Velazquez to Ride Simplification in Middle Jewel
Rich Strike Stretches Legs in Tuesday Morning Gallop
Derby Champion a ‘Gamble That Worked Out’
BALTIMORE, MD – Tami Bobo and Tristan De Meric’s Simplification, who finished fourth in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby (G1), arrived at historic Pimlico Race Course before dawn Tuesday to begin preparations for the 147th running of the Preakness Stakes (G1) May 21.
Simplification, the first of the Preakness runners to be bedded down in the Preakness Stakes Barn, stepped off the van at 5 a.m. following an 11-hour ride from Churchill Downs. Jesus ‘Chino’ Prado, the longtime assistant to trainer Antonio Sano, was at the track to oversee the colt’s move into Stall 26. Prada said the overnight trip from Kentucky went smoothly and that Simplification handled it well.
“Our horse feels good,” Prada said. “My doctor here checked the horse, and he was perfect. I think everything is good with Simplification.”
Prada said that the bay son of Not This Time would have a quiet first day in Baltimore. He was scheduled to walk the shedrow for 50 minutes in mid-afternoon. Simplification will walk in the morning and the afternoon on Wednesday and go out to the track for the first time at approximately 6:30 a.m. Thursday morning.
“That first day he will go out with the pony and walk and jog with my exercise rider so he can get to know the track,” Prada said.
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez will ride Simplification for the first time in the 1 3/16-mile Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown. Velazquez, the leading money-winning rider in North American racing history, replaces Jose Ortiz, who has a commitment to ride Early Voting for trainer Chad Brown. In 11 appearances in the Preakness, Velazquez, 50, has a record of 0-3-1. His top finishes were seconds aboard Derby winners, Animal Kingdom (2011) and Authentic (2020), as well his runner-up placing on Itsmyluckyday in 2013.
Prada watched the Derby in Florida. Simplification and Ortiz started from Post 13 and were wide throughout the 1 ¼-mile race. They passed a half-dozen horses in the final half-mile and ended up 3 ½ lengths behind the longshot winner, Rich Strike.
“I think that the race was very good,” Prada said. “The positions were a little bit wide but the jockey did a good job in a race with 20 horses. It was an amazing race and I think he ran very well. I think we’ve got more of a chance here because the field will probably be nine to 10 horses and because of the track. The track here has a longer stretch. It’s more like Gulfstream Park.”
Simplification made the first seven starts of his career at Gulfstream Park and compiled a record of 3-1-2. He won the Mucho Macho Man on Jan. 1, before finishing second in the Feb. 5 Holy Bull (G3), winning the March 5 Fountain of Youth (G2), and checking in third as the 2-1 favorite in the April 2 Florida Derby (G1).
Rich Strike Stretches Legs in Tuesday Morning Gallop
RED TR-Racing LLC’s Rich Strike returned to the racetrack Tuesday morning for the first time since pulling off an 80-1 upset in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs.
The 3-year-old son of Keen Ice jogged a half-mile before galloping a mile at Mercury Equine Center near Lexington, KY in preparation for a highly anticipated start in the 147th Preakness Stakes (G1) May 21 at Pimlico Race Course. Trainer Eric Reed reported that Rich Strike “traveled great.”
Rich Strike, who rallied from 15th at the top of the stretch to prevail over favored Epicenter by three-quarters of a length, is scheduled to return to Churchill Downs later this week with the possibility of an easy breeze on Monday or Tuesday before shipping to Pimlico.
Derby Champion a ‘Gamble That Worked Out’
Rich Strike’s only victory prior to his Kentucky Derby upset also came at Churchill Downs in his second career start Sept. 17, 2021, when he was claimed for $30,000 by Rick Dawson’s RED TR-Racing LLC after graduating by 17 ¼ lengths
“Rick was trying to upgrade his stable and get some younger horses. We thought with the big purses and the well-bred horses we have around here at Churchill in the summer it might be a great chance to jump in and grab something that has a future. Just taking a shot,” trainer Eric Reed said. “The horse was working super good on the dirt and his first race was on the turf when he didn’t run well. We just took a gamble that it was the turf that was the reason he ran poorly and not anything else, and the gamble worked out.”
The Kentucky Derby Museum has confirmed that Rich Strike is the only Derby winner who had actually been claimed out of a claiming race. Other horses had run in claiming races prior to their Derby victories but were not claimed, such as 2009 victor Mine That Bird and 1999 winner Charismatic, who had raced for claiming prices of $62,500.
Adam Beschizza was the jockey aboard Rich Strike for his graduation.
“He didn’t jump off on the lead and keep extending his lead,” Beschizza said during training hours at Churchill Downs Tuesday. “He was still very raw then. He broke a little bit slow – took him maybe a sixteenth-mile to get into the race. Then once he was a furlong, two furlongs into the race, he took it up pretty easy and kept on extending his lead.
“For sure, I definitely wasn’t thinking, ‘This horse could win the Kentucky Derby.’ No. But he’s definitely a horse that the farther he goes, the better,” Beschizza added. “That’s what we’re all looking for now, isn’t it? You’re looking for a dirt horse that can take kickback, that can stay a mile and half.”
Rich Strike earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 65 that day – 36 points below the 101 figure he was awarded for his Derby score over the same track.
“I guess he does like this track. He seems to get over the surface better than the others,” Beschizza said. “But I’m sure the distance definitely moved him up. Obviously coming back to Churchill moved him up again.”
Asmussen ‘Happy with Everything He Sees’ from Epicenter
Kentucky Derby (G1) runner-up Epicenter walked the shedrow at Churchill Downs for the third morning after his big effort last Saturday. Trainer Steve Asmussen, a two-time Preakness winner with Horses of the Year Curlin (2007) and the filly Rachel Alexandra (2009), reiterated that the decision concerning Epicenter’s status for the May 21 Preakness Stakes (G1) would be made after the son of Not This Time resumed training but that he likes what he sees so far.
“We were going to wait until he goes back to the track (Wednesday) and then discuss it,” the Hall of Fame trainer said at Churchill Downs. “But I’m extremely happy with everything I see to this point, just kind of want to see how he travels, his energy level under weight. But it would be very surprising to me if he’s ever anything but perfect.”
Fellow Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said “no changes” when asked if a Preakness decision had been made for either Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Secret Oathor Ethereal Road. The six-time Preakness-winning trainer said Secret Oath resumed training while jogging at Churchill Downs Tuesday morning. Ethereal Road has been training all along since being scratched last Friday morning from the Kentucky Derby – the defection that paved the way for Rich Strike to draw in off the also-eligible list.
Un Ojo, Oaklawn Park’s Rebel Stakes (G2) winner at 75-1 odds, continues to do well since being withdrawn from the Derby with a minor foot bruise on the morning of entries. Assistant trainer Clay Courville was aboard as the one-eyed gelding jogged a mile and galloped a mile Tuesday at Churchill Downs right before the 7 a.m. track renovation break.
“He felt really good,” said Courville, the son of trainer Ricky Courville. “He was playing while jogging one time around, so I decided to turn him around and he galloped good. He hit the ground good. He was pulling on me, that’s for sure. He was tough.”
Creative Minister Reported to be Preakness Bound
Fern Circle Stables and Back Racing’s Creative Minister, a sharp allowance winner on the Kentucky Derby (G1) undercard Saturday, is headed for the May 21 Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course, trainer Kenny McPeek told the Daily Racing Form.
The son of Creative Cause was not nominated for the Triple Crown and will have to be supplemented for $150,000 to enter the Preakness.
McPeek also told the DRF that Smile Happy, eighth in the Derby, would not run in the Preakness. Rattle N Roll remains a possible starter depending upon on how he looks in a timed workout this weekend.
Creative Minister was second by a neck in his career debut, a seven-furlong race at Gulfstream Park on March 5. He broke his maiden on April 9 at Keeneland at 1 1/16 miles over a sloppy track and won by 2 ¾ lengths at Churchill Downs on Saturday.
‘More Distance the Better’ for Skippylongstocking
Daniel Alonso’s Skippylongstocking, who finished third in the Wood Memorial (G2) at Aqueduct, galloped at Palm Meadows, Gulfstream Park’s satellite training center in Palm Beach County, Tuesday morning in advance of a scheduled start in the 147th Preakness.
The Saffie Joseph Jr.-trained colt has shown marked improvement while stretching out to 1 1/8 miles in his last two starts, a 3 ¾-length score in a Gulfstream allowance and his third-place finish behind Mo Donegal and Early Voting in the Wood.
“Skippy makes one run, so the more distance the better for him,” Joseph said. “He was coming off that allowance win at Gulfstream and in the Wood he ran another top number, so he’s deserving of a chance.
“Seeing the Derby, anything can happen in races. I don’t know if another shocker can happen, but we’re going to give it a go,” he added.
Skippylongstocking is a Kentucky-bred son of Exaggerator, winner of the 2016 Preakness Stakes.
“I hope he follows in his father’s footsteps,” Joseph said.
Joseph-trained White Abarrio, who finished a troubled 16th in the Kentucky Derby (G1), arrived at Gulfstream Park Tuesday morning from Churchill Downs. The Florida Derby (G1) winner will bypass the final two legs of the Triple Crown.
Trainer ‘Thinking About Preakness’ for Shake Em Loose
Owner-trainer Rudy Sanchez-Salomon is still thinking Preakness for J R Sanchez Racing Stable’s claimer-turned-multiple stakes winner Shake Em Loose, who breezed Tuesday over the main track at his home base of Laurel Park.
“He was very impressive today. He went a half-mile in 47 [seconds] and galloped out five-eighths in 59 and three,” Sanchez-Salomon said. “Very impressive.”
Sanchez-Salomon said he wants to see how the Preakness field develops before making a decision. He is also considering the $100,000 James W. Murphy for 3-year-olds going a mile on the grass on the Preakness undercard for Shake Em Loose.
“I haven’t decided yet. I don’t know who’s coming or who’s not. I’m thinking about going to the Preakness, but I’m still on the fence,” he said. “I don’t want to break his heart. He breezed unbelievable today and everybody was happy about it, but I’m still going to give him one more breeze Sunday on the grass and I’ll make my mind up then.”
In 11 lifetime starts, Shake Em Loose has raced once on the grass last fall for his previous connections, finishing 11th following a troubled start. Sanchez-Salomon worked him five furlongs over Laurel’s world-class turf course May 1.
“He really impressed me when he worked on the grass the other day,” he said. “I just want to keep him sound and happy.”
Sanchez-Salomon claimed Shake Em Loose for $16,000 last November and the gelded son of Grade 1 winner Shakin It Up has since won three of five races, all at Laurel, including the 2021 Heft at odds of 59-1 and the 1 1/16-mile Private Terms March 19. Following the race, he was nominated to the Triple Crown by the late deadline for $6,000.
In his most recent start, Shake Em Loose ran third in the 1 1/8-mile Federico Tesio April 16, five lengths behind Joe and Mr Jefferson, who were separated by a nose. Joe was taken out of Preakness consideration this week and will instead be pointed to the Murphy.
“He was good going into the last race and he just had some bad luck, but that’s horse racing,” Sanchez-Salomon said. “We’re happy with him.”