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Preakness Stakes News | Cox Hopes To Complete Triple Crown
Brad Cox (NYRA)

Preakness Stakes News | Cox Hopes To Complete Triple Crown

While Kenny McPeek completed his career Triple Crown sweep when Mystik Dan won the Kentucky Derby (G1), his fellow Kentucky-based trainer Brad Cox hopes he can do the same with Louisiana Derby (G2) victor Catching Freedom in Saturday’s 149th Preakness Stakes (G1).

Catching Freedom finished fourth in the Derby, 1 ¾ lengths behind the three-horse photo headed by Mystik Dan. 

Cox, who won his first of 48 Grade 1 stakes in 2018, earned what appeared to be his first Triple Crown victory when Godolphin’s 2-year-old champion Essential Quality won the 2021 Belmont Stakes (G1) after finishing fourth in the Derby. That was Cox’s first appearance in the Derby, and he also had Juddmonte Farms’ Mandaloun coming in a half-length behind Medina Spirit for second place.

Or so everyone thought.

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However, this past Feb. 26, Mandaloun was declared the official winner of the 147th Kentucky Derby after the disqualification of Medina Spirit for a medication infraction, with almost three years of court battles ensuing. That became Cox’s first Triple Crown winner, even if he never experienced the joy of watching his horse hit the wire first. 

Cox and his son/assistant trainer Blake, who is at Pimlico with Catching Freedom, hope to experience that sheer joy first hand in the Preakness. The Albaugh Family Stables’ colt figures to be no worse than third choice in the field of eight 3-year-olds, with Mystik Dan (the likely favorite after the scratch of Arkansas Derby (G1) winner Muth. The second choice in betting likely goes to either Catching Freedom or Muth’s Bob Baffert-trained stablemate Imagination.)

“The Preakness is a very prestigious race;” Brad Cox said by phone from Kentucky. “Just like the Derby and the Belmont and all the Breeders’ Cup races. You not only want to win them once, you want to win them multiple times. But you’ve got to win the first one. It would mean a tremendous amount to win the Preakness. Baltimore, the whole atmosphere there all week is nice. It’s a cool weekend of racing to be a part of.”

And, the trainer said, “I like our spot Saturday.”

Catching Freedom had another strong day training on a sun-kissed morning after two days of sloppy tracks.

“He galloped great… picked up his gallop down the lane the second round and pulled up around the three-quarter pole, and looked great,” Blake Cox said. “High energy, still on the bridle… Looking at the race now, it was a great decision to come here. We’re excited.”

Regarding how Muth’s defection with a fever impacts the late-running Catching Freedom, Blake Cox said: “Muth was going to be right there, if not on the lead. It changes the pace scenario, and we’re going to need a set-up to come running. Hopefully some other people send (their horses) out of there, and we can get a set-up.”

He said he didn’t think a wet track Saturday would negatively impact Catching Freedom.

“I would say no, because the last two days, he trained very well,” Blake Cox said. “I think he’ll like it.”

Catching Freedom also finished third on a very sloppy track in New Orleans’ Risen Star Stakes (G2), a race won by eventual Kentucky Derby runner-up Sierra Leone, who is not in the Preakness.

“He still ran well behind probably the best 3-year-old in the country that day,” Blake Cox said. 

Catching Freedom will be ridden again by Flavien Prat.

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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: