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Mystik Dan Performs ‘Happy Gallop’ Ahead of Preakness

An overcast morning at Pimlico Race Course May 15 was turned upside down with an announcement that Arkansas Derby (G1) winner Muth , the 8-5 morning-line favorite, was scratched from the May 18 Preakness Stakes (G1) with a fever.

However, for the eight remaining Preakness entries, it was business as usual Wednesday morning.

“There’s eight horses now, we can run our race and not worry about chasing the horse they call the favorite,” said Ray Bryner, assistant trainer to Kenny McPeek.

Bryner led Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mystik Dan  to the track just a half-hour before the Goldencents   colt inherited morning-line favoritism after the scratch of Muth. With regular exercise rider and retired jockey Robby Albarado aboard, Mystik Dan relished the muddy surface, which he could possibly see Preakness day.

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“He feels good on all tracks, but there’s something about (a muddy track) that he gets over it easier,” Albarado said. “I’m not going to make a comparison, but Curlin was like that. On a muddy track…he got over it like glass, like an ice skater. It was different. This horse is similar getting over the same kind of way.”

The Derby winner jogged to the five-eighths pole to start his morning before beginning his gallop. Albarado allowed Mystik Dan to open his stride a touch when reaching the Preakness starting point, the three-sixteenths pole, relaxed him down the backstretch, and opened up again in the stretch.

“He was very responsive when I needed him at the sixteenth pole,” Albarado said. “I squeezed him a little bit to see if he was there, and he was there.”

“What Robby and I call a ‘happy gallop,'” Bryner said. “Three days out from a race we usually do it. Kenny called an audible and said let’s do it today. It went very well.”

Multiple Contenders Make First Gallop over the Pimlico Surface

Mystik Dan was the last of six Preakness contenders to hit the track Wednesday. Arkansas Derby runner-up Just Steel  was the first on the track, galloping around 6 a.m. for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Lukas’ other Preakness entrant, Seize the Grey , went out an hour later for his routine gallop.

Catching Freedom , who was very energetic during his May 14 jog, appeared much more relaxed once allowed to break into a gallop Wednesday. Louisiana Derby (G2) third-place finisher Tuscan Gold  was out for his first gallop over the Pimlico surface at the same time.

Catching Freedom, Pimlico, May 15 2024
Photo: Jerry Dzierwinski/Maryland Jockey Club

Catching Freedom trains at Pimlico Race Course

As Catching Freedom and Tuscan Gold left the Pimlico track, Withers Stakes (G3) winner Uncle Heavy  walked on and jogged a mile back to the wire before turning around and galloping a mile during his first training session at ‘Old Hilltop.’

“He looked awesome,” said trainer Butch Reid’s sister and assistant trainer Virginia Reid. “He handled it so well. None of the things in the infield interfered, he didn’t pay any attention. He’s such a classy horse. He trained perfect.”

Long Travel Days for Imagination, Mugatu Lead to Easy Mornings

Not going to the track Wednesday morning were some of the late shippers that arrived overnight. San Felipe Stakes (G2) winner and Santa Anita Derby (G1) runner-up Imagination  remained in the barn and walked under tack and rider in the shedrow. He had flown in Tuesday from California alongside stablemate Muth.

Blue Grass Stakes (G1) fifth-place finisher Mugatu  had a long day of travel Tuesday. After leaving his stable at Belterra Park in Cincinnati, he rode to Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., to pick up some travel partners before departing for Baltimore.

Mugatu with Joe Talamo on the track at Churchill Downs on May 1, 2024. Photo By: Chad B. Harmon
Photo: Chad B. Harmon

Mugatu trains at Churchill Downs

Originally scheduled to arrive at midnight, Mugatu rolled into the Pimlico backside at 4 a.m. Wednesday after being delayed by dense fog in the mountains. After the late arrival, trainer Jeff Engler called the audible to walk the barn instead of jog on the track.

“He is on the muscle,” Engler said of Mugatu’s energy levels after a long trip. “He made the trip really well. He ate everything, even getting here at 4 a.m. I couldn’t believe it, he ate everything.”

The son of Blofeld   will gallop an easy 1 1/2 miles May 16.

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