#US RACING: Kentucky Derby Winner Mystik Dan, Others Leave Questions For Preakness

Mystik Dan (right)
Mystik Dan (right)

The second jewel of horse racing's Triple Crown could be missing 150th Kentucky Derby winner Mystik Dan and other co-stars, quashing hopes for a rematch after the thrilling three-wide photo finish in the milestone race.

Trainer Kenny McPeek and the horse's ownership wouldn't commit to whether the colt would race in the Preakness on May 18 in Baltimore, which requires a two-week turnaround. Mystik Dan will travel to Saratoga, New York, before they decide whether to enter him in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness.

"We're not committed to the Preakness, not yet," McPeek said Sunday morning outside his barn at Churchill Downs. "I ran him back once in two weeks and it completely backfired on me. ... So, we'll just watch him over the next week. It'll be one of those (situations) where we'll probably take it up to the last minute.

"We'll let him tell us."

Trainer Bob Baffert has told Pimlico officials that he is sending Muth and Imagination to Baltimore for the Preakness.

Muth won the Arkansas Derby on March 30, when Mystik Dan finished third. Imagination was second behind Stronghold in the Santa Anita Derby on April 6.

Baffert has won the Preakness eight times, including last year with National Treasure.

Saratoga in upstate New York will host the Triple Crown's final race for the next two years while Belmont Park is being reconstructed. The Belmont also has been shortened to 1 1/4 miles, matching the Derby distance that Mystik Dan won by a nose over Sierra Leone and Japan-bred Forever Young in the closest three-way finish since 1947.

The five-week gap follows a more normal race schedule for many horses and some trainers might opt to head to Saratoga to acclimate horses sooner.

Chad Brown said Sierra Leone will skip the Preakness and leave on Monday to train at Saratoga and run in the Belmont.

"He's a real laidback horse, but when we brought him out, was a little more tired than he normally is after his races," Brown said. "I think giving him the five weeks to the Belmont is definitely the right thing to do."

Trainer Brad Cox is watching Catching Freedom (fourth) and Just A Touch (20th) before deciding their next steps. Forever Young and fellow Japan-bred T O Password (fifth) are headed home on Tuesday.

That could leave the Preakness without some Derby star power at first glance, though it won't lack for plotlines, with a number of well-rested horses expected to compete at Pimlico.

As McPeek and the owners ponder a decision, he and jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. basked in a wash of congratulations for a Derby victory that put them in exclusive company.

Saturday's win helped both claim rare weekend sweeps of the Derby and Kentucky Oaks for fillies. McPeek is just the third trainer to do that and the first since Ben Jones (who did it twice) in 1952, while Hernandez is the eighth rider to achieve the feat and first since fellow Louisiana native and Hall of Famer Calvin Borel in 2009.

Meanwhile, Mystik Dan stood calm and unfazed as a cluster of onlookers took photos and selfies while workers bathed him outside the barn. He was draped with the winner's blanket signifying his Derby win before being led back to his stall with a WWE-style title belt laying on an outer wall. Oaks-winning filly Thorpedo Anna also made a brief appearance and soaked in the attention.

Hernandez is preparing for his own life-changing spotlight and title after claiming the sport's marquee race. He dined with his family after the Derby but didn't sleep much, a routine that figures to go on for the next few days amid a flood of interview requests. At some point he hopes to get his mind around all that has happened, but he already has a response ready.

"When somebody asks what my profession is, I'm able to tell them I'm a professional jockey. And then the first question they normally ask is, 'Have you ever won the Kentucky Derby?' I can say that now."


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