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Preakness notebook: Trainer Todd Pletcher opts to keep his horses out of the Preakness

Preakness notebook: Trainer Todd Pletcher opts to keep his horses out of the Preakness
FILE - In this April 29, 2015, file photo, trainer Todd Pletcher watches horses train on the track at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. Pletcher said Tuesday, May 12, 2015, that he will not enter any of the four horses he was considering for Saturday's Preakness at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. (Charlie Riedel / Associated Press)

Todd Pletcher hasn't saddled a horse in the Preakness since Dance City finished fifth in 2011 and has only had one horse finish in the money — Impeachment, a third-place finisher — since 2000.

On Tuesday, Pletcher announced that he, much like his recent horses, will be a no-show for the 140th Preakness, Saturday at Pimlico Race Course.

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Sticking with what has become a regular policy of not running his horses on two weeks' rest, the 47-year-old trainer informed the Maryland Jockey Club that Florida Derby winner Materiality will not try to end Pletcher's losing streak in Baltimore.

"We were considering it very seriously," Pletcher said in New York. "Basically, it came down to, we just felt two weeks was a little bit risky."

Pletcher, a seven-time Eclipse Award winner and thoroughbred racing's all-time leading money winner for a trainer, said that he will try to get his horse, which finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby, ready for the final leg of the Triple Crown, the Belmont Stakes, on June 6. Materiality has been at Belmont Park since two days after the Derby.

The son of 2005 Preakness and Belmont winner Afleet Alex, Materiality had won his first three starts at Gulfstream Park, but was doomed after getting out of the gate at Churchill Downs dead last. Another of Pletcher's horses, Carpe Diem, finished 10th at the Derby and will also likely run at the Belmont.

"We felt five weeks to the Belmont would be an advantage for [Materiality]," Pletcher said. "[He] has been training well. He's by a Belmont-winning sire. If you come back in two weeks and you turn out to be wrong, not only could you not run well in the Preakness, it could compromise your chances in the Belmont as well."

Jockey switch

Javier Castellano, who won the 2006 Preakness with Bernardini, will ride Divining Rod, trainer Arnaud Delacour said. Castellano, who rode Materiality in the Kentucky Derby, was brought in after Julien Leparoux switched to Danzig Moon.

It marks the fourth time Castellano will ride in the Preakness. Divining Rod broke his maiden on April 11 in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland.

"I'm very interested to see how he will handle the step up in competition and the stretch out," Delacour said of Divining Rod. "I'm a lot more confident after the Lexington about his ability to do both."

Favorites look fast

Kentucky Derby winner American Pharoah and Dortmund, a third-place finisher at Churchill Downs, are still training in Lexington before coming to Baltimore later this week.

"Those two looked good," American Pharoah trainer Bob Baffert said Tuesday. "American Pharoah, he is something to see out there. He just floats over the track. Dortmund looked like a happy horse out there today."

Baffert is hoping to follow his own history of success at Pimlico: the three times his horse won the Kentucky Derby (Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998 and War Emblem in 2002) he has always won the Preakness.

"They were totally different horses," Baffert said. "The main concern is that they look healthy and are doing good. That is all you can hope for going into a race. …I always won with the best horse. Usually those were the best horses of that crop."

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Baffert has won two other Preakness Stakes, with Point Given in 2001 and Lookin At Lucky in 2010, after finishing fifth and sixth in the Derby, respectively.

Countdown begins

All of this year's Preakness entrants must be at Pimlico and in their barns by noon Thursday. Later that afternoon, blood will be drawn from all the horses entered in the Preakness.

On Friday, no practicing veterinarian other than the one administering Lasix will be allowed in the barns after 6 p.m. without approval from the state veterinarian and the stewards unless it is a documented emergency. All Lasix must be administered no later than three hours before post time or the horse will be scratched.

On Saturday, pre-race exams will begin at 8 a.m. Horses must be "clean-legged" and finished with ice treatments until after they are examined. Under the supervision of the Maryland Racing Commission, pre-race blood samples will be drawn from all horses entered in graded-stakes races on the Preakness program.

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