Epicenter has been installed as the morning-line favorite for Saturday’s Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore. Photo by John Sommers II/UPI | License Photo
May 16 (UPI) — Of the 20 horses that went to the post in the Kentucky Derby, the first leg of the Triple Crown, only three of them still will be around to load into the starting gate Saturday at Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore for the second leg, the Preakness Stakes.
Six “new shooters” join Epicenter, the Derby runner-up, Simplification, who finished fourth at Churchill Downs, and Happy Jack, who got home 14th, 19 lengths behind the upset winner, Rich Strike, to make up a nine-horse field for the Preakness.
Rich Strike is among those sitting out the Preakness, leaving Epicenter as the 6-5 favorite on Maryland Jockey Club oddsmaker David Feustle’s morning line for Saturday’s race.
He drew the No. 8 gate with Wood Memorial Stakes runner-up Early Voting as the second-favorite while exiting gate No. 5.
And while the Derby winner is out, the Kentucky Oaks winner is in. Secret Oath will try to become the seventh filly to win the Preakness in its 147th running. She drew stall No. 4 and is third-favorite at 9-2.
Epicenter has been stabled at Churchill Downs since the disappointment at Churchill Downs, where he appeared on his way to delivering trainer Steve Asmussen his first Derby win. The colt is due to ship to Baltimore on Tuesday.
“He seems to be pretty sharp,” Asmussen assistant Scott Blasi said Sunday after Epicenter put in an easy workout. “I love how he’s doing it.”
Secret Oath also has been at Churchill Downs and trainer D. Wayne Lukas said she likely will head northeast a day before Epicenter.
Her owner, Rob Mitchell, told Maryland Jockey Club that Secret Oath’s scheduling was not crafted with a filly-against-colts theme but, rather, tailored to her potential.
“I just view it as horse versus horse,” he said. “She looks really good. Really strong, perky, muscled up. I just think it’s the right race at the right time.”
And while Derby winner Rich Strike is expected back on the Triple Crown trail for the Belmont Stakes on June 11, he won’t find Secret Oath there.
“After this is over,” Mitchell said of the Preakness, “Wayne and I have talked — I don’t care if she wins or comes in last. She’s getting a break for eight or nine weeks.”
Also of note in the field:
Creative Minister was supplemented to the field at a cost of $150,000. He makes his third career start and first in a stakes race after an impressive allowance win at Churchill Downs.
Fenwick took five tries to find the winner’s circle, then finished 11th and last, beaten 36 lengths, in the Toyota Blue Grass at Keeneland when thrown into the deep end in his most recent start.
Skippylongstocking finished third in the Wood Memorial in his only previous try at the stakes level and Armagnac, formerly trained by Bob Baffert, was fourth in the Santa Anita Derby before winning an allowance event at Santa Anita on May 6.
The field for Saturday’s Preakness Stakes, by post position, with jockey, trainer and morning-line odds:
1. Simplification, John Velazquez, Antonio Sano, 6-1
2. Creative Minister, Brian Hernandez Jr., Kenny McPeek, 10-1
3. Fenwick, Florent Geroux, Kevin McKathen, 50-1
4. Secret Oath, Luis Saez, D. Wayne Lukas, 9-2
5. Early Voting, Jose Ortiz, Chad Brown, 7-2
6. Happy Jack, Tyler Gaffalione, Doug O’Neill, 30-1
7. Armagnac, Irad Ortiz Jr., Tim Yakteen, 12-1
8. Epicenter, Joel Rosario, Steve Asmussen, 6-5
9. Skippylongstocking, Junior Alvarado, Saffie Joseph Jr., 30-1