With Improbable being the only Preakness contender that finished in the top five in the Kentucky Derby, he is expected to vie for favoritism, and Bob Baffert will try for what would be a record-breaking eighth win of the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.
Baffert was non-committal about a Preakness runner Sunday, but he confirmed Monday that Improbable would be pointed to Baltimore.
“With Maximum Security not in there, that’s why we’re running,” Baffert said today. “I think (Improbable) ran very well. They were all stuck there together, all bunched up. When he finally got loose, he made a little run.”
Improbable, whose co-owners WinStar Farm, China Horse Club and Starlight Racing were principals in Baffert-trained 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify, remains at Churchill Downs. Baffert will fly to Louisville from California this weekend and watch the colt on the track before finalizing his plans for the Preakness. He said Tuesday that he was unsure whether Improbable will have a timed work between the Derby and the Preakness.
Baffert said that his other two Derby runners, Game Winner (sixth, moved up to fifth) and Roadster (16th, moved up to 15th) were not candidates for the Preakness. He said Game Winner will be checked at the Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky. for tightness in his rear end.
As previously reported, Mike Smith is scheduled to ride Improbable in the Preakness. Smith, who won the Preakness last year with Justify, will be up on Improbable for the first time. He rode Roadster for Baffert in the Santa Anita Derby.
Baffert's victory with Justify equaled the record of seven Preakness wins set in the 19th century by Robert Wyndham Walden.
Signalman ‘Fresh’ for Middle Jewel of Triple Crown
Signalman looked sharp Saturday at Churchill Downs – not in the Kentucky Derby, but while breezing five furlongs in a lively 59.60.
“He’s doing really well. I’ve got some reservations whether I should have entered him or not as an ‘AE, (in the Derby)’” trainer Kenny McPeek said by phone from Keeneland. “He’s done well. One more work and we’ll ship him up with the rest of the group that goes.
“Woulda, coulda, shoulda,” McPeek said. “There have been very few scratches in the Derby over the decades, and certainly not two. But you could make the same case for Bourbon War. Brad Cox has a really good horse (Owendale) who won the Lexington, who could have run. The problem with entering as an ‘AE.’ is you’re putting up $50,000 to be No. 20. You really don’t get a fair draw.”
Signalman galloped at Churchill Downs under exercise rider Danny Ramsey Tuesday. McPeek said the colt will work five-eighths of a mile or three-quarters of a mile Saturday at Churchill. Regular rider Brian Hernandez Jr. will have the call for the Preakness.
Reflecting on how the Derby shook out, McPeek said, “The track was close to a sealed, plowed field. It was really, really sloppy, heavy, really gooey out there. Some of the horses he had run against didn’t run well. Vekoma and Win Win Win didn’t run well, so that gives me some concern about how (Signalman) fits against the top 3-year-olds.
“But I don’t know. Country House didn’t look overly impressive until he won the other day. He looked like a horse we could have beaten. I do think that Maximum Security is a really good horse, and if he’d kept his path he probably would have won. But he’s not going in the Preakness, so that does open it up,” McPeek added. “I do think it’s a wide-open 3-year-old crop at this stage. Actually, there are three or four fresh horses for the Preakness. Brad Cox’s horse at Keeneland was extremely impressive. Boy, he circled the field and ran off and hid. And Bourbon War is certainly no slouch. He’ll handle the distance, and my horse has been really solid. All of them have to find another level. But that’s what Country House did in the Derby."
Also at Churchill Downs: Lexington winner Owendale had a routine gallop. Trainer Brad Cox said Florent Geroux, who was aboard for the 1 1/16-mile Lexington, will have the Preakness mount.
War of Will, seventh in the Derby, returned to the track Tuesday for an easy jog.
Other Preakness prospects 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 in his last two races, who will have Jose Ortiz aboard in the Preakness; Bourbon War, who finished fourth in the Florida Derby after finishing second in the Fountain of Youth; Laughing Fox, winner of the inaugural Oaklawn Park Invitational; Mr. Money, the Pat Day Mile winner on the Derby undercard; and Bodexpress, 13th in the Kentucky Derby.