Signalman had another gallop session under Danny Ramsey at Churchill Downs Tuesday morning before vanning to Lexington for a scheduled Tuesday Tex Sutton flight to Baltimore, where the son of General Quarters is slated to run in Saturday's Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course.
The Preakness contender is a one-horse stable for co-owner Steve Crabtree of Lawrenceburg, Ky., and his first horse to race. Crabtree is a lifelong racing fan who wanted to get into a horse partnership and called trainer Kenny McPeek out of the blue.
Signalman finished second in Keeneland's Breeders' Futurity (G1) before finishing third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) and winning the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), in which he defeated future UAE Derby (G2) winner Plus Que Parfait. The ride has taken Crabtree to Keeneland for a third-place finish in the historic Blue Grass Stakes (G2) and now to Baltimore for the Preakness.
“Signalman is actually my first horse,” said Crabtree, who worked in environmental computer mapping for the U.S. Department of Agriculture before retiring. “Well, my first horse got hurt. I'm off the charts lucky with Signalman. Coming into the Blue Grass Stakes and getting third is pretty exciting. I just always wanted to get into the horses. I got a yearling with Kenny in September, 2017, and he said, 'You really need to get a second horse, sell part of that one.' That was great advice. A month later, it was just one of those timing things that fell into place with Signalman.”
Crabtree owns Signalman with Dean Demaree of Louisville and Tommie Lewis. Demaree has owned pieces of horses with McPeek for about 10 years, including Grade 1 winner Pure Fun. He hooked up with the trainer after his business came to McPeek's house to clean the carpets and air ducts.
“For us blue-collar, hard-working guys, it's a lot of fun,” he said. “We've been really lucky with Kenny for smaller partnerships. I tell him I'm a thousandaire, not a millionaire. We buy less expensive horses, but we've been really lucky.”
Crabtree was at the sale with McPeek when Signalman was purchased for $32,000 for Fasig-Tipton Kentucky's 2017 October yearling sale.
“I learned so much,” he said. “I saw Signalman and said, 'Man, he's the one.' They actually already had a partnership together with Dean and the Lewises. One of their partners backed out, so I was the lucky guy in.
“He's run in some top competition, like five graded races,” he added. “So he's got the experience, he's got the foundation. So we're really looking forward to the Preakness.”
Demaree and Crabtree met with little more than a nod when Signalman ran for the first time last May 17 and finished second at Churchill Downs. They would get to know each other extremely well before the horse ran again.
“Sept. 1, Signalman was going to race at Saratoga, and the trainer said, 'You guys need to drive back up here,'” Crabtree said. “So Dean and I had barely met each other. We got in the car and drove 12 hours together to Saratoga. So you get to know somebody after a 12-hour drive. We've become really good friends.”
Said Demaree: “I'll just say that I'm driving the next time.”
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