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When I last checked in on the road to Preakness 2024, Muth chased the pace and won the Arkansas Derby (G1) by two lengths on March 30. In this post, I will recap the Grade 3 Lexington, and go through the latest news and update my top Preakness contenders. 

Encino wired the field in the Grade 3 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 13. He has enough points to run in the Kentucky Derby, and we will have to see if he targets that race or waits for the Preakness. Beaten favorite The Wine Steward was clearly second best in his first start since October 2023. Mike Maker’s New York-bred Vino Rosso colt could be a Preakness candidate based on the timing of the second jewel of the Triple Crown. That would give him five weeks between starts. 

My last Preakness list included Maymun, Wine Me Up, and Top Conor, and I dropped each of those runners.  

Maymun was originally mentioned as a possible starter in the SA Derby on April 6. He did not run in that race and has not worked since April 2. Bob Baffert’s $900k Frosted colt is 2-for-2 overall, and we will have to see what is next for this one. They may be taking their time and targeting big summer races such as the Grade 1 Haskell at Monmouth. 

Wine Me Up landed the place in his last two graded routes in the Robert Lewis Stakes (G3) and San Felipe (G2). He worked twice after the latter race on March 18 and March 25. Bob Bafert’s colt shows no morning activity in over three weeks and drops off my Preakness list. 

Top Conor was on the bottom of my list late last month. He made his stakes debut in his second career start in the Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland on April 6, and he set the pace and weakened in the stretch in a 6th of 10 finish. Chad Brown’s $1 million colt is lightly raced and still has upside, but is not quite ready for prime time. 

Three Preakness preps are on the docket this weekend. The winners of the Federico Tesio, Bath House Row, and Illinois Derby will quality for the Preakness. I will preview those three races below, and I will cover those races in videos later this week. 

Federico Tesio Stakes – Laurel Park – 1 1/8 miles dirt – April 20

A field of 11 sophomores entered the 2024 Tesio, and Copper Tax is the most accomplished runner in the field. Gary Capuano’s versatile runner is 2-for-2 at Laurel and exits a local stakes victory as the favorite in the Private Terms Stakes. That race was run in the slop and he clearly enjoys a wet track, but the 6-for-9 colt is strong on fast dirt as well. He will try to overcome the outside post in this race. Inveigled and Speedyness, the Private Terms 2-3 finishers, are back for more as well. Other contenders include Mission Beach (Brittany Russell), Lat Long (Ken McPeek), and Carolo Rapido (Todd Pletcher). The latter, a son of Curlin out of 2016 Kentucky Oaks winner Cathryn Sophia, showed marked improvement in his local maiden win as the favorite on March 22.  

Bath House Row Stakes – Oaklawn – 1 1/8 miles dirt – April 20

Informed Patriot shows up in a much better spot in his third start after a layoff. He was third in the Street Sense (G3) and Smarty Jones, and ended up 5th in the Sunland Derby (G3) and Arkansas Derby (G1). Steve Asmussen’s Hard Spun colt likes stalking the pace and gets much needed class relief. Other contenders include recent maiden winner Militant (Brad Cox), theft candidate Maximus Magic (Norm McKnight), and Ken McPeek stablemates Gould’s Gold and Count Dracula. 

Illinois Derby – Hawthorne – 1 1/8 miles dirt – April 21

Ken McPeek is well represented in these Preakness preps, and his Mendelssohn colt Real Men Violin is the 3-1 second choice in this race. He landed the place in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last fall, and came up empty in the Risen Star (G2) and LA Derby (G2) in a pair of disappointing efforts this year. Woodcourt is the 5-2 morning line favorite. He won an all-weather route at Turfway late last year and Cipriano Contreras claimed him that day. He won a flat mile dirt race at Oaklawn on Jan. 28, and was fourth in his last pair in the Rebel (G2) and Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3). Le Gris is worth a look for Al Stall Jr. After winning back-to-back races at Fair Grounds, he was unplaced in Turfway’s Rushaway Stakes last time. 

Jarrod Horak’s Top 7 Preakness 2024 Contenders (4-17-24)

1 – Muth (Good Magic – Hoppa, by Uncle Mo) – Trainer: Bob Baffert 

Comments: His owner recently sued Churchill Downs in hopes of getting this one into the Derby, but that lawsuit probably won’t work. Bob Baffert’s Derby ban continues at Churchill, and if his owner wanted to compete in the Derby, he could have changed trainers earlier this year. The aforementioned lawsuit should have a decision later this week. This $2 million son of Good Magic is 4-for-6 with a pair of runner-up finishes, and he looked good winning the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on March 30. He has since returned to his Santa Anita base, and he worked a half-mile in 48 flat on April 12.  

2 – Tuscan Gold (Medaglia d’Oro – Valadorna, by Curlin) – Trainer: Chad Brown

Comments: This $600,000 purchase improved smartly second time out, and raced wide and stayed on nicely for the show in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby on March 23. He may have been best in the LA Derby but his wide trip and lack of experience caught up with him. He breezed a half-mile in 48.60 (3/61) at Payson Park on April 6, and drilled a best of 58 bullet in 48.40 on April 13. 

3 – Imagination (Into Mischief – Magical Feeling, by Empire Maker) – Trainer: Bob Baffert 

Comments: This $1.05 million colt is 2-for-6 with four runner-up finishes. He stepped up and won the Grade 2 San Felipe on March 3, and chased the pace and missed by a neck in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) on April 6. Frankie Dettori rode him in his last two stakes starts and will probably be his Preakness pilot if he shows up in Baltimore. 

4 – Seize the Grey (Arrogate – Smart Shopping, by Smart Strike) – Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas

Comments: He is currently 26th on the Derby list with 27 points. After he won an optional-claiming route at Oaklawn on Feb. 24, Wayne Lukas said that this one might be a Preakness horse. Since that victory, he was third in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) and 7th of 10 in the Grade 1 Blue Grass. He breezed five panels in 59.20 at Churchill on April 17. 

5 – Epic Ride (Blame – Pick a Time, by Gio Ponti) – Trainer: John Ennis

Comments: He was part of the trifecta in all five starts. He won the Leonatus Stakes on Feb. 2 and landed the place in John Battaglia Memorial on March 2. He switched to dirt and was a 51-1 longshot in the Grade 1 Blue Grass on April 6, and he stalked the pace and completed the trifecta in a better than expected effort. He is currently 23rd on the Derby list with 35 points, and there is still a chance that he runs on the first Saturday in May if he gets a few defections. 

6 – Encino (Nyquist – Glittering Jewel, by Bernardini) – Trainer: Brad Cox 

Comments: He was second in his bow and rattled off three straight wins after that. He won the John Battaglia Memorial and picked up 20 Derby points on March 2, and garnered 20 more Derby points in his wire-to-wire triumph on the Grade 3 Lexington at Keeneland on April 13. We will have to see what trainer Brad Cox and owner Godolphin Racing decide to do. They can wheel back in three weeks and run in the Kentucky Derby, or wait five weeks and go in the Preakness. 

7 – The Wine Steward (Vino Rosso – Call to Service, by To Honor and Serve) – Trainer: Michael Maker

Comments: He started his career with three consecutive wins including stakes tallies in the Bashford Manor and Funny Cide. He stretched out and gave Locked a real battle in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity last fall, and came after Encino in the stretch and was 8 1/4 lengths in front of show finisher Dilger (IRE) in the Grade 3 Lexington on April 13. If he targets the Preakness, he would have five weeks between starts. 

Jarrod Horak

Jarrod Horak posts stakes recaps from Del Mar and Santa Anita Park, along with full card recaps and free stakes picks from Southern and/or Northern California.