McPeek More ‘Encouraged’ Mystik Dan Could Run in Preakness

May 6th, 2024

Lukas to Double Up in Preakness with Just Steel and Seize the Grey

BALTIMORE, MD – While saying that a decision might not be made until entries are taken for the 149th running of the Preakness Stakes (G1) May 13, trainer Kenny McPeek sounded more optimistic Monday that his Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mystik Dan could run back in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown May 18 at Pimlico Race Course.

Mystik Dan cleared one hurdle that might seem small but is a big deal to McPeek: he ate all his dinner Sunday evening, about 24 hours after jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. guided the colt to a nose victory over Sierra Leone in a blanket finish with third-place finisher Forever Young in the 150th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

“Ate up last night, which is a really good sign,” said the Churchill-based McPeek, who became the first trainer since Ben Jones in 1952 to win the Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Derby in the same year, with Mystik Dan’s courageous victory following Thorpedo Anna’s win in Friday’s 3-year-old filly classic. “… I’m big on that. I always believe the faster they eat, the faster they run. You’ve got to keep them in the feed tub. They need that energy.

“We’ll get him back to the track on Wednesday, probably give him a little jog a mile, gallop a mile, something simple. I’m encouraged. I’m going to talk to (owners) Lance (Gasaway) and Sharilyn (Gasaway). No fast moves,” he added. “We probably won’t decide until the morning of entries. But the horse is doing fine and seems to be bright and happy.”

Addressing the media Sunday morning, McPeek stressed that he’s “not committed” to the 1 3/16-mile Preakness, expressing concern about running Mystik Dan back in two weeks. In his second career start on Nov. 12, Mystik Dan won by 7 ¾ lengths at Churchill Downs. McPeek then ran him 13 days later in an entry-level allowance race, with the colt finishing fifth by a total of eight lengths.

“We’ll let him tell us,” the trainer said Sunday. “If he’s not in the feed tub, he won’t run.”

McPeek canceled plans to go up to Saratoga with wife Sherri Monday to start setting up his division there. He said Mystik Dan will stay at Churchill Downs until the final Preakness decision is made.

“We’re staying here,” he said. “There’s too much to worry about here. I need to check on young horses at Keeneland. So, yeah, there’s a lot of balls in the air. …I’m just really proud of him. He’s such a special little colt. To think that he might be moving forward is even better. So we’ll see. We’ve got a few days to figure it out.”

McPeek said Monday that the decision to skip Oaklawn Park’s Rebel Stakes (G2),
which fell between Mystik Dan’s romping victory in the mud in the Feb. 3 Southwest (G3) and a third-place finish in the March 30 Arkansas Derby (G1), works in the Kentucky Derby winner’s favor if they run back in the Preakness.

“I told Lance before the Derby that skipping the Rebel would give us a little more confidence to come back in the Preakness,” he said. “That does matter. That seven-week space between the Southwest and Arkansas Derby gave us time to take our time and let him fill out. He’s in good order.”

Lukas to Double Up for Preakness with Just Steel and Seize the Grey

As he has done many times in the past, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas has plans to bring two runners to Pimlico Race Course to run in the 149th Preakness Stakes (G1) May 18.

After Seize the Grey captured the Pat Day Mile Stakes (G2) Saturday at Churchill Downs, Lukas said the colt was headed to the Preakness. Lukas, 88, confirmed Monday that Just Steel, who was 17th in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby (G1), is also a Preakness prospect.

“We’ll bring both of ours,” Lukas said. “We will be there Monday.”

Lukas has saddled 46 starters for the 1 3/16-mile Preakness, winning six times. He has started two or more horses in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown 13 times.

Just Steel, a son of 2018 Triple Crown champion Justify co-owned by BC Stables and Henry Schmueckle, sat second under jockey Keith Asmussen for the first mile of the Derby but faltered in the stretch. Lukas noted that the early fractions of 22.97 seconds and 46.63 took a toll on the horses that were prominent early in the race.

“It was too much, much too early. No way,” he said Monday.

Just Steel was purchased as a yearling for $500,000. He has a 2-4-1 record and earnings of $724,545 from 12 starts.

In the Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park March 30, Just Steel finished second, two lengths behind Muth, the likely favorite in the Preakness, and 4 ¼ lengths in front of Mystik Dan, the Kentucky Derby winner.

Seize the Grey, owned by MyRacehorse, was sired by the 2016 3-year-old champion Arrogate, who did not compete in the Triple Crown races that year. The Pat Day Mile was Seize the Grey’s first stakes victory. Lukas had hoped to have Seize the Grey in the Derby, too, but opted for the Pat Day when he figured that the colt did not have enough qualifying points to make it into the field. MyRacehorse bought Seize the Grey for $300,000 at the 2022 Saratoga Select Yearling sale. He has a 3-0-3 record and earnings of $619,938 from nine starts.

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