While many of the nation's best 3-year-old colts went post-ward May 5 in the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., Bowie-based Pretension stamped his ticket to the upcoming Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course Saturday afternoon by capturing the $75,000 Canonero II by a neck over fellow Bowie trainee Brimstone Island.
Pretension, a 3-year-old son of Bluegrass Cat out of a Street Cry mare trained by Chris Grove for the Kidwell's Petite Stable, has won two of five starts this year and three of eight tries overall and is looking to give his conditioner a second straight runner in the middle jewel of Thoroughbred racing's triple crown and Maryland's most famous sporting event. Last spring Grove sent out Norman Asbjornson to an 11th-place finish in the Preakness, finishing alongside fellow Bowie-based runner Concealed Identity who was longtime trainer Eddie Gaudet's first Preakness participant.
"I spoke it over with the owner Tuesday morning and we're going," Grove said. "I think his main concern was that he wouldn't be able to attend. He just got out of the hospital last weekend after having heart surgery and this is his first horse running in the Preakness, so he wants to be there. (Pretension) is doing good. He's been galloping over the track and doing well. I don't think that last race (at Pimlico) took anything out of him. If anything, I think it helped set him up for this race. He was really on his toes that day and I think he'll run his race again this weekend."
Pretension began his career last fall with a determined, one-length victory in a one-turn maiden special weight event at Charles Town, then finished second in a trio of races including the Damon Runyon Stakes at Aqueduct Race Course, restricted to New York-bred 2-year-olds. Pretension ventured back to Aqueduct this winter to contest another New York-bred stakes and prevailed on that occasion, but followed that with a fifth-place finish in the Grade III Gotham
Stakes behind Hansen, last year's Breeders Cup Juvenile winner and champion 2-year-old colt before running ninth in the Grade II Illinois Derby at Hawthorne Race Course. But on the same day in which most racing fans focused their attention on the Kentucky Derby, Grove saddled Pretension to an 8-1 upset in the Canonero II Stakes. Pretension stalked 1-5 favorite My Adonis, who had spent much of the week at Churchill Downs hoping to depart the also eligible list and earn a berth in the Derby courtesy of a late defection, down the backside and through the far turn and then overhauled the favorite late and outlasted the late bid of Brimstone Island to prevail by a neck in 1:45.70 for the one-mile and one-sixteenth distance.
Last May Concealed Identity used his victory in the Federico Tesio Stakes as a springboard to the Preakness and two Saturdays ago Pretension appears to have followed the same route. Pretension rebounded from two straight setbacks against open stakes rivals to notch his second stakes score of the campaign and convince Grove that he is back in fine form and deserves a chance to upend Kentucky Derby and Santa Anita Derby winner I'll Have Another and perhaps another dozen 3-year-old colts in Saturday's Preakness.
"I really don't have any set goals for him this Saturday" said Grove, a former steeplechase jockey and son of longtime rider Phil Grove, now a steward at the Maryland tracks. "We're local guys and we're running against nationally known trainers like Bob Baffert and Steve Asmussen and of course, Doug O'Neill. I think he'll run his race. I would be excited to see him hit the board. We're running against the best 3-year-old colts in the country, so it will be an honor just to be part of that race. If he gets a check, I'll be ecstatic."
In addition to Kentucky Derby winner I'll Have Another, Derby runner-up and beaten favorite Bodemeister is scheduled to run in the Preakness, as is Went The Day Well, who finished fourth despite a troubled trip at Churchill Downs, and fifth-place finisher Creative Cause. Several new arrivals to the Triple Crown Trail include Pretension, Zetterholm, Tiger Walk and Teeth of the Dog.
Brimstone Island, another Bowie-based runner conditioned by William A. Campbell, had been considered for the Preakness following his second-place effort behind Pretension in the Canonero II, but Monday afternoon the trainer confirmed that his Tiznow colt will run in an allowance race on the undercard instead. Brimstone Island emerged on the scene soon after Campbell claimed him for $16,000 at Laurel Park in February and the horse has been competing in stakes races ever since.