The field for next week's GI Preakness S. continued to take shape Saturday, with May 8 Santa Anita optional claiming winner Armagnac (Quality Road) the newest addition. Owned by the powerful conglomerate nicknamed The Avengers and transferred from Bob Baffert to Tim Yakteen off a sixth-place finish in the GII San Felipe S. Mar. 5, the bay was a distant fourth behind stablemates Taiba (Gun Runner) and Messier (Empire Maker) in the Apr. 9 GI Runhappy Santa Anita Derby before earning a 93 Beyer Speed Figure for a 4 1/4-length front-running success with blinkers removed. The $210,000 KEESEP purchase was also being considered for the Sir Barton S. on the Preakness undercard.
“We had some considerable conversation about it this morning,” said managing partner Tom Ryan of SF Bloodstock Saturday. “They were the two races we were considering. It feels like with his progression, he's really trending in the right direction.”
Irad Ortiz, Jr. will be aboard Armagnac in the Preakness.
“We're excited,” Ryan said. “The horse is well, and statistically we've got one of the best jockeys in the nation. Sometimes when you're healthy and well, if the opportunity is there you have to make a decision. It's coming together in a way that we feel comfortable with the challenge.”
Meanwhile, GI Kentucky Derby third-place finisher Zandon (Upstart) will officially bypass the Preakness.
“We're going to pass the Preakness and rest him at this point. I want to give him a little bit more time after what I saw today,” said trainer Chad Brown of the late-running GI Toyota Blue Grass S. winner. “He's nice and sound, but definitely a little fatigued from that tough Derby run. I'm so proud of him for that race. We'll see him later on in the summer.”
Brown has GIII Withers S. winner and GII Wood Memorial S. runner-up Early Voting (Gun Runner) for the second leg of the Triple Crown. The Klaravich Stables colorbearer reportedly exited Friday's five-furlong bullet breeze (1:00.63 at Belmont) in good order.
“I'm extremely pleased,” Brown said. “He's been here [in New York] all winter. What a tough horse to stay here in the winter. My crew here at Belmont really did a fantastic job with this horse all winter. He's just come around. We always thought he would be a later horse and he turned out to be. I just couldn't be more pleased how he looks and how he's training.”
Meanwhile, in Kentucky, GII Rebel S. winner Un Ojo (Laoban) breezed five furlongs at Churchill Downs Saturday in 1:02 flat (17/24) before galloping out in 1:14 3/5.
“He worked really well,” said Clay Courville, assistant and son of trainer Ricky Courville. “He seemed happy after his work. I'm excited with the way he worked and came out of it. We'll see how he is [Sunday] and we'll make a final decision on the Preakness. So far, everything is excellent. He dragged [rider] Colby [Hernandez] around there. He didn't need anything hard, just something to keep him happy. He's a fit horse.”
The one-eyed New York-bred gelding was forced to miss the Derby due to a foot bruise. Regular pilot Ramon Vazquez will be back aboard for the Preakness.