Bob Baffert, the Hall of Fame trainer of Preakness entry Bayern, hopes his horse has more luck in Baltimore than Bodemeister did at Pimlico two years ago.
After winning the Arkansas Derby that year, Bodemeister finished second in both the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.
After Bayern won in Arkansas last month, Baffert decided to have him race in the 1-mile Derby trial rather than the 1 ¼-mile Derby.
Bayern — named after soccer power Bayern Munich, the favorite club of the horse's owner Kaleem Shah — finished first in the Derby trial with Rosie Napravnik aboard, but he was later disqualified for interference and given second.
"I was thinking Derby when I went to Arkansas," Baffert said Wednesday in Louisville, where Bayern worked out before being shipped to Maryland. "I wasn't going to get him back in a week and run him. I was disappointed that he couldn't separate himself from those horses. He still won, but I was looking for a bigger effort out of him."
It was then that Baffert decided not to "throw him to the wolves a week later" and have Bayern run in the Kentucky Derby. Bayern will run with his blinkers off in the Preakness, where he'll start from the No. 5 post position. He was given 10-1 morning-line odds after Wednesday's draw.
Baffert, who will be going after his sixth Preakness victory, said he had been "going back and forth" on his decision to take off the blinkers.
"I just think that if he's going to lay off horses, I think he's going to be better off without blinkers," Baffert said. "He actually has a pretty good mind."
It's going to be a busy Saturday for Shah. He said Wednesday that he will spend part of the morning watching his favorite soccer club play in the finals of the German Cup against Dortmund, a rematch of last year's Champions League final.
Bayern Munich is coming off a disappointing loss as defending champions in the Champions League. The German power lost to Real Madrid recently in the semifinals by a two-game aggregate score of 5-0.
Asked if he hopes that the horse will have a better outcome Saturday in Baltimore, Shah said, "That's what we're hoping for, but I don't want to get ahead of myself. Obviously California Chrome is the horse to beat, but it remains to be seen what he does."
Weighing in on 'Chrome
Art Sherman admits he was concerned about California Chrome's two-week turnaround between his Kentucky Derby win and the Preakness Stakes.
The 77-year-old trainer worried about the chestnut colt's ability to quickly put back on the weight he lost following the victory.
But when Sherman arrived at Pimlico Race Course on Tuesday and looked into Stall 40, he liked what he saw.
"He looked great," said Sherman after California Chrome's two-mile gallop Wednesday morning.
Sherman's son and assistant trainer Alan Sherman had said the horse lost about 30 pounds after the Derby, but had gained 42 pounds before arriving to Pimlico.
The Shermans say they're unsure of the colt's exact curent weight. ("I didn't bring my scale," Art Sherman joked.) But leading up to Saturday's race, the goal is for California Chrome to stay well-fed to continue to maintain his strength.
Exercise rider Willie Delgado noticed the weight gain on his first gallop at Pimlico on Wednesday after just a jog Tuesday.
"[The added weight] makes it an active feeling when he's out there because of the strength," Delgado said.
The short break between the Derby and Preakness that led to California Chrome's weight fluctuation has brought about some atypical training, Art Sherman said. But the sight of the horse gliding across the track Wednesday morning gave him no reason to worry any longer.
"He's holding his weight — that's a big factor. He's eating good. He finished every oat last night," Sherman said. "He seems to be thriving in this type of training, so I'm sure not changing anything. Let's go for it."