Derby Winner Mystik Dan Doesn’t Need His Own Racetrack

Derby Winner Mystik Dan Doesn’t Need His Own Racetrack

Baffert: Muth, Imagination ‘Coming into This the Right Way”
Catching Freedom Introduced to Pimlico; ‘He’s Feeling Really Good’
Brown Looks Ahead to Preakness Following Tough Beat in Derby

LAUREL, MD – Kentucky Derby (G1)winner Mystik Dan continues to train to former standout jockey Robby Albarado’s expectations, meaning each day is better than the last as the colt prepares for Saturday’s 149th Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course.

With Albarado aboard, Mystik Dan jogged about seven-eighths of a mile and galloped a spirited 1 ½ miles Tuesday morning, his second day of training at Pimlico.

“I let him clip along today, and he’s not even blowing,” Albarado said afterward. “I thought every day would be a better day for him. He’s getting comfortable with his surroundings. He knows where he’s at now. I couldn’t be more pleased with the way he trained today. Every day I let him do what he feels like doing. I don’t let him overdo it. I try not to make him do anything. He’s all within himself.”

Albarado teamed with trainer Kenny McPeek to win the COVID-delayed 2020 Preakness with the filly Swiss Skydiver over Derby champion Authentic. Albarado, who was not riding a lot of races at the time, spent much of the week in Baltimore with Swiss Skydiver, serving as her exercise rider before riding her to his second Preakness victory, following two-time Horse of the Year Curlin in 2007.

Mystik Dan Video: Click here to view

After he retired as a jockey with 5,222 wins and transitioned into being a jockey agent, Albarado continued to help McPeek preparing his young horses. Thus, he was enlisted to come with the Derby winner to Pimlico, where his younger pal and fellow Cajun Brian Hernandez Jr. will take over the reins for the 1 3/16-mile Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

Justify, the 2018 Triple Crown winner, is the last horse to win the Derby and the Preakness.

“I’m excited,” Albarado said. “I’m getting that feeling like we had with Swiss Skydiver, that feeling like things are falling into place. I don’t want to be overly confident, but, man, I think we’ve got a huge chance of getting the second leg of the Triple Crown.”

Assistant trainer Ray Bryner oversaw Mystik Dan’s training at Oaklawn Park, where the colt won the Feb. 3 Southwest (G3) by eight lengths in the slop before finishing third in the Arkansas Derby (G1) won by Preakness morning-line favorite Muth. Bryner, who spends the summer and fall with McPeek’s Keeneland operation, also was the van driver hauling the stable’s precious cargo from Churchill Downs to Louisville.

“He’s a consummate pro,” Bryner said after Mystik Dan trained. “Likes to train. Can’t make him do anything wrong; he’s a natural. He’s laid back. But when the time comes, he can switch it on and off, like a key in the ignition, which is ideal.”

Albarado told some people in January that McPeek would win the Kentucky Oaks (G1) with Thorpedo Anna and the Kentucky Derby with Mystik Dan. Asked if Albarado told him that, Bryner said with a laugh, “I told Robby that!”

“He ran fantastic in the Southwest,” Bryner said. “He got an ideal trip on the inside. Brian rode him almost like he rode him in the Derby. The racetrack was an off track, so everyone thought, ‘Oh, he only won the Southwest because of the muddy racetrack.’ Well, he took his racetrack with him in the Kentucky Derby and showed them it doesn’t matter, rain or shine.

“I think we have a huge chance. At the draw (Monday) night, I was tickled to death to get the 5 post, right in the middle of nine horses,” he added. “We’ve got the favorite inside us, so Brian can keep an eye on him. Hopefully, we can ring the bell again. (Rain) won’t affect him in any way, shape or form…. If it is a sloppy track, no muss, no fuss. He handles the kickback just like it’s a dry racetrack. I’m not saying we’ll have an edge if it’s sloppy, but it’s not going to hurt us.”

McPeek is expected to arrive in Baltimore from Kentucky later Tuesday.

Mystik Dan is owned by Lance Gasaway, Brent and Sharilyn Gasaway’s 4G Racing, Daniel Hamby III and Valley View Farm. At least part of the ownership is expected to be at the track for the Preakness’ traditional Alibi Breakfast Thursday.

MUTH / IMAGINATION – It certainly came as no surprise that the morning-line favorite for Saturday’s 149th running of the $2 million Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course comes from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.

He wins the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown every year…or so it seems. Baffert has the Midas touch when it comes to the Preakness. He has won the race eight times; no one has ever won more.

So, was it really that big a shock when Muth, one of two Baffert-trained horses entered in the nine-horse Preakness field, was installed as the 8-5 morning line favorite by Maryland Jockey Club linemaker Brian Nadeau? (Kentucky Derby (G1) champion Mystik Dan was rated second at 5-2 on the morning line.)

“What makes him the favorite?” Baffert said from Southern California. “My success at the Preakness? I don’t know. Just being there with two nice horses in a competitive field is going to be exciting.”

Muth, owned by Zedan Racing Stables Inc., has won four of six career starts and won the Arkansas Derby (G1) in his last race March 30 at Oaklawn Park. He will be ridden by Juan Hernandez in the Preakness.

Imagination, owned by SF Racing LLC and partners, was last seen finishing second in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) April 6. International riding standout Frankie Dettori will be on board for the third-straight time. Imagination is the 6-1 co-third choice on the morning line.

While Muth is getting most of the attention, Imagination should not be ignored. He has won two of his six career starts and is three necks away from having three more wins.

“Imagination is filling into his frame,” Baffert said. “He is bred to go the (1 3/16-mile) distance. He is a beautifully balanced horse. They both are. They have been working together and neither one of them is wavering. They are coming into this the right way.”

Muth and Imagination flew out of California Tuesday morning and were expected to arrive in Baltimore late Tuesday afternoon.

CATCHING FREEDOM – Albaugh Family Stables’ Catching Freedom, the Kentucky Derby (G1) fourth-place finisher, literally was kicking up his heels as he returned to the barn after training for the first time at Pimlico Race Course Tuesday morning in advance of Saturday’s 149th Preakness Stakes (G1).

Having arrived at Old Hilltop at about 2 a.m. Tuesday from Churchill Downs, Catching Freedom jogged once around the Pimlico racetrack accompanied by a pony.

“He’s feeling really good,” said assistant trainer Blake Cox, the son of trainer Brad Cox. “That’s part of the reason we brought him here, how well he came out of the Derby.”

Blake Cox said Catching Freedom will gallop Wednesday and will school in the paddock either Wednesday or Thursday.

Blake Cox Video: Click here to view

The stable also sent Youalmosthadme for Friday’s $150,000 Miss Preakness (G3) and the filly Wonderful Justice for a second-level allowance race on Friday’s Black-Eyed Susan (G2) undercard.

Blake Cox was asked if he was surprised to find himself in Baltimore with Catching Freedom, given that his dad has never run one of his Derby horses back in the Preakness.

“Yeah, I am a little shocked,” he said. “This isn’t usually our plan with these horses, to go back in two weeks. We usually give them time, five weeks, stuff like that and regroup. But I think this is a good plan with the horse. We’ll see Saturday if it works out.”

TUSCAN GOLD – Emotions roll both ways in the world of horse racing.

If you are on the right side of a narrow victory, the euphoria is indescribable. However, a loss by the slimmest of margins in a marquee event is crushing.

Trainer Chad Brown has experienced it on both ends.

Unfortunately for him, he has felt the bite of a slim defeat in two of the sport’s biggest races in the last year.

Two weeks ago, Brown watched as Sierra Leone ran a winning race in the Kentucky Derby (G1) only to come up a nose short behind Mystik Dan. In last year’s Preakness Stakes (G1), his Blazing Sevens lost by a head to National Treasure.

“The difficult thing when processing close losses in races like the Derby and Preakness is that there are no do-overs,” Brown said from his office at Belmont Park. “We can’t say we’ll get ‘em next season. Hopefully, we will win the Derby someday, but it’s not going to be with the same horse. There are some tough things to accept when you only have one crack at it.”

Brown is still searching for his first Kentucky Derby win. Despite the tough luck in last year’s Preakness, Brown has won the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown twice. He got his first with Cloud Computing in 2017 and then got another in 2022 with Early Voting.

He is looking for No. 3 in the 149th running of the $2 million Preakness with Tuscan Gold. The son of Medaglia d’Oro, owned by William H. Lawrence, Walmac Farm and Stonestreet Stables LLC, arrived at Pimlico just after 10:30 Tuesday morning.

He will go to the Pimlico track for the first time Wednesday morning under the supervision of Brown’s assistant, Jose Hernandez. Brown may not arrive in Baltimore until race day.

Tuscan Gold, who will be ridden by Tyler Gaffalione, will be making his fourth career start in the Preakness. Cloud Computing and Early Voting won the Preakness in their fourth starts.

The Derby sting is still there for Brown, but he has to turn the page quickly. It’s the nature of the game.

“I don’t know if you ever totally get over it,” Brown said. “It’s part of the sport; you are going to lose some close ones. We have had some wins in big races. Look, there is an element of luck involved in this sport. So many things have to go right in races like the Derby.”

Tuscan Gold Video: Click here to view

JUST STEEL / SEIZE THE GREY – With seven horses entered in stakes on Preakness (G1) weekend at Pimlico Race Course, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas was busy Tuesday morning. Per usual, the 88-year-old legend was up on his pony accompanying five sets of his runners to the track for their daily exercise.

The septet is led by Preakness runners Just Steel and Seize the Grey, Lukas’s hopes for a seventh victory in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown. MyRacehorse’s Seize the Grey, who will be ridden again by Jaime Torres, won the Pat Day Mile (G2) on May 4 at Churchill Downs. A few hours later, BC Stables LLC and Henry Schmueckle’s Just Steel finished 17th in the Kentucky Derby (G1) after contesting a hot early pace. Hall of Fame jockey Joel Rosario will ride Just Steel in Saturday’s 149th Preakness.

The Lukas horses shipped from Churchill on Monday. He said they all got over the track well during their routine gallops.

“I’m really impressed with the racetrack. I guess that's not going to hold up with the weather,” Lukas said. “When you go to a new place you always are kind of worried they don't hold their stride, but I'm used to how they go and they all went really well. I couldn't be more pleased.”

Lukas said his horses showed him what he wanted to see after the trip from Louisville.

“They came in in great shape,” he said. “In fact, they had great energy today. I was really surprised, mostly because they're looking around and it's all new, but they had good energy. That's all you want when you get off that truck. That was 12 hours for them, and you just want their energy to be where it should be.”

Seize the Grey Video: Click here to view

UNCLE HEAVY – After some light exercise Tuesday morning, Michael Milam and LC Racing’s Uncle Heavy walked onto a trailer for the 125-mile drive from Parx in suburban Philadelphia to Pimlico Race Course.

Uncle Heavy will be veteran trainer Butch Reid Jr.’s first Preakness Stakes (G1) runner when he goes to the post Saturday under five-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Irad Ortiz, Jr. The Pennsylvania-bred drew Post 2 in the field of nine for the 149th Preakness.

The colt’s distinctive name is the family nickname for Reid’s older brother, Mark, a retired trainer and bloodstock agent. Mark Reid’s wife, Barbara, is listed as the breeder of the massive colt.

Butch Reid said both sides of his family had an interest in racing as fans, but it was Mark, six years his senior, who entered the business that later became his life’s work, too.

“He was the one who got it started,” Butch Reid said. “I kind of followed him down to the University of Maryland, and that's where we both started working on the racetracks down there. I got out of the horse business for a few years after graduating from college. Then he was expanding his operation and needed somebody to go take a string of horses to Monmouth. That's when I got back into the business.”

Butch Reid has been on his own since 1985 and has 969 wins from 5,687 starts. The Reid brothers are members of the Parx Hall of Fame. Mark was inducted in 2013 and Butch joined him in 2021.

MUGATU – Average Joe Racing Stables Ltd.’s and Dan Wells’ Mugatu, who galloped 1 5/8 miles at Belterra Park Tuesday morning, was scheduled to ship to Pimlico Race Course at 1:30 Tuesday afternoon for a start in Saturday’s 149th Preakness Stakes (G1).

The 3-year-old son of Blofeld drew Post 1 for the 1 3/16-mile Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

“I’m OK with it. We’re not going to be going for the lead. We’re a closer, so I don’t think it poses a big problem for us,” said trainer Jeff Engler, who will arrive in Baltimore Tuesday evening.

Mugatu closed from 10th to fifth in his most recent start in the April 6 Blue Grass Stakes (G1) at Keeneland.

Joe Bravo, who has ridden 5,659 winners during his career, will seek to win the Preakness for the first time aboard Mugatu, whom he rode to a maiden special weight triumph at Gulfstream Park in November the only time he has ridden him.