BALTIMORE (WJZ) — Epicenter will head to Pimlico Race Course hoping to turn the tables on Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike in the Preakness Stakes, the Maryland Jockey Club said.
And they will face an intriguing new runner in Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath, who will take on the boys in the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, racing officials said.
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Winchell Thoroughbreds, owners of the bay colt by Not This Time out of Silent Candy, confirmed the news Wednesday after a conversation with the horse’s trainer, Steve Asmussen.
“Steve said he was really pleased with how he went back to the track this morning,” David Fiske, Winchell Thoroughbreds’ longtime bloodstock manager, told the Maryland Jockey Club. “He said he looked great. I mean, we were going. It was just that [Epicenter] needed to tell us that he wanted to go.”
Asmussen confirmed Epicenter is looking strong.
“I thought he took the Derby really well. He laid down like he normally does. He’s been nice and relaxed and traveled really good on the racetrack this morning,” he said.
The betting favorite at 4-1, Epicenter was leading by a head at the top of the stretch and dueling with another favorite, Zandon, before both horses were passed on the inside by the 80-1 Rich Strike.
Prior to the Derby, Epicenter had won the Grade 2 Louisiana Stakes and Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes, both at Fair Grounds in New Orleans. He finished second in the Grade 3 Lecomte Stakes, also at Fair Grounds, earlier this year to start his 3-year-old campaign.
Zandon’s trainer Chad Brown said he is still weighing his options for the third-place finisher and plans to watch the horse train at Belmont Park in Elmont, NY before making a decision.
Brown is sending another one of his charges, Early Voting, to Pimlico for the middle jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown. The lightly raced 3-year-old by Gun Runner out of Amour d’Ete won the Grade 3 Withers Stakes at Aqueduct and followed it up with a second-place finish in the Wood Memorial Stakes.
A similar approach was used for 2017 Preakness winner Cloud Computing.
“They are very similar,” Brown told the Maryland Jockey Club. “Lightly raced coming out of the Wood. They have spacing. The same owner. They have similar running styles. Early Voting has shown a little bit more speed and will be close up front. Cloud Computing wasn’t far away in the Preakness.”
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After labeling Secret Oath as “probable-plus” for the Preakness, the filly’s trainer, six-time Preakness winner D. Wayne Lukas, opted to test his chestnut filly against the boys — a possibility he hinted at after capturing his fifth Kentucky Oaks win.
“When you got a talented horse you can you need to look at everything, try to develop the career and get them to a championship level,” he said at a press conference last Friday. “It’s been done before, you know with Rachel Alexandra and some of these other horses, so it’s not totally out of the question.”
Filly Swiss Skydiver won the 2020 Preakness Stakes, becoming the sixth filly and first since Rachel Alexandra in 2009 to win the race.
According to Lukas, Secret Oath looks sharp in her workouts.
“She’s training well. She’s bright. She’s sharp and out there playing,” he said.
Starting the 14-horse Oaks from the rail, Secret Oath charged from a five-wide pack to grab the lead and held off favorite Nest, winning by two lengths.
Kentucky Derby fourth-place finisher Simplification, trained by Antonio Sano, is also confirmed for the Preakness and has already arrived at Old Hilltop.
Un Ojo, the one-eyed New York-bred who missed the Derby with a foot injury, is “on the right track,” trainer Clay Courville said after seeing the horse go for a jog.
“We’re going to take it light on him until Saturday, when he breezes,” Courville told the Maryland Jockey Club. “He’s going good, jogged perfect for me this morning. He’s happy, that’s for sure.”
Trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. told organizers Skippylongstocking, a son of 2016 Preakness winner Exaggerator, will breeze at Gulfstream Park later this week before shipping up to Pimlico.
Kenny McPeek, who won the 2020 Preakness with filly Swiss Skydiver, is planning on entering Creative Minister, winner of a $129,000 allowance optional claiming race at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby day.MORE NEWS: Baltimore Teen Co-Hosts Season Of PBS NewsHour Podcast On Youth Mental Health
“He’s been a really late-developing colt,” McPeek told the Maryland Jockey Club. “Last year as a 2-year-old, he had development issues, just needed more time. We kept giving him more time, and he didn’t make the races until early March. But he’s really shown composure and talent.