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Preakness Stakes News | Mystik Dan Returns To The Track
Mystik Dan (Casey Laughter)

Preakness Stakes News | Mystik Dan Returns To The Track

Mystik Dan went back to the racetrack at Churchill Downs Wednesday morning for the first time since registering an upset victory in the May 4 Kentucky Derby (G1), with a potential next start in the Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course.

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The 3-year-old son of Goldencents, who is owned by Lance Gasaway, Sharilyn Gasaway, Daniel Hamby III and Valley View Farm LLC, jogged a lap and galloped a lap under regular exercise rider Martin Reyes at about 6 a.m.  

“He’s doing great,” said trainer Kenny McPeek, who plans to train Mystik Dan with his second set at approximately 5:45 a.m. going forward. “[He went] a little more than a mile, a mile and an eighth maybe [each lap]. That’s a typical routine for us, let them jog a turn. I always walk three days after they run. Tomorrow, we’ll probably gallop him a mile and three-eighths, a little farther. Same thing Friday and Saturday. I suspect we’ll make a (Preakness) decision over the weekend, or even as late as Monday. But more than anything, I just want to make sure he’s moving good and eating good and happy. And at this stage, I like what I see.”

McPeek said Wednesday morning that things are going in the right direction to run the Derby winner back in the Preakness, reiterating that a decision on his trainee’s status for the May 18 Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown is still pending. Entries are taken Monday.

“I’ve said it repeatedly: An old guy told me long ago, ‘Never make a decision until you absolutely, positively have to,’” McPeek told the media on hand in his Churchill Downs barn office. “If he’s healthy, we’re not scared to go. If we feel like he needs more time, he’ll get it. It’s all gray; it’s not black and white.

“Who wouldn’t want to go? Especially, if your horse is doing well,” he added. “And the mile and three-sixteenths is actually probably a better distance for him than a mile and a quarter, because they almost got him at a mile and a quarter.”

Mystik Dan, under a brilliant rail-skimming ride by Brian Hernandez Jr., won the 150th Derby by a nose over Sierra Leone, with Japan’s Forever Young another nose back in third. The result made McPeek the first trainer since the legendary Ben Jones (1952) to sweep the Kentucky Oaks (G1) and Derby in one year. McPeek and Hernandez teamed to win Friday’s 150th Oaks with Thorpedo Anna.

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Mystik Dan gave McPeek a career Triple Crown. He won the 2020 COVID-delayed Preakness with the filly Swiss Skydiver and the 2002 Belmont Stakes (G1) with Sarava, who prevailed in New York at record 70-1 odds three weeks after winning the Sir Barton Stakes on the Preakness undercard.

“It’s a great race,” McPeek said of the Preakness. “It’s an American classic for a reason. We’re not taking that lightly at all.”

Although McPeek earlier had expressed concern about the two-week turnaround between the Derby and the Preakness for Mystik Dan, he said Wednesday that on general terms “it’s not that big a deal.”

“In this day and age, we don’t run on (the anti-bleeder medication) Lasix anymore,” he said. “Lasix was a real dehydration factor. I think it was really hard to win the Triple Crown with Lasix. I think that was one of the reasons there was a drought in it. Over my career, I’ve run horses back quickly plenty of times. I mean, I ran Rattle N Roll back in seven days off a win. I’m not scared to do that. So we’ll see. We’ll let him tell us.

“It just depends on their constitution, how well they’re doing, whether they’re eating,” he added. “As long as their immune systems are good and they’re happy, no problem.”

McPeek said he finally worked through and returned all of the approximately 2,000 congratulatory texts he’d received. His many phone calls included one from Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, the eight-time Preakness winner whose Arkansas Derby (G1) winner Muth is the likely favorite for the classic’s 149th running. Muth beat Mystik Dan in the Arkansas Derby, in which McPeek’s horse was third.

“I don’t worry about other people’s horses,” McPeek said. “It’s hard to train mine, much less everybody else’s. I talked to Bob the other day, had a great call with him. He was thrilled for me.”

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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.