Sizing up the candidates for Pimlico

Sizing up the candidates for Pimlico

It could change. No. It will change. But for now the field for Preakness Stakes 2022 is overflowing with possibilities. Probabilities are another matter.

Here are the candidates for the second jewel of the Triple Crown on May 21 at Pimlico in Baltimore, subject to – well – change. They are listed in order of – well – plot.

Rich-Strike

Status: Likely. Hang out:
Eric Reed. Jockey: Sonny Leon. Last race: Won the Kentucky Derby. Style: Deep closer. The story: Winning the Derby at 80-1 odds ruined all his conditions. Now he cannot be entered in “a other than” races. It has been 10 years since the Derby winner entered the Preakness as “a other than” favorite. That was when I’ll Have Another upset Bodemeister. This will feel even more like 2009, when Mine That Bird was the 50-1 Derby winner and no better than the third choice at Pimlico before losing by a length to Kentucky Oaks winner Rachel Alexandra.

RELATED: Derby-winning trainer is in Triple Crown whirlwind.

Secret Oath

Status: Possible. Hang out:
D.Wayne Lukas. Jockey: Luis Contreras. Last race: Won the Kentucky Oaks. Style: Mid pack. The story: She finished third against males in the Arkansas Derby (G1), so why wouldn’t she try this for a trainer who has been there and done that? Lukas feels Derby winner Winning Colors against the boys in Baltimore in 1988. She finished third as the Preakness favorite. If not here, Lukas said the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) on May 16 at Pimlico might be Secret Oath’s next stop.

Epicenter

Status: No decision. Hang out:
Steve Asmusson. Jockey: Joel Rosario. Last race: 2nd in the Kentucky Derby. Style: Early speed or stalker. The story: He was winning the Derby until the last 10 strides. If he goes, he is the likely favorite in the Preakness. He will be back on the track for a gallop Wednesday at Churchill Downs. Asmussen and Winchell Thoroughbreds racing manager David Fiske said if Epicenter looks good, he may be sent to Baltimore.

Early Voting

Status: Likely. Hang out:
Chad Brown. Jockey: Jose Ortiz. Last race: 2nd in the Wood Memorial (G2). Style: Early speed. The story: Even though he qualified for the Derby, Brown targeted the Preakness all along for this Gun Runner colt who won the Withers (G3) in a hand ride and who was caught at the wire by Mo Donegal in the Wood. Only that loss kept him from being undefeated in three races.

Simplification

Status: Likely. Hang out:
Antonio Sano. Jockey: To be determined. Last race: 4th in the Kentucky Derby. Style: Mid pack. The story: With José Ortiz riding him from near the back of the pack, Simplification avoided the suicidal early pace in the Derby. Regardless of who rides him, he will not be 35-1 at Pimlico.

smile happy

Status: Possible. Hang out:
Kenny McPeek. Jockey: Corey Lanerie. Last race: 8th in the Kentucky Derby. Style: Mid pack. The story: Before he faded in the homestretch at Churchill Downs, he got caught in traffic and steadied on the second turn. Yet he fought back before he ran out of gas. If he did not have too much taken out of him in the Derby, maybe he will like the shorter distance of the Preakness.

Zandon

Status: No decision. Hang out:
Chad Brown. Jockey: Flavian Prat. Last race: 3rd in the Kentucky Derby. Style: Closer. The story: He would carry more intrigue if it did not seem like Brown was leaning against going to Baltimore. As promised before the Derby, Zandon stayed in mid-pack rather than far back, and he pounced at just the right time. He simply lost to a better horse in his duel with Epicenter. Oh yeah. There was that rail horse, too.

Taiba

Status: Possible. Hang out:
Tim Yakteen. Jockey: Mike Smith. Last race: 12th in the Kentucky Derby. Style: Stalker. The story: In only his third race, he got a serious baptism and a face full of dirt. He did not change leads in the stretch, so who knows how much better he might have done? Taking the cynical view that this is still a Bob Baffert colt, then he could be the eighth one to win the Preakness. Then again, six of those first seven were Derby winners, and Taiba is not that.

HappyJack

Status: Likely. Hang out:
Doug O’Neill. Jockey: Rafael Bejarano. Last race: 14th in the Kentucky Derby. Style: Deep closer. The story: He spent his energy before the Derby getting his tail caught in the starting gate. Then he was slow getting out of it. No wonder connections are eager to get back in the fight.

Creative Minister

Status: Possible. Hang out:
Kenny McPeek. Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr. Last race: Won has 1 1/16-mile allowance on the Derby undercard. Style: Mid pack. The story:
If not for a neck loss in his debut, this Creative Causeway colt with an impressive turn of foot would be 3-for-3. He will come off Lasix for the Preakness.

skippylongstocking

Status: Likely. Hang out:
Saffie Joseph Jr. Jockey: Junior Alvarado. Last race: 3rd in the Wood Memorial (G2). Style: Stalker. The story: This Exaggerator colt is a throwback to a time when racehorses raced. The Preakness will be his 10th start but only his second away from Gulfstream Park, where he got his two wins in maiden and allowance company. Joseph won the winter-spring title at Gulfstream. He continues to try to achieve the same sort of dominance north of there.

An Ojo

Status: Likely. Hang out: Ricky Courville. Jockey: Ramon Vazquez. Last race: 8th in the Arkansas Derby (G1). Style: Stalker. The story: A bruised foot diagnosed on entry day kept him out of the Kentucky Derby, where he would have been the longest shot on the board. He still dines out on his ground-saving, 75-1 breakthrough in winning the Rebel (G2).

Rattle N Roll

Status: Possible. Hang out: Kenny McPeek. Jockey: To be determined. Last race: 6th in the Blue Grass (G1). Style: Mid pack. The story: If there had been just one more defection, he could have been in the Derby. His last win was last fall in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1). He has finished off the board in his three starts as a 3-year-old, all Derby preps. McPeek said if Smile Happy were to go to the Preakness, Rattle N Roll probably would not, since they both are owned by the Mackin family.

Ethereal Road

Status: Possible. Hang out:
D.Wayne Lukas. Jockey: To be determined. Last race: 4th in the Lexington (G3). Style: Closer. The story: When the colt “was flat” Friday morning, Lukas scratched him from the Derby, saying “if I had run him again, then I pretty much blew the summer.” Ethereal Road raced twice in eight days last month at Keeneland, and his only win in seven starts was in a maiden race at Oaklawn in January.

Shake Em Loose

Status: Possible. Hang out:
Rodolpho Sanchez-Salomon. Jockey: To be determined. Last race: 3rd in the Federico Tesio. Style: Closer. The story: After a troubled trip last out April 16 in the traditional prep for the Preakness, owner-trainer Sánchez-Salomón has been weighing the classic against the James W. Murphy turf mile on the same card. The gelding, who has won two black-type stakes at Laurel Park, was a $16,000 claim last fall.

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