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Bourbon War ‘Strong’ in Workout for May 18 Preakness Stakes

Warrior’s Charge to be Supplemented for Middle Jewel of Triple Crown

Improbable Spirited in Thursday’s Return to Track

May 9, 2019

BALTIMORE, MD – Bourbon Lane Stable and Lake Star Stable’sBourbon War continued his preparations for the 144th Preakness Stakes (G1) May 18 at Pimlico Race Course with a five-furlong breeze Thursday morning at Belmont Park.

“He worked well. I was pleased with his work,” Hennig said. “He went off aggressively, finished strong, galloped out strong. Pretty much what we were looking for.”

Under exercise rider Jose Mejia, Bourbon War worked in company with stablemate Carlino and completed his assignment in 1:01.67, the third fastest of 16 recorded at the distance.

Bourbon War finished fourth in the Florida Derby (G1) on March 30 at Gulfstream Park. The three horses that finished ahead of him in the Florida Derby all went on to the Kentucky Derby (G1). Florida Derby winner Maximum Security finished first in the Kentucky Derby but was disqualified and placed 17th. Code of Honor, third in the Florida Derby, three-quarters of a length in front of Bourbon War, finished third in the Kentucky Derby and was moved to second by the DQ. Bourbon War, who was second to Code of Honor in the Fountain of Youth (G2), fell short of qualifying points for the Derby.

“We felt like we would have been a worthy participant in the Derby,” Hennig said. “When we didn’t get in, we felt like the thing to do was watch the Derby and see how things shook out after the Derby. Certainly there was nothing from the result of the Derby to give us any less confidence going forward.” 

The Preakness has been the target for Bourbon War, Hennig said, and the strong performances by horses that competed in South Florida this winter further encouraged the connections of the son of Tapit.

“Had the Florida horses not run well,” Hennig said, “or if Omaha Beach had been in the race and won by 10 or someone else did, then you might be like, ‘Maybe we need to take a more conservative approach.’ With the result the way it was and the confidence we have in our own horse, we just thought it was silly not to give him the opportunity to be in a Triple Crown race.”

Eclipse Award winning jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr., who has been aboard for Bourbon War’s last four races, will ride in the Preakness.

Improbable Spirited in Thursday’s Return to Track

Improbable, the likely favorite for the 144th Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico, resumed training Thursday morning at Churchill Downs following his fifth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1), in which he was moved up to fourth upon the disqualification of first-place finisher Maximum Security.

Accompanied by assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes on a pony, Improbable jogged a spirited lap around the track under exercise rider Humberto Gomez. Watching from the rail was Elliott Walden, president and CEO of WinStar Farm, which co-owns the son of City Zip with China Horse Club International and Starlight Racing.

“We jogged today, and it was difficult keeping him on the ground,” Barnes said with a laugh. “He was wanting to buck and jump, feeling very good, and we’ll proceed with training tomorrow. It looked after the race that he came out in good shape, very happy. So all systems are good right now.”

Trainer Bob Baffert, who saddled American Pharoah (2015) and Justify (2018) for Triple Crown sweeps, is shooting for his record-breaking eighth Preakness win, all since 1997. Baffert currently shares the record set in the 19th century by Robert Wyndham Walden.

Baffert is expected to return to Louisville from his California base this weekend and will determine whether he wants to give Improbable a timed workout before shipping to Baltimore.

Improbable went 3-for-3 during a 2-year-old campaign that was capped by a victory in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) by five lengths. He’s 0-for-3 this year, including a neck defeat in a division of Oaklawn Park’s Rebel Stakes (G2) won by Long Range Toddy and then by a length to Omaha Beach in the Arkansas Derby (G1).

Mike Smith, who won the Triple Crown with Baffert and Justify last year, picks up the mount for the Preakness. Improbable was previously ridden by Irad Ortiz Jr. in the Kentucky Derby, Jose Ortiz in the Arkansas Derby and Drayden Van Dyke in his first four starts.

“It’s not the same as his 2-year-old season; we’d rather be winning,” Walden said. “But he’s been close enough in all his races and he’s run against Omaha Beach, who would be the pro tem leader right now, I’d think, or one of them. So he’s run very well.”

Improbable, who broke from Post 5 in the Kentucky Derby, was eighth in the early going while racing in striking distance of front-running Maximum Security. 

“I would have liked to have been closer,” Barnes said when asked to evaluate Improbable’s Derby. “I really didn’t want to be back behind horses. He got beat 3 1/2 lengths in a roughly run race on a terrible, muddy racetrack. I would have liked to have been a little closer in the clear instead of trapped behind horses. But that’s the Derby. It’s a large field. You don’t always get the trip you want. So we move on to Baltimore.”

Walden said Thursday morning was the first time he’d seen Improbable since the Derby. “With the Derby, you want to see how their weight is, how they come out of it energy-wise,” he said. “He looks great.”

He said Baffert’s Preakness record gives him that much more confidence in running Improbable in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

“Obviously, he had three horses in the Derby, and he’s not choosing to run all three back,” Walden said. “He’s choosing Improbable because he thinks he’s the one who came out of the race best. So that does give you confidence.”

WinStar won its first Preakness as an owner last year with Justify, although the farm did purchase the breeding rights for Exaggerator before his triumph in the race in 2016.

“The Preakness is a stand-alone Grade 1 classic race,” Walden said. “It is very important in regards to the 3-year-old picture. Quite honestly, one way I looked at it was that if he could win the Preakness and do it well, I think it puts him in position to see how the rest of the year goes for 3-year-old champion. Because the Derby was just kind of a muddled race. Maximum Security is obviously a very, very talented horse, and Country House is coming on well. But I think the 3-year-old picture is wide open.

“Obviously, it is not the same as last year, when we were going in with Justify and you had a Triple Crown possibility. That’s always exciting for the industry to have a Triple Crown on the line. But it doesn’t happen every year. And there’s a reason it doesn’t happen every year: Because it’s darn hard to do,” Walden continued. 

“I’m excited to go up there with Improbable and see if he can redeem himself. He ran well in the Derby, looked like he got bogged down a little bit the last quarter of a mile when Irad tipped him out. I’m not sure that was the best part of the racetrack. It seemed like horses down inside were running very well and it looked like he bogged down a little bit when he got out and got clear. I thought he was going to win at the quarter pole, because he was traveling well. Then he tipped out and he just didn’t look like he had the same stride he’s had in the past. That’s one of his weapons, his stride. Hopefully, we’ll catch a good racetrack and see. He ran well in the mud in Arkansas, so I wouldn’t be afraid of that, either. But the other day he just didn’t seem to have that same stride that he had in his other races.”

Warrior’s Charge to be Supplemented for Middle Jewel of Triple Crown

Trainer Brad Cox said early Thursday afternoon that owners Ten Strike Racing and Madaket Racing will supplement Oaklawn Park allowance winner Warrior’s Charge for the May 18 Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico. Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano has the mount. Castellano won the 2006 Preakness on Bernardini and in 2017 with Cloud Computing.

The cost of making a horse who wasn’t nominated to the Triple Crown eligible to run in the Preakness Stakes is $150,000.

“The owners got together and thought with some of the [Derby] horses not going back in the Preakness – I don’t want to use the word short field but not a full field yet – they’re definitely going to entertain it,” Cox said. “But we’re pointing to it, and as of right now, we would enter in the race.”

Warrior’s Charge started his career with a trio of thirds before stretching out to 1 1/16 miles at Oaklawn Park. The son of Munnings promptly won a maiden race by six lengths in front-running fashion and came right back with an allowance victory by 6 1/2 lengths at the same distance.

“We thought a lot of him last fall,” Cox said. “Honestly, I kind of wondered how far he wanted to go. He’s a really strong horse – big, strong hips on him. He’s not a big, tall, gangly horse. (But) he has speed and he can carry it around two turns. He showed that his last two starts.

“Three back, his first start around two turns [at a mile], he broke just a touch slow and just really didn’t get involved quick enough in the race. He’s done nothing wrong since,” he added. “The timing is good. I believe it will be five weeks and a day between the races. He had a fantastic work last week at Churchill [1:00 1/5 for five furlongs].”

Cox said it’s a good year to take a shot, given that the Kentucky Derby (G1) first-place finisher Maximum Security went from a $16,000 maiden claiming race and an allowance victory to winning the Florida Derby (G1) and then Kentucky Derby; Country House had only a maiden win before being moved up to his Kentucky Derby victory, and By My Standards went from a maiden win to taking the Louisiana Derby (G2).

“Look, if there was a Justify out there, we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation or thinking about it,” he said. “We wouldn’t try to tackle a horse like that. But I think it’s just one of those years that you maybe take a chance here.”

Cox, whose stable during the past few years has emerged as one of the strongest in North America, has never before run a horse in a Triple Crown race. Now, he is set to saddle two in the Preakness, with Keeneland’s Lexington (G3) winner Owendale already confirmed.

“These horses didn’t accomplish enough early on in their 3-year-old year to make it to the Derby,” he said. “It would have been great to have been in the Derby with either one of them, but it wasn’t to be. This opportunity presented itself. We’re not running back in two weeks, which I think is a plus. That doesn’t mean that a horse who ran in the Derby won’t win the race, but I think things are setting up well.”

As long as Warrior’s Charge continues to train well, the plan is the 1 3/16-mile Preakness, Cox said, adding one caveat.

 “If something developed over the next week that made us feel like we had no shot, I guess we’d look at the Sir Barton [on the Preakness undercard],” he said. “But right now it’s the Preakness.”

Both Warrior’s Charge and Owendale galloped Thursday at Churchill Downs. Cox said they will likely work Saturday.

Preakness Notes: Bodexpress, who was in the first tier of horses on the far turn of the Kentucky Derby before being snatched up in traffic and fading to 14th, galloped 1 1/2 miles at Churchill Downs. Bodexpress finished second in the Florida Derby after a second-place finish in a maiden race.

Trainer Gustavo Delgado is expected to be at Churchill on Friday to make a final decision on whether to advance to the Preakness. The Delgado stable is based at Gulfstream Park West.

“Pops said the main key right now is keeping him happy,” said Gustavo Delgado Jr., assistant to his dad. “He galloped a mile and half today, did it very easy.  He was pulling all the way. I’ve been making reports for him. The next step is Pops gets here to see his horse. I bet if he keeps looking the way he has the last two days, it’s pretty certain we’re going to enter him. So far he’s showing all the good signs, eating everything, no low energy level or something like that.”

Delgado Jr. said Bodexpress’ Derby misadventures started before the much-scrutinized chaos at the five-sixteenths pole.

“He was looking good until the three-eighths pole,” he said. “I think the winner, Country House, was the one that made him check, even more than the horse on the inside. The way he runs and way he develops, he looked like he would start trying again. We were a little bit down after the race, but when we saw him like it was nothing after the race, we were happy. It was like nothing was going on.”

Delgado Jr. said Bodexpress’ second at 71-1 odds in the Florida Derby won by Maximum Security didn’t surprise their team. That’s even though Bodexpress, a son of 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness runner-up Bodemeister, had never run farther than a mile or around two turns before the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby — nor had he run in anything but a maiden race.

“I think it was just a matter of luck [that Bodemeister was winless heading into the Florida Derby],” Delgado Jr. said. “But he did everything as if he’d won. So it was nothing we worried about.”

As for the Florida Derby, “We knew that day that he was doing really good for the race. Pops was pretty sure he could handle the distance.  He not only ran behind Maximum Security, he also beat (Fountain of Youth winner) Code of Honor, who wound up second in the big race. So that’s pretty much the level he is. I think Jason Servis’ horse, Maximum Security, is on the top right now, no doubt about it. But following Maximum Security, I think a lot of horses are in the same group.”

Bodexpress is owned by Top Racing, Global Thoroughbred and GDS Racing.

Gary Barber’s War of Will, the horse whose path Maximum Security crossed into to set the stage of the historic Kentucky Derby disqualification, jogged two miles at Churchill Downs under Kim Carroll and with assistant trainer Allen Hardy alongside on a pony as training hours were winding down.

War of Will, winner of two Kentucky Derby preps at the Fair Grounds, wound up eighth in the Derby, but lost by only a total of 4 1/2 lengths. He was placed seventh after the DQ.

“He’s just a remarkable animal and good athlete,” said Hardy, who oversees trainer Mark Casse’s Churchill Downs operation. “There are a lot of things that are always chaotic for the Kentucky Derby, and the weather has been one of them the past few years. Just some unfortunate events occurred that I believed stopped all his momentum from carrying on and progressing to either possibly win or hit the board.

“… Honestly, I think everybody was just very happy that he didn’t go down,” he added.

Hardy said of seeing the photos showing War of Will’s front legs mixed up with Maximum Security’s hind legs, “It doesn’t get any closer than that. A lot of us watched the replays that night, and it’s terrifying – probably one of the most scary races I’ve ever witnessed. We’re very fortunate he didn’t go down and he’s jogging and doing great and he’s happy and full of himself right now. I think we owe him a lot. He’s a great animal.” 

With exercise rider Danny Ramsey aboard, the Kenny McPeek-trained Signalman galloped after the Churchill track opened at 5:30 a.m. Signalman comes into the Preakness off a third-place finish in Keeneland’s Blue Grass (G2), finishing a nose out of second.

Laughing Fox, winner of the inaugural Oaklawn Invitational last Saturday that earned him an entry fees-paid spot in the Preakness, had an easy Thursday that is standard in the Steve Asmussen barn, going with a pony to the starting gate to stand, backing out and having a leisurely gallop the rest of the way around the track under exercise rider Brooke Stillion.

Other Preakness candidates include: Alwaysmining, who extended his winning streak to six races in the Federico Tesio at Laurel Park on April 20; Anothertwistafate, runner-up in the Lexington and the Sunland Derby (G3) in his last two races; and Win Win Win, the Blue Grass (G2) runner-up who finished 10th in the Derby.

About Pimlico Race Course

Legendary Pimlico Race Course, home of the Preakness® Stakes, the Middle Jewel in horse racing’s famed Triple Crown, first opened its doors on October 25, 1870, and is the second oldest racetrack in the United States. Pimlico has played host to racing icons and Baltimoreans have seen the likes of legendary horses such as Man o’ War, Seabiscuit, Secretariat, Affirmed, American Pharoah and Cigar thunder down the stretch in thrilling and memorable competition. For more information on Pimlico, visit www.pimlico.com.

The Stronach Group is North America’s leading Thoroughbred racetrack owner/operator. The Stronach Group racetracks include Santa Anita Park, Gulfstream Park & Casino, home of the Pegasus World Cup Invitational, Golden Gate Fields, Portland Meadows, Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course, home of the world-famous Preakness. The company owns and operates the Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida and is one of North America’s top race horse breeders through its award-winning Adena Springs operation. The Stronach Group is one of the world’s largest suppliers of pari-mutuel wagering systems, technologies and services. Its companies include AmTote, a global leader in wagering technology; Xpressbet, an Internet and telephone account wagering service; and Monarch Content Management, which acts as a simulcast purchase and sales agent of horseracing content for numerous North American racetracks and wagering outlets. The Stronach Group is also a leading producer of social media content for the horseracing industry. For more information contact David Joseph at david.joseph@marylandracing.com or call 954.658.7156.