Improbable entered the 144th Preakness as a 5-1 favorite, but Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert knew before his horse left the starting gate that those odds wouldn’t come through.
Improbable reared in the No. 4 gate, and although jockey Mike Smith managed to calm him down, Baffert, who saddled 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify and has won seven Preakness crowns, accepted the record eighth wouldn’t come Saturday after Improbable’s premature excitement. He was right; Improbable finished six, well behind victor War of Will.
“When he did that in the gate, I knew that was it,” Baffert said. “His only weakness is he gets a little bit fired up. He was acting pretty well, but then he got fired up. When horses do that, it takes a lot of energy out. Today wasn’t his day, but the winner was pretty impressive.”
Smith said Improbable was tame approaching the gate, but he’s seen that temperament before. He felt good about Improbable’s ride, but there simply wasn’t enough there to live up to the favorite status.
“His usual tactics in the gate,” Smith said. “He got upset. He was so brilliant going in. I thought he would be nice. Actually, he broke well. I had a really good trip. Actually thought I was maybe going to get on with it at the 3/8ths pole, and he just didn’t keep on.”
Maryland-bred Alwaysmining finishes 11th
Alwaysmining’s bid to be the first Maryland-bred horse to win the Preakness since Deputed Testamony in 1983 started with some gas but went down in flames.
With Daniel Centeno up, Alwaysmining hovered in fourth place early in the race, but the big move never came. As the race went on, the Avla Pitts-bred colt slowed, eventually finishing in a distant 11th and prompting trainer Kelly Rubley to question his health.
“He appears to be fine,” Rubley said. “We’re waiting to scope and we’ll evaluate him. He appeared to stop, and I don’t know what reason for that is.”
Centeno, too, felt good about the race’s status early, but when he saw an opportunity, Alwaysmining didn’t respond as hoped.
“I thought he’d run better,” Centeno said. “He had a good trip, and we tried to make a move around the turn, but he just stopped.”