Sizing up the candidates for Pimlico

It could change. No. It will change. But for the field now Preakness Stakes 2022 is overflowing with possibilities. Probabilities are another matter.

Here are the candidates for the second jewel of the Triple Crown on May 21 at Pimlico in Baltimore, subject to – well – change. They are listed in order of – well – intrigue.

Rich Strike

Status: Probable. Trainer:
Eric Reed. Jockey: Sonny León. Last race: Won the Kentucky Derby. Style: Deep close. The story: Winning the Derby at 80-1 odds ruined all his conditions. Now he can not enter “more than one” races. It has been 10 years since the Derby winner entered the Preakness as “one more than the other”. That was when I ‘ll have another upset Bodemeister. This will feel even more like 2009, when Mine That Bird was the 50-1 Derby winner and no better than third choice at Pimlico before losing to Kentucky Oaks winner Rachel Alexandra.

RELATED: Derby-winning trainer is in the Triple Crown whirlwind.

Secret Oath

Status: Possible. Trainer:
D. Wayne Lukas. Jockey: Luis Contreras. Last race: Won the Kentucky Oaks. Style: Mid-pack. The story: She finished third against males in the Arkansas Derby (G1), so why wouldn’t she try for a trainer who’s been there and done that? Lukas sent Derby winner Winning Colors against the boys in Baltimore in 1988. She finished third as the Preakness favorite. If not here, Lukas said the Black-eyed Susan (G2) on May 16 at Pimlico might be Secret Oath’s next stop.

Epicenter

Status: No decision. Trainer:
Steve Asmussen. Jockey: Joel Rosario. Last race: 2nd in the Kentucky Derby. Style: Early speed or stalker. The story: He was winning the Derby until the last 10 strides. If he goes, he is the favorite in the Preakness. He’ll be back on track for a gallop Wednesday at Churchill Downs. Asmussen and Winchell Thoroughbreds racing manager David Fiske said if Epicenter looks good, he might be sent to Baltimore.

Early Voting

Status: Probable. Trainer:
Chad Brown. Jockey: José Ortiz. Last race: 2nd in the Wood Memorial (G2). Style: Early speed. The story: Even though he qualified for the Derby, Brown targeted the Preakness all along for the Gun Runner colt who won a hand ride in the Withers (G3) and who was caught on the wire by Mo Donegal in the Wood. Only that loss kept him from being undefeated in three races.

Simplification

Status: Probable. Trainer:
Antonio Sano. Jockey: To be determined. Last race: 4th in the Kentucky Derby. Style: Mid-pack. The story: With José Ortiz riding him from the back of the pack, Simplification avoided the suicidal early pace in the Derby. Regardless of who rides him, he will not be 35-1 at Pimlico.

Smile Happy

Status: Possible. Trainer:
Kenny McPeek. Jockey: Corey Lanerie. Last race: 8th in the Kentucky Derby. Style: Mid-pack. The story: Before he faded into the homestretch at Churchill Downs, he got caught in traffic and steadied on the second turn. Yet he fought back before he ran out of gas. If he didn’t take too much out of the Derby, maybe he would like the distance to the Preakness.

Zandon

Status: No decision. Trainer:
Chad Brown. Jockey: Flavien Prat. Last race: 3rd in the Kentucky Derby. Style: Closer. The story: He would carry more intrigue if it didn’t look like Brown was leaning against going to Baltimore. As promised before the Derby, Zandon stayed in the mid-pack rather than back, and he pounced on just the right time. He simply lost a better horse in his duel with Epicenter. Oh, yeah. There was that rail horse, too.

Taiba

Status: Possible. Trainer:
Tim Yakteen. Jockey: Mike Smith. Last race: 12th in the Kentucky Derby. Style: Stalker. The story: In only his third race, he got a serious baptism and a face full of dirt. He didn’t change the lead in the stretch, so who knows how much better he might have done? Taking the cynical view that this is still a Bob Baffert colt, then he could be the one to win the Preakness. Then again, six of those first seven were Derby winners, and Taiba is not that.

Happy Jack

Status: Probable. Trainer:
Doug O’Neill. Jockey: Rafael Bejarano. Last race: 14th in the Kentucky Derby. Style: Deep close. The story: He spent his energy before the Derby getting his tail caught in the starting gate. Then he was slowly getting out of it. No wonder connections are eager to get back in the fight.

Creative Minister

Status: Possible. Trainer:
Kenny McPeek. Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr. Last race: Won a 1 1/16-mile allowance on the Derby undercard. Style: Mid-pack. The story:
If not for a neck loss in his debut, this creative Causeway colt would be an impressive turn-of-the-foot 3-for-3. He will come off Lasix for the Preakness.

Skippylongstocking

Status: Probable. Trainer:
Saffie Joseph Jr. Jockey: Júnior Alvarado. Last race: 3rd in the Wood Memorial (G2). Style: Stalker. The story: This Exaggerator colt is a throwback to a time when racehorses raced. The Preakness will be his 10th start but only his second away from Gulfstream Park, where he got his two wins in maiden and allowance company. Joseph won the winter-spring title at Gulfstream. He continues to try to achieve the same sort of dominance north of there.

Un Ojo

Status: Probable. Trainer: Ricky Courville. Jockey: Ramón Vázquez. Last race: 8th in the Arkansas Derby (G1). Style: Stalker. The story: A bruised foot diagnosed on entry day kept him out of the Kentucky Derby, where he would have been the longest shot on the board. He still dines out on his ground-saving, 75-1 breakthrough in the Rebel (G2).

Rattle N Roll

Status: Possible. Trainer: Kenny McPeek. Jockey: To be determined. Last race: 6th in the Blue Grass (G1). Style: Mid-pack. The story: If there was just one more defection, he could have been in the Derby. His last win was last fall in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1). He has finished off the board in his three starts as a 3-year-old, all Derby preps. McPeek said if Smile were happy to go to the Preakness, Rattle N Roll probably wouldn’t, since they are both owned by the Mackin family.

Ethereal Road

Status: Possible. Trainer:
D. Wayne Lukas. Jockey: To be determined. Last race: 4th in the Lexington (G3). Style: Closer. The story: When the colt was “flat” Friday morning, Lukas scratched him from the Derby, saying “If I had run him again, then I pretty much blew the summer.” Ethereal Road raced twice in eight days last month at Keeneland, and his only win was seven starts in a maiden race at Oaklawn in January.

Shake Em Loose

Status: Possible. Trainer:
Rodolpho Sánchez-Salomón. Jockey: To be determined. Last race: 3rd in the Federico Tesio. Style: Closer. The story: After a troubled trip last April 16 in the traditional prep for the Preakness, owner-trainer Sánchez-Salomón has been weighing the classic against the James W. Murphy turf mile on the same card. The gelding, which has won two black-type stakes at Laurel Park, had a $ 16,000 claim last fall.

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