McPeek More ‘Encouraged’ Mystik Dan Could Run in Preakness

May 6, 2024

Mystik Dan after his thrilling Kentucky Derby score (Jenny Doyle/Past The Wire)

David Joseph/Maryland Jockey Club

BALTIMORE, Md.— While saying that a decision might not be made until entries are taken for the 149th running of the Preakness Stakes (G1) May 13, trainer Kenny McPeek sounded more optimistic Monday that his Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mystik Dan could run back in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown May 18 at Pimlico Race Course.

Mystik Dan cleared one hurdle that might seem small but is a big deal to McPeek: he ate all his dinner Sunday evening, about 24 hours after jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. guided the colt to a nose victory over Sierra Leone in a blanket finish with third-place finisher Forever Young in the 150th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.

“Ate up last night, which is a really good sign,” said the Churchill-based McPeek, who became the first trainer since Ben Jones in 1952 to win the Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Derby in the same year, with Mystik Dan’s courageous victory following Thorpedo Anna’s win in Friday’s 3-year-old filly classic. “… I’m big on that. I always believe the faster they eat, the faster they run. You’ve got to keep them in the feed tub. They need that energy.

“We’ll get him back to the track on Wednesday, probably give him a little jog a mile, gallop a mile, something simple. I’m encouraged. I’m going to talk to (owners) Lance (Gasaway) and Sharilyn (Gasaway). No fast moves,” he added. “We probably won’t decide until the morning of entries. But the horse is doing fine and seems to be bright and happy.”

Addressing the media Sunday morning, McPeek stressed that he’s “not committed” to the 1 3/16-mile Preakness, expressing concern about running Mystik Dan back in two weeks. In his second career start on Nov. 12, Mystik Dan won by 7 ¾ lengths at Churchill Downs. McPeek then ran him 13 days later in an entry-level allowance race, with the colt finishing fifth by a total of eight lengths.

“We’ll let him tell us,” the trainer said Sunday. “If he’s not in the feed tub, he won’t run.”

McPeek canceled plans to go up to Saratoga with wife Sherri Monday to start setting up his division there. He said Mystik Dan will stay at Churchill Downs until the final Preakness decision is made.

“We’re staying here,” he said. “There’s too much to worry about here. I need to check on young horses at Keeneland. So, yeah, there’s a lot of balls in the air. …I’m just really proud of him. He’s such a special little colt. To think that he might be moving forward is even better. So we’ll see. We’ve got a few days to figure it out.”

McPeek said Monday that the decision to skip Oaklawn Park’s Rebel Stakes (G2),

which fell between Mystik Dan’s romping victory in the mud in the Feb. 3 Southwest (G3) and a third-place finish in the March 30 Arkansas Derby (G1), works in the Kentucky Derby winner’s favor if they run back in the Preakness.

“I told Lance before the Derby that skipping the Rebel would give us a little more confidence to come back in the Preakness,” he said. “That does matter. That seven-week space between the Southwest and Arkansas Derby gave us time to take our time and let him fill out. He’s in good order.”

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