Albarado Gallops Kentucky Derby Hero Mystik Dan Thursday

May 9th, 2024

Two-Time Preakness-Winning Jockey Answers McPeek’s Call
Brown to Seek Third Preakness Success with Tuscan Gold
Catching Freedom Under Consideration for May 18 Middle Jewel
Uncle Heavy Confirmed for Start in Preakness Stakes
Rosario Has Mount on Just Steel; Jaime Torres on Seize the Grey

BALTIMORE, MD – With two-time Preakness Stakes (G1) winner Robby Albarado aboard, Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mystik Dan galloped 1 ½ miles at Churchill Downs Thursday morning as a trip to Pimlico Race Course for the 149th Preakness Stakes appears more and more likely.

While Brian Hernandez Jr. rides Mystik Dan, as well as Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Thorpedo Anna, trainer Kenny McPeek asked Albarado if he would start getting on the Derby winner for morning training and travel with the team to Baltimore. McPeek, who was at Keeneland checking on his 2-year-olds Thursday, said by phone later that Mystik Dan will compete in the $2 million Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown May 18 as long as everything continues to go well.

“Everything is going well with him, so we’re headed in the right direction,” McPeek said.

Mystik Dan, wearing his Kentucky Derby training saddle towel, went out at 7:30 a.m. after the first track renovation break, which was announced over the backstretch public-address system as being “for workers and Kentucky Derby winners only.”

“For him to come back as well as he did, I thought was a feat in itself, the way he got banged around in the Derby. He went good; just stretched his legs a bit today; switched leads on point. He’ll be ready for next Saturday,” Albarado reported.

McPeek said Mystik Dan would have a similar training session Friday and that Saturday “maybe we’ll let him stretch his legs a little bit down the lane and we’ll get a little clarity about what we’re doing after that.” He said that if the Derby winner advances to the Preakness, he would ship Sunday, Monday or Tuesday.

Albarado teamed with McPeek to win the COVID-delayed 2020 Preakness with Swiss Skydiver, also working as the filly’s exercise rider and making the trip to Pimlico Race Course.

“Kenny gave me a call and said, ‘Rob, I need you at Pimlico,’” Albarado said at McPeek’s barn. “Me and Kenny have had a little luck at Pimlico. We’re trying to do this whole Swiss Skydiver thing over again. This will be the only time I’ll be riding him this year, but we got just as good a rider, Brian, on him.”

He added of a final Preakness decision that he “didn’t want to jump to conclusions. But if he does go, I’m on the trip. He has to be doing well. I don’t know how he looked to you this morning, but he felt pretty dang good to me.”

Albarado, who retired from race riding in 2021 with 5222 winners and $221 million in purse earnings, also won the 2007 Preakness on two-time Horse of the Year Curlin.

“They’re just different,” he said of classic-winning horses. “There’s a different air around them. They have a silent confidence within them, the way they move, the way they act.”

Albarado late last year embarked on a new career as a jockey agent, representing apprentice Joseph Bealmear and subsequently also picking up veterans Martin Garcia and Chris Landeros. After retiring as a jockey, Albarado spent almost three years working for McPeek, particularly with his young horses, and he still helps out.

“Robby got on him every time he came to Oaklawn,” McPeek said of Mystik Dan. “Robby had been on him many times as a young horse before he even ran. When he was at Keeneland, Robby got on him a lot. As long as we have a good next couple of days, we’re making plans to go and Robby would go, too.”

Albarado goes almost as far back as McPeek with Mystic Dan, who was foaled at the trainer’s Magdalena Farm in Lexington.

“It’s good that I got to see him as a weanling, when he was born, actually at Magdalena,” Albarado said. “So that’s pretty special… It’s kind of like having one of your kids become a professional athlete. That’s who he’s become: D1, professional level. He’s maturing. We took notice of him young. Now everybody notices him. It’s pretty cool.

“It’s funny how I got him… I worked against him, his first three-eighths of a mile. We got back to the barn, and I said, ‘I want that one. I’m going to get on him from now on,’ and I did,” he added. “He’s impressed every time. He has many gears to him, many, many gears. He can stop and go, stop, go. That’s impressive for a young 3-year-old.”

Brown to Seek Third Preakness Success with Tuscan Gold

Trainer Chad Brown, who has won the Preakness Stakes (G1) twice in his career, will go for No. 3 a week from Saturday.

Brown said Thursday that he will enter lightly raced Tuscan Gold in the second leg of the Triple Crown. Brown had entered the son of Medaglia d’Oro in the Peter Pan (G3), which will be run at Aqueduct on Saturday.

“My first instinct was to always run in the Preakness,” Brown said from his office at Belmont Park. “I wanted to enter the Peter Pan to give myself some options. I wanted to look and survey the field and see who was actually going to show up in the Preakness.”

Tuscan Gold is owned by William H. Lawrence, Walmac Farm and Stonestreet Stable, LLC.

The Preakness will be the fourth start for Tuscan Gold. When last seen, he finished third in the Louisiana Derby (G3) at Fair Grounds on March 23. Tuscan Gold broke his maiden by 6 ¼ lengths in his second start at Gulfstream Park Jan. 31.

“At the end of the day, the reward is so much greater if he were to run well in the Preakness going for a much bigger prize,” Brown said.

Brown said that Tyler Gaffalione, who has ridden Tuscan Gold in his last two starts, will have the mount in the Preakness. Brown also said that he plans to work Tuscan Gold at Belmont this weekend but was not sure if it would be Saturday or Sunday.

Shipping plans to Baltimore have yet to be made, Brown said.

Brown won his first Preakness in 2017 with Cloud Computing and got to the winner’s circle for a second time with Early Voting in 2022. Lawrence owned Cloud Computing along with Seth Klarman’s Klaravich Stables.

Last year, Brown’s Blazing Sevens finished second in the Preakness, beaten a head by National Treasure.

Catching Freedom Under Consideration for May 18 Middle Jewel

Kentucky Derby (G1) fourth-place finisher Catching Freedom is under consideration for the 149th Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course on May 18, said Jason Loutsch, the co-owner and racing manager for Albaugh Family Stables.
The Louisiana Derby (G2) winner rallied from 15th to finish fourth under Flavien Prat in the Kentucky Derby, coming in two lengths behind the three-horse photo from which Mystik Dan emerged the winner.

Loutsch said Thursday by phone that the ultimate decision will be made by Churchill Downs-based trainer Brad Cox, but that Catching Freedom likely will run in either the 1 3/16-mile Preakness or Churchill Downs’ $400,000 Matt Winn Stakes (G3) at 1 1/16 miles on June 9.

“We never really ruled it out,” Loutsch said of the Preakness. “We were just going to give the horse some time to come back. We weren’t going to commit until we found out how the horse is doing. We’ll know something by Saturday. Obviously, you’d love to run in Triple Crown races, but at the same time the horse is always first.

“We’ll make a decision by the weekend. He’s doing well now. I’m not opposed to taking a shot in the Preakness, but I’ve got to listen to Brad and the horse and take my heart out of it,” he added. “Of course I want to run, but at the end of the day it’s all about the horse. He ran a bang-up race, ran hard in the Derby. We’ll just see how he comes back out of it. If we don’t run in the Preakness, we’ll go to the Matt Winn.”

Catching Freedom came from last, rallying into a pedestrian pace, to win the Louisiana Derby at the Preakness distance of 1 3/16 miles.

Uncle Heavy Confirmed for Start in Preakness Stakes

When it was time to make a decision, trainer Butch Reid Jr. said that the key elements pointed to a run for Uncle Heavy in the 149th Preakness Stakes (G1) on May 18 at Pimlico Race Course. The Pennsylvania-bred son of Social Inclusion will be the first Preakness starter for the veteran trainer based at Parx in Philadelphia.

After it was clear that Uncle Heavy would not have enough qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby (G1), Reid considered the $200,000 Peter Pan (G3) on Saturday at Aqueduct or the $2 million Preakness for Uncle Heavy’s next start. In his most recent outing, Uncle Heavy was fifth after a troubled trip in the Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct April 6.

“We were looking at both of them. In the end it was the horse that prevailed,” Reid said. “He’s doing so well and had a tremendous breeze last week, and we’re going to have another shorter one this week. He’s training well. He looks well. This looks like the time to take a shot. And it looks like the race could set up for him a little bit. There’s a fair amount of speed in there, and he’s a closer, so we decided to go ahead and take a shot with him.”

Uncle Heavy, named for Reid’s brother Mark, a retired trainer, has won three of five starts. He signaled that he had the ability to compete at the Triple Crown series level with his victory in the Withers (G3) on Feb. 3. However, many things went wrong for Uncle Heavy in the Wood. Most notable was at the top of the stretch while making a sustained run from far back, he was near Deposition when he fell, dropping the rider.

“Yeah, it was really tough,” Reid said. “When we drew and I saw the 13th hole I knew it was going to make things difficult for him that he was going to get fanned out wide, which he did. And then unfortunately, the horse fell next to him. That kind of put him and the jock off their game a little bit. Who’s to say that he should have won, but he certainly should have had a better trip than that.”

Reid, 67, said the colt will work Saturday and will ship to Pimlico on Tuesday.

Rosario Has Mount on Just Steel; Jaime Torres on Seize the Grey

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas told a national conference call Thursday afternoon that Joel Rosario will take over riding Just Steel in the May 18 Preakness (G1) at Pimlico Race Course. Just Steel was part of a swift pace in the Kentucky Derby (G1) before tiring to 17th under Keith Asmussen, who had finished second on the colt in the Arkansas Derby (G1) to earn his first Kentucky Derby mount. Lukas said Jaime Torres retains the mount on Seize the Grey after winning the Pat Day Mile (G2) aboard the gray colt.

Rosario, in the 2024 class of inductees into the National Museum of Racing’s Hall of Fame, has never won the Preakness but has been second four times, including last year with Epicenter.

Lukas said he’s still looking for a rider for Oaklawn Park’s Honeybee (G3) winner Lemon Muffin in the May 17 Black-Eyed Susan (G2). He said he offered the mount back to Asmussen, who had been aboard for the filly’s last three races, including the Honeybee, but that the jockey opted to ride at Churchill Downs that day for his father, trainer Steve Asmussen.

As the conference call was ending, Lukas asked moderator Jim Gluckson the Preakness status of Mystik Dan. Told that Derby-winning trainer Kenny McPeek was going to take his time making a decision, Lukas quipped: “Tell him to make a decision about Tuesday or Wednesday of next week.”

Entries are taken Monday for the Preakness.

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