ASTROLOGY/NEHRO – The two possible Preakness contenders in the Churchill Downs barn of trainer Steve Asmussen turned in easy half-mile works over a sloppy and sealed track on Monday morning.
Stonestreet Stable and George Bolton’s Iroquois (GIII) winner Astrology covered the distance in :51.60 just after the track opened for training at 6 a.m. (EDT). Zayat Stable’s Nehro, the runner-up to Animal Kingdom in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI), breezed a short time later and was timed in :50.80 for his half-mile. Carlos Rosas was in the saddle for both works.
Astrology, considered a definite starter in the second jewel of the Triple Crown, completed his work in fractional times of :14.40, :27.40 and :39.40 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:06.20.
“He went over the track very well, very handy,” Asmussen said. “There were concerns about an awfully wet race track this morning, but he handled it well and went over it well.”
Nehro, who continues to be listed as “possible” for the Preakness, was timed in :12.80, :25.40 and :37.80, and galloped out five furlongs in 1:05.20.
Owner Ahmed Zayat was at Churchill Downs to view the work.
“We’ll just evaluate how he’s doing, how he comes out of the race and how he’s acting,” Asmussen said of Nehro’s possible Preakness bid. “I thought he went over the race track well (this morning) and traveled good.”
Nehro’s runner-up finish in the Kentucky Derby was his third race in six weeks, with second-place runs in the Louisiana Derby (GII) and Arkansas Derby (GI) prior to his run at Churchill Downs.
Asmussen said a decision on a Preakness run would be made on Tuesday. The flights that will carry horses from Churchill Downs to Baltimore for Saturday’s race at Pimlico leave Wednesday.
“He’s done a lot over a short period of time,” Asmussen said. “I think you’re trying to evaluate the runs, the races themselves and how he’s doing, while also trying to weigh the opportunity that is ahead of you.”
Mike Smith will ride Astrology in the Preakness. Corey Nakatani was aboard Nehro in his runner-up efforts in the Kentucky Derby and Arkansas Derby.
MIDNIGHT INTERLUDE – Arnold Zetcher’s Midnight Interlude worked a brisk three furlongs in :35.60 after the morning renovation break over a sloppy track with Peter Hutton in the irons.
Working on his own, the 16th-place finisher in Kentucky Derby 137 posted a first furlong fraction of :12 and then gallop-out times of :48.60 and 1:02.80 before pulling up at the track kitchen by the half-mile pole.
“He acted like he got into his work this morning,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “The track was a little greasy this morning and we haven’t had the best of luck with him here catching fast tracks for works.
“After what I saw today, we are going to the Preakness. I feel pretty good about him. I think he is better now than he was before the Derby. He never really ran in the Derby; he just laid a big goose egg.”
Midnight Interlude broke from the 15 hole for the Kentucky Derby and Baffert feels the post position draw will be key for his horse in a 14-horse Preakness field.
“He was stuck outside in the Derby,” Baffert said. “His Santa Anita Derby (G1) was a good race, and if he runs back to that, he’s right in the mix (in the Preakness).”
For Baffert, a five-time Preakness winner including last year with Lookin At Lucky, there is no question of who the horse to beat in Saturday’s Preakness is.
“Animal Kingdom is definitely the horse to beat,” Baffert said. “He was the best horse in the Derby, no question.”
Baffert also trains Peachtree Stable’s Plum Pretty, winner of the Kentucky Oaks (GI) here on May 6. Baffert said no decision has been made on the filly’s next start.
BARN TALK – Four other Preakness probables housed at Churchill Downs had routine mornings on Monday.
The Estate of Edward P. Evans’ Dance City jogged a little more than a mile before the renovation break; Robert LaPenta’s Dialed In galloped a mile and a half under Stacy Prior a little after 7 o’clock; Michael Lauffer and W.D. Cubbedge’s Shackleford, the Kentucky Derby pacesetter, jogged two miles after the renovation break under exercise rider Faustino Ramos; and, Batman Stable, Philip Lebherz, Cindy Olsen, Janet Sharp and Glen Wallace et al’s Sway Away walked the shedrow.
One horse that would need several defections by horses under consideration for the Preakness to make the field, Robert Baker and William Mack’s Saratoga Red, walked a day after working five furlongs in 1:02.80.