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Preakness Stakes News | Mystik Dan Gallops; Preakness More Likely
Mystik Dan (Carson Blevins/Eclipse Sportswire/CSM)

Preakness Stakes News | Mystik Dan Gallops; Preakness More Likely

With two-time Preakness Stakes (G1) winner Robby Albarado aboard, Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Mystik Dan galloped 1 ½ miles at Churchill Downs Thursday morning as a trip to Pimlico Race Course for the 149th Preakness Stakes appears more and more likely.

While Brian Hernandez Jr. rides Mystik Dan, as well as Kentucky Oaks  (G1) winner Thorpedo Anna, trainer Kenny McPeek asked Albarado if he would start getting on the Derby winner for morning training and travel with the team to Baltimore. McPeek, who was at Keeneland checking on his 2-year-olds Thursday, said by phone later that Mystik Dan will compete in the $2 million Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown May 18 as long as everything continues to go well.

“Everything is going well with him, so we’re headed in the right direction,” McPeek said. 

Mystik Dan, wearing his Kentucky Derby training saddle towel, went out at 7:30 a.m. after the first track renovation break, which was announced over the backstretch public-address system as being “for workers and Kentucky Derby winners only.”

“For him to come back as well as he did, I thought was a feat in itself, the way he got banged around in the Derby. He went good; just stretched his legs a bit today; switched leads on point. He’ll be ready for next Saturday,” Albarado reported.

McPeek said Mystik Dan would have a similar training session Friday and that Saturday “maybe we’ll let him stretch his legs a little bit down the lane and we’ll get a little clarity about what we’re doing after that.” He said that if the Derby winner advances to the Preakness, he would ship Sunday, Monday or Tuesday.

Albarado teamed with McPeek to win the COVID-delayed 2020 Preakness with Swiss Skydiver, also working as the filly’s exercise rider and making the trip to Pimlico Race Course.

“Kenny gave me a call and said, ‘Rob, I need you at Pimlico,’” Albarado said at McPeek’s barn. “Me and Kenny have had a little luck at Pimlico. We’re trying to do this whole Swiss Skydiver thing over again. This will be the only time I’ll be riding him this year, but we got just as good a rider, Brian, on him.”

He added of a final Preakness decision that he “didn’t want to jump to conclusions. But if he does go, I’m on the trip. He has to be doing well. I don’t know how he looked to you this morning, but he felt pretty dang good to me.”

Albarado, who retired from race riding in 2021 with 5222 winners and $221 million in purse earnings, also won the 2007 Preakness on two-time Horse of the Year Curlin.

“They’re just different,” he said of classic-winning horses. “There’s a different air around them. They have a silent confidence within them, the way they move, the way they act.”

Albarado late last year embarked on a new career as a jockey agent, representing apprentice Joseph Bealmear and subsequently also picking up veterans Martin Garcia and Chris Landeros. After retiring as a jockey, Albarado spent almost three years working for McPeek, particularly with his young horses, and he still helps out.

“Robby got on him every time he came to Oaklawn,” McPeek said of Mystik Dan. “Robby had been on him many times as a young horse before he even ran. When he was at Keeneland, Robby got on him a lot. As long as we have a good next couple of days, we’re making plans to go and Robby would go, too.”

Albarado goes almost as far back as McPeek with Mystic Dan, who was foaled at the trainer’s Magdalena Farm in Lexington.

“It’s good that I got to see him as a weanling, when he was born, actually at Magdalena,” Albarado said. “So that’s pretty special… It’s kind of like having one of your kids become a professional athlete. That’s who he’s become: D1, professional level. He’s maturing. We took notice of him young. Now everybody notices him. It’s pretty cool.

“It’s funny how I got him… I worked against him, his first three-eighths of a mile. We got back to the barn, and I said, ‘I want that one. I’m going to get on him from now on,’ and I did,” he added. “He’s impressed every time. He has many gears to him, many, many gears. He can stop and go, stop, go. That’s impressive for a young 3-year-old.”