Optimizer using Preakness to prepare for Belmont Stakes
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas walks Optimizer after arriving Tuesday at Pimlico Race Course. (Baltimore Sun photo by Don Markus / May 15, 2012)
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But this year, Lukas decided to take a slightly different approach. His horse, Optimizer, will be using Saturday's Preakness as an opportunity to prepare for the Belmont Stakes in June, the longest of the Triple Crown races — one Lukas thinks the colt has a better shot at winning.
Lukas made a switch at jockey, giving the mount to Corey Nakatani to get the new rider some experience before the final leg of the Triple Crown three weeks from Saturday. Jon Court guided Optimizer to an 11th place finish at the Kentucky Derby.
"We're thinking the Belmont is going to be our best race," Lukas said. "Most Triple Crowns are blown by misjudgments by the rider, not the horse. We wanted to get him that experience and he seemed like a good fit…we're trying to use the Preakness as a prep for the Belmont."
Lukas and his team arrived in Baltimore on Tuesday afternoon and will begin training Wednesday, when a good portion of Saturday's field will arrive.
"If [Optimizer] gets a chance to run, he usually runs a pretty good race," Lukas said. "We're not gonna overpower anyone. We have to have a horse that's going to run better this week than it did last week. "
I'll Have Another takes day off
With rain soaking Pimlico's track all morning, trainer Doug O'Neill kept Kentucky Derby winner I'll Have Another under shelter and gave him the day off.
"I have no problem galloping on a wet track. It just seemed right," O'Neill said. "Looking at the weather, we're going to be fine [Wednesday]. Why chance a slip or something silly happening?"
I'll Have Another did walk the shedrow to stretch his legs. O'Neill said the lack of a more strenuous workout would not hurt the colt.
O'Neill threw out the first pitch at Tuesday night's Orioles game against the New York Yankees, as the trainer and his crew continue to experience all that Baltimore has to offer. They ate steamed crabs Monday night — O'Neill called it "a lot of work" but seemed to enjoy using a mallet, if not the meat it yielded — and visited the children's hospital at Johns Hopkins on Tuesday.
Two more confirm entry
Daddy Nose Best and Pretension will ride in the Preakness on Saturday, their respective teams announced Tuesday.
Pretension, owned by Irving Kidwell, of Annapolis, entered after it was determined that Kidwell would be able to attend the race. The 87-year-old had some health complications earlier in the week and was admitted to a Maryland hospital.
Pretension, based at the Bowie Training Center and trained by Chris Grove, won the Canonero II Stakes at Pimlico on the day of the Kentucky Derby.
Daddy Nose Best finished 10th at the Derby and owner Bob Zollars said he checked out fine after the first leg of the Triple Crown. Ridden by Garrett Gomez in Kentucky, Julien Leparoux will take over the mount.
Leparoux rode Union Rags to a disappointing seventh-place finish at the Kentucky Derby, and has been criticized for not giving the Michael Matz-trained colt — and one-time favorite of many Triple Crown prognosticators — a fair shot to win.
Bodemeister, others set to arrive Wednesday afternoon
Bodemeister galloped a mile and a half over a fast track at Churchill Downs on Tuesday morning and will train again Wednesday before shipping off to Pimlico in preparation for Saturday's Preakness.