Muth Favored To Give Baffert A Ninth Win In the Preakness

'TDN Rising Star' Muth is the 8-5 morning-line choice for Preakness 149 | Coady

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In the few days after Mystik Dan (Goldencents) pulled an 18-1 upset in the GI Kentucky Derby, there was the real possibility that none of the 20 horses that competed in the first leg of the Triple Crown would press on to Saturday's GI Preakness S.

By Sunday afternoon, any such concerns had abated–the Derby winner had been confirmed by trainer Ken McPeek and Derby fourth Catching Freedom (Constitution) was also given the green light by Brad Cox, joining a field that had already included two each from Hall of Famers Bob Baffert and D. Wayne Lukas, between them responsible for no fewer than 14 Preakness winners.

When the dust had settled, an interesting field of nine was drawn for Preakness 149 Monday afternoon, and it was one of the six non-Derby starters who was–not surprisingly–made the early favorite over Mystik Dan.

'TDN Rising Star' Muth (Good Magic) was given the 8-5 nod on Brian Nadeau's morning line, and he enters the Preakness perfect in a pair of victories this season at three, including a latest two-length defeat of the Lukas-conditioned Just Steel (Justify) in the Mar. 30 GI Arkansas Derby, where Mystik Dan was a further 4 1/4 lengths adrift in third. Baffert looks for a record-extending ninth Preakness and second straight, after National Treasure (Quality Road) took them all the way 12 months ago.

“Muth was a pretty easy morning-line favorite to come up with for a few different reasons,” Nadeau said. “First, he comfortably beat Mystik Dan in the Arkansas Derby. Second, with all the success Bob Baffert has had in the Preakness and the name recognition he brings as well, it all adds up to Muth being a pretty solid favorite. And lastly, Mystik Dan was 18-1 in the Derby, and when a longshot wins, sometimes the betting public is a bit slow to come around or believe.”

Muth will break from the four hole on the weekend, while Baffert's other entry, GI Santa Anita Derby runner-up Imagination (Into Mischief), will be the first Preakness ride for Frankie Dettori from the outside barrier in nine.

“I think it's fine. Nine horses. That's manageable,” Baffert said of the draw. “It's a very competitive field. I'd like to have drawn a little closer with Imagination. Whatever, he can work a trip.

“[Muth] is a nice horse. At the end of the day, Mystik Dan is going to get a lot of support. Just being there with two nice horses, to me, with a competitive field, it's going to be a good race,” Baffert added.

McPeek allowed Mystik Dan to make the Preakness decision for him, and after declaring that the colt had a good week following his Derby score, put him on a van to Old Hilltop. Brian Hernandez, Jr. delivered an A-plus steer at Churchill and will look to do so from gate five Saturday afternoon. At 5-2, Mystik Dan is the first Derby winner to not be favored on the morning line since 2012.

“I thought it was perfect. Right next to Muth. Perfect,” McPeek said. “Hopefully, we leave there clean and get a little better trip than we did last time [when third in Arkansas Derby]. I think it's a very level playing field. I think we could stalk right behind [Muth] or be off of him. We will leave that up to Brian. He knows the horse really well. We are excited to be part of another historic race.”

Catching Freedom, the joint-third choice at 6-1 with Imagination, covered himself in glory in the Derby, making a sustained run from worse than midfield and surging home up the fence to finish just two lengths off the trio on the wire. He should get another nice inside trip in a more compact field on Saturday from the three hole.

“We value the Triple Crown, and the opportunity to run in Triple Crown races is really important to us,” Albaugh Family Stable Racing Manager Jason Loutsch told the Pimlico media office. “The horse came back well out of the Derby, and we felt it was an opportunity to take a shot in one of the most prestigious races.”

At age 77, Wayne Lukas sent out Oxbow to upset the 2013 Preakness and the 88-year-old will tighten the girth around Just Steel, who weakened out after attending a sharp early pace in the Derby. He also saddles Seize the Grey (Arrogate, gate six), who cut back to one turn to cause a near $21 surprise the GII Pat Day Mile on the Derby undercard.

The pair drew seven and six, respectively, Monday evening.

'TDN Rising Star' Tuscan Gold (Medaglia d'Oro) will attempt to give trainer Chad Brown a third Preakness winner and second for his sire, whose daughter Rachel Alexandra famously beat the boys here in 2009. He landed gate eight and is the mount of Tyler Gaffalione.

The Preakness field is rounded out by the hulking GIII Withers S. hero Uncle Heavy (Social Inclusion, post two), to be ridden by Irad Ortiz, Jr.; and GI Toyoya Blue Grass S. fifth Mugatu (Blofeld, post one), who failed to draw in from the also-eligible list for the Derby, but gets his crack at Classic glory from the rail, with Joe Bravo to ride.

Saturday, Pimlico Race Course

PREAKNESS S.-GI, $2,000,000, 3yo, 1 3/16m

PP HORSE (SIRE), JOCKEY, TRAINER, ML

1 Mugatu (Blofeld), Bravo, Engler, 20-1

2 Uncle Heavy (Social Inclusion), Ortiz, Jr., Reid, 20-1

3 Catching Freedom (Constitution), Prat, Cox, 6-1

4 Muth (Good Magic), Hernandez, Baffert, 8-5

5 Mystik Dan (Goldencents), Hernandez, Jr, McPeek, 5-2

6 Seize the Grey (Arrogate), Torres, Lukas, 15-1

7 Just Steel (Justify), Rosario, Lukas, 15-1

8 Tuscan Gold (Medaglia d'Oro), Gaffalione, Brown, 8-1

9 Imagination (Into Mischief), Dettori, Baffert, 6-1

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