By Christina Bossinakis
Winner of the GIII Withers S. in February, Risk Taking had been initially tabbed to contest the nine-furlong GIII Peter Pan S. at Belmont Saturday, but has been rerouted to join his Klaravich Stables stablemate, Crowded Trade (More Than Ready), in the second jewel in the Triple Crown. Chad Brown trains the colt for Baltimore native Seth Klarman, who was the co-owner of Brown's 2017 Preakness winner Cloud Computing.
“After a couple of lengthy discussions with Mr. Klarman, we feel that this horse is better around two turns,” explained Brown. “That, along with the defections, it just seemed like a good opportunity to take a chance with the horse. I know he is the morning-line favorite for the Peter Pan and we are giving that up, but the reward is: if we are able to get lucky in this race and have him run the race of his life and potentially win or be right there, it's a huge purse. Along with that, it's a little better for him around two turns with the extra distance. Of course, it's a tougher race, but it just came down to a risk-and-reward situation and getting the opportunity to try him around two turns.”
The Preakness will be Risk Taking's first start since he finished seventh as the 2-1 favorite in the Apr. 3 GII Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. He broke his maiden at the Big A in December prior to his Withers score.
“Our optimism is really based on being able to confidently draw a line through the Wood,” Brown said. “If we do that, and if he was to move forward off his previous two races, another step forward, finishing strong at a mile and three-sixteenths, it could potentially put him in the trifecta or maybe better.”
Jose Ortiz will ride the Risk Taking in the Preakness.
Newly-minted Hall of Famer Todd Pletcher also confirmed Whisper Hill's Unbridled Honor will take aim at the Preakness, the only Classic which the 53-year-old has yet to win.
A narrow winner in his third career start going just over a mile at Tampa in February, the colt was fourth in the GII Tampa Bay Derby before a runner-up finish in the GIII Lexington S. at Keeneland Apr. 10.
“He's a horse that we've always had high hopes for,” Pletcher said Friday. “He's always trained really well and he's still sort of putting it all together in race situations. We thought he made a move forward in the Tampa Derby when he ran a sneaky-good fourth and was finishing arguably the best of anyone in the field. He came back and was second-best in the Lexington. That was another improving effort.”
The grey will be Pletcher's 10th Preakness runner and his first since Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming finished eighth in 2017. His best finish was a third with his first starter, Impeachment, in 2000.
Unbridled Honor will have his final Preakness work Saturday morning and is scheduled to ship from Belmont Park to Pimlico on Tuesday.
Pletcher indicated that the 1 3/16-mile race could provide an ideal scenario for the colt.
“We like the way he's training and if he could get a decent pace up front to run at, we feel that if he can take another step forward and he's in the mix,” Pletcher said.
Jockey Luis Saez will replace Julien Leparoux in the saddle for the Preakness, his first mount on the colt.
“We've had a lot of luck with Luis,” Pletcher said. “He's riding great and we're happy to have him.”
In related Preakness news, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas told Maryland Jockey Club racing officials Friday that Christina Baker and William Mack's Ram (American Pharoah) has not been ruled out and he expects a decision to be made Saturday.