Improbable, who is expected to be installed as the morning-line favorite following Wednesday's post-position draw for Saturday's 144th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course, went back to the track for a mile gallop Tuesday at sunrise, the day after working a leisurely half-mile in 51.80 seconds at Churchill Downs.
“He galloped a very light mile,” said Jimmy Barnes, top assistant to trainer Bob Baffert. “We're ready to go.”
Barnes said Improbable will have a walk day Wednesday before shipping out to fly to Baltimore. Baffert returned to California after the work and will probably arrive in Baltimore Thursday evening, he said.
Improbable, the Arkansas Derby (G1) runner-up who was placed fourth in the Kentucky Derby (G1), could give Baffert a record-breaking eighth Preakness victory. The Hall of Fame trainer is currently in a tie for most Preakness wins for a trainer with Robert Wyndham Walden, who won the Preakness seven times from 1875-1888.
Baffert's Preakness victories came with his five Kentucky Derby winners (Silver Charm, 1997; Real Quiet, 1998; War Emblem, 2002 and Triple Crown winners American Pharoah, 2015, and Justify, 2018), plus Point Given in 2001 and Lookin At Lucky in 2010.
Improbable is owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club International and Starlight Racing, forming much of the same ownership group that campaigned Justify.
Starlight co-founder Jack Wolf, a Louisville, Ky. resident, was on hand to watch Improbable's work Monday.
“It's easier to get seating,” he observed cheerfully, when asked the difference in the experience going to the Preakness this year and last. “But anytime you're the favorite, yeah, I'm going to the Preakness.
“Justify was one of a kind. To at least have a horse in this race – and have the favorite –
it's so much fun up there anyway in Maryland. Bob loves going up to that place also,” he added. “You've got to think that he had three horses in the Derby and this is the only one he's taking. If he likes him, I like him.”
Improbable will be ridden in the Preakness for the first time by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who was Justify's rider.
Wolf said last year's Preakness was somewhat surreal because of the fog that made it impossible to see vast sections of the race until Justify's head emerged at the top of the stretch, with the Derby winner then having to fend off Bravazo and Tenfold to narrowly prevail in a three-horse dash to the wire.
“You really couldn't see anything until the head of the stretch,” Wolf said. “And then I saw that white blaze and said, 'Ooooh!' Then at the finish I said, 'Oooh, oooh.' I talked to Mike after the race. He never thought he was in trouble. But half a length is half a length.”
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