Improbable, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert's chance to capture a record-breaking eighth Preakness Stakes (G1) triumph, arrived at Pimlico Race Course Wednesday afternoon for Saturday's 144th running of the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
Accompanied by fillies Fighting Mad and The Aurelia Factor, both entered on Friday's Black-Eyed Susan Day program, Improbable was led off the van by assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes shortly before 4 p.m. following a five-hour trip from Churchill Downs.
“He shipped very well. He settled right in. It's a short trip, so that shouldn't be any factor for him,” Barnes said. “He's a good shipper. It's only an hour flight. The van rides to and from the airport and from airport are almost as long as the plane trip, so it's really nothing.”
Improbable ran fifth and was placed fourth in the Kentucky Derby (G1) May 4 following the disqualification of first-place finisher Maximum Security. He is winless in three starts this year, also finishing second in the Arkansas Derby (G1) and Rebel (G2).
“He came out of the race in good shape. It was horrible conditions. The track was just a sloppy mess,” Barnes said. “My feelings on the race [are] maybe he needed to be a little closer. He just got behind horses and was getting hit with a lot of dirt. But, that race is behind us and we've moved on to Baltimore now. We look forward to capturing this race if we can.”
Baffert won last year's Preakness with eventual Triple Crown champion Justify.
“We enjoy coming to Baltimore each and every year. They take very good care of us up here,” Barnes said. “It is a little special coming in off of last year's Justify win, and we're here to make it happen again for us.”
Barnes said Improbable will get his first look at Pimlico's main track Thursday morning and that Baffert was expected to arrive later in the day.
“He'll just have his normal gallop routine. He'll gallop a mile and a half probably,” he said. “I'll discuss it with Bob. We brought a few other horses here so they'll probably go out first and he'll probably go out first after the break.”
Preakness contenders Laughing Fox, Owendale and Warrior's Charge, also on the flight from Louisville, Ky. to Baltimore, arrived in a second van immediately after Improbable.
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen was on hand to watch Laughing Fox walk and settle into Pimlico's Stakes Barn.
“He made it in in good shape. He's got a very good attitude and the weather couldn't be any nicer than it is right now, so hopefully we'll have a good week,” Asmussen said. “Laughing Fox will go to the track in the morning when it's warm enough where we can give him a bath.”
Earlier in the afternoon, Bourbon War, who most recently finished fourth in the Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park, arrived at Pimlico by van from Belmont Park.
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