Preakness 149 Update: New Runners, Derby Champ

May 11, 2024

Mystik Dan sporting his Kentucky Derby 150 winner’s blanket. Will he add a Preakness frock to his wardrobe? (Jenny Doyle/Past The Wire)

David Joseph/Maryland Jockey Club

BALTIMORE, Md. – Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mystik Dan will run in the 149th Preakness Stakes (G1) May 18 at Pimlico Race Course, trainer Kenny McPeek announced Saturday morning.

Mystik Dan had a routine 1 ½-mile gallop at Churchill Downs Saturday morning under retired jockey Robby Albarado, who will be part of the Derby winner’s travel team to Baltimore, much as he was in 2020 when he rode the filly Swiss Skydiver to a Preakness victory for McPeek. The difference this time is that Brian Hernandez Jr. rides Mystik Dan in his races.

McPeek told the media afterward that he would have Mystik Dan undergo an endoscopic exam just to ensure everything was normal, after which he planned to call owners Lance Gasaway and Sharilyn Gasaway for the final discussion. McPeek texted the Preakness media team afterward to confirm everything was a go for the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

“The horse is doing fantastic,” he said after Mystik Dan trained. “I’ve already kind of arranged the logistics of it all. We just need to hammer out a couple of small details.”

The Derby winner is expected to arrive at Pimlico mid-afternoon Sunday.

Mystik Dan will get a rematch in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness with Arkansas Derby (G1) winner Muth. Mystik Dan finished third that day, his first race in seven weeks after he was a romping winner of Oaklawn Park’s Southwest Stakes (G3) in the slop.

“He was ready for the Arkansas Derby,” McPeek said. “I’m not going to use that as an excuse. But he did get turned sideways in that turn, and Brian felt that cost him three or four lengths. But the horse fought back, fortunately…. I’m optimistic we can give (Muth) another run.”

Albarado said Mystik Dan “felt great” during Saturday morning’s training session, his fourth day back at the track after the Derby and the third day with the two-time Preakness-winning jockey up.

“I thought every day would be a progression for him, and it is,” Albarado said. “He’s starting to get back in that race mode now. Today, I let him stretch his legs a little bit down the lane. He was comfortable doing it, wanted to do it.

“He’s so aware of where the stretch is. You don’t have to move on him. He does it on his own. That’s the sign of good horses,” he added. “They know their surroundings, where they’re at. That’s the advantage of going to Pimlico early. Like with Swiss Skydiver. All week she got better and better. By the time Saturday came around, she was comfortable. She knew right where she was.”

Hernandez was working another horse for McPeek when the Derby winner was on the track but saw the tail end of the gallop.

“He looked good coming down the backside there, pretty strong and looked happy with himself,” Hernandez said, adding that Albarado and he talk “10-15 minutes” every morning after Mystik Dan trains. “Robby knows what he’s doing out there. He knows what a good horse feels like, how to get a good one around there. So, it’s a lot of insights…. He’s been a huge asset.”

Uncle Heavy Tunes Up for Preakness with Sharp 4F Breeze

Uncle Heavy gallops out after his win in the Withers. (Susie Raisher)

Michael Milam and LC Racing LLC’s Uncle Heavy received a very positive review from trainer Butch Reid Jr. Saturday morning after turning in his final breeze for the 149th Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico May 18. Under his regular exercise rider Jose Castro, Uncle Heavy covered four furlongs in 47.34 seconds at Parx in suburban Philadelphia.  It was the third-fastest time of 34 breezes at the distance at the track.

“He just worked great,” Reid said.  “The track was a little bit faster up here today than it’s been because of all the moisture that we had all week. With that said, he did it very well under control. We just let him run a little bit the last eighth of a mile. He finished up there in 47 and change and came back and couldn’t blow out of match and barely took a couple of sips of water.  It was just what we were looking for and he galloped out good and strong.”

Pennsylvania-bred Uncle Heavy, making his first start since finishing fifth after a troubled trip in the Wood Memorial (G2) on April 6 at Aqueduct Racetrack, has worked three times since the Wood.

Five-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. will ride Uncle Heavy in the Preakness, replacing Mychel J. Sanchez. He will be Ortiz’ sixth Preakness mount. Ortiz has a pair of second-place finishes in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown: 2021 on Midnight Bourbon and last year with Blazing Sevens.

“You couldn’t ask for better than Irad,” Reid said. “Irad and I have had some success over the years. So, we have a good relationship. I feel very good going into the race.”

Uncle Heavy is scheduled to ship to Pimlico Race Course on Tuesday. 

Mugatu Breezes 5F in Preparation for a Run in the Preakness 

Mugatu breaking his maiden at Gulfstream Park Nov. 18, 2023. (Lauren King)
Mugatu breaking his maiden at Gulfstream Park Nov. 18, 2023. (Lauren King)

Average Joe Racing Stables Ltd. and Dan Wells’ Mugatu breezed five furlongs at Belterra Park Saturday morning for a start in $2 million Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico May 18.

The 3-year-old son of Blofeld was timed in 59.60 seconds before galloping out six furlongs in 1:13, said trainer Jeff Engler.

“He’s ready to go,” Engler said “I’m waiting to hear back from Brookledge. I think they said Tuesday or Wednesday. If it’s Wednesday, it will obviously be early.”

Engler said Joe Bravo, who has ridden 5659 winners while amassing total purse winnings of more than $200 million, has the mount aboard Mugatu. Bravo, who has ridden five Preakness starters, was aboard Mugatu for a 3 ½-length maiden special weight score on Tapeta last November at Gulfstream, the only time he’s ridden the Engler trainee.

Cox Calls Catching Freedom “50-50” for Preakness

Catching Freedom scoring the Louisiana Derby. (Hodges Photography/Amanda Hodges Weir)

Albaugh Family Stables’ Catching Freedom, the Kentucky Derby (G1) fourth-place finisher, has been upgraded to “50-50” to run in the Preakness Stakes (G1) May 18 at Pimlico Race Course, according to trainer Brad Cox.

The winner of the Louisiana Derby (G2), which is at the Preakness’ 1 3/16-mile distance, had another strong gallop Saturday morning at Churchill Downs under exercise rider Edvin Vargas. Cox said Catching Freedom would need to continue to “train well” to advance to the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

“If he goes, I think he’ll go Monday after training,” Cox said of shipping plans. 

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