LOUISVILLE, KY. — This year, Doug O’Neill and his assistants sat in the office at a barn in the far corner of the Churchill Downs backside. Few reporters dropped by, and O’Neill was not asked repeatedly to relive the running of the Kentucky Derby a day before.
Last year’s winning trainer, with I’ll Have Another, O’Neill instead convened with his robust team to discuss plans for the 138th Preakness Stakes, scheduled for May 18 at Pimlico.
Their Derby horse, Goldencents, finished 17th. O’Neill was undeterred.
“Not worried about him too much,” he said. “Just didn't fire. We still love this horse and think he's got a good future.
“If he stays OK, we’ll be at Preakness.”
The colt is one of five horses pointed definitely toward the second leg of the Triple Crown, including Derby winner Orb. At least a dozen other horses are under consideration. The 14-horse field is likely to shift as trainers and owners evaluate their options, but here’s a look at the possible entrants.
The third, fourth and fifth finishers in the Kentucky Derby are not planning on racing in Baltimore.
Surprise runner-up Golden Soul will rest for the Belmont, trainer Dallas Stewart said.
“At first we thought for sure we'd go on to the Preakness,” he said. “But the more we thought about it, the more we thought training him for five weeks and getting him in the Belmont was the right thing to. I'll leave the door open to the Preakness, but that's not the plan as of right now.
If he tears up the barn and looks ready to go, I’ll make that call.”
Revolutionary, the top finisher of trainer Todd Pletcher’s five Derby horses, has also been pointed to the Belmont. None of the quintuplet will head to Baltimore, he said.
Normandy Invasion is eyeing the late-summer stakes races for 3-year-olds.
Mylute, who made a run but flattened to finish fifth, is under consideration for the Preakness. He’s ridden by Rosie Napravnik, who began her career in Maryland.
D. Wayne Lukas does plan on brining his two Derby horses, Oxbow (sixth) and Will Take Charge (eighty) to Pimlico. Itsmyluckyday (15th) trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. said it was “60-40” his colt would run in the Preakness.
Then, there are the shooters.
Fear the Kitten, an also-eligible for the Derby, should be considered “possible,” said trainer Mike Maker.
Illinois Derby winner Departing will run, trainer Al Stall told Pimlico officials. The Illinois Derby was left off of Churchill Down’s new system for determining Derby qualifiers, so officials at Hawthorne moved the race back two weeks to turn it into a Preakness prep instead.
Bob Baffert, a five-time winner of the Preakness, is strongly considering running Govenor Charlie, who he pulled from Derby consideration last week. He could also run another Derby-eligible colt, Code West, or Power Broker.
Bellarmine, who beat Code West by a neck in an allowance race here this week, is also a possibility. He’s trained by Ken McPeek, who ran two horses in the Derby and began his career as a hot walker for Orb’s trainer, Shug McGaughey.
The winner of Pimlico’s premier Preakness prep race, the Federico Tesio Stakes, is unlikely to run. Abstraction was not Triple Crown nominated — which would have cost $600 before Jan. 26 and $6,000 before March 23 – and his connections would need to pay $100,000 in addition to the standard $20,000 in starter fees to be in the race.
Heat Press, the colt owned by Under Armour founder Kevin Plank’s Sagamore Farm, has also not bee pointed toward the Preakness. He finished second at the Tesio but appears to be slightly behind the field. Plank, though, has worked to have starters in Triple Crown races and has not been afraid to race a long shot.
Orb is likely to be a heavy favorite at the Preakness, with Mylute, Departed and Governor Charlie as possible second choices.
O’Neill bucked a recent trend by bringing I’ll Have Another to Baltimore days after the Derby. This year, he plans to fly Goldencents to New York on Monday and then van to Maryland.
His jockey, Kevin Krigger, could become the first black jockey to win the Preakness since Willie Simms in 1898 and only the seventh to ride in it.