Rich Strike galloped Tuesday for the first time since his shocking Kentucky Derby win, showing no signs of wear as he ramped up preparations for the May 21 Preakness Stakes.
Trainer Eric Reed said he “traveled great” over his home track at the Mercury Equine Center in Lexington, Kentucky. Reed plans to take the Derby champion back to Churchill Downs for some harder work early next week before shipping him to Baltimore.
Early Tuesday, fourth-place Derby finisher Simplification became the first Preakness challenger to arrive at Pimlico Race Course. Assistant trainer Jesus Prado said he was doing well after the 11-hour, overnight ride from Churchill Downs. He will walk around the shedrow Wednesday and jog on the track at Pimlico for the first time Thursday morning.
Preakness organizers are still waiting on decisions for several Derby horses, most notably second-place finisher Epicenter and third-place finisher Zandon.
Trainer Steve Asmussen said Epicenter was in fine form after walking the shedrow at Churchill Downs Tuesday morning. “We were going to wait until he goes back to the track [Wednesday] and then discuss it,” he said of the Preakness decision. “But I’m extremely happy with everything I see to this point, just kind of want to see how he travels, his energy level under weight. But it would be very surprising to me if he’s ever anything but perfect.”
Even if Epicenter comes to Baltimore for a rematch, most of those taking on Rich Strike will be fresh opponents.
Un Ojo, a late scratch from the Derby because of a foot bruise, is likely to challenge Rich Strike at Pimlico. The one-eyed gelding has responded well since returning to the track at Churchill Downs, assistant trainer Clay Courville said.
Skippylongstocking, third-place finisher in the 2009 Wood Memorial and son of 2016 Preakness winner Exaggerator, will ship to Pimlico on the weekend after a timed workout in Florida, trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. said.
Creative Minister, a decisive winner on the Derby undercard, will enter the Preakness, trainer Kenny McPeek told the Daily Racing Form. McPeek’s eight-place Derby finisher, Smile Happy, will not run at Pimlico.
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said he still has not made Preakness decisions on Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath or late Derby scratch Ethereal Road.
Maryland-bred Joe, winner of the Federico Tesio Stakes at Laurel Park, will not be part of the Preakness field. His trainer, Mike Trombetta, said he’ll instead point for the James W. Murphy Stakes on the Preakness undercard.
147th Preakness Stakes
Pimlico Race Course
TV: Chs. 11, 4 (coverage begins at 2 p.m.)