In the days leading up to the 146th running of the $1 million Preakness Stakes (G1), usracing.com is profiling the contenders. The 1 3/16-mile second leg of the Triple Crown is May 15. Profiles will be updated with post positions and odds following the draw, now set for Tuesday, May 11.
By Lynne Snierson
Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Midnight Bourbon is wheeling back in two weeks after his sixth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1). His connections feel he’ll be mighty spirited since he was denied the chance to show his stuff after getting smashed by another horse out of the gate and then racing wide around both turns and through the lane.
The terrible trip in the Derby took away the colt’s preferred way of running, which is close to the pace.
“We didn’t think he got the opportunity that he deserved after he missed the break and his back end went out from underneath him,” said David Fiske, the racing and bloodstock manager for the Winchell family.
“He got jostled around by the horses on either side of him, then lost some ground. He was pretty wide on the second turn; I think eventually he ran 52 or 56 feet farther than the winner. So that would have put him a little closer. And speed seemed to be lethal on (Derby Day),” Fiske continued. “There weren’t a whole lot of horses that were closing on the front-runners. Then the fact that it took two handlers to get him back to the barn to give him a bath, it didn’t seem to take that much out of him. So, we thought we’d give it a try.”
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen has won the Preakness twice, with Curlin in 2007 and with the filly Rachel Alexandra in 2009. Both of those horses would go on to be honored as Horse of the Year.
For the second jewel of the Triple Crown, Midnight Bourbon is getting a different partner. Hall of Famer Mike Smith was in the irons for the Derby, but with his commitment to ride Concert Tour in the Preakness for Bob Baffert, the mount opened and three-time Eclipse Award winner Irad Ortiz, Jr. takes over.
“The horse is doing great,” said Scott Blasi, the longtime assistant to Asmussen, who also conditioned 2017 Horse of the Year Gun Runner “I don’t think he did a lot of running early (in the Derby), so he seems to have come out of the race pretty fresh.”
Midnight Bourbon worked 4 furlongs in 50.20 seconds at Churchill Downs on Monday, and Asmussen said he’s excited about his Preakness chances.
“Driving back to the barn from the grandstand (after the workout), I was thinking how crazy we are as horsemen,’’ said Asmussen. “It’s only less than two weeks from the disappointment of the Derby, and here I am, thinking I’m going to win a classic again and I get all giddy.”
Post position: TBD
Jockey: Irad Ortiz, Jr.
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Owner: Winchell Thoroughbreds
Career record: 8-2-2-3
Career earnings: $461,420
Top Equibase speed figure: 99
Pedigree: Tiznow-Catch the Moon by Malibu Moon
Running style: On the pace
Notes: The Winchells have bred and owned top quality horses for decades but are still seeking the family’s first winner in a Triple Crown race. Tenfold was their best finish in the race when he was third in the 2018 Preakness. The Winchells owned homebreds Untapable, champion 3-year-old filly and Breeders’ Cup Distaff (G1) winner; BC Dirt Mile (G1) winner Tapizar; and Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Summerly. All were trained by Asmussen. They also own super sire Tapit … Midnight Bourbon was bred in Kentucky by Stonestreet and brought $525,000 as a yearling in the Keeneland September sale … His dam, Catch the Moon, was unraced but has excelled as a broodmare. All four of her foals of racing age and half-siblings to Midnight Bourbon are winners and three are graded stakes winners, including G1 winner Girvin, who earned $1.625 million on the track.
Lynne Snierson, a former director of communications at Arlington Park and Rockingham Park, currently is a freelance writer and racing publicist. She covered thoroughbred racing as an award-winning sportswriter for newspapers In Boston, Miami, and St. Louis. She lives in New Hampshire. Secretariat remains her all-time favorite horse.