Preakness Notes: Belmont Stakes Under Consideration For Runner-Up Midnight Bourbon

Steve Asmussen, the Hall of Fame trainer of Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Midnight Bourbon, said Sunday that the June 5 Belmont Stakes (G1) is under consideration for the runner-up in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md.

With Irad Ortiz Jr. in the saddle, Midnight Bourbon prompted a solid pace set by Medina Spirit, who led throughout in the May 1 Kentucky Derby (G1), before drawing clear in upper stretch. The son of Tiznow looked home free until Rombauer swept by in the final sixteenth of a mile for a 3 1/2-length victory.

“Proud of his effort,” said Asmussen, who was seeking a third victory in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown following two-time Horse of the Year Curlin (2007) and filly Rachel Alexandra, the 2009 Horse of the Year. “Irad gave him a great chance, and the horse ran hard and ended up second. But I don’t think everybody is that far off. He’s a quality horse, continuously running better.

“He had every chance yesterday and he ran second. He’s a good horse who needs to continuously get better,” he added, “but, we have a lot of confidence that he will, pedigree-wise, and who he is physically and the fact that he has continuously improved to this point.”

Midnight Bourbon left Pimlico to van back to Churchill Downs right before dawn Sunday morning. Asked if the 1 ½-mile Belmont Stakes might be in the plans, Asmussen said, “Of course it is … all major 3-year-old races are under consideration for the rest of the year. Let’s get him back to normal circumstances just to see where we’re at with him. That also gives us time to see everything that’s out there and knock out a plan for him for the second half of the year.”

Midnight Bourbon went off as the 3-1 second choice behind 2-1 favorite Medina Spirit. The massive colt came into the 1 3/16-mile classic with a 2-2-3 record in eight starts, his only out-of-the-money finish coming when he broke awkwardly before finishing sixth in the Kentucky Derby. Midnight Bourbon won the Lecomte (G3), was third in the Risen Star (G2) and checked in second in the Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds. He had beaten and held his own against Mandaloun, who was second by a half-length in the Kentucky Derby.

Midnight Bourbon’s pedigree and his up-close running style would seem to lend itself to the Belmont Stakes. Tiznow, who was pensioned as a stallion last fall, is the sire of 2005 Belmont winner Da’ Tara.

“Absolutely,” Asmussen said of the Belmont suiting Midnight Bourbon. “I think he has proven he is more than worthy of consideration for the best 3-year-olds in the country.”

Medina Spirit, Concert Tour Exit Preakness in Good Order
Jimmy Barnes, the longtime assistant of trainer Bob Baffert, was packing up shop Sunday morning at Pimlico Race Course. Medina Spirit, who tired to third in the Saturday’s Preakness (G1), and Concert Tour, who checked in ninth, got on a van bound for Churchill Downs at 10 a.m.

Once they get to Kentucky, it will be up to Baffert to decide what is next for the two colts.

“We will evaluate everything and Bob will see what direction he wants to go with them,” Barnes said.

Both Zedan Racing Stables’ Medina Spirit and Gary and Mary West’s Concert Tour came out of the Preakness in good shape, he said. Medina Spirit, who led throughout the Kentucky Derby (G1) two weeks earlier, set the pace before being overtaken in the stretch by Midnight Bourbon, who was then passed by the late-charging Rombauer.

“He ran his race,” Barnes said. “The second quarter is what got us. Once they threw up that 46 (46.93 seconds), it was a bit much,” Barnes said. “We just need to give him a little bit more time between races. Bob knows what to do and I will feed him the information and he will tell us what to do.”

Concert Tour was never a factor in the Preakness. He was bumped at the start by Risk Taking and the colt that was expected to vie for the lead never got there.

It was his second straight loss after starting his career with three wins.

“That’s horse racing,” Barnes said. “You can’t go out there and win every race. You try to. There were nine other horses out there and if you don’t get your trip, you don’t get your trip.”

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