Trainer Brad Cox has Owendale and Warrior's Charge running in Saturday's 144th Preakness Stakes (G1). First, he hopes to kick-start a potentially huge weekend Friday at Pimlico Race Course with Covfefe in the $150,000 Adena Springs Miss Preakness (G3) and Mylady Curlin in the $150,000 Caplan Brothers Glass Allaire duPont Distaff (G3).
LNJ Foxwoods' Covfefe is two-for-three, the only defeat a fourth-place finish last fall in Belmont Park's Frizette (G1) at a mile won by champion 2-year-old filly Jaywalk. In her only start this year, Covfefe led all the way to take a 6 1/2-furlong allowance race at Keeneland.
“Fast filly,” Cox said of the daughter of Into Mischief. “She was actually favored in the Frizette last year against Jaywalk. She came out of that race with a mild setback. We gave her the winter off, and she returned at Keeneland and ran extremely fast.
“She's had plenty of time since that race. I think if she can put a race similar to that, she's going to be competitive,” he added. “She's got a big pedigree and hopefully we can get her some graded black type and hopefully a win. She's got to move forward. She's not very seasoned, has only run three times. But she's training extremely well and we've always thought a lot of her.”
Three-year-old fillies from all over converge in the six-furlong Miss Preakness as trainers seek a graded sprint stakes that keeps their horses against their own age.
But, local horsemen figure to be thick in the fray. One of the horses to beat could be the Cal Lynch-trained Congrats Gal, who has yet to lose in Maryland, with three Laurel Park victories by a combined 27 1/2 lengths. In two other starts she was third in last summer's Schuylerville (G3) at Saratoga and second in a 5 ½-furlong stakes at Delaware.
Michael Trombetta, who also has Win Win Win in the Preakness, will saddle the Maryland-bred Never Enough Time, who won her only two starts by more than five lengths each at Laurel.
“I realize that could be the deep end of the pool, but I'm backed into a corner,” he said. “I don't have a lot of choices for her. She's graduated very quickly. We've always liked her. We thought she was way above par. But to run in two races, and now all of a sudden there's nowhere to go but there. She's worked well, so we'll give her a shot and see what she's all about.”
Mark Reid-trained Pennsylvania-bred Please Flatter Me is stabled at Pimlico and won her first three starts with ease while sprinting, including stakes at Penn National and Laurel. In her last start, Please Flatter Me finished a close fourth in Aqueduct's $250,00 Busher Stakes at a mile.
Bob Baffert, trainer of expected Preakness favorite Improbable, is bringing along 2-for-2 Fighting Mad, winner of a Churchill Downs allowance race on April 30. Like the disqualified Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Maximum Security, Fighting Mad is owned by Gary and Mary West and is by their 2013 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) winner New Year's Day, who was sold as a stallion to Brazil this year.
The Louisiana-bred Midnight Fantasy ran out of sprint stakes in her birth state, with trainer Joe Sharp successfully shipping her to Mahoning Valley in northeastern Ohio for a five-length victory in a $75,000 stakes.
“She's undefeated going three-quarters,” Sharp said. “We were kind of railroaded into some route races down in Louisiana, because that's all they had for 3-year-old Louisiana-breds at the end of the meet, so we had to go two turns – obviously not her forte.
“We shipped her to Mahoning Valley. She went down there in 1:10 and change, which is flying over that track, and won going away,” he added. “It's a little unorthodox way to get to Pimlico, but I think her numbers stack up. I'm confident in her, especially going three-quarters. She's just really fast.”
Trainer Ron Moquett comes with Bye Bye J, an Arkansas-bred who won Oaklawn's Rainbow Miss in her last start and who earlier this winter was a close second in Gulfstream Park's Forward Gal (G2).
“We bought her after she ran in the Forward Gal,” said owner Alex Lieblong, who will have the Steve Asmussen-trained Laughing Fox in the Preakness. “She won and she was an Arkansas-bred, and she's a gorgeous filly. It made sense to run in some stakes there in Arkansas and an allowance race there in Arkansas, so we kind of clipped a few coupons with her doing that. She's a nice, nice filly and she's gotten bigger and stronger.”
Also entered are Sue's Fortune, winner of Saratoga's Adirondack (G2) but making her first start in more than seven months; Brunette Princess, the Gustavo Delgado-trained stablemate of Preakness candidate Bodexpress and who won the Any Limit Stakes at Gulfstream Park in a dead heat in her last start; graded stakes-placed Tomlin; Turfway Park stakes-winner Iva; Miss Imperial, runner-up in back-to-back stakes at Aqueduct; and Evangeline Downs allowance winner Best Kept Secret.
Mylady Curlin makes her stakes debut in the $150,000 Caplan Brothers Glass Allaire duPont Distaff (G3) after allowance victories at Oaklawn and Keeneland in her last two races.
“She's a nice filly,” Cox said. “She's basically has gone through her allowance conditions, and she deserves an opportunity to step up in company. She's a Curlin, hopefully she can get the mile and an eighth. I feel like she can with the right pace set-up.”
Curlin won the 2007 Preakness Stakes en route to being the Breeders' Cup Classic (G1) winner and two-time Horse of the Year.
Laurel Park-based trainer Dale Capuano hopes stakes winner Timeless Curls, another daughter of Curlin, can rebound from a seventh-place finish on turf in the Dahlia Stakes.
“The turf was firm and in good shape that day, and I really wanted to get a race into her going a distance before the duPont,” Capuano said. “She has a little bit of turf breeding, and the owners kind of wanted to try her. That actually was a tough race for her first start on turf, not having trained on it or worked on it.
“She ran OK. They just outsprinted her the last quarter, which is how those turf races typically run,” he added. “It suited its purpose. I had her in that day at Charles Town as well in the seven-eighths race we could have run in, but I didn't want to take her there so we just freshened her hoping to run her in the duPont. That's been our objective, to see if she's good enough for that.”
My Miss Lilly, a Grade 2 winner who ran in last year's Kentucky Oaks (G1), has a pair of thirds in her only starts since coming in third in last June's Mother Goose (G2) at Belmont. He most recent race came in the April 13 Top Flight Invitational at Aqueduct.
“This would be her third race back,” said trainer Mark Hennig, who will send Bourbon War to the Preakness. “The track at Aqueduct the last time she ran was a little bit funky. I would want to see what the weather's like coming down that way, but it seems like the right distance for her and all … [and] it would have the potential to be a pretty decent spot.”
Another Broad has won four of her past six starts, most recently Aqueduct's $200,000 Top Flight at the duPont distance. She won three straight races last fall at Laurel and was second by a neck in the Geisha Stakes before being purchased privately and moved to trainer Todd Pletcher.
“I was very pleased with her first race at 1 1/8 miles [coming from off the pace to win the Top Flight],” Pletcher said. “We've been pointing toward the duPont and we're looking for another good performance from her.”
Also in the duPont are Keeneland allowance winner Gio Game, a stablemate of Preakness candidate War of Will in trainer Mark Casse's stable; Gulfstream Park allowance winner Golden Award, trained by Hall of Famer Bill Mott; and Thirty Eight Go Go Stakes winner Isotope.
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