Things You Need to Know About This Year’s Preakness Starters

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While much has been said about this year’s Preakness Stakes (GI) not drawing the Kentucky Derby (GI) winner for the first time in 23 years, this year also marks the first time in its 144-year history that any of the first four finishers in the Derby will not line up in Baltimore and race the 1 3/16 miles of the Preakness. These stats, though, are not to say the Preakness doesn’t offer some significant star power in four making the trip from Louisville and nine classic-race rookies.

Grade 1 winner Improbable is the early 5-2 favorite and the only G1 winner in this second jewel of the Triple Crown. He crossed the Kentucky Derby finish line in fifth place and was placed fourth, and is Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s lone starter this year. Baffert won the Preakness last year and in 2015 with Triple Crown winners Justify and American Pharoah, and also with Lookin at Lucky, War Emblem, Point Given, Real Quiet and Silver Charm. Baffert’s go-to jockey Mike Smith will ride the flashy son of City Zip, who is owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club and Starlight Racing, for the first time.

War of Will, who was involved in the Kentucky Derby kerfuffle heard ‘round the world, once again drew the rail for the Preakness after being saddled with the inside post for the Kentucky Derby. The good news is that the inside isn’t as awful at Pimlico as it is at Churchill Downs and there are 13 runners compared to 20. Plus, Gary Barber’s son of War Front has been training well in Louisville since the Derby two weeks ago, according to trainer Mark Casse.

The local hope is the streaking multiple stakes winner Alwaysmining, who makes his graded debut for Runnymede Racing and trainer Kelly Rubley. His 11-length romp in the Federico Tesio was eye-popping and sets him up as a legitimate contender in the Preakness. Fifteen women so far have saddled Preakness runners with Magic Weisner’s second for Nancy Alberts in 2002 standing as the best finish.

Following are some quick stats for each of this year’s 13 Preakness Stakes runners (in post position order):

  1. War of Will – 4/1

-He finished eighth in Kentucky Derby, was placed seventh after the DQ, and has been dodging criticism about his own trip in the first jewel of the Triple Crown since. Regardless his eighth-place finish (seventh after the DQ) may be a better effort than it looks like on paper.

-Owner Gary Barber’s first Preakness starter.

-Trainer Mark Casse has saddled four Preakness starters, Classic Empire providing the best finish when second in 2017.

-Jockey Tyler Gaffalione will be making his Preakness debut.

-Ten Preakness winners broke from post position 1, including Triple Crown winners Gallant Fox, War Admiral, Whirlaway and American Pharoah, who was also the most recent.

  1. Bourbon War – 12/1

-He last raced 2 ½ months ago when fourth at nearly 3-1 in the March 30 Florida Derby (GI) at Gulfstream Park. He was also second to Derby third-place finisher Code of Honor in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (GII) in February.

-Owner Bourbon Lane Stable and Lake Star Stable’s first Preakness starter.

-Trainer Mark Hennig has saddled two previous Preakness starters, Eddington providing the best finish when third in 2004.

-Jockey Irad Ortiz has ridden one previous Preakness starter, Lone Sailor was fifth a year ago.

-Ten Preakness winners broke from post position 2, including Triple Crown winner Count Fleet. The most recent was Cloud Computing in 2017.

  1. Warrior’s Charge – 12/1

-Makes his stakes debut after winning his last two in maiden an allowance company, both at a furlong shorter than this distance. He seems to be improving with each start and fits with this bunch.

-Owners Ten Strike Racing and Madakat Racing’s first Preakness starter.

-Trainer Brad Cox makes his Preakness debut with two runners this year, including this one.

-Jockey Javier Castellano has ridden seven previous Preakness starters, winning with Bernardini in 2006 and Cloud Computing in 2017.

-12 Preakness winners emerged from post position 3, including Triple Crown winner Secretariat. The most recent was California Chrome in 2014.

  1. Improbable – 5/2

-He was winless since taking last year’s Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity (GI), but was a close second in a division of the Rebel Stakes (GII) and the Arkansas Derby (GI) before his fifth (fourth) under the Twin Spires of Churchill Downs two weeks ago.

-Owners WinStar Farm, China Horse Club and Starlight racing won with Justify a year ago.

-Trainer Bob Baffert has saddled 19 Preakness starters, seven winners – Justify, American Pharoah, Lookin at Lucky, War Emblem, Point Given, Real Quiet and Silver Charm.

-Jockey Mike Smith has ridden 17 previous Preakness starters, winning with Prairie Bayou in 1993 and Justify in 2018.

-Ten Preakness winners broke from post position 4, including Triple Crown winner Citation. The most recent was Curlin in 2007.

  1. Owendale – 10/1

-He was an impressive near last-to-first winner of the April 13 Lexington Stakes (GIII) at Keeneland last out, but started earning Road to the Derby points too late to make the Run for the Roses. He makes his Grade 1 debut here.

-Owner Rupp Racing’s first Preakness starter.

-Trainer Brad Cox makes his Preakness debut with two runners this year, including this one.

-Jockey Florent Geroux has ridden three previous Preakness starters, his most successful mount Laoban was sixth in 2016.

-11 Preakness winners broke from post position 5, including Triple Crown winner Assault. The most recent was Exaggerator in 2016.

  1. Market King – 30/1

-$550,0000 yearling finished a decent third in a division of the Rebel Stakes (GII) and then was a well-beaten 11th in the Blue Grass Stakes (GII), after which his Hall of Fame trainer set his sights on the Preakness. He’s a longshot in the hands of a trainer who knows how to win this race.

-Owner Robert C. Baker and William L. Mack’s first Preakness starter.

-Trainer D. Wayne Lukas has saddled a record 45 previous Preakness starters, four winners — Tabasco Cat, Timber Country, Charismatic and Oxbow.

-Jockey Jon Court has ridden one previous Preakness starter: Percy Hope was ninth in 2001.

-16 Preakness winners broke from post position 6, the most for any slot in the gate, including Triple Crown winners Omaha and Affirmed. The most recent was Oxbow in 2013.

  1. Alwaysmining – 8/1

-Maryland-bred has won just about every dirt stakes for state-bred sophomores at Laurel Park after beginning his career in Kentucky. He owns some tactical speed, but has also shown strong ability to take his races from gate to wire and won his last at nine furlongs by 11 lengths from just behind the pace.

-Owner Runnymede Racing’s first Preakness starter.

-Trainer Kelly Rubley’s first Preakness starter.

-Jockey Daniel Centeno will be making his Preakness debut.

-12 Preakness winners broke from post position 7, including the most recent, Triple Crown winner Justify a year ago.

  1. Signalman – 30/1

-Last year, he was one of the bright stars for this year’s Triple Crown trail being twice Grade 1-placed and also the winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (GII) at Churchill Downs. This year, he struggled and only managed a third in the Blue Grass Stakes (GII) and his connections hope he fits with this Preakness bunch

-Owner Tommy Lewis, Steve Crabtree, Dean Demaree, David Bernsen, Jim Chambers and Magdalena Racing’s first Preakness starter.

-Trainer Kenny McPeek has saddled four previous Preakness starters, Senior Investment providing the best finish when third in 2017.

-Jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. has ridden one previous Preakness starter, Departed was sixth in 2013.

-12 Preakness winners broke from post position 8, including Triple Crown winners Sir Barton and Seattle Slew. The most recent was War Emblem in 2002.

  1. Bodexpress – 20/1

-This maiden’s connections are no doubt hoping for a better finish than his 14th in the Derby (13th after the DQ) and that he was indeed bothered by the incident at the quarter pole. No maiden has won the Preakness since 1888, though six were winners before 1900.

-Owner Top Racing, Global Thoroughbreds and GDS Racing’s first Preakness starter.

-Trainer Gustavo Delgado’s first Preakness starter.

-Jockey John Velazquez has ridden eight previous Preakness starters, his most successful mounts Animal Kingdom and Itsmyluckyday were second in 2011 and 2013, respectively.

-4 Preakness winners broke from post position 9. The most recent was I’ll Have Another in 2012.

  1. Everfast – 50/1

-This colt looked promising breaking his maiden at first asking back in August, but in nine starts since he hasn’t done much and has been defeated by double digits in his last three, all in graded stakes company

-Though the old Calumet Farm had eight Preakness wins (tops among any owner or ownership group), the new Calumet Farm (Brad Kelley) has had three starters, with Oxbow winning in 2013

-Trainer Dale Romans has saddled five Preakness starters, one winner — Shackleford in 2011.

-Jockey Joel Rosario has ridden five previous Preakness starters, his most successful mounts — Ride On Curlin and Tale of Verve — were second in 2014 and 2015, respectively.

-Two Preakness winners broke from post position 10. The most recent was Real Quiet in 1998.

  1. Laughing Fox – 20/1

– Another one who couldn’t manage to earn any points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, his connections elected to tune up for the Preakness with a win in the Oaklawn Invitational Stakes on Derby Day. He’s had trouble in tougher, graded competition, so he definitely has a big question mark hanging over his head here

-Owner Alex and Joann Lieblong’s first Preakness starter.

-Trainer Steve Asmussen has saddled nine Preakness starters, two winners — Curlin in 2007, Rachel Alexandra in 2009.

-Jockey jockey Ricardo has ridden one previous Preakness starter; Tenfold was third a year ago.

-Two Preakness winners broke from post position 11. The most recent was Point Given in 2001.

  1. Anothertwistafate – 6/1

-The connections for this Northern California invader, who won the El Camino Real Derby, focused their crosshairs on the Preakness after two runner-up finishes in graded stakes that caused him to fall just short of enough points to make the Derby gate. He is a winner at nine furlongs, so the distance seems to be in his wheelhouse

-Owner Peter Redekop’s first Preakness starter.

-Trainer Blaine Wright’s first Preakness starter.

-Jockey Jose Ortiz has ridden two previous Preakness starters, his most successful mount Good Magic was fourth a year ago.

-Three Preakness winners broke from post position 12. The most recent was Afleet Alex in 2005.

  1. Win Win Win – 15/1

-Another local runner but Florida-bred, this colt showed a lot of promise when he set a track record for seven furlongs in a stakes at Tampa Bay Downs. His connections no doubt hope he improves on his 10th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby and fewer horses and less traffic here should help his cause.

-Owner Live Oak Plantation (Charlotte Weber) has had two previous Preakness starters.

-Trainer Mike Trombette has saddled one Preakness starter: Sweetnorthernsaint was third in 2006.

-Jockey Julien Pimentel has ridden two previous Preakness starters, his most successful mount Kid Cruz was eighth in 2016.

-One Preakness winner broke from post position 13, Rachel Alexandra in 2009.

Margaret Ransom
California native and lifelong horsewoman Margaret Ransom is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. She got her start in racing working in the publicity departments at Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park, as well as in the racing office at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. She then spent six years in Lexington, KY, at BRISnet.com, where she helped create and develop the company’s popular newsletters: Handicapper’s Edge and Bloodstock Journal.

After returning to California, she served six years as the Southern California news correspondent for BloodHorse, assisted in the publicity department at Santa Anita Park and was a contributor to many other racing publications, including HorsePlayer Magazine and Trainer Magazine. She then spent seven years at HRTV and HRTV.com in various roles as researcher, programming assistant, producer and social media and marketing manager.

She has also walked hots and groomed runners, worked the elite sales in Kentucky for top-class consignors and volunteers for several racehorse retirement organizations, including CARMA.

In 2016, Margaret was the recipient of the prestigious Stanley Bergstein Writing Award, sponsored by Team Valor, and was an Eclipse Award honorable mention for her story, “The Shocking Untold Story of Maria Borell,” which appeared on USRacing.com. The article and subsequent stories helped save 43 abandoned and neglected Thoroughbreds in Kentucky and also helped create a new animal welfare law known as the “Borell Law.”

Margaret’s very first Breeders’ Cup was at Hollywood Park in 1984 and she has attended more than half of the Breeders’ Cups since. She counts Holy Bull and Arrogate as her favorite horses of all time. She lives in Pasadena with her longtime beau, Tony, two Australian Shepherds and one Golden Retriever.

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