LOUISVILLE, Ky. – There will be no Preakness for Brody’s Cause, nor for Suddenbreakingnews. Now all that remains from those conquered by Nyquist in the Kentucky Derby are Exaggerator and Lani, with a decision still pending from the Gun Runnercamp
As of Thursday, Nyquist topped a lineup of at least 11 3-year-olds likely for the 141st Preakness on May 21 at Pimlico in Baltimore, where entries for the middle jewel of the Triple Crown will be taken and drawn Wednesday.
Trainer Dale Romans, who still will have Cherry Wine in the Preakness, briefly thought about the Preakness for Brody’s Cause before coming to the realization that the June 11 Belmont Stakes is a better option for the late-running colt. Brody’s Cause, the winner of the Blue Grass Stakes, was never a threat when seventh in the Derby last Saturday at Churchill Downs.
“There’s the time between races, the distance, all the factors everybody already knows about,” said Romans. “The horse came out of the race great, but still, this is our best option.”
Likewise, the connections of Suddenbreakingnews, fifth in the Derby, will point for the Belmont after flirting with the idea of a Preakness trip.
“Bottom line is it’s the best thing for the horse,” said trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel.
On a very quiet Thursday morning at Pimlico, Nyquist returned to training for a second day, merely jogging two miles over a sloppy and sealed racetrack as assistant Jack Sisterson looked on. Trainer Doug O’Neill was scheduled to arrive later Thursday from California and will be on hand for the duration.
O’Neill does not plan to breeze Nyquist but instead will stick with an alternating pattern of gallops and jogs, as he did in the days leading up to the Derby.
Owned by the Reddam Racing LLC of Paul Reddam, Nyquist won the Derby by 1 1/4 lengths over Exaggerator for his eighth straight victory. The Uncle Mo colt is attempting to become the only undefeated horse besides Seattle Slew in 1977 to sweep the Triple Crown.
Most of the prospective field for the Preakness is still in Kentucky. Exaggerator will leave Sunday and Fellowship on Monday by van, while two equine air charters scheduled for Tuesday and Wednesday out of Louisville International Airport are expected to transport Cherry Wine, Collected, Dazzling Gem, and Laoban.
As for Gun Runner, third in the Derby, trainer Steve Asmussen said he is “very happy” with how the colt came out of the race but gave no time frame on when a Preakness decision will be announced. Asmussen already has about six horses booked on the flights.
Trainer Brad Cox has not fully committed Dazzling Gem but said if the colt works well Saturday at Churchill, he intends to run.
The other horses expected for the Preakness are Awesome Speed, Lani, Stradivari, and Uncle Lino. Trainer Jorge Navarro has declared Sharp Azteca from consideration.
Laoban is scheduled to breeze Saturday in the relative quiet of Keeneland in Lexington, Ky., following a five-furlong workout that went untimed last weekend.
“I got him in 1:02 and change Sunday,” said trainer Eric Guillot, noting that skeleton clocking crews in the offseason months at Keeneland sometimes do not catch workers. “It was in the slop, and I put him in behind another horse to get him used to coming from off it.”
Laoban, by Uncle Mo, is a maiden in five career races but has run creditably in his last three starts, finishing third in the Sham, second in the Gotham, and fourth in the Blue Grass. Like Cherry Wine, the colt actually was listed on the Derby program as an also-eligible but failed to draw in.
Guillot said Thursday he is in the process of securing a Preakness jockey for Laoban and was hoping to land Irad Ortiz Jr.
Keith Feustle doesn’t want to be known as “Mister 3-5,” but it looks like his record as the program oddsmaker for the Preakness will stay perfect.
“I had 3-5 on California Chrome and 3-5 on American Pharoah,” said Feustle, who began making the morning line at Pimlico and Laurel Park in 2014 and composes race charts for Equibase on the Maryland circuit. “And the way this is shaking out, it looks like I’ll probably have 3-5 on Nyquist, too.”
Feustle said second choice Exaggerator figures to be in the 3-1 to 4-1 range, with Gun Runner the third choice if he runs. If Gun Runner doesn’t run, then Stradivari probably will be the third choice.