Disarm, Red Route One ‘Gunning’ for May 20 Preakness

May 10th, 2023

Cox Seeking Personal Triple Crown with First Mission

Mage’s Four-Race Experience Could be a Plus for Preakness

Confidence Game Resumes Training for Preakness

BALTIMORE, MD — Gun Runner, the 2017 Horse of the Year who retired with earnings of just under $16 million, sired a Preakness Stakes (G1) winner from his first crop of 3-year-olds last year in Early Voting.

The only downside to that for Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen, who trained Gun Runner, and Ron Winchell, who still co-owns the $15.98 million-earner and superstar stallion, is that Early Voting, in the process, beat their favored colt Epicenter. Epicenter came flying fast but ran out of ground trying to collar Early Voting, having to again settle for second after being run down in the final yards of the Kentucky Derby (G1) by 80-1 Rich Strike two weeks earlier.

Now Winchell and Asmussen are scheduled to return to the 1 3/16-mile Preakness armed with not one but two sons of Gun Runner. Asmussen said Wednesday that both Kentucky Derby fourth-place finisher Disarm and Oaklawn Park’s Bath House Row Stakes winner Red Route One will run in the 149th Preakness as long as they continue to do well.

Disarm resumed training Wednesday after three days off following the Kentucky Derby, jogging once around the Churchill Downs track. Red Route One visited the starting gate for a routine session of standing before having an easy gallop. Red Route One is scheduled to work Sunday and Disarm on Monday before shipping to Pimlico on Tuesday.

Like their dad, Disarm and Red Route One are chestnuts. If they turn out to be half as good as Gun Runner, they’ll make their team proud.

Disarm has yet to win a stakes but was second in the Louisiana Derby in his stakes debut and then third in Keeneland’s Stonestreet Lexington (G3), an additional race tucked in to get him enough points to qualify for the Kentucky Derby field. Red Route One is more experienced, with nine career starts, his first victory coming on grass at Kentucky Downs (for which Winchell is co-managing partner) and with graded-stakes placings in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and Oaklawn’s Southwest (G3) and Rebel (G2). A sixth-place finish in the Arkansas Derby (G1) rerouted Red Route One from the Kentucky Derby to the Bath House Row, where a fees-paid spot in the Preakness came with the victory.

“Disarm carries more weight. Red Route One might be a little taller but doesn’t carry as much mass,” Asmussen said when asked to compare the colts. “Both of them have unbelievably good attitudes and are very happy to train – just two that we are very fortunate to have. They are very much Gun Runner’s personality. Both of them let you know that they are men and will talk to you a little bit. They are extremely sound horses that look beautiful on the racetrack.

“Red Route One looks like Gun Runner and Disarm just might actually be Gun Runner –the markings, the exact red color. The similarities between Disarm and Gun Runner, physically and personality-wise are carbon copies.”

Asmussen has won the Preakness twice, both coming with Horses of the Year and future Hall of Famers Curlin (2007) and the filly Rachel Alexandra (2009). He opted to skip the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown after Gun Runner finished third in the Kentucky Derby.

“With the accomplishments of Gun Runner going into the Derby and where he obviously ended up proving who he was, I think it was way too much to risk at that stage (to run back in two weeks). He was unique and special. We look up and about six years later, we have options [with his offspring],” Asmussen said.

“It’s kind of like going into the Louisiana Derby with Disarm off being second in an (allowance race),” he continued. “The word was ‘This horse is working like Gun Runner did around here.’ My comment was ‘to everybody who didn’t have Gun Runner.’ Gun Runner is the only thing I could put in the ballpark with Curlin as far as physical ability.”

By the way, Kentucky Derby winner Mage is from the first crop sired by Good Magic, who is a son of Curlin. Curlin, a two-time Horse of the Year, was represented in his first crop by 2013 Belmont Stakes winner Palace Malice and then three years later had 2016 Preakness winner Exaggerator (second in Gun Runner’s Derby won by Nyquist).

“Curlin and Gun Runner are going to be in the pedigrees at the highest levels of racing in the world for the rest of my life,” Asmussen said. “I couldn’t be any more proud of that.”

Cox Seeking Personal Triple Crown with First Mission

Five years after he won his first Grade 1 stakes, Louisville-based trainer Brad Cox has the opportunity to complete a personal lifetime Triple Crown with Godolphin’s First Mission in the 148th Preakness Stakes May 20 at Pimlico Race Course.

“He’s doing very well,” Cox said of First Mission, winner of Keeneland’s Stonestreet Lexington (G3) under Luis Saez in his most recent start on April 15. “He had a good breeze here Derby morning (five-eighths of a mile in 59.80 seconds). He bounced out of it in great shape. We really like what we’ve seen from him all winter and into the spring. He’s obviously stepped up. He’s lightly raced but he’s got a lot of talent. We’re looking forward to giving him a swing at a Grade 1.

First Mission has raced only three times, finishing second in his Feb. 18 debut at Fair Grounds, before graduating in his first start around two turns by 6 ¾ lengths a month later at Fair Grounds and winning the Lexington (G3) at Keeneland.

“I really believe this horse is one of the top 3-year-olds in the country. Like I said, he’s lightly raced but a lot of talent. A very intelligent horse; sound horse; does everything right. I think he’s only going to get better the more he does it.”

Cox earned his first Grade 1 victory in Keeneland’s 2018 Ashland Stakes with Monomoy Girl, who became a two-time Breeders’ Cup Distaff winner and a champion. If he wins the Preakness, First Mission would be the 13th individual horse to win a Grade 1 stakes for Cox.

Cox’s first Triple Crown victory came with Mandaloun in the 2021 Kentucky Derby, albeit after the First Saturday in May. That’s when first-place finisher Medina Spirit was disqualified from the Derby victory for a minor medication infraction. That result is still being litigated, but Churchill Downs recognizes Mandaloun as the winner.

The 2020-2021 Eclipse Award-winning trainer’s first Triple Crown race winner to cross the wire in front was Godolphin’s 2-year-old champion Essential Quality in the 2021 Belmont Stakes. Cox has only been in the Preakness once, finishing third with Owendale and fourth with Warrior’s Charge in 2019.

“It would be cool to win that jewel of the Triple Crown,” he said. “It’s a very fun week there in Baltimore. They really put on a good show. A lot of history there; it’s an older racetrack. It’s a really cool experience.”

Even if he’s only been in the headliner once, Cox has enthusiastically embraced the Preakness weekend stakes.

“We’ve had a lot of luck over there in undercard races, such as the Dinner Party and the Black-Eyed Susan,” he said. “(Champion female sprinter and 3-year-old filly) Covfefe ran there. I love going over there. It’s a great atmosphere. Baltimore is a very cool city and I’m looking forward to going back next week.”

For the seventh-straight year, the Maryland Jockey Club is offering bonus money totaling $100,000 to trainers who run a minimum of five horses in the 15 Thoroughbred stakes races during Preakness weekend, May 19 and 20, at Pimlico. Points are accumulated for finishing first (10 points), second (seven), third (five), fourth (three) and having a starter (one). First place is worth $50,000, a prize Cox earned in 2019, with Steve Asmussen winning the bonus the past two years.

“I’m not sure we’re going to have enough horses to compete for the title, but who knows?” Cox said. “I honestly don’t really look at that. Whatever you take there, you send with intent. You don’t put them on the van if you think they’re going to be an also-ran. If everything works out and they run the way they can, maybe we’ll be in contention.”

Mage’s Four-Race Experience Could be a Plus for Preakness

OGMA Investments, Ramiro Restrepo, Sterling Racing and CMNWLTH’s Mage became only the second horse to win the Kentucky Derby (G1) without racing at age 2 since Apollo in 1882. The other was 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify. Mage also was only the third Derby winner since the filly Regret in 1915 to prevail in its fourth lifetime start, following Justify and Big Brown in 2008.

With four races, including the 1 ¼-mile Derby, behind Mage, the light schedule now could work into his favor in the Preakness Stakes.

“Yes,” Gustavo Delgado Jr., son of and assistant to trainer Gustavo Delgado, said earlier in the week. “What happened to be the opposite side coming into the Derby – if the horse is feeling good enough to pursue the Preakness and Triple Crown – now we are on the good side of it. Because he’s lightly raced, and everything seems in order for him to continue to improve.”

Mage had a second day of galloping at Churchill Downs Wednesday after two days off following the Kentucky Derby. Delgado Jr. gave the “so far, so good” update while reiterating that final plans have not been made.

Confidence Game Resumes Training for Preakness

Confidence Game, 10th in the Kentucky Derby in his first race since winning Oaklawn Park’s Feb. 25 Rebel Stakes (G2), resumed training Wednesday with a gallop at Churchill Downs. Trainer Keith Desormeaux would like to run in the Preakness, a race he won in 2016 with Exaggerator, but wants to make sure the colt’s energy level has returned.

Desormeaux said the 10 weeks between races “had nothing to do” with Confidence Game’s placing. That said, he thinks having that time off between the Rebel and the Derby will play in Confidence Game’s favor in the Preakness.

“You want me to just lay down the law, the truth?” he joked earlier in the week before returning to California to check on his Santa Anita barn. “I used the Derby to prep for the Preakness. A $50,000 (in entry fees) workout. We got to party, got a saddle towel, got a lot of good pictures, prep for the Preakness. Now all I’ve got to do is jog him, light gallop, and we’re ready.”

Desormeaux said the Derby field doesn’t get the respect it merits, starting with Mage’s late rally to edge the gritty Two Phil’s by a length.

“I heard some rumbling that it was a great year to win with a lesser horse. That’s B.S.,” he said. “Those are some good horses. I thought it was high quality, even with (Florida Derby winner) Forte out and (Santa Anita Derby winner) Practical Move. How much better is it with those guys? But I still think it was an awesome race.”

Chase the Chaos ‘a Picture of Health’

Even though Chase the Chaos was far behind the winner in his last two starts, trainer Ed Moger Jr. said the gelding is showing him he is ready for the May 20 Preakness at Pimlico Race Course.

“He’s a picture of health. He looks great,” Moger said. “I know he didn’t run very good the last couple of times, but I still really like the horse. I really think he could have a shot. He’s a talented horse. Real strong.”

After finishing in the top three in the first five starts of his career, including a pair of wins, Chase the Chaos earned a fees-paid berth into the Preakness Stakes (G1) with a victory in the El Camino Real Derby on Feb. 11 at Golden Gate Fields. Off that success, Moger sent him from his base at Golden Gate to Santa Anita Park for the San Felipe (G2) on dirt on March 4. He finished seventh in the nine-horse field, beaten 16 ¾ lengths, and was found to have an exercise-induced pulmonary hemorrhage.

Moger opted for a little freshening for the Pennsylvania-bred and brought him back in the California Derby on the synthetic track at Golden Gate. Sent off as the 2-1 favorite, he hopped at the start and ended up eighth of nine.

“He couldn’t look any better, so we’re kind of throwing those out and we’re going to work him this weekend,” Moger said. I’m sure he will work really, really good.”

Chase the Chaos is scheduled to ship from California to Baltimore on Tuesday.

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