Preakness Stakes Notes for 5/14/22

Simplification trains over the Pimlico Course main track. (Maryland Jockey Club photo)

Armagnac Joins Cast for Preakness Stakes

(Edited Press Release)

Armagnac, a front-running first-level allowance winner May 8 at Santa Anita, will make his next start in the 147th Preakness Stakes (G1) on May 21 at historic Pimlico Race Course.

Both the $1.5 million Preakness at 1 3/16 miles and the $100,000 Sir Barton for 3-year-old non-winners of an open stakes going 1 1/16 miles on the undercard were being considered for Armagnac, according to managing partner Tom Ryan of SF Racing.

The ownership group also includes Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Robert Masterson, Stonestreet Stables, Jay Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital, Catherine Donovan, Golconda Stable and Siena Farm.

“We had some considerable conversation about it this morning,” Ryan said. “They were the two races we were considering. It feels like with his progression, he’s really trending in the right direction.”

Irad Ortiz Jr., a three-time Eclipse Award winner as champion jockey (2018-20), has signed on to ride Armagnac. Ortiz finished second in the 2021 Preakness aboard Midnight Bourbon.

“We’re excited,” Ryan said. “The horse is well, and statistically we’ve got one of the best jockeys in the nation. Sometimes when you’re healthy and well, if the opportunity is there you have to make a decision. Do I want to go large or [not]? It’s coming together in a way that we feel comfortable with the challenge.”

Armagnac has raced exclusively at Santa Anita, making two starts since being transferred to trainer Tim Yakteen from the barn of Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, who is serving a 90-day suspension that goes to July 2. The Quality Road colt was fourth in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) April 9 at odds of 72-1 prior to his recent 4 ¼-length allowance triumph, which was his first race without blinkers.

The top three horses from the Santa Anita Derby – Taiba, Messier and Happy Jack – all ran back in the Kentucky Derby (G1) May 7. Happy Jack is also Preakness-bound, along with Derby runner-up Epicenter, and fourth-place finisher Simplification.

“We’ve always felt that he has talent. Obviously, this is an incredible step up in class, no question, but he has some racing under his belt,” Ryan said. “He’s a fit, sound horse. Running him back in 13 days I suppose is an aggressive move but, that said, horses are coming back from the Derby in 14 days.”

Ryan said the plan for Armagnac is to ship to Pimlico on Wednesday, gallop Thursday and Friday over the main track, and run Saturday.

“He had a good, confidence-building race last Sunday. I thought he got out there and enjoyed himself. You could see he was pricking his ears,” Ryan said. “The one thing that kind of swayed me was he really galloped out with energy. It wasn’t a case that he just kind of got around there and won the race; the case was he won it and he kept on rolling. I just really felt good about that.”

Zandon Officially Declared Out of Preakness Stakes

Trainer Chad Brown expressed complete satisfaction with Klaravich Stables Inc.’s Early Voting’s preparation for next Saturday’s 147th Preakness Stakes while officially removing Jeff Drown’s Zandon from consideration for the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

Early Voting, who bypassed the May 7 Kentucky Derby, has exited his five-furlong workout in 1:00.63 Friday at Belmont in good order.

“I’m extremely pleased. He’s been here all winter. What a tough horse to stay here in the winter. My crew here at Belmont really did a fantastic job with this horse all winter,” Brown said. “He’s just come around. We always thought he would be a later horse and he turned out to be. I just couldn’t be more pleased how he looks and how he’s training.”

Early Voting, who will be ridden by Jose Ortiz, registered a pair of eye-catching front running victories at Aqueduct in his first two career starts before setting the pace in the April 9 Wood Memorial (G2), only to fall short of holding off Mo Donegal by a head.

Zandon, a 2 ½-length winner of the Blue Grass (G1) at Keeneland, finished third in the Kentucky Derby, 1 ½ lengths behind winner Rich Strike.

“We’re going to pass the Preakness and rest him at this point. I want to give him a little bit more time after what I saw today,” Brown said. “He’s nice and sound but definitely a little fatigued from that tough Derby run. I’m so proud of him for that race. We’ll see him later on in the summer.”

Simplification Settling In at Pimlico

Tami Bobo and Tristan De Meric’s Simplification galloped 1 ½ miles early Saturday morning at Pimlico Race Course while sending positive signs to his connections that the son of Not This Time is sitting on a big race for next Saturday’s Preakness Stakes.

"He really likes it here. He likes the track,” said Jesus ‘Chino’ Prada, longtime assistant to the Florida-bred colt’s trainer, Antonio Sano. “I think he likes it here more than he liked it at Churchill Downs.”

Simplification is coming off a fourth-place finish in the May 7 Kentucky Derby at Churchill, where he closed from 15th with a very wide rally to finished 3 ½ lengths behind victorious Rich Strike.

Hall of Famer John Velazquez will ride Simplification for the first time next Saturday, replacing Jose Ortiz, who has a commitment to ride Chad Brown-trained Early Voting in the Preakness.

"I think he can win the Preakness,” Prada said. “I read John Velazquez hasn’t won the Preakness. He will win the Preakness with this horse.”

Simplification began his 3-year-old campaign with a front-running four-length victory in the one-turn-mile Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream Park, where he went on to finish second in the Holy Bull (G3); win the Fountain of Youth (G2) by 3 ½ lengths while rallying from off the pace; and finish third in the Florida Derby (G1).

Sano, who saddled Gunnevera for a fifth-place finish in the 2017 Preakness, is scheduled to arrive in Baltimore from South Florida Sunday morning.