The 2022 Triple Crown series started May 7 with the second biggest upset in the 148-year history of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve at Churchill Downs, and now the focus shifts to the $1.5 million Preakness Stakes May 21 at venerable Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md.
Rich Strike, the 80.80-1 Kentucky Derby winner, will skip the Preakness and point to the June 11 Belmont Stakes Presented by NYRA Bets, but the 1 3/16-mile race still drew a tough field including Derby runner-up and post-time favorite Epicenter and Longines Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath.
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Let’s meet the Preakness Stakes field:
1. Simplification (6-1 morning-line odds)
Jockey: John Velazquez
Trainer: Antonio Sano
Owners: Tami Bobo and Tristan De Meric
Career record: 8 starts – 3 wins – 1 second – 2 thirds
Career earnings: $665,350
Earnings per start: $83,169
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 101
Pedigree: Not This Time – Simply Confection, by Candy Ride
Running style: Stalker
Notable achievements and interesting facts: Somewhat overshadowed in the late-stretch drama of Kentucky Derby 148 was the fine effort from this consistent runner, who came from well off the pace to threaten Epicenter and Zandon in midstretch and kept on to the finish while Rich Strike ran by them all. He wound up fourth, two lengths behind Zandon, and earned a career-best 101 Equibase Speed Figure. Prior to the Derby, Simplification acquitted himself well in the south Florida series of Triple Crown preps, finishing second in the Holy Bull Stakes, first in the Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes, and third in the Curlin Florida Derby Presented by Hill ‘n’ Dale Farm at Xalapa. His Florida Derby run was sneaky good as he was caught up in a pace duel – a departure from his usual stalking style – and still fought hard in the stretch even after he was passed by White Abarrio and Charge It. That set him up to be a 35.30-1 longshot in the Kentucky Derby, and after that effort it’s safe to say Simplification won’t be overlooked again. Jockey Jose Ortiz was aboard him for his last three starts but will ride Early Voting in the Preakness, and as a substitute this colt picks up Hall of Fame member and multiple Eclipse-Award winner John Velazquez. Simplification should be in the mix during the Preakness stretch, and while he’s a second-tier win contender behind Epicenter and Secret Oath, he’s a must-use horse in exactas and trifectas. Preakness history: South Florida-based trainer Antonio Sano will make his second Preakness start following Gunnevera’s fifth-place finish in 2017. Velazquez has made 11 prior Preakness starts and has come close to winning three times with runners-up Animal Kingdom in 2011; Itsmyluckyday in 2013; and Authentic in 2020.
2. Creative Minister (10-1)
Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.
Trainer: Ken McPeek
Career record: 3 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds
Career earnings: $140,595
Earnings per start: $46,865
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 108
Pedigree: Creative Cause – Tamboz, by Tapit
Color: Gray or roan
Running style: Stalker/closer
Notable achievements and interesting facts: This colt was supplemented to the Preakness for $150,000 by his owners after he turned in one of the most impressive performances on the two-day extravaganza of racing at Churchill Downs comprised of the Kentucky Oaks and Derby cards. He hopped at the start of that 1 1/16-mile allowance-optional claiming race but settled into a nice stalking position under Brian Hernandez Jr. and took over authoritatively in midstretch en route to a 2 ¾-length victory. Prior to that, Creative Minister broke his maiden at Keeneland in another 1 1/16-mile race by 1 ½ lengths, and he finished second by a neck in his career debut at Gulfstream Park a month earlier. This Creative Cause colt has answered the bell all three times in his young career, and he profiles as an intriguing longshot in Preakness 147. The 108 Equibase Speed Figure he earned at Churchill is actually the highest among Saturday’s field. Preakness history: Trainer Ken McPeek won a memorable edition of the Preakness two years ago when his filly Swiss Skydiver toppled Kentucky Derby winner Authentic in a race that was delayed almost five months due to the COVID-19 pandemic and thus served as the final race in the Triple Crown series. He’s also had five other starters with one third-place finish. This will be Brian Hernandez Jr.’s fourth Preakness appearance.
3. Fenwick (50-1)
Jockey: Florent Geroux
Trainer: Kevin McKathan
Owners: Villa Rosa Farm and Harlo Stable
Career record: 6 starts – 1 first – 1 second – 0 thirds
Career earnings: $53,840
Earnings per start: $8,973
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 91
Pedigree: Curlin – Make the Sun Shine, by Malibu Moon
Running style: Pacesetter
Notable achievements and interesting facts: Fenwick is a last-minute addition to the Preakness field as his connections chase a historic and highly unlikely win. The son of 2007 Preakness winner Curlin was boldly entered in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes April 9 after breaking his maiden in wire-to-wire fashion at Tampa Bay Downs in March. Somewhat surprisingly, Fenwick did not attempt to set the pace in the 1 1/8-mile Blue Grass. Instead, he stalked in fourth through a half-mile and then retreated to finish last of 11. That’s not the way you want to enter an even tougher assignment in the Preakness, to say the least, and Fenwick is a good bet to carry the longest odds in Saturday’s field when the gates open. Looking at his overall record, the win at Tampa jumps off the page: he ran second in his debut last fall but then was soundly defeated in three starts for trainer Steve Asmussen before switching to trainer David Fisher and breaking through with a change of tactics. Kevin McKathan, who oversaw this colt’s development as a yearling, assumed training duties for the Blue Grass. It's safe to say that the only way Fenwick could score a Preakness upset in league with Rich Strike’s Derby shocker would be to shoot out to the early lead and “put them to sleep” on the front end, as the saying goes. Look for Florent Geroux to make that attempt; the chances for success, however, are remote. Preakness history: This is the first Preakness start for McKathan and Fenwick’s owners. Geroux has made five prior starts in the Preakness, and finished third in 2019 aboard Owendale.
4. Secret Oath (9-2)
Jockey: Luis Saez
Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas
Owner: Briland Farm
Career record: 8 starts – 5 wins – 0 seconds – 2 thirds
Career earnings: $1,295,417
Earnings per start: $161,927
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 105
Pedigree: Arrogate – Absinthe Minded, by Quiet American
Running style: Stalker
Notable achievements and interesting facts: Having this exceptional filly contest Preakness 147 takes some of the sting away from Rich Strike’s absence. The Longines Kentucky Oaks winner takes a back seat to no one in the field, including Derby runner-up Epicenter as both horses earned the same 105 Equibase Speed Figure in their recent Churchill Downs runs. Secret Oath traveled wide through the backstretch, far turn, and into the stretch of the 1 1/8-mile Oaks but was moving well under Luis Saez and took over impressively in early stretch en route to a two-length victory. That was her third win in four starts during 2022, all in stakes, and her only blemish, a third-place effort in the Arkansas Derby, can be chalked up in large degree to a poor start and extremely wide trip through the backstretch. Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas celebrated a career milestone at age 86 with his record-tying fifth Kentucky Oaks win, and how he’s got a real chance to secure his seventh win in the Preakness and his first since a memorable victory in 2013 with Oxbow. If he does it, he’ll tie Bob Baffert and Robert Wyndham Walden for the most wins by a trainer in Preakness history. “The Coach” told reporters last week that winning the Preakness would put Secret Oath “on a different level,” and adding this race to her résumé would indeed firm up her credentials for an Eclipse Award as 2022 champion 3-year-old filly even with six months remaining. She has a versatile running style that should work to her benefit in a Preakness featuring both front-runners and closers. Look for Luis Saez to have Secret Oath in midpack and saving as much ground as possible before asking for her best. Preakness history: Secret Oath has a chance to become the seventh filly to win the Preakness Stakes, joining Flocarline (1903), Whimsical (1906), Rhine Maiden (1915), Nellie Morse (1924), Rachel Alexandra (2009) and Swiss Skydiver (2020). Lukas’ six wins have come from a record 45 starters: Codex (1980, his first starter); Tank’s Prospect (1985); Tabasco Cat (1994); Timber Country (1995); Charismatic (1999); Oxbow (2013). Lukas has also finished second twice and third five times. Jockey Luis Saez was aboard one of Lukas’ runners-up, Bravazo in 2018.
5. Early Voting (7-2)
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
Trainer: Chad Brown
Owner: Klaravich Stables
Career record: 3 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 0 thirds
Career earnings: $321,500
Earnings per start: $107,167
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 102
Pedigree: Gun Runner – Amour d’Ete, by Tiznow
Color: Dark bay or brown
Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace
Notable achievements and interesting facts: Early Voting lies in wait for Epicenter, Simplification, and Secret Oath after bypassing the Kentucky Derby and targeting the Preakness. The son of 2017 Horse of the Year and top young sire Gun Runner exits the Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct on April 2, when he set the pace and nearly held on for a third consecutive win to start his career. Early Voting set modest fractions in the 1 1/8-mile Wood and continued well through the stretch but was caught by Mo Donegal, who rallied from last and defeated him by a neck (Mo Donegal then ran a late-closing fifth in the Kentucky Derby). Early Voting won the 1 1/8-mile Withers Stakes, also at Aqueduct, prior to the Wood Memorial and led throughout. He’s been training steadily at Chad Brown’s home base of Belmont Park and, if he takes another jump in form off of only his third career start, he could follow along in the footsteps of Klaravich Stables’ and Brown’s 2017 Preakness winner Cloud Computing, who also ran in the Wood Memorial and skipped the Kentucky Derby. Preakness history: Cloud Computing was the first Preakness starter for both Brown and Seth Klarman’s Klaravich Stables, who co-owned him with William Lawrence. Brown has since sent three more horses to the Preakness, including Klaravich’s fifth-place finisher Crowded Trade and eighth-place finisher Risk Taking last year. Early Voting will be jockey Jose Ortiz’s fourth Preakness starter.
6. Happy Jack (30-1)
Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione
Trainer: Doug O’Neill
Owners: Calumet Farm
Career record: 5 starts – 1 win – 0 seconds – 2 thirds
Career earnings: $182,200
Earnings per start: $36,440
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 98
Pedigree: Oxbow – Tapistry, by Tapit
Running style: Closer
Notable achievements and interesting facts: Happy Jack was announced as a Preakness entrant on May 13, joining Epicenter and Simplification as Kentucky Derby starters targeting the second jewel of the Triple Crown. Unlike that pair, he made absolutely no impact in the run for the roses, running in the rear guard and finishing 14th beaten by 19 lengths. He went off at odds of 23.20-1 odds in the Kentucky Derby, making him the biggest underlay in the race by a wide margin. He should have been in Rich Strike’s orbit around 80-1, but his connections – especially trainer Doug O’Neill – his status as a West Coast shipper, and perhaps his name helped bring those odds down. Based on form, Happy Jack should vie with Fenwick as the longest shot in the Preakness field. He has not won since his debut back in January (in a six-furlong sprint) and has been outclassed in all of his graded stakes tries. Filling out the superfecta in a short field appears to be his ceiling, and that’s very unlikely … of course, the same could have been said for Rich Strike a few days ago. Happy Jack will add blinkers for the Preakness. Preakness history: O’Neill won the Preakness with the first of his two Kentucky Derby winners, I’ll Have Another in 2012, and his 2016 Derby champ Nyquist finished third at Pimlico. Gaffalione also has a Preakness win, that coming in 2019 aboard War of Will, his only starter to date. Calumet Farm has won a record eight editions of the Preakness, seven of them coming during its dominant 20th Century run: Whirlaway (1941 – Triple Crown); Pensive (1944); Faultless (1947); Citation (1948 – Triple Crown); Fabius (1956); Tim Tam (1958); and Forward Pass (1968). Under Brad Kelley’s stewardship, Calumet captured the 2013 Preakness with front-running Oxbow.
7. Armagnac (12-1)
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.
Trainer: Tim Yakteen
Career record: 5 starts – 2 wins – 0 seconds – 1 third
Career earnings: $135,140
Earnings per start: $27,028
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 92
Pedigree: Quality Road – Kitty Wine, by Lemon Drop Kid
Running style: Pacesetter/press the pace
Notable achievements and interesting facts: Armagnac was announced as a Preakness starter on May 14. He’ll ship in from Southern California to contest the second jewel of the Triple Crown for trainer Tim Yakteen, who took over supervisory duties from suspended Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert (a seven-time Preakness winner) back in April. He comes in off of his career-best race May 8 at Santa Anita Park, where he controlled the pace in a 1 1/16-mile allowance-optional claimer and won by 4 ¼ lengths. Prior to that, he had disappointed in two stakes tries against the best 3-year-olds in California, finishing sixth by 27 ¼ lengths in the San Felipe Stakes and then fourth by 12 ½ lengths in the Runhappy Santa Anita Derby. It’s hard to envision Armagnac capturing the Preakness even if his May 8 win was an improvement; he was able to set moderate fractions and only defeated five horses. Furthermore, the California contingent has proven to be subpar this year on the Triple Crown trail: Santa Anita Derby 1-2 finishers Taiba and Messier finished 12th and 15th, respectively, in the Kentucky Derby. Armagnac set the pace in his maiden victory back in January just as he did in his recent win, and he figures to attempt to do that again with top jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. aboard for the first time. Early Voting and Epicenter should be lurking right behind him, however, and both have a distinct class advantage over this contender. Preakness history: This will be Yakteen’s first appearance in the Preakness. Irad Ortiz Jr. finished second in last year’s Preakness on Midnight Bourbon. Several members of Armagnac’s large ownership group have been part-owners of Preakness winners. Jack and Laurie Wolf’s Starlight Racing co-owned 2018 victor and Triple Crown winner Justify. Stonestreet Stables co-owned 2007 winner Curlin and 2009’s sensational filly Rachel Alexandra, both of whom would be voted Horse of the Year. Sol Kumin of Madaket Stables owned a part of 2016 winner Exaggerator as well as the aforementioned Justify via his Head of Plains Partners group.
8. Epicenter (6-5)
Jockey: Joel Rosario
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Owner: Winchell Thoroughbreds
Career record: 7 starts – 4 wins – 2 seconds – 0 thirds
Career earnings: $1,610,639
Earnings per start: $230,091
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 105
Pedigree: Not This Time – Silent Candy, by Candy Ride
Running style: Press the pace/stalker
Notable achievements and interesting facts: Top-class Epicenter did everything right in the Kentucky Derby – except win the race. The 4.10-1 post-time favorite stalked a hot pace, took over the lead on the far turn, shook clear briefly in early stretch, and fended off a stout challenge from Zandon in the final sixteenth to secure what for a few seconds appeared to be a career-defining victory, the first in 24 tries for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. But it was not to be: 80.80-1 longshot Rich Strike rallied from far back and weaved through tiring horses along the inside to pull off what truthfully should be called the biggest upset in Kentucky Derby history. To his credit, Asmussen has shaken off that heartbreaking defeat and wheeled Epicenter right back for a start in the Preakness, and it’s a race that should be right in this colt’s wheelhouse as it’s the exact same 1 3/16-mile distance of the Twinspires.com Louisiana Derby (which Epicenter won by 2 ½ lengths) and it’s contested on a main track at Pimlico that favors speed. The only questions about this colt is whether his valiant Derby effort took too much out of him and if he has had enough time to recover. A repeat of his Kentucky Derby should put Epicenter in the Pimlico winner’s circle, even with the presence of Secret Oath, Simplification, and Early Voting in the field. Look for Joel Rosario to have his mount no worse than third in the early going, and in a perfect position to make the same far-turn move that he did in the Derby. Preakness history: Rosario will be looking to break through with a Preakness win after finishing second three times (Ride On Curlin in 2014, Tale of Verve in 2015, and Everfast in 2019) from seven prior runners. Asmussen has sent 14 horses to the Preakness, and he won the race with Hall of Famers Curlin (2007) and Rachel Alexandra (2009). He also finished second last year with Midnight Bourbon and third twice with Astrology in 2011 and Tenfold in 2018. Winchell Thoroughbreds owned Midnight Bourbon and Tenfold.
9. Skippylongstocking (20-1)
Jockey: Junior Alvarado
Trainer: Saffie Joseph Jr.
Owner: Daniel Alonso
Career record: 9 starts – 2 wins – 1 second – 2 thirds
Career earnings: $165,100
Earnings per start: $18,344
Top Equibase Speed Figure: 100
Pedigree: Exaggerator – Twinkling, by War Chant
Running style: Stalker
Notable achievements and interesting facts: Skippylongstocking projects to be a Preakness longshot and is an option for trifecta and superfecta players in search of a price to spice up their payouts. He’s got some racing experience (his nine starts is the most in the field) and, after showing little in his first two stakes tries last October and December, he’s finally rounded into form this spring. His last two races have been solid: a 3 ¾-length win in a 1 1/8-mile allowance-optional claiming race at Gulfstream Park and then a third-place effort in the Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by Resorts World Casino April 9 at Aqueduct. He was no threat to winner Mo Donegal and runner-up Early Voting but kept grinding in the stretch and was 1 ½ lengths clear of the fourth-place finisher. This son of 2016 Preakness winner Exaggerator has had ample rest for the Preakness and retains jockey Junior Alvarado, who rode him in his last three starts. If he can improve off of his Wood effort and a couple of the top-tier Preakness candidates fail to fire for one reason or another, Skippylongstocking could fill out the trifecta on Saturday. Finishing one or two spots lower is a more plausible scenario, however. Preakness history: Trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. is back in the Preakness after his debut runner, Ny Traffic, finished ninth in 2020. Jockey Junior Alvarado is also making his second appearance; his first horse, Zetterholm, finished fourth in 2012.