Mr. Big News gallops at Churchill Downs on Sept. 2
Trainer Bret Calhoun termed Allied Racing’s Kentucky Derby third-place finisher Mr. Big News “probable” for the Preakness Stakes but that a final decision likely will be made after the colt works later this week.
“Right now he came out of the Derby well; we’re definitely pointing that direction,” Calhoun said at Churchill.
Mr. Big News rallied from 10th to finish third in the Kentucky Derby, 3 1/4 total lengths behind victorious Authentic and two lengths behind heavy favorite Tiz the Law. The Giant’s Causeway colt earned a free spot in the Preakness Stakes by virtue of winning Oaklawn Park’s $200,000 Oaklawn Stakes at 46-1 odds, almost identical to his Derby odds. In between those races, Mr. Big News was sixth in Keeneland’s Grade 2 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes won by Preakness candidate Art Collector.
Calhoun said the Preakness decision will be almost solely made on “just how he’s doing,” not on the other horses showing up.
“I want him to be coming into the Derby just like he came into the Derby,” he said. “If he’s going that good, we’ll run. Who else is running really doesn’t have a big bearing. We’re getting to the end of the 3-year-old races, so my options are either run him there, go to the turf or back off. I really don’t want to run him against older horses at this point in time. So if he’s doing really, really well, like he was coming into the Derby, we’ll definitely run in the Preakness.”
Of the Derby, Calhoun said, “At the three-eighths pole I got pretty excited. I thought he might win the whole thing. I knew they were going pretty fast in front him, and I thought they might back up to him. He was moving pretty good to them. But the 1-2 finishers are very, very good horses and when they straightened up, they went on and we didn’t close the gap very much from there.”
Two years after they finished a very close third in the Preakness with Tenfold, owner Ron Winchell and trainer Steve Asmussen will be back in the 1 3/16-mile classic with Pneumatic. Tenfold closed out of a fog that obscured the view of much of the 2018 Preakness, coming up three-quarters of a length shy of Kentucky Derby winner Justify, who went on to take the Belmont Stakes and the Triple Crown.
Pneumatic worked five-eighths of a mile Sunday over Saratoga’s Oklahoma training track in 1:01 2/5. The Uncle Mo colt will remain there with assistant trainer Scott Blasi until shipping to Pimlico.
“He’s training really well,” Asmussen said. “Obviously we were encouraged with his Pegasus. We thought it was his strongest race to date. It appears the Derby participants have come out in good order, and the Preakness ought to be a great race.”
Pneumatic won his first two starts at Oaklawn Park, then was third in Churchill Downs’ Matt Winn Stakes (G2) won by the highly regarded Maxfield. After a fourth in the revamped Belmont Stakes, eight weeks later he captured Monmouth Park’s Aug. 15 Pegasus. Now he’ll have seven weeks before the Preakness.
“We made a conscious decision, because of how well he ran in the Pegasus from the timing after the Belmont to the Pegasus, to try to follow a similar plan that he responded to,” Asmussen said, “(having) nothing but respect for how good of a race it’s going to be.”
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