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Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan settles in at Pimlico ahead of the Preakness

BALTIMORE — Mystik Dan exerted so much energy winning the Kentucky Derby by a nose in the race’s closest finish in 75 years that there was no guarantee his camp would send him to the Preakness to chase the second jewel of the Triple Crown.

After a bit of rest, the decision was made to go to Baltimore, and after a 12-hour van ride from Louisville, Mystik Dan has settled in nicely at Pimlico Race Course ahead of the the Preakness.

“Most horses after a race if they extend themselves a little bit, they’re a little quiet and listless just like if you went and ran a marathon today, tomorrow you wouldn’t be jumping up at 5:30 and going and running again,” assistant trainer Ray Bryner said. “You want to kind of ease back into it. After two or three days at Churchill, (trainer Kenny McPeek) said that he was right back in the feed tub and doing things right, back to his normal self, and that’s why he made the decision to go ahead and give him another opportunity.”

Mystik Dan arrived at his latest stop on the Triple Crown trail and has since taken to the track twice under Robby Albarado, a two-time Preakness-winning jockey in his own right.

“This horse here, he’s a pretty predictable horse,” Albarado said after Mystik Dan drew the No. 5 post position. “He’s shown his talent the past few races. A good trip’s the main thing.”

Ten days since getting a perfect trip along the rail guided by Brian Hernandez Jr., Mystik Dan got a relaxed jog in just after 8:30 a.m.. Everything so far is going according to plan.

“He’s a consummate pro, likes to train,” Bryner said. “You can’t make him do anything wrong. He’s a natural. He’s laid back all the time, but when the time comes, he can switch it on and off just like a key in an ignition, which is ideal.”

LUKAS’ CORNER

D. Wayne Lukas, the 88-year-old Hall of Fame trainer, is back for a 33rd Preakness, more than four decades since saddling his first horse in the race. He has two in the nine-horse field, Derby 17th-place finisher Just Steel and Seize the Grey, winner of the Pat Day Mile on the undercard May 4.

They’re doing well after arriving. Assuming they get to the starting gate, they’ll be the 47th and 48th different horses Lukas has had in the Preakness — the most of any trainer in the race’s 149-year history.

“How many of these have I been in?” Lukas asked from his familiar spot in the corner of the stakes barn at Pimlico. “Forty-four years, so I should be able to have a good feel for it.”

Lukas, who sent Just Steel out at 6 a.m. in true old-school fashion, was looking to see how his 3-year-old colts, two of the seven horses he brought, would handle new scenery.

“They came in in great shape,” Lukas said. “I was really surprised mostly because they’re looking around, it’s all new, but they had good energy. That’s all you want.”

BAFFERT ARRIVAL AWAITS

Mystik Dan is the star of the week thanks to the Kentucky Derby, but he’s not the Preakness favorite. That distinction belongs to two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert’s Muth, who’s coming off a victory in the Arkansas Derby in which he beat a field that included Mystik Dan in third.

Baffert, who also has Imagination running, has won the Preakness a record eight times, including last year with National Treasure. He’s not expected to fly to Baltimore until later in the week, along with fellow trainers Brad Cox, who entered Catching Freedom after being fourth in the Derby, and Chad Brown, whose Tuscan Gold also got to Pimlico.