Midnight Bourbon Breezes; Asmussen 'Jazzed' for Preakness
France Go de Ina Gets Acquainted with Pimlico Track
Keepmeinmind Back on Track for Saturday’s Middle Jewel
Brown Putting Risk Taking’s Disappointing Race Behind Him
BALTIMORE – Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Midnight Bourbon had the easy workout typical of a Steve Asmussen-trained horse five days before a race, covering the half-mile distance in 50.20 seconds at Churchill Downs on Monday morning. The Kentucky Derby (G1) sixth-place finisher is scheduled to van to Pimlico Race Course early Tuesday for a scheduled start in Saturday’s 146th Preakness Stakes (G1).
“He’s doing great, wonderful physically. I’m excited to run him in the Preakness,” said Asmussen, who was scheduled to take an early evening flight Monday to Baltimore. “This morning, I watched Midnight Bourbon work. He’s just such a beautiful specimen and he goes over the racetrack so pretty. Driving back to the barn from the grandstand, I was thinking how crazy we are as horsemen. It’s only less than two weeks from the disappointment of the Derby, and here I am, thinking I’m going to win a classic again and I get all giddy.”
Midnight Bourbon, who finished second in the Louisiana Derby (G2) after pressing the pace, was bumped leaving the starting gate in the Kentucky Derby and was far back early before closing steadily while racing four wide.
“It was such a great feeling in this year’s Derby being able to run (Arkansas Derby (G1) winner) Super Stock for my parents and Erv Woolsey and Midnight Bourbon for Ron Winchell. Midnight Bourbon is a big feeler, so I led him over for the Derby and that was as great a feeling as I’ve had: to be able to physically lead one over for the Derby, and how exciting that was,” Asmussen said. “We had disappointing results in the race. He didn’t get away from the gate the way we wanted. You walk back and you’re disappointed and stuff. And here we are less than two weeks later and we’re all jazzed up, ready to go to Baltimore and we love our chances. Very fortunate to have these chances and horses of this caliber. I’m very optimistic going to Baltimore.”
Asmussen, who saddled Curlin (2007) and filly Rachel Alexandra (2009) for Preakness victories, said he will again be on the shank leading Midnight Bourbon from the stakes barn to be saddled for the Preakness.
“Yeah, I’m going to lead Bourbon over,” he said. “He’s just a lot of horse, and I’m probably the biggest guy in the barn.”
Irad Ortiz Jr. is scheduled to ride Midnight Bourbon for the first time Saturday.
France Go de Ina Gets Acquainted with Pimlico Track
Yuji Inaida’s France Go de Ina had Pimlico Race Course all to himself Monday morning. After arriving on Saturday night, the Japanese invader got his first look at the racetrack at 10:15 a.m.
The expected longshot in Saturday’s 146th Preakness Stakes (G1), got his first look at the track when he and exercise rider Masaki Takano came on the track after regular training hours in accordance with quarantine regulations. They walked a lap around the track the opposite way and then jogged around the right way another time. Then it was back to the quarantine barn, which is a few barns away from the stakes barn.
“He just stretched his legs,” said Kate Hunter the Preakness field representative for the Japan Racing Association. “It was pretty easy because there were no other horses around. He was able to relax, check everything out and see everything really well because it was nice and sunny. He seemed very relaxed.”
France Go de Ina, who was bred in Kentucky, is a son of Will Take Charge.
According to Hunter, trainer Hideyuki Mori flew into Dulles International Airport Monday morning and was due to be at the barn to check on his horse Monday afternoon.
France Go de Ina has two wins in four career starts. In his last race, he finished sixth, beaten 10 ½ lengths, in the UAE Derby (G2) in Dubai. Jockey Joel Rosario, who rode him in that race, will be on board in the Preakness.
“I would assume so,” Hunter said when asked if she thought France Go de Ina would be a long price on Preakness Day. “Our dirt horses are not as good as our turf horses, but (Mori) would not be here if he didn’t think he had a shot at it.”
Original hopes were that France Go de Ina might run in the Kentucky Derby (G1), but he lost any chance of getting qualifying points when he missed the break and finished sixth in the UAE Derby.
“The moment that race broke, I said, ‘Hey, if you want to try the other two legs of the Triple Crown, you’re nominated, so we can go for it if you want to,’” Hunter said. “When the horse came out of the UAE Derby OK, that’s what (Mori) decided to do.”
Hunter has lived outside of Tokyo for the last 13 years and is a Triple Crown recruiting agent. She said she also works for the Breeders’ Cup and Keeneland Race Course in Lexington, Ky.
She said she also works “a little” on a contract basis with The Stronach Group and the New York Racing Association. She is originally from Nashville, Tenn.
Hunter said France Go de Ina’s entourage also includes a photographer in addition to Mori and Takano, who also serves as assistant trainer and groom.
“We want to make sure he is fit and sound and ready to go,” Hunter said, “and, hopefully, kick a little American-trained butt.”
Keepmeinmind Back on Track for Saturday’s Middle Jewel
Trainer Robertino Diodoro was on hand at Churchill Downs to watch Cypress Creek Equine, Arnold Bennewith and Spendthrift Farm LLC’s Keepmeinmind prance through a very controlled gallop at Churchill Downs Monday morning in preparation for a scheduled start in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes (G1).
“He looked very strong. He’s been like that the last two days,” said Diodoro, who had spent several days back home in Arkansas. “They were sending me some videos. It seems like he’s full of himself, that’s for sure. I’m very happy with him. One thing I keep saying about him running back so quick, his running style - if there’s such a thing that suits that - he only runs the last three-eighths of a mile, where some of these other horses are battling up there in front and close to the pace. They run a lot harder race. This guy runs three-eighths of a mile. He’s definitely bounced back very well.”
Keepmeinmind, who is scheduled to van to Pimlico Race Course early Tuesday, trailed the Kentucky Derby (G1) field early following a very slow start and closed strongly to finish seventh.
Keepmeinmind burst on the scene last year when, after finishing second in his debut, he was second again in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) behind eventual 2-year-old champion Essential Quality at Keeneland. He then was third at 30-1 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) behind Essential Quality and future Louisiana Derby (G2) winner Hot Rod Charlie. The son of Laoban then capped his 2020 season by taking Churchill Downs’ Kentucky Jockey Club (G2).
This year, things have not gone so swimmingly, with bad weather wreaking havoc with Oaklawn Park’s stakes schedule and training. Keepmeinmind made his 3-year-old debut in the March 13 Rebel (G2), finishing sixth as Preakness candidate Concert Tour romped to victory. Running back in Keeneland’s Blue Grass (G2), Keepmeinmind came in fifth, beaten 16 lengths to triumphant Essential Quality. Given a crack at the Derby, Keepmeinmind closed from last and far back while forced eight wide on the far turn to finish seventh.
“Everything has gone sideways for him ever since January,” Diodoro said. “I feel like he’s finally back on track. The Derby, yeah, you don’t want to be happy with seventh. But we got him to relax, got him to get back to his old running style. He’s bounced back, trained great. I just feel he’s getting back on course. The last four weeks it just seems like he’s back on his railroad tracks. Just have to keep him healthy and happy to Saturday and hopefully everything goes well with the ship and stuff.”
The trainer said he’s looking forward to giving Keepmeinmind another chance in the Preakness.
“Horses can’t read odds,” Diodoro said. “People might think I’m nuts when we’re 40-, 50-1. But I’m feeling very confident with this horse. Hate to keep using the word excuse, but he’s had lots of excuses. Probably the last four, five weeks, when we’re supposed to work, we get to work. When he’s supposed to jog, he gets to jog. Before, it seemed like it was a 10-month ordeal, even though it was only two, three months. But every time we went to do something, something was getting changed on us. The last five weeks, every day of training, what he’s supposed to do is what he gets to do. I just feel that everything is lining up for him now.”
Diodoro planned to drive to Baltimore Monday afternoon.
Brown Putting Risk Taking’s Disappointing Race behind Him
Five weeks after his Preakness prospect Risk Taking turned in a poor performance as the favorite in the Wood Memorial (G2), trainer Chad Brown said he is unable to explain what went wrong on April 3 at Aqueduct.
“I don’t really know,” Brown said “That’s both good and bad. I’d like to know, but at the same time he looks so well.”
Late last week Brown and Seth Klarman, the owner of Klaravich Stables, decided to scratch Risk Taking from the Peter Pan (G3) on Saturday at Belmont Park and put him in the mix for the 146th Preakness. Brown and Klaravich already had Crowded Trade headed to the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown and will enter the pair on Tuesday.
Risk Taking, a son of Medaglia d’Oro, was the 2-1 favorite in the nine-horse Wood following this 3 ¼-length victory in the Withers (G3) on Feb. 6. He bobbled at the start of the Wood, never got any closer than 3 ½ lengths from the lead and ended up seventh, beaten 6 ¾ lengths by upset winner Bourbonic.
“He came back with a ton of dirt and mud stuck in his blinkers,” Brown said. “I don’t know if he just caught so much dirt that day. He’s taken dirt before and run on to it. I hate to make that excuse, but that’s the only thing that (jockey) Irad (Ortiz Jr.) could really say, that he was taking a lot of dirt. It was really caked in there in his blinkers and maybe he just really got discouraged and quit. That’s really all I can come up with. The horse looks good physically. He scoped fine. I don’t think it was necessarily a bad trip. It was just a dirty trip.”
Jose Ortiz will ride the colt in the Preakness. Javier Castellano will be aboard Crowded Trade. The Brown horses are scheduled to ship from New York to Baltimore on Tuesday.
Zedan Racing Stable’s Medina Spirit and Gary and Mary West’s Concert Tour left Churchill Downs on a Pimlico Race Course-bound van at 4 a.m. and arrived shortly before 3 p.m.
Christina Baker and William Mack’s Ram left Churchill Downs for Pimlico at 5 a.m, arriving in early afternoon.
Whisper Hill Farm LLC’s Unbridled Honor is scheduled to van from Belmont Park to Pimlico Tuesday, when John and Diane Fradkin’s Rombauer is slated to fly coast-to-coast from Santa Anita to Pimlico.