American Pharoah is Heavy Preakness Favorite from the Rail
American Pharoah broke his maiden from the rail. Now, he’ll try to capture the second leg of the Triple Crown from the same spot. The Arkansas Derby and Kentucky Derby winner was installed the 4-5 program favorite Wednesday after drawing the inside post for the Preakness Stakes Saturday at Pimlico. Post time for the 140th Preakness is 5:18 p.m. (Central).
American Pharoah is bidding for his sixth consecutive victory, a streak that began when he broke his maiden in the $300,000 Del Mar Futurity (G1) Sept. 3 at Del Mar and continued in Oaklawn’s $750,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 14, $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 11, and then in the Kentucky Derby May 2.
The Zayat Stables homebred, who drew post 18 for the Kentucky Derby, will try to become the first horse to win the Preakness after breaking from the rail since Tabasco Cat in 1994. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s other entrant, Dortmund, drew post 2 for Saturday’s 1 3/16th-mile race. Dortmund, the early 7-2 second choice, finished third in the Kentucky Derby.
Baffert wasn’t thrilled with the post position for either horse, particularly American Pharoah, who sat just off the pace in his victories in the Arkansas Derby and Kentucky Derby.
“I can’t believe I drew the 1-2 of all draws,” Baffert said. “I’m just glad I didn’t draw that for the Derby. Sometimes you’ve got to give a little. It’s a short field, eight horses. He still has to break well. If he’s the best horse, we’ll find out.”
Mr. Z, who wintered at Oaklawn, was an 11th-hour entrant after being sold Wednesday to Calumet Farm (Brad Kelley). The Malibu Moon colt will remain with Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Mr. Z made his first 13 career starts for Zayat Stables LLC, which owns American Pharoah. In the Kentucky Derby, the colt had to steady several times in the opening quarter-mile and finished 13th - the colt’s 12th consecutive loss.
“He didn’t get any chance to run in the Derby,” said Lukas, has won the Preakness six times. “I think he’ll run a good race. He didn’t get a lot out of the Derby and he’s training well. We’ll give him a shot. I’ve been lucky here before.”
Mr. Z, who is reunited with Corey Nakatani, is scheduled to break from post 3 and is 20-1 on the morning line. He ran three times at Oaklawn, finishing third in the $150,000 Smarty Jones Stakes Jan. 19, third in the $300,000 Southwest Stakes (G3) Feb. 22 and third in the Arkansas Derby. Nakatani rode Mr. Z for the first time in the Southwest.
Among the Triple Crown events, Oaklawn-raced horses have clearly had their biggest impact on the Preakness Stakes. American Pharoah and Mr. Z will have a chance to pad Oaklawn’s resume Saturday at Pimlico in the 140th Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown.
American Pharoah is trying to become the seventh Arkansas Derby winner to capture the Preakness, following Elocutionist in 1976, Tank’s Prospect in 1985, Pine Bluff in 1992, Smarty Jones in 2004, Afleet Alex in 2005 and Curlin in 2007. Additionally, Arkansas Derby winners No Le Hace (1972), Golden Act (1979), Bold Ego (1981), Victory Gallop (1998) and Bodemeister (2012) ran second in the Preakness.
Before winning the Arkansas Derby April 11, American Pharoah captured one of Oaklawn’s other major Kentucky Derby prep, the Rebel Stakes March 14. Four Rebel winners have won the Preakness: Pine Bluff, Smarty Jones, Curlin and Lookin At Lucky in 2010. Elocutionist (second), Afleet Alex (sixth) and Oxbow (second in 2013) won the Preakness after running in the Rebel.
American Pharoah became the third Arkansas Derby winner to win the Kentucky Derby. Mr. Z finished third in the Arkansas Derby and was 13th in the Kentucky Derby.
Also in Maryland
In addition to the Preakness, numerous other horses, who have raced at Oaklawn are entered in stakes races Friday and Saturday at Pimlico.
Super Saks (Miss Preakness), Brewing (Jim McKay Turf Sprint), Stopchargingmaria (Allaire DuPont Distaff), Perique (Allaire DuPont Distaff), Include Betty (Black-Eyed Susan) and Commissioner (Pimlico Special) are scheduled to run Friday.
Picko’s Pride (Maryland Sprint Handicap), Sandbar (Maryland Sprint Handicap), Bold Conquest (Sir Barton), Henry Jones (Sir Barton), Hebbronville (Chick Lang), Holy Boss (Chick Lang) and Skyring (Dixie) are scheduled to run Saturday.
Jockey Jon Court is among the four nominees for the Mike Venezia Memorial Award given annually by the New York Racing Association to the jockey who exemplifies extraordinary sportsmanship and citizenship. The award was created in 1989 to honor the memory of jockey Mike Venezia, who was killed in a racing accident in October, 1988 at Belmont Park. Fans can vote for Jon Court at https://www.nyra.com/belmont/fans/venezia-award. The other nominees are Joe Bravo, Javier Castellano and Cornelio Velasquez. … Terry Wallace, Oaklawn’s track announcer for 37 years before retiring following the 2011 live season, again called races at the three-day Horsemen’s Park meet (May 8-10) in Omaha, Neb. … Trainer Mike Johnson, an Oaklawn regular, saddled his first winner in more than a year when Katie O. captured Friday’s ninth race at Churchill Downs. Johnson hadn’t had a winner since Drogue, owned by Oaklawn President Charles Cella, scored a record-breaking nine-length victory in the $100,000 Fifth Season Stakes Jan. 11, 2014, at Oaklawn. Johnson has started 42 horses since the Fifth Season, according to Equibase. Johnson, who was 0 for 11 at the 2015 Oaklawn meet, also works as an exercise rider and galloped champion American Pharoah after he arrived in Hot Springs for the $750,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 14. … Johnson is scheduled to send out Give It to Mikey, a 4-year-old Century City gelding, for his career debut in Friday’s fourth race at Churchill Downs. Give It to Mikey, who wintered at Oaklawn, is co-owned by Deborah Keene-Lokanc, Oaklawn’s Director of Horsemen’s relations. … Apprentice jockey and fitness model Geena Kelly, who was 0 for 22 at this year’s Oaklawn meeting, recorded her second career victory Wednesday at Indiana Grand. She rode her first career winner there April 28.