The draw was held at a lakeside restaurant in Baltimore on Monday if for no other reason than Pimlico Race Course is very old and shows every bit of its age. In fact, there were more mentions of the post-draw private event concert by the rock band Chicago than any individual horse. The track opened in 1870, and the band started under its current name in 1969. Both have undergone many renovations.
Epicenter was the first name drawn and assigned the No. 8 post in the nine-horse field and made the 6-5 morning-line favorite. The field dropped one Monday morning when Un Ojo pulled out because of a foot bruise.
Epicenter, trained by Steve Asmussen, was the favorite and runner-up in the Kentucky Derby. He was passed in the stretch by Rich Strike, an 80-1 long shot that benefited from a perfect setup and ride. The owner decided that to run the horse two weeks after the Derby was too much to ask and instead pointed to the Belmont Stakes, which will come five weeks after the Derby.
“It was ideal,” Asmussen said about the draw. “It’s a nine-horse field, plenty of run-up to the first turn. Several fresh horses and us coming back in two weeks, I think it’s absolutely ideal. You could say we’re half as nervous as the draw for the Derby, when you go from 20 runners to nine. I think that makes it that much more beneficial to everybody as far as post-position draw goes.”
Only three horses from the Derby are going in the 1-3/16th-mile race, the second in the Triple Crown. In addition to Epicenter, Simplification (Post 1, 6-1) and Happy Jack (6, 30-1) also ran at Churchill Downs.
Happy Jack, trained by Doug O’Neill, is one of two Southern California-based horses in the race. He finished 14th in the 20-horse Derby. The other is Armagnac (7, 12-1), formerly trained by Bob Baffert and now under the care of Tim Yakteen. He was fourth in the Santa Anita Derby but followed it up with a 4¼-length allowance win at Santa Anita on May 8.
The storyline that is expected to get the most attention is that of Secret Oath, who is in the No. 4 spot at 9-2 and is the third pick in the race. She is a filly for 86-year-old trainer D. Wayne Lukas and is coming off a decisive win in the Kentucky Oaks. Female horses have won the Preakness six times, including two years ago when Swiss Skydiver won the pandemic-altered race.
“It’s fine,” Secret Oath owner Rob Mitchell said of the No. 4 post. “I mean, I’m happier with that than I was after the post position for the Oaks [the 1], but I’d really like to hear what Wayne has to say about it.”
The second choice is Early Voting (5, 7-2), who was second in the Wood Memorial but skipped the Kentucky Derby. He runs for Chad Brown.
Post time: Saturday, 4:01 p.m. PDT. TV: NBC
Post position, horse, trainer, jockey, odds
1. Simplification, Antonio Sano, John Velazquez, 6-1
2. Creative Minister, Kenny McPeek, Brian Hernandez Jr., 10-1
3. Fenwick, Kevin McKathan, Florent Geroux , 50-1
4. Secret Oath, D. Wayne Lukas, Luis Saez, 9-2
5. Early Voting, Chad Brown, Jose Ortiz, 7-2
6. Happy Jack, Doug O'Neill, Tyler Gaffalione, 30-1
7. Armagnac, Tim Yakteen, Irad Oritz Jr., 12-1
8. Epicenter, Steve Asmussen, Joel Rosario, 6-5
9. Skippylongstocking, Saffie Joseph Jr., Junior Alvarado, 20-1
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.