Albarado Introduces Derby Winner Mystik Dan to Pimlico Track

May 13th, 2024

Muth, Imagination Give Baffert ‘Strong Hand’ for Preakness Stakes
Lightly Raced Tuscan Gold Ready for Middle Jewel of Triple Crown
Catching Freedom’s Connections Let Cox Make Preakness Call

BALTIMORE, MD – Robby Albarado was aboard for Mystik Dan’s first trip to a sealed muddy racetrack at Pimlico Race Course Monday morning while providing a helping hand to trainer Kenny McPeek in preparing the Kentucky Derby (G1) winner for a start in Saturday’s $2 million Preakness Stakes (G1).

“He’s such a smart horse. He takes everything in. Obviously, he loved that racetrack. If you saw the Southwest, it was a similar racetrack as this. I’m really not opposed to rain this weekend. Rain is in the forecast,” said Albarado, referring to Mystik Dan’s eight-length romp in the Feb. 3 Southwest Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park. “He did really well [Monday]. He went over the racetrack smooth and looked around. He’s ready for another round.”

Albarado Video:

The retired jockey has ridden the winners of two Preakness Stakes – Curlin in 2007 and McPeek-trained filly Swiss Skydiver in 2020 – among the 5,222 races he won before retiring in 2021. When arriving at Pimlico Monday morning, he recalled the last time he participated in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

“It’s been great, especially coming to Pimlico. I stopped by Stall 24 there, where Swiss Skydiver was. It was nice, it was like déjà vu. Me coming here on Monday, like I did with her in 2020,” Albarado said. “It’s just that I’m not riding in the race, but I’m still part of the team.”

While nearing the end of a career in which his mounts earned $221 million in purses, Albarado called on McPeek in his quest to go out in style.

“I wanted to win one more major race for myself. I called up Kenny McPeek and said, ‘Man, I want to win one more major race before I retire.’ He said, ‘Me, too!’” Albarado said. “About a month and a half later, he calls me up and said, ‘Hey, you might ride Swiss Skydiver in the Preakness.’ He called me up five minutes later and said, ‘Pack your stuff up. You’re gong to Baltimore.’ I was helping him out at Keeneland. I guess I was there at the right time.”

Swiss Skydiver, who finished second in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) a month earlier, beat the boys in the Preakness, holding off Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Authentic by a neck.

Albarado was pleased Monday morning how Mystik Dan, who arrived at Pimlico Sunday, went about his exercise while jogging the wrong way once around the track before lightly galloping once around the right way under the supervision of assistant trainer Ray Bryner. Albarado, 50, been getting on Mystik Dan in the morning since last Monday, two days after the son of Goldencents held off Sierra Leone by a nose in a blanket finish with Forever Young to win the May 4 Derby.

“He was kind of beat up. He was body sore from getting bumped around on the first turn and turning for home. It was the first time going a mile and a quarter. It takes a toll on them. That was the first day I got on him. The second time I got on him, and I’ve seen a progression since then,” Albarado said. “He’s gotten better and better. “

Monday morning, Albarado credited Brian Hernandez Jr. for a heads-up, ground-saving ride aboard Mystik Dan in the Derby.

“It was a Hall of Fame ride, professionalism. He had a plan. He had some audibles, but I think his initial plan was to ride him like he did, and it worked out,” Albarado said.

MUTH/IMAGINATION – Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert knows how to get it done in Baltimore.
No trainer in the history of Thoroughbred racing has known the success Baffert has had in the Preakness Stakes (G1). He has won it a record eight times, including last year’s edition with National Treasure.

On Saturday, Baffert will have two chances to get his ninth when he runs likely favorite Muth and Imagination in the 149th running of the $2 million Preakness at Pimlico Race Course.

There is really no secret to Baffert’s success in Charm City.

“You need good horses and I bring good horses,” Baffert said from his base in Southern California. “I am not going to fly cross-country with a 50-1 shot.”

The two colts he is sending to this year’s Preakness are no slouches. Muth, owned by Zedan Racing Stables Inc., is coming off a win in Oaklawn Park’s Arkansas Derby (G1) March 30. Imagination, running for the partnership of SF Racing LLC, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables LLC, Stonestreet Stables LLC, Dianne Bashor, Robert Masterson, Waves Edge Capital LLC, Catherine Donovan and Tom Ryan, was last seen finishing second in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) on April 6.

“I think this is a pretty strong hand,” Baffert said. “Muth is pretty established, a good horse with a lot of quality. I think Imagination is creeping up there. He will have to run better than he did the last time. He should and he will.”

Imagination, who will be ridden in the Preakness by Franke Dettori for the third straight race, only got beat a neck in the Santa Anita Derby by Stronghold, who went onto finish seventh in the Kentucky Derby (G1).

A son of Into Mischief, Imagination was a $1.05 million purchase at the 2022 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. After breaking his maiden on Jan. 1 – his third try – he finished second by a neck in an allowance and then won the San Felipe (G2) by a head before the Santa Anita Derby.

Muth will be ridden in the Preakness by Juan Hernandez, who has been in the saddle for all six of his starts. He broke his maiden at first asking, romping to an 8 ¾-length win last June. Since then, he has run only in graded stakes races.

Besides the Arkansas Derby, he also had a Grade 1 score in the American Pharoah last year and was second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1).

By Good Magic, Muth went for $2 million at the 2023 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company March 2-year-old in training sale.

The two horses galloped at Santa Anita Monday morning and are scheduled to leave California early Tuesday morning and arrive in Baltimore Tuesday afternoon.
TUSCAN GOLD – The first time Tuscan Gold ran in a stakes race, it was his third start. It came in the Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds on March 23 and Tuscan Gold finished third.
Not a bad accomplishment in just race No. 3, but don’t tell trainer Chad Brown that. Under further review, it could have been so much better.

“He ran the best race, really,” Brown said from his office at Belmont Park. “He was just really wide the whole way.”

Tuscan Gold will make his first start since the Louisiana Derby in Saturday’s 149th running of the $2 million Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course. The son of Medaglia d’Oro will get a rematch with Catching Freedom, who beat him by 1 ¾ lengths in the Louisiana Derby.

Jockey Tyler Gaffalione rode Tuscan Gold in the Louisiana Derby and was also on board when he broke his maiden by 6 ¼ lengths at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 31.

Going from a maiden win to a race with a $1 million purse showed the confidence Brown had in Tuscan Gold, who is owned by William H. Lawrence, Walmac Farm and Stonestreet Stables LLC.

In the 1 3/16-mile Louisiana Derby, Tuscan Gold and Gaffalione broke from Post 10 and were four wide around the first turn. Tuscan Gold was ridden hard to hold position and the colt kept on, finishing a game third.

Brown said he and his rider spoke after the Louisiana Derby.

“Probably too close to the pace,” Brown said. “It was not a good trip and Tyler understands that.”

Tuscan Gold began his career last November at Aqueduct and finished fourth in a maiden event which was won by stablemate Sierra Leone, who just missed in the Kentucky Derby (G1), beaten a nose by Mystik Dan.

Tuscan Gold, a $600,000 purchase at the 2022 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, could have run in the Peter Pan (G3) at Aqueduct last weekend, but Brown thinks enough of the colt to try the Middle Jewel the Triple Crown.

Brown said that Tuscan Gold is scheduled to ship to Pimlico Tuesday. He said he has not decided when he will arrive in Baltimore. He might not come until race day.
JUST STEEL/SEIZE THE GREY – As he has done for decades, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas held court outside the Preakness Stakes Barn Monday morning. Lukas, 88, has two horses for the 149th Preakness (G1) Saturday, Just Steel and Seize the Grey, who were in transit from Louisville, KY while Lukas was speaking to the media.
This will be Lukas’ 32nd Preakness in an almost-annual string of visits to Pimlico Race Course that began with his winning debut with Codex in 1980. According to Equibase, the six-time Preakness winner has a record of 27-20-20 from 156 starts at Pimlico, 42 percent top-three finishes. All but two of the starts were in stakes.
Lukas Video:
“I’ve liked to go to big arenas all my life. I ran the first one here 44 years ago,” he said. “I enjoy the competition. I enjoy the better races, Breeders’ Cups, the Derbys and so forth. I really thrive on that. Even at my age I still love the competition that I’m involved in.”
BC Stables LLC and Henry Schmueckle’s Just Steel has a 2-4-1 record from 12 career starts. He finished 17th in the Kentucky Derby.
“Just Steel has got a really good pedigree,” Lukas said. “His race in the Kentucky Derby was less than perfect. We got into a speed jam and there was no way that we could finish and do well there. But that happens in races. We’ve got to be careful that you don’t penalize the horse for one race like that. If you go back one race previous, I think Bob Baffert’s horse Muth is likely to be favored (in the Preakness) and we finished second in the Arkansas Derby to him.”
Lukas’s other runner Seize the Grey, owned by the MyRacehorse partnership, won the Pat Day Mile (G2) on the Derby undercard.
“I like him. He’s really set up for a beautiful effort,” Lukas said. “That Pat Day Mile was just a mile, but it was very, very, very professional. I love the way he ran in it. He was finishing strong at the end. I have no reservations about him getting the added distance of the Preakness at all. He’s going to keep everybody honest. He’s a pretty nice horse. And he’s got over 600 owners, so we’ll make a lot of people happy.”
Lukas said he was pleased that trainer Kenny McPeek opted to run Derby winner Mystik Dan in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown. The morning after the Derby, McPeek said he was not sure he would bring the colt back to the races in two weeks.
“We needed the Derby winner. We really did,” Lukas said. “If this thing is going to carry its credentials, we need the Derby winner in here every year, if we can get him and he’s physically good. And he was. I looked at him this morning. I watched him all week. He’s very good. I don’t want to be training him for Kenny McPeek, but he looks damn good. I don’t think that it’ll be easy to outrun him, especially if the weather changes. He’s got a pretty good race in the mud there in Arkansas and I’m a little worried about him being a little bit tough. I think that top to bottom, it’s a pretty solid Preakness again. It kind of came together here in the last couple of days.”
Lukas said that the seven runners he brought for the Preakness and the other stakes will start going out to the track Tuesday morning when it opens for training at 6 a.m.
CATCHING FREEDOM – When Dennis Albaugh and Jason Loutsch go with their team to the elite yearling sales, the No. 1 objective is to fast forward 1 1/2 years later to the 3-year-old classics with their Albaugh Family Stables’ horses.

That certainly was the case when they paid $575,000 for Catching Freedom at Keeneland’s 2022 September Yearling Sale. Already a millionaire thanks to an excellent fourth-place finish in the May 4 Kentucky Derby (G1) and his preceding victory in the Louisiana Derby (G2), Catching Freedom will now attempt to give Albaugh and Loutsch their first victory in a Triple Crown race in Saturday’s 149th Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course.

“We value the Triple Crown, and the opportunity to run in Triple Crown races is really important to us,” Loutsch, who is the stable’s racing managing and Albaugh’s son-in-law, said by phone. “That’s what we go to the sales for, looking to buy horses to go to the Triple Crown. The horse came back well out of the Derby, and we felt it was an opportunity to take a shot in one of the most prestigious races. We’re excited to get up there to Baltimore.”

Catching Freedom was scheduled to leave Churchill Downs at 3 p.m. Monday to van to Pimlico. Trainer Brad Cox’s son, Blake, will oversee Catching Freedom’s training for the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

Brad Cox — who was awarded the 2021 Kentucky Derby with second-place finisher Mandaloun almost three years after the fact because of Medina Spirit’s disqualification for a medication infraction — has never before run one of his Derby horses back in the Preakness. But Catching Freedom’s energetic gallops at Churchill Downs after three days off following the Derby spurred Cox to change his mind in this instance.

“If Brad wants to go, you know the horse has a legit shot,” Loutsch said. “So why not take a chance? Brad’s style is to not come back that quick, and it’s not our style either. We always say horse first. But the horse did come out of the race in great shape, and we felt it’s a good opportunity to capture one of the Triple Crown races. It’s going to be a tough challenge, but you can’t win unless you’re in the race.”

Loutsch recalls having only two starters in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness: Early in their ownership venture, as a member of Donegal Racing, Albaugh was a partner in Paddy O’Prado, third in the 2010 Derby before finishing sixth in the Preakness and embarking on a highly successful turf career. Two years later, having established Albaugh Family Stables, Cozzetti was seventh after Kentucky Derby aspirations were dashed with an Arkansas Derby (G1) fourth-place finish.

Albaugh Family Stables also was third in the Kentucky Derby last year with Arkansas Derby winner Angel of Empire. Cox skipped the Preakness to await the Belmont Stakes three weeks later, with Angel of Empire finishing in a dead heat for fourth.

It will be only Cox’s second time in the Preakness, having finished third in 2019 with Owendale and fourth the same year with Warrior’s Charge. Last year he had one of the favorites in First Mission, only to have that horse scratched the day before the Preakness.

“You’re only 3 one time,” Loutsch said. “You can only run in the Preakness once. If you’re doing well, why not give it a shot? If he runs good or bad, we can still give him some time this summer and hit the late-summer derbys we want to get to.”

In the Kentucky Derby, Catching Freedom rallied under Flavien Prat to finish 1 ¾ lengths behind Mystik Dan, who nosed out Sierra Leone and Japan’s Forever Young.

“I thought he broke really sharp, and then he got kind of covered up,” Loutsch said. “About the eighth-pole (down the stretch for the first time after breaking from Post 4), he got in a little trouble. That’s part of the Kentucky Derby, that many horses coming over on top of you. He got back a little farther than we thought after he broke. I thought he stayed there, took a lot of dirt obviously. I thought Flavien gave him a heck of a ride.

“About the three-eighths pole and on the turn, I thought he was making a great move,” he added. “ We all stood up out of our chairs and got ridiculous with excitement, like ‘Oh boy, here he comes!’ Even after the race, Flavien said, ‘At the top of the stretch, I thought we had a chance to win this thing.’ He gave all he could, and he was a length-and-a-half short.”

The Preakness favorite is likely to be Bob Baffert-trained Muth, the Arkansas Derby winner who was ineligible to run in the Kentucky Derby, The Hall of Fame trainer also will have Imagination, runner-up in the Santa Anita Derby (G1), by a neck, as he attempts to win the Preakness for the ninth time.

Albaugh Family Stable has had a few horses with Baffert, including $1 million yearling Thousand Words in partnership with Spendthrift Farm. That multiple stakes-winner had the misfortune of flipping in the paddock and was scratched from the COVID-delayed Derby of 2020, which Baffert went on to win with his other horse, Authentic.

“Tremendous respect for Bob,” Loutsch said. “I’m excited he’s in the race. I think he’s great for the sport. I’ll be excited to see him this weekend. We know he’s the biggest challenger with two great horses. We know he’s got horses that are doing great, won the Arkansas Derby, and are fresh. It’s going to take a lot to beat them. But that’s why you run the race. You never know.

“But we have a good horse, too,” he added. “He’s done nothing but good things for us, runs hard every time.”

UNCLE HEAVY – When trainer Butch Reid Jr. announced last week that Withers Stakes (G3) winner Uncle Heavy was headed to the Saturday’s $2 million Preakness Stakes (G1), he heard from plenty of people he has known during his long career.

“You suddenly find out how many friends you really have,” he said. “When you get in a big one like that, they start showing up out of the woodwork.”

Reid laughed as he described a piece of unsolicited guidance that appeared on his phone.

“I actually got an anonymous text from Phoenix, Arizona,” Reid said, “and it said, ‘If this is the guy with Uncle Heavy, make sure you run him into Preakness because he’s going to win it! didn’t respond to it. But I took his advice, and we’re going to go out and run in it.”

Reid, 67, is based at Parx in suburban Philadelphia. Since launching his training career in 1985, he has 968 wins from 5,685 starts. His top-earning horse is champion Vequist, winner of the 2020 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at Keeneland.

Uncle Heavy is scheduled to ship to Pimlico Race Course on Tuesday.

MUGATU – Average Joe Racing Stables LLC and Dan Wells’ Mugatu, galloped at Belterra Park Monday morning in preparation for a start in Saturday’s Preakness 149 (G1) at Pimlico Race Course.

“Everything is on track,” trainer Jeff Engler said. “We’re leaving here tomorrow (Tuesday) at 1 p.m.”

Mugatu is coming off a fifth-place finish in the April 6 Blue Grass (G1) at Keeneland, rallying from 10th.

Joe Bravo, who scored aboard Mugatu the only time he has ridden the son of Blofeld in a Gulfstream Park maiden race last November, has the call.

About The Stronach Group and 1/ST
The Stronach Group is a world-class technology, entertainment and real estate development company with Thoroughbred racing and pari-mutuel wagering at the core. The Stronach Group’s 1/ST business (pronounced “First”) is North America’s preeminent Thoroughbred racing and pari-mutuel wagering company and includes the 1/ST RACING & GAMING, 1/ST CONTENT, 1/ST TECHNOLOGY and 1/ST EXPERIENCE businesses, while advocating for and driving the 1/ST HORSE CARE mission. 1/ST represents The Stronach Group’s continued movement toward redefining Thoroughbred racing and the ecosystem that drives it. 1/ST RACING & GAMING drives the best-in-class racing operations and gaming offerings at the company’s premier racetracks and training centers including: Santa Anita Park, Golden Gate Fields and San Luis Rey Downs (California); Gulfstream Park – home of the Pegasus World Cup Championship Invitational Series, Gulfstream Park West and Palm Meadows Thoroughbred Training Center (Florida); the Maryland Jockey Club at Laurel Park, Pimlico Race Course – home of the legendary Preakness Stakes, Rosecroft Raceway and Bowie Training Center (Maryland). 1/ST CONTENT is the operating group for 1/ST’s media and content companies including: Monarch Content Management, Elite, TSG Global Wagering Solutions (GWS) and XBTV. 1/ST TECHNOLOGY is racing’s largest racing and gaming technology company offering world-class products via its AmTote, Xpressbet, 1/ST BET, XB SELECT, XB NET, PariMAX and Betmix brands. 1/ST EXPERIENCE blends the worlds of sports, entertainment and hospitality through innovative content development, elevated national and local venue management and hospitality, strategic partnerships, sponsorships, and procurement development. As the advocate for critical industry reforms and by making meaningful investments into aftercare programs for retired horses and jockeys, 1/ST HORSE CARE represents The Stronach Group’s commitment to achieving the highest level of horse and rider care and safety standards in Thoroughbred racing on and off the track. The Stronach Group’s TSG Properties is responsible for the development of the company’s live, play and work communities surrounding its racing venues including: The Village at Gulfstream Park (Florida) and Paddock Pointe (Maryland). For more information, please email visit or follow @1ST_racing on Twitter or @1stracing on Instagram and Facebook.