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When I last checked in on the road to Preakness 2024, I recapped the Grade 3 Lexington at Keeneland on April 13. In this post, I will look back at the Federico Tesio, Bath House Row, and Illinois Derby, and go through the latest news and update my top Preakness contenders. 

Bob Baffert’s Preakness hopefuls Muth and Imagination both turned in workouts at Santa Anita Park on April 21. Muth won the Grade 1 American Pharoah last year and the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby on March 30. He also captured the San Vicente (G2) in January, and landed the place in the Best Pal (G3) and BC Juvenile (G1) in 2023. Imagination followed up a victory in the Grade 2 San Felipe with a runner-up finish in the SA Derby (G1). They are both part of my Preakness list and you can read more about them below.  

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

Fractions: 24.07, 47.21, 1:11.90, 1:38.55, 1:52.01

Order of Finish: Copper Tax, Speedyness, Inveigled, Carolo Rapido, Lat Long, Startswithadream, Celtic Contender, Circle P, Classic Joke, Malinois

Copper Tax earned an automatic berth to the Preakness Stakes with his win in the $125,000 Federico Tesio Stakes at a mile and an eighth on April 20. He overcame some things in this race. He stumbled at the start from post 10, raced wide, and ran down loose front runner Speedyness to score by 3/4ths of a length. He is 7-for-10 overall and pushed his earnings up to $386,500. The Tesio was his fourth black type win. In two previous graded tries, he was sixth in the Remsen (G2) and tenth in the Sam F. Davis (G3). His trainer Gary Capuano has Preakness experience. Captain Bodget was third in 1997 and Cherokee Boy was eighth in 2003. We will have to see if they target the Preakness or look for an easier spot. 

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

Fractions: 23.55, 48.86, 1:13.89, 1:39.07, 1:51.48

Order of Finish: Informed Patriot, Imperial Gun, Gould’s Gold, Maximus Magic, Brilliant Man, Count Dracula, Militant

Steve Amussen likes to compete in the Preakness Stakes, so you have to figure that Bath House Row winner Informed Patriot will be at Pimlico on May 18. In this race, Informed Patriot and his stablemate Imperial Gun chased the pace and scooted away from the rest. Informed Patriot got clear in the lane but Imperial Gun was not finished, and he made a late bid for the win but came up a head short. Those two were four lengths clear of show finisher Gould’s Gold. 

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

Fractions: 23.50, 47.78, 1:11.58, 1:37.01, 1:50.43

Order of Finish: Patriot Spirit, Real Men Violin, Woodcourt, Le Gris, Raquel 

Trainer Michael Campbell did a good job getting Patriot Spirit to handle a route of ground in this race. He failed in two previous longer events in the Iroquois (G3) and Sam F. Davis (G3). The key to success in this race was making the lead and getting into a relaxed rhythm. Veteran pilot Julio Felix was able to dictate terms aboard the $235k son of Constitution. Post time favorite Real Men Violin tried to make a race of it, but Patriot Spirit was always clear and won by an easy 5 3/4 lengths. The winner is in the Preakness if his connections decide to go that route. Races like the Iowa Derby and Ohio Derby are in play as well. He would almost certainly impact the pace if he comes to Baltimore. 

Jarrod Horak’s Top 7 Preakness 2024 Contenders (4-22-24)

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

Comments: This $2 million son of Good Magic continues to top my Preakness list. The 2-time graded winner always fires exacta shots and looked good winning the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn on March 30. He returned to his Santa Anita base and worked a half-mile in 48.00 (11/54) on April 12. His most recent move was a 5f breeze in 1:00.20 (5/41) on April 21.  

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

Comments: They paid $600,000 for this Medaglia d’Oro colt. He raced wide and stayed on nicely for the show in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby on March 23, and may have been best that day, but his wide journey and lack of seasoning 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. His last move was a half-mile breeze in 48.40 (3/37) on April 20.  

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

Comments: He has the same consistency as his stablemate Muth but has only won twice from six starts (four runner-up finishes). Bob Baffert’s $1.05 million Into Mischief colt 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. He returned to the worktab with a half-mile move in 48.00 (19/89) at Santa Anita on April 21. Frankie Dettori rode him in his last two stakes starts and will probably be his Preakness pilot as well. 

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

Comments: He is currently 24th on the Kentucky Derby list with 27 points. It looks like he might come up a bit short in his bid to make the Derby field, but the Preakness is definitely in play. 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 and should work again later this week. 

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

Comments: He is currently 22nd on the Kentucky Derby list with 35 points, and still has shot to make it into the Derby starting gate. He was part of the trifecta in all five starts. He won the Leonatus Stakes on Feb. 2 and completed the exacta in John Battaglia Memorial on March 2. He switched to dirt and was a 51-1 outsider in the Grade 1 Blue Grass on April 6, and he stalked the pace and completed the trifecta in a better than anticipated performance. He breezed a half-mile in 48.20 (2/9) at The Thoroughbred Center in Lexington, Kentucky on April 18.

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

Comments: He qualified for the Kentucky Derby after wiring the field in the Grade 3 Lexington at Keeneland on April 13. He should return to the worktab later this week and 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 have more time between starts 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.