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Preakness Stakes News | Mystik Dan “Doing Great”
Mystik Dan (Maryland Jockey Club)

Preakness Stakes News | Mystik Dan “Doing Great”

Trainer Kenny McPeek, separated from his Kentucky Derby (G1) winner for all of four days, liked what he saw Thursday morning in Mystik Dan, who has inherited the mantle of favorite for Saturday’s 149th Preakness Stakes (G1) upon Wednesday’s scratch of Muth.

“He’s doing great,” said McPeek, who arrived in Baltimore Wednesday afternoon from Louisville, KY. “He’s a pretty easy-peasy colt. He eats well. He’s a real quiet horse. I’ve used the terminology that he’s an old soul. Nothing much fazes him at all, which makes our job really easy.”

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After jogging part way around the Pimlico track, Mystik Dan, who is the 8-5 favorite on the revised morning-line for the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown, became acquainted with the saddling paddock before embarking on a light gallop under former jockey Robby Albarado.

“We want a quiet day, we don’t want anything complicated,” McPeek said of Preakness Day, when jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. will ride Mystik Dan in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness. “We don’t want any hoopla. We want to get him over there and give him his best chance. It’s still not an easy race. There are no guarantees. It’s a very humbling sport. Right now, we’ve got everything in line, and we’re leaving it up to Brian.”

McPeek demurred when asked how the defection of Muth, who defeated Mystik Dan in the Arkansas Derby (G1), changed the Preakness strategically.

“I don’t over-coach Brian Hernandez; I let him do his thing,” he said. “It’s about feel out there. It’s not about what I tell him to do. I think that’s why we do well (together). He usually makes the right decision. He knows the horse. He’s a great rider. He’s proven that.”

Asked about the pressure, McPeek said, “Pressure is self-inflicted. I’m going to enjoy this. There’s nothing I can do other than getting him to the track and back, making sure he’s doing right. Brian, same thing. I don’t see him putting any unnecessary pressure on himself. He’s going to go out there and ride his race.”

Given that McPeek was not inclined to run in the Preakness the day after the Derby, not a lot has been said about Mystik Dan being the only horse eligible to win the Triple Crown this year. The historic series concludes in the June 8 Belmont Stakes (G1) at Saratoga this year because of construction at Belmont Park.

But the Triple Crown definitely is on McPeek’s radar. The trainer has an affinity for creating lists and was asked if he’d made one for Saturday.

“Oh, yeah,” he said with a laugh.

What’s on it?

“Win the Preakness,” McPeek promptly responded. “I put win the Belmont, too, on there.” 

That also has crossed Hernandez’s mind.

“After winning the Derby, a couple of days later you’re like, ‘Man, if we can go up there and win the Preakness… then you start looking at Triple Crown options,” Hernandez said by phone from Louisville. “If you’re fortunate enough to win the Preakness, then you have to start thinking, ‘Hey, Mystik Dan, he could be champion 3-year-old,’ things like that. You start worrying about year-end honors for the horse.

“Of course, you want to go in there with a big chance of winning the Preakness. It’s the second leg of the Triple Crown, such a classic race. It’s another deal where everyone knows who the Preakness winner is,” he added.

Asked what traits Mystik Dan possesses that could assist a run through the Derby, Preakness and possibly the Belmont (which this year will be held at 1 ¼ miles instead of 1 ½ miles), Hernandez said: “He’s so versatile and so easy to be around. He’s not one of these horses where he’s going to be hard on himself and overdo things. He just wants to go out there and please everybody. He does what’s asked from him. He’s not overdoing things, not trying to train through the bridle and everything else. That should help him with a quick turnaround, like we’re having to do.”

Mystik Dan also does not have an issue with a wet track, which could happen Saturday, having won Oaklawn Park’s Southwest Stakes (G3) by eight lengths in the slop.

“You can’t really tell the difference,” Hernandez said of Mystik Dan’s performance on a fast or wet track. “He’s one of those horses where he’s got two, three different moves, and he’s got a quick turn of foot. That day in the Southwest, it was sloppy, and he bounced over it really, really good. But he’s gotten over the dry, fast main tracks as well. So if it rains, it rains. If it doesn’t, we’re ready to go either way.”

Hernandez will also ride at Pimlico Friday, being named on Port Townsend in the $100,000 The Very One Stakes and Pyrenees in the $250,000 Pimlico Special (G3) for trainer Cherie DeVaux.

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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: