday.

Crowded Trade is coming off an encouraging third-place finish in the Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct Race Track on April 3. Risk Taking, the 5-2 favorite in the Wood, was a head-scratching seventh in the nine-horse field.

“Crowded Trade ran a really good race in only his third start,” Brown said. “He did hang a little bit in the lane, but he made up a lot of ground after breaking bad. Risk Taking was quite a disappointment that day. He was coming into the race in excellent form and his numbers were heading the right way. He just didn’t fire.”

Brown said Risk Taking, a son of Medaglia d’Oro, did take a lot of kickback in the Wood. The following day, he said the colt had one eye closed.

“Clearly, the kickback impacted him to some degree,” Brown said. “Whether that fully explains why he just quit in that race, I will never be certain of it. I am just going to draw a line through that race. I just hope he can get back to his race in the Withers, which would put him in contention here.”

Risk Taking won 1 1/8 mile Withers on Feb. 6, also at Aqueduct, by 3 ¾ lengths. Both Brown horses will have new riders on them, but they are two of the trainer’s go-to jockeys.

Hall of Famer Javier Castellano will be on Crowded Trade, while Jose Ortiz will ride Risk Taking.

“I have a lot of confidence in both of them,” Brown said.

John and Diane Fradkin’s homebred Rombauer and trainer Mike McCarthy were up and out early Wednesday, the colt’s first full day at Pimlico Race Course, to prepare for the Preakness Stakes (G1) on Saturday.

McCarthy took a red-eye flight from California Monday night so he could be at the track when Rombauer completed his cross-country flight to Baltimore on Tuesday afternoon. Everything has gone according to plan, McCarthy said, after the colt galloped 1 ¼ miles at 6:30 a.m.

“The horse is a pretty easy keeper.” McCarthy said. “He shipped in good order and got over the racetrack fine this morning.”

Rombauer, a son of Twirling Candy, broke his maiden on turf as a 2-year-old in July and was Grade 1-placed on dirt when second in the American Pharoah at Santa Anita in September. He won the Feb. 13 El Camino Real Derby, a Preakness ‘Win & In’ automatic qualifier, over the artificial surface in his 2021 debut at Golden Gate Fields. He was third in the Blue Grass (G2) on dirt in his most recent start at Keeneland on April 3.

In the Preakness he will start from Post No. 6 under new rider Flavien Prat.

“His best races have been when he has been able to close,” McCarthy said. “He was a little bit farther back than I would have liked in the El Camino Real Derby, but he was able to get the job done. He was a little bit closer than I would have liked in the Blue Grass. He’s not so much pace-dependent, but I would like to see them go fairly swiftly up front, obviously.”

The part performances of trainer Bob Baffert’s two runners – Medina Spirit, who led from start to finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1), and Concert Tour – and Steve Asmussen’s Midnight Bourbon would lead many handicappers to conclude that there is likely to be a sharp early pace.

“The Triple Crown races are always a little bit faster than your average everyday race,” McCarthy said. “I would imagine that there will be a pretty good show on into the first turn. The same gentleman probably has two horses that are going ahead and set the tempo for everyone. We’ll see what happens there.”

When Todd Pletcher saddles Lexington (G3) runner-up Unbridled Honor in Saturday’s 146th Preakness Stakes, it will mark the newly-elected Hall of Fame trainer’s first starter in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown’s since his second Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Always Dreaming languished home eighth in 2017.

Unbridled Honor will be Pletcher’s 10th Preakness starter on a list that includes 2010 Derby winner Super Saver, whose Triple Crown plans were dashed with an eighth place at Pimlico.

Pletcher’s best Preakness finish remains his first in 2009, when Impeachment was third after finishing third in the Kentucky Derby. Impeachment is one of only two Pletcher horses to run in the Preakness after a loss in the Derby, the other being Circular Quay, who finished fifth in Baltimore.

By contrast, Pletcher’s 2021 quartet of runners stretched his Derby participants to a record 59, also dating to 2020. Pletcher has frequently said that his horses do better with more spacing between races than the two weeks between the Derby and Preakness.

Unbridled Honor, a Whisper Hill Farm homebred, comes in off a five-week turnaround from the 1 1/16-mile Lexington. That in turn followed a fourth place in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) five weeks prior.

“I think the timing suits him,” Pletcher said. “I think the distance should suit him. I think he would benefit from a good pace up front, which maybe we’ll get if Midnight Bourbon shows a little initiative and (with) Concert Tour and the first-place finisher in the Derby. Hopefully he can get away a little better, get in a little better stalking position and then have a good pace to run at.”

Medina Spirit led all the way in the Derby while knocking out a representative pace. But he did so without anyone right at his throat latch and also got a breather in the third quarter-mile heading into the far turn. Pletcher said he knew his four late-closing horses were in trouble half-way through the race.

“It was an uncontested lead,” Pletcher said. “When I was watching the race live, when he got to the backside and he pricked his ears, I thought to myself, ‘Oh, I don’t like this,’ because all my horses at that point were way back anyway. It wasn’t really shaping up like I was hoping at that stage.”

Unbridled Honor, a gun-metal gray son of Honor Code and out of the Unbridled’s Song mare Silvery Starlet, galloped Wednesday morning at Pimlico after vanning from Belmont Park on Tuesday. Pletcher said he hopes to be at Pimlico Friday for the eighth race, in which he’s running Spice Is Nice in the $150,000 Allaire DuPont Distaff (G3).

Keepmeinmind checked off another variable on his way to Saturday’s Preakness Stakes (G1), handling Tuesday’s van ride from Churchill Downs to Pimlico and training well Wednesday morning. Keepmeinmind jogged a mile and galloped a mile shortly after 6 a.m.

“The big thing is you always worry about these horses shipping and stuff,” said trainer Robertino Diodoro, participating in the Preakness for the first time. “I couldn’t get here fast enough this morning to check his feed tub. He ate everything, so that was great. I thought he trained really well. Very happy.”

Keepmeinmind is owned by Cypress Creek Equine, Arnold Bennewith and Spendthrift Farm LLC, which bought into the Laoban colt after he won Churchill Downs’ Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) last fall following a third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and second in Keeneland’s Breeders’ Futurity (G1). His 3-year-old season has been less productive. He finished sixth in Oaklawn’s Rebel (G2), fifth in Keeneland’s Blue Grass (G2) before finishing a late-running seventh in the Kentucky Derby (G1).

Keepmeinmind was 52-1 in the Breeders’ Futurity, 30-1 in the Breeders’ Cup and 49-1 in the Derby. He was rated 15-1 in the Preakness morning line after drawing Post No. 2 Tuesday.

“I said the other day the horse can’t read the odds,” Diodoro said. “I’m very confident. The first time this year things have lined up for this horse.”

The trainer said he believes there’s plenty of speed in the 1 3/16-mile classic to set things up for Keepmeinmind.

“The only thing is, the race is run on dirt and not paper,” he said. “You know how that goes sometimes. But on paper, I think there’s definitely enough pace and the smaller field helps. I think we drew well, and will stay on the rail as long as we can…. You got to worry about your own horse, and we’re not going to change our running style. We tried that once a couple of starts ago because of the lack of speed and it didn’t turn out. We’re going to go back to our normal way of just worrying about our horse and hoping he’s doing well — and definitely don’t take him out of his element.”

Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas has won the Preakness Stakes (G1) six times in his distinguished career and is clear-eyed about where Ram fits in Saturday’s race at Pimlico Race Course. Ram, who will start from the rail in his stakes debut, is 30-1 in the morning line.

“I’ve got to move up. He’s a situation kind of like Oxbow when I brought him,” Lukas said Wednesday morning. “He’s getting good right now and he’s moved forward almost two or three or four points every time he’s run. He’s got to improve a lot.”

Oxbow was a surprise winner in 2013 at 15-1.

Lukas, 85, acknowledged that there was more than back-to-back wins that went into the decision to give Ram a chance in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown. The American Pharoah colt is co-owned by Christina Baker, widow of Robert Baker, and William Mack.

“Bob Baker died recently and his wife is emotional, I think, about coming here and being a part of this again,” Lukas said. “Bob kept saying, ‘We don’t have too many years left,’ meaning me and him. We’re the same age. And he died suddenly.”

Lukas said he discussed the situation with the owners after the colt won the first race on the Kentucky Derby (G1) program and started to make plans for the Preakness. Ram will be his record 45th career starter.

“I thought with everything being considered. I don’t have to stand here and try to prove that I can train a horse,” Lukas said. “I’m not worried about that part, somebody saying, ‘Well, what that hell is he doing in there?’ We’re a long shot, but we’re dangerous. I don’t think we can win it. I think we can probably be on the board. And we may not even do that. If we don’t, we’ll load him and go home. We don’t have to wake up every day saying, ‘God, I have to prove that I can train one of these things.’”

Lukas sent Ram out for what he described as a strong 1 3/8-mile gallop Wednesday morning. The colt shipped from Churchill Downs Monday and Lukas remarked Tuesday that he seemed a bit quiet Tuesday morning during his time on the track. But Wednesday, Lukas said, he was back to his normal self Wednesday.

“He was sharp today,” Lukas said. “The van ride might have taken a little off his fastball.”

Ricardo Santana Jr. will ride Ram for the first time in the Preakness.

The post Preakness Notes: Baffert Pair Training Well, Brown Feeling ‘Very Confident’ appeared first on Horse Racing News | Paulick Report.

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