A few questions remain as Preakness 2015 field takes final shape

With the post-position draw for the 2015 Preakness Stakes coming Wednesday, a few questions remain about the field that will challenge Kentucky Derby winner American Pharoah.

The race gained two confirmed entries over the weekend in Danzig Moon, who ran fifth in the Derby, and Tale of Verve, who just missed drawing into the Derby field off the also-eligible list. Mr. Z, meanwhile, fell off the list of possible Preakness contenders, with owner Ahmed Zayat saying he saw no reason to bring the horse back on just two weeks' rest.


But the biggest questions lingering as Preakness week began centered on the plans of top trainer Todd Pletcher, who was considering four horses for the race.

One of those potential entries, Carpe Diem, seemed to drop away Monday with his owners telling the Daily Racing Form they'd bring the talented colt back for the June 6 Belmont Stakes.

Pletcher said he'd wait until Tuesday to decide on Materiality, who started the Derby as an intriguing contender only to suffer a disappointing trip and finish sixth.

A third Pletcher possibility, Stanford, scratched from the Derby field two days before the race. The trainer's other possible Preakness starter, Competitive Edge, won impressively on the Derby undercard.

With seven horses now confirmed for the 140th Preakness, the race appears headed for a field similar to last year's, which included 10 horses, or to 2013, which included nine.

The headline continues to be American Pharoah's anticipated rematch with Firing Line and Dortmund, the rivals who pushed him to the wire in the Derby.

Reports from Kentucky have suggested all three horses are healthy and training well. They're expected to ship from Churchill Downs to Pimlico Race Course on Wednesday.

American Pharoah and stablemate Dortmund each galloped 1 1/2 miles at Churchill Downs on Monday. Trainer Bob Baffert had flown in from California the previous afternoon to take over Preakness preparations for his talented pair.

"I was happy with both of them. It looks like they have kept the same energy level," Baffert said. "American Pharoah floated over the ground and picked up his gallop the last half-mile. He wanted to do more. Dortmund got aggressive with [exercise rider] Dana [Barnes] and galloped well."

Derby runner-up Firing Line, who'll be ridden again by Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens, also galloped at Churchill Downs on Sunday and Monday.

"He was very comfortable," exercise rider Humberto Gomez said. "He has had a very good week. The main concern coming out of a tough race [like the Derby] is keeping his weight on, which he has. He has never stopped eating."

Danzig Moon hasn't received as much attention as the other Derby horses, but he'll challenge American Pharoah again in Baltimore. "He came out of the Derby really well and deserves another chance," assistant trainer Norman Casse said.

Casse added that with possible rain in the forecast for Preakness day, Danzig Moon might fare well in sloppy conditions. He said the colt's sire, Malibu Moon, has produced horses that run well on "off" tracks.

The new shooters for Preakness include Divining Rod, Bodhisattva and Tale of Verve. "He is fit and fresh and we are excited to see what we have," trainer Dallas Stewart said in confirming his horse would ship to Baltimore.


Tale of Verve narrowly missed running in the Derby after posting his first career victory April 23 at Keeneland.

His trainer, Stewart, is perhaps best known for guiding longshots Golden Soul and Commanding Curve to second-place finishes in the Derby in 2013 and 2014, respectively.

Grand Bili, trained by Gustavo Delgado, is another potential entry, though he's raced only twice in his career.

The week lost a little potential color with Zayat's announcement that Mr. Z would not run. That's because the horse's 80-year-old trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, who won his sixth Preakness with Oxbow in 2013, remains one of the sport's great characters. Lukas talked Zayat into running Mr. Z in the Derby, where he finished 13th. But not this time.

"I'm sure he has the horse's best interest in mind," Zayat told the Louisville Courier-Journal on Sunday. "But there's a point where I need to get involved. I don't want to micromanage my trainers. But I think at this juncture, what's the point of coming back in two weeks? The only reason we're coming in two weeks [with American Pharoah] is because you have to think in your head 'Triple Crown.' But I would not want to run my horses in two weeks."