Cypress Creek Equine and Whispering Oaks Farm’s Un Ojo is set to put his best foot forward May 21 in the 147th Preakness Stakes. The gelding was forced to bypass the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve because of a minor but untimely foot bruise, but his team believes he will be ready for the second leg of the Triple Crown at Pimlico.
Un Ojo jogged twice around Churchill Downs’ mile track the morning of May 9 under Clay Courville, assistant to his dad, Louisiana-based trainer Ricky Courville, while also serving as exercise rider, groom, and hotwalker when their stable star is on the road.
“He’s doing good. He’s been training good, and been back to the track three times now,” Clay Courville said. “He’s on the right track, moving forward. He wanted to gallop. I decided to give him another day of jogging and I’ll gallop him (Tuesday) morning. The foot seems good. He's hitting the ground well, traveling well. We’ll gallop tomorrow and see how he is.”
The one-eyed Un Ojo was withdrawn five days before the Derby, on the morning entries were taken.
“It was tough,” Clay Courville said. “It was hard to do, but it was the right thing for the horse. If everything goes well, we’ll be on to the Preakness. He’s scheduled to work on Saturday morning. We’ll see how he is after that and decide what to do.”
Courville said his dad has never raced a horse at Pimlico but that he came to Old Hilltop when trainer Eric Guillot asked him to help out with Laoban, who finished sixth in the 2016 Preakness.
“I was working for my dad when Mr. Eric called me and gave me the opportunity to travel and come up with him and get on the horse for the Preakness,” he said. “I took advantage of it and went. It was just cool to be up there and experience new things as a young kid.”
Clay Courville, now 25, can appreciate Rich Strike’s Kentucky Derby victory at 80.80-1 odds after drawing into the field at literally the last minute to carry the banner for the “little guy.” Rich Strike is only the second graded-stakes winner for trainer Eric Reed, in a career that began in 1985 and includes 1,445 victories through Sunday. Un Ojo won Oaklawn Park’s Rebel Stakes at 75.40-1 to give Ricky Courville his first graded stakes score.
“I was extremely happy for their connections,” Courville said of the Rich Strike team. “I feel people like that deserve it, people who work hard and don’t have a lot of horses like that, like most people don’t. They take pride in their work, and I like seeing people like that win.”
Still, Courville said the Derby was tough to watch. “I was like, ‘Man, it set up perfect for our type of horse: the hot pace and all the closers came running.’ You never know.”
Tami Bobo and Tristan de Meric’s Simplification, who finished a late-closing fourth in the Kentucky Derby, is due to arrive at Pimlico early May 10 to run in Preakness. The Fasig-Tipton Fountain of Youth Stakes winner is expected to arrive between 4-5 a.m. ET Tuesday following a van ride from Churchill Downs.
Simplification will be the second Preakness starter for trainer Antonio Sano, who saddled Gunnevera for a fifth-place finish in 2017.
Daniel Alonso’s Skippylongstocking is scheduled to breeze at Gulfstream Park Friday or Saturday before shipping to Pimlico the next day for a start in the Preakness, trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. reported Monday. The son of 2016 Preakness winner Exaggerator most recently finished third in the Wood Memorial Stakes Presented by Resorts World Casino at Aqueduct.
Trainer Chad Brown told BloodHorse he would not decide on Kentucky Derby third-place finisher Zandon’s Preakness status until this weekend. Another colt from Brown’s barn, Klaravich Stables’ Early Voting, is pointed to the Preakness; the son of Gun Runner bypassed the Kentucky Derby after finishing second by a neck in the Wood Memorial.
“All systems look great right now,” North America’s all-time winningest trainer said. “He’ll catch another walk day and go back to the track Wednesday morning, and we’ll see where we’re at there.”
Epicenter, with Joel Rosario aboard, appeared headed to the Derby winner’s circle until the last few strides when passed on the inside by Rich Strike.
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said no Preakness decision has been made yet on Longines Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath or Rebel Stakes runner-up Ethereal Road, whose Friday morning scratch made it possible for Rich Strike to run in the Kentucky Derby.
“We’re just going to give it a little time,” said Lukas, a six-time Preakness winner, most recently with Oxbow in 2013.
Trainer Kelly Breen said May 9 that his graded stakes-placed colt In Due Time is not a candidate for the Preakness. The son of Not This Time was second to Simplification in the Fountain of Youth. In his most recent start, he was third as the 1.90-1 favorite in the Stonestreet Lexington Stakes April 16 at Keeneland.
Runhappy Santa Anita Derby winner Taiba, 12th in the Kentucky Derby, is out of Preakness consideration. Trainer Tim Yakteen said via text that Taiba and stablemate Messier (15th in the Derby) would head back to California. “They came back in good shape. We will regroup and come up with a campaign,” he said.
Joe and Blackadder, colts who earned automatic entry berths with victories earlier this year, will not run in the Preakness.
Trainer Michael Trombetta said Monday that Joe, the Elkstone Group’s homebred, will be nominated for the James W. Murphy Stakes on the Preakness Day program. Joe, a Maryland-bred son of Declaration of War, won the Federico Tesio April 16 at Laurel Park for his fourth victory in six career starts.
Blackadder, winner of the ‘Win and In’ El Camino Real Derby Feb. 12 at Golden Gate Fields, was sold after his ninth-place finish in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes April 9. His new trainer, Christophe Clement, said the Quality Road colt is not being considered for the Preakness.