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Preakness Stakes News | Catching Freedom Has “Really Good Gallop”
Catching Freedom (Maryland Jockey Club)

Preakness Stakes News | Catching Freedom Has “Really Good Gallop”

Brad Cox, trying to win his first Preakness Stakes (G1) with Albaugh Family Stables’ Kentucky Derby (G1) fourth-place finisher Catching Freedom, knows how fellow trainer Bob Baffert feels with Wednesday morning’s scratch of morning-line favorite Muth from Saturday’s Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

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A year ago, the Cox-trained First Mission, who was the second choice in the early odds behind favored Kentucky Derby winner Mage, was withdrawn with an injury.

“Unfortunate for the horse and the connections,” Cox said by phone from Kentucky. “I shouldn’t say I feel their pain, but we’ve obviously been there and done that. I know the connections are going to make the right decision based on the horse. But Bob is still alive with another horse anyhow.”

That’s Santa Anita Derby (G1) runner-up Imagination, who was the co-third choice at 6-1 with Catching Freedom in the initial early odds. Imagination is the prime speed in what now is a field of eight 3-year-olds. 

Asked how Muth’s defection might change the race tactically, Cox said, “I don’t know that it helps us.” That’s because Muth figured to be part of the pace scenario, his absence potentially slowing down the pace and making it more challenging for the stretch-running Catching Freedom.

“We’ll just have to line them up and let them sort themselves out,” Cox said.

Still, he acknowledged he was even more glad he’d entered Catching Freedom, going against his usual pattern of not running a horse back in two weeks.

“Yes,” he said. “As soon as I heard about Muth, two people told me, ‘That’s why you run.’ Listen, our horse still has to show up and run. The main thing is the horse did appear to ship over there in great shape and he’s had two good mornings over there so far. We’re looking forward to the race on Saturday.”

Catching Freedom, who won the Louisiana Derby (G2) at the Preakness distance of 1 3/16 miles six weeks before the Derby, had a routine gallop Wednesday over a sealed Pimlico surface.

“He had a really good gallop,” Cox said, having gotten a report from his assistant on the scene, his son Blake.

Flavien Prat, who won the 2021 Preakness with Rombauer, has the mount on Catching Freedom.

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Horsemen will be offered $7.5 million in bonus opportunities as well as two qualifiers for races at Newmarket and Deauville come Preakness Day May 18 at legendary Pimlico Race Course.

In addition to their respective purses, a $5 million bonus awaits the owner or owners of the horse who wins the $2 million Preakness (G1), the $1 million California Crown (G1) Sept. 28 at Santa Anita, and the $3 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational (G1) at Gulfstream Park in 2025.

Meanwhile, a $2.5 million bonus awaits the owner or owners of the horse who wins Pimlico’s $500,000 Dinner Party (G3), the $750,000 California Crown John Henry Turf (G2), and $1 million Pegasus World Cup Turf Invitational (G1).

In addition, the winner of the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint will receive an automatic entry and travel incentive to run in the July Cup Stakes (G1) at Newmarket on July 13, while the winner of the Gallorette Stakes (G3) for fillies and mares on the turf will receive an automatic entry and travel incentive to run in the Sumbe Prix Jean Romanet (G1) at Deauville Aug. 18.

The Maryland Jockey Club will also offer bonus money totaling $100,000 bonus to trainers who run a minimum of five horses in the stakes races during Preakness weekend, and another $50,000 bonus for trainers with the most points in non-stakes during the weekend.

The field for making Preakness Stakes picks, with riders and morning line odds from the rail out: