Mother's Day weekend proved to be a tumultuous one for the 2018 Preakness field, with trainer Chad Brown committing Kentucky Derby runner-up Good Magic to a rematch with Justify while Bolt d'Oro's trainer-owner Mick Ruis pointed his contender to New York rather than Baltimore.
Brown's decision on Good Magic, the 2017 Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner, added zest to the top of a field that was lacking accomplished challengers for the Derby champion.
Good Magic legitimately pushed Justify over the mud at Churchill Downs but could not ultimately make up ground on the big chestnut and lost by 2½ lengths.
Brown, who won the 2017 Preakness with Cloud Computing, said he did not think his horse could have caught Justify that day, But he had no plans to run Good Magic in the Belmont Stakes, and with the colt training well after the Derby, he figured an immediate rematch made the most sense.
"I think it's a great opportunity for the horse," he said Sunday morning from his home base at Belmont Park. "I really don't have anything else planned for him before, say, either the Haskell or the Jim Dandy anyway. That said, I wouldn't do it just because he's going to get a bit of a freshening. He has to be doing well, and he's doing exceptionally well. He's doing far better than I expected exiting the Derby. It's remarkable to see how well the horse is moving and his energy level. He already has his weight back. He just looks great. I'm excited about it."
This is the fourth straight year the Preakness will host a rematch between the top two Derby finishers. In 2016, Exaggerator turned the tables on Nyquist and won the second leg of the Triple Crown.
"It's a tall order," Brown said of beating Justify. "The horse is unbeaten and to a degree untested. He ran a great race in the Derby, and he is clearly the horse to beat. We're going to need to close the gap on him somehow. We're going to need to improve. Even though our horse ran an excellent race in the Derby and earned a lot of respect from everybody, he needs to again move forward and we need to have Justify come back to us a little bit."
Good Magic will ship to Baltimore on Monday and gallop at Pimlico Race Course on Tuesday morning.
Meanwhile, Ruis decided the Metropolitan Mile on the Belmont Stakes undercard would be a better option for his horse than the Preakness.
He had originally planned to ship Bolt d'Oro back to California for freshening immediately after the Derby. But after seeing how quickly his colt rebounded and analyzing how the mud at Churchill seemed to affect him, Ruis reconsidered the Preakness.
He ultimately decided a longer rest and a shorter return race would be best for Bolt d'Oro, the 12th-place finisher in the Derby and one of the most talented horses in this 3-year-old class.
In other field news from the weekend, the owners of eighth-place Derby finisher Lone Sailor have confirmed he will run in the Preakness. Trainer Tom Amoss has said he sees no sign that Justify is vulnerable but still believes his horse deserves another chance.
"The caveat here is that it was a very sloppy track Derby Day," Amoss said after Lone Sailor galloped at Churchill on Sunday morning. "But having said that, it's hard to not want to take a chance against a group that didn't come home very fast in the Kentucky Derby. Our horse, like many others, got in trouble in the race and we'd like another shot at this group. I have great respect for the group, and I thought going into the Kentucky Derby that the race went through California — which it turned out to do. But I'm looking forward to getting another chance at what hopefully is a fast track, although looking at the weather ahead, it looks like more rain."
Amoss will switch riders from James Graham to Irad Ortiz Jr.
As of Sunday afternoon, the rest of the field includes Arkansas Derby runner-up Quip, the D. Wayne Lukas-trained duo of Bravazo and Sporting Chance, Steve Asmussen-trained Tenfold and Federico Tesio winner Diamond King.