Asmussen: Post #8 ‘Ideal’ for Derby Runner-up
Oaks Winner Secret Oath Arrives at Pimlico Monday
BALTIMORE – Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC’s Epicenter was installed as the 6-5 morning-line favorite for Saturday’s 147 Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course following Monday’s post-position draw for the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
The Steve Asmussen-trained colt, who finished second in the May 7 Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs, drew Post #8 in a field of nine 3-year-olds during the official draw at nearby Citron Restaurant.
Asmussen, a two-time Eclipse Award winner, has saddled a pair of Preakness Stakes winners during his Hall of Fame career: Curlin (2007) and filly Rachel Alexandra (2009).
Epicenter made a powerful move in the Kentucky Derby to take the lead on the turn into the homestretch but was unable to hold off Rich Strike, the 80-1 upsetter who is bypassing the 1 3/16-mile Preakness.
Joel Rosario has the return mount aboard the son of Not This Time, who entered the Derby off impressive victories in the Risen Star (G2) and Louisiana Derby (G2) at Fair Grounds.
Klaravich Stables Inc.’s Early Voting was rated second at 7-2 in the morning line after drawing Post #5. The Chad Brown trainee most recently finished second in the April 9 Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct, losing by a neck to Mo Donegal after setting the pace.
The son of Gun Runner, who will be ridden by Jose Ortiz, entered the Wood off a debut maiden score and a 4 ½-length triumph in the Withers (G3) at Aqueduct in his first two career starts.
Briland Farm’s Secret Oath, who captured the May 6 Kentucky Oaks (G1) at Churchill Downs by two lengths, was rated third at 9-2 in the morning line after drawing Post #4 for her attempt to become the seventh filly to capture the Preakness.
Secret Oath arrived at Pimlico shortly before 3:30 p.m. Monday following a van ride from Churchill Downs, accompanied by her Hall of Fame trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, who reported that the Oaks winner handled the trip well.
The daughter of Arrogate finished third against males in the Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn prior to impressing in the Oaks on Derby eve.
Luis Saez, who was aboard for the Oaks, has been awarded the return call by Lukas, a six-time winner of the Preakness.
Tami Bobo and Tristan De Meric’s Simplification, who closed from 15th to fourth with a very wide rally in the Kentucky Derby, was set at 6-1 after drawing Post #1.
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez will seek his first Preakness success aboard the Antonio Sano-trained son of Not This Time, who captured the Fountain of Youth (G2) and finished third in the Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park.
Fern Circle Stables and Back Racing LLC’s Creative Minister [Post #2; 10-1; Brian Hernandez Jr.], SF Racing and partners’ Armagnac [Post #7; 12-1; Irad Ortiz Jr.], Daniel Alonso’s Skippylongstocking [Post #9; 20-1; Junior Alvarado], Calumet Farm’s Happy Jack [Post #6; 30-1; Tyler Gaffalione], and Villa Rosa Farm and Harlo Stable’s Fenwick [Post #3; 50-1; Florent Geroux] are also entered in the Preakness.
Preakness Stakes Draw Quotes
Trainer Steve Asmussen [Epicenter, Post #8]: “I thought it was ideal. It’s a nine-horse field, plenty of run-up to the first turn. Several fresh horses and us coming back in two weeks, I think it’s absolutely ideal. You could say we’re half as nervous as the draw for the Derby, when you go from 20 runners to nine. I think that makes it that much more beneficial to everybody as far as post-position draw goes. With that being said, it’s exciting to run against Early Voting, me being a huge fan of Gun Runner (whom he trained). So I’m very excited to see him, but obviously anxious for Epicenter’s opportunity in the Preakness.”
Trainer Chad Brown [Early Voting, Post #5]: “Terrific. I wanted to be somewhere in the middle, so that will work. I’m happy with the draw.”
Owner Rob Mitchell [Secret Oath, Post #4]: “I think it’s fine. … I mean, I’m happier with that than I was after the post position for the Oaks (Post #1), but I’d really like to hear what Wayne [Lukas] has to say about it.”
Trainer Antonio Sano [Simplification, Post #1]: “I saw speed to the outside. It doesn’t change our strategy. At first, I thought no good, but Johnny V [John Velazquez] is so smart. He will make the decision if he has to go outside.”
Trainer Kenny McPeek [Creative Minister, Post #2]: “I like him inside. We will leave it up to Brian (Hernandez Jr.). Really, it’s not the post position as much as it is the horse. It would not have bothered me if we drew the rail.”
Trainer Tim Yakteen [Armagnac, Post #7]: “I like it. The post should suit him fine. It’s a good draw for him. In any race, yes, the post is key, but it depends on the horse. He just needs to get out and get in a good rhythm.”
Trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. [Skippylongstocking, Post #9]: “It’s fine. I don’t think the posts are going to compromise anybody, so I’m fine with it. It’s only a nine-horse field.”
Trainer Doug O’Neill [Happy Jack, Post #6]: “Six out of nine – I like it. I think it’s a good draw. With the three outside us, we have some wiggle room. This is a tough group. We like that there are nine rather than 20. We are happy right where we are.”
Trainer Kevin McKathan [Fenwick, 50-1; Post #3]: “The draw was perfect. I wanted to be right in the middle. My horse is going to the front. I deserve to be 50-1 how we ran last time. I deserve to be that, maybe 60-1. He has to go to the front – we got cut off, shut off in the Blue Grass – once that happens then anything can happen. He’s a free-running horse. You put him on the lead and let him go at 50-1, they might never see him again.