Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown is led to the stakes barn at Pimlico Race Course by groom Ramiro Gonzales on Wednesday. Big Brown is the favorite for Saturday's Preakness.
BALTIMORE -- Running on the outside has been very good to Big Brown. Now the Kentucky Derby winner gets to try things from the middle.
He was installed as the 1-2 early favorite for Saturday's Preakness, and a victory could set up a Triple Crown try three weeks later in the Belmont Stakes.
A field of 13 3-year-olds was entered Wednesday, with Big Brown drawing the No. 7 post for the 1 3-16th-mile race at Pimlico.
Big Brown won the Derby from the No. 20 far outside post, and he won the Florida Derby from the No. 12 post. Now, he will test himself under Kent Desormeaux from nearly the middle of the pack.
"He gets to save some ground for the first time," co-owner Michael Iavarone said. "I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing. We'll find out."
Eleven winners have come from the No. 7 post, the last being Silver Charm in 1997. Silver Charm also won the Kentucky Derby but was outdueled in the stretch run of the Belmont by Touch Gold to lose his Triple Crown bid.
Big Brown is 4-0 in his career, having won by a combined total of more than 33 lengths. He was to arrive at Pimlico about two hours late Wednesday night from Louisville, Ky., where he has been stabled since his Derby win on May 3.
Trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. didn't attend the draw since he was traveling on the plane with Big Brown. He has expressed concern about running Big Brown again so soon after his 4¾-length victory in the Derby. It will be the colt's shortest turnaround in his young career.
"We all know how hard it is to win the Kentucky Derby and come back in two weeks to win the Preakness," Iavarone said.
The colt will try to join Majestic Prince (1969), Triple Crown winner Seattle Slew (1977) and Smarty Jones (2004) as undefeated Derby winners who also won the Preakness. Six of the past 11 Derby winners have gone on to take the second leg of the Triple Crown.
Trainer Nick Zito, who won the 1996 Preakness with Louis Quatorze, was surprised to see 12 challengers line up against Big Brown.
"There is something about a Triple Crown race. I didn't think there would be that many horses after Big Brown's performance (in the Derby)," he said. "He's very good right now, until something happens. The horse looks tremendous right now. You can't anoint anybody yet. You've still got to run the race."
Ken McPeek trains Racecar Rhapsody, a 30-1 shot ridden by Robby Albarado.
"Other than Big Brown, it looks like the race is wide open," he said. "We all know that anything can happen. You can't have any fear. It's good for him to be tested again. If he's going to be a Triple Crown winner, then make him work for it."
Iavarone and Richard Schiavo are partners in IEAH Stable, which buys and breeds thoroughbreds and then organizes and manages partnerships in those horses. They co-own Big Brown with Paul Pompa Jr. The last two weeks have been a heady time for the group.
"The first six days we were trying to figure out what happened," Iavarone said. "The last six days, when reality set in, it's been an incredible experience that we got to share with family and friends. It's been unbelievable."
Gayego was made the 8-1 second choice and will break from the No. 12 post under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith. The Arkansas Derby winner is the only Derby starter to take on Big Brown again. Gayego started in the second from the outside post in the Derby and finished 17th, beaten by 36¾ lengths.
Lexington Stakes winner Behindatthebar, trained by Todd Pletcher, was the 10-1 third choice and drew the No. 5 post. He skipped the Derby, with the Preakness as his main target.
The other 10 starters were all listed at odds of 15-1 or higher.
Kentucky Bear was the first Preakness horse to arrive at Pimlico this week. He drew the No. 8 post and will try to win for just the second time in four career starts.
"We expect a lot on Preakness day," said trainer Reade Baker, adding that Big Brown is beatable. "He beat all those horses at Churchill Downs, but he didn't beat us."
Preakness sneak peek
The 133rd Preakness Stakes, the second jewel in thoroughbred racing's elusive Triple Crown, will be run Saturday at Pimlico in Maryland. Post time is scheduled for 5:05 p.m. CDT.
Advance wagering on the Preakness, as well as the Grade I Double (Pimlico Special/Preakness), will be offered Friday across the Illinois simulcast network.
1 3/16 miles, purse $1,000,000, simulcast from Pimlico of the Grade I Preakness Stakes, 3yo's.
Post Horse Trainer Jockey ML Odds
1. Macho Again Leparoux D. Stewart 20-1
2. Tres Borrachos T. Baze B. Greeley 30-1
3. Icabad Crane Rose Motion 30-1
4. Yankee Bravo Solis P. Gallagher 15-1
5. Behindatthebar D. Flores Pletcher 10-1
6. Racecar Rhapsody Albarado McPeek 30-1
7. Big Brown Desormeaux Dutrow Jr. 1-2
8. Kentucky Bear J. Theriot R. Baker 20-1
9. Stevil Bejarano Zito 30-1
10. Riley Tucker J. Velazquez Mott 30-1
11. Giant Moon Chavez Schosberg 30-1
12. Gayego Smith Lobo 7-1
13. Hey Byrn C. Lopez E. Plesa Jr. 20-1