Epicenter Sitting on Go for Preakness

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Epicenter | Coady

Winchell Thoroughbreds' Epicenter (Not This Time) remained on target for Saturday's GI Preakness S. after a 1 1/2-mile gallop at Churchill Downs Sunday morning.

“He seems to be pretty sharp,” Scott Blasi, who oversees trainer Steve Asmussen's Churchill division, said of the GI Kentucky Derby runner-up and likely Preakness favorite. “I love how he's doing. He galloped today like that was nothing; walked off the track with good energy. We'll put a little work in him and go. Not much to do from here on out…. [but] win.”

Epicenter had the lead in midstretch of the Derby before being passed by 80-1 longshot Rich Strike (Keen Ice).

Asked if the defeat stung, Blasi said, “If you don't learn to turn the page in this game, you're going to be a miserable human. What's done is done. Move on.”

Epicenter is expected to have an easy half-mile work at Churchill Monday before vanning to Baltimore Tuesday.

Asmussen won the Preakness in 2007 with 2007-2008 Horse of the Year Curlin and in 2009 with Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra.

Un Ojo (Laoban), upset winner of the GII Rebel S., missed the Kentucky Derby with a foot bruise, but was declared on track for the Preakness following a five-furlong work in 1:02 Saturday at Churchill Downs.

“The next day after we didn't enter [the Derby], he was pretty good,” trainer Ricky Courville said by phone from his Copper Crowne Training Center base in Opelousas, Louisiana Sunday. “We were soaking the foot a couple of days and Tuesday morning he got really good. We just gave him the rest of the week, soaking it, making sure, and went on and sent him back to the track Derby morning. He's been training since. It was just unfortunate. Monday [entry day] he wasn't 100%; Tuesday he was.”

Calumet Farm's Happy Jack (Oxbow) will be getting blinkers back on for the Preakness following his 14th-place effort in the Kentucky Derby.

“In the Derby, you're trying to navigate 1 1/4 miles against 19 other horses,” trainer Doug O'Neill, who won the Preakness in 2012 with I'll Have Another, said. “By taking the blinkers off, I thought it would give him a chance to get a little breather.”

Happy Jack wore the blinkers in his first career start and broke his maiden at Santa Anita Jan. 22. O'Neill kept them on in the Feb. 6 GIII Robert B. Lewis and the colt finished last in the field of five, beaten 27 1/4 lengths. The hood came off in the Mar. 5 GII San Felipe S. and Happy Jack was third, beaten 10 1/2 lengths. They were back on in the GI Santa Anita Derby and he was third again, finishing 12 1/4 lengths behind Taiba (Gun Runner).

“He is kind of a grinder,” O'Neill said. “I think he has to be more involved early. Hopefully, with a shorter field, a better post position and with the blinkers on, he can be more forwardly placed. He's a trier and a stayer, and I think he can make up more ground more forwardly placed.”

Happy Jack galloped at Churchill Sunday morning and is scheduled to arrive at Pimlico Tuesday.

“Knock on wood, he's doing well,” O'Neill said.

The post-position draw for Friday's GII Black-Eyed Susan S. and Saturday's GI Preakness S. will be streamed live Monday from Citron beginning at 4:30 p.m. on: www.facebook.com/Preakness/ and twitter.com/preaknessstakes/.  In Spanish, go to: https://youtube.com/HipicaTV/live.

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