Four Oaklawn-raced horses are expected to be entered Wednesday for the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of racing’s Triple Crown, Saturday at Pimlico.
The foursome is headed by likely program favorite Improbable, who finished second in the first division of the $750,000 Rebel Stakes (G2) March 16 and second in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) April 13 for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
Improbable completed major preparations for the 1 3/16-mile Preakness by working a half-mile in :51.80 Monday morning at Churchill Downs.
Laughing Fox also recorded his final Preakness work Monday morning at Churchill Downs, covering a half-mile in :51.60 for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, who has topped the Oaklawn standings 10 times since 2007. Laughing Fox earned an automatic berth into the Preakness with a victory in the inaugural $300,000 Oaklawn Invitational May 4.
Laughing Fox broke his maiden Jan. 25, the first day of the Oaklawn meeting. Two other Oaklawn maiden winners, Warrior’s Charge (trainer Brad Cox) and Market King (Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas), are also scheduled to run in the Preakness.
Improbable was the only one of the four horses to run in the Kentucky Derby. The City Zip colt was elevated to fourth following the disqualification of Maximum Security. Warrior’s Charge, supplemented for $150,000 because he wasn’t a Triple Crown nominee, will be making his stakes debut in the Preakness.
Millionaire and famed stable pony Chindi concluded his racing career in 2005 for trainer Steve Hobby of Hot Springs. Now, Alkhaatam – aka “Little Chindi” because he also possesses a snow-white coat – is winning races for another Oaklawn regular, trainer Dan Peitz.
Alkhaatam, a 4-year-old son of super sire Tapit, backed up his devastating March 29 maiden victory at Oaklawn with a sharp first-level allowance score in Sunday’s second race at Churchill Downs under Channing Hill.
Bred and owned by Shadwell Stable, Alkhaatam made his first three career starts in New York for trainer Chad Brown, including a fourth in the $250,000 Remsen Stakes (G2) for 2-year-olds in December 2017 Aqueduct, before being transferred to Peitz earlier this year.
In his 4-year-old debut, Alkhaatam broke his maiden by 7 ¼ lengths. Alkhaatam, a forward factor from the start, earned a career-high 102 Equibase speed rating after covering 6 furlongs in 1:09.65 under Hill.
“This horse had problems, physical issues,” Peitz said following the March 29 victory. “Hopefully, he’s got all that behind him. The thing that surprised me the most was he showed so much speed. He didn’t show any speed in the races in New York. Channing kept saying, ‘Man, he feels like he’s got speed.’ I’m thinking he’s going to be kind of out the back and come running.”
Alkhaatam is easy to spot on the track, Peitz said, because of his color, adding the colt “looks like he’s about 8 or 9 years old as white as he is.”
“You don’t see a white horse like that,” Hill said. “He’s like a fluorescent white. He’s not just a regular white. He’s like a billboard white, where it’s like attention-seeking white.”
Hill rode Alkhaatam for the first time in March, but has regularly worked the colt. Following the maiden victory, Hill said Alkhaatam may be among the best horses he’s ridden in the last 15 years.
“This horse is a freak,” said Hill, who was runner-up for an Eclipse Award as the country’s outstanding apprentice jockey in 2005. “What he did the other day, that’s not even the trip he wants. He wants to sit a little farther back and then pounce. If he would have won by three lengths, I would have been impressed. But when he won by seven, with his ears up, against those horses … I was breezing the horse that ran second, I was breezing the horse that ran fourth, I was breezing the horse that ran sixth and I loved them all. To do that to a group like that, I think it’s going to be one of those maiden fields, you’re going to go, ‘Whoa! – that was a decent-little field.’ ’’
Alkhaatam earned a 100 Equibase speed rating for Sunday’s victory, covering a mile in 1:35.17 over a fast track. He paid $6.20 as the 2-1 favorite.
Oaklawn debut winner Intrepid Heart finished third in the $300,000 Peter Pan Stakes (G3) for 3-year-olds Saturday at Belmont Park. … Oaklawn-raced Scotty’s Model finished third in the $100,000 Ballade Stakes for fillies and mares Saturday at Woodbine. … Nun the Less, seventh in the $500,000 Razorback Handicap (G3) for older horses Feb. 18 at Oaklawn, finished third in the $100,000 Hanshin Cup Stakes (G3) Saturday at Arlington Park. … Recruiting Ready, powerful winner of the $150,000 Bachelor Stakes for 3-year-olds in 2017 at Oaklawn, finished second in the $150,000 Runhappy Stakes Saturday at Belmont Park. … Wilbo, winner of the $125,000 King Cotton Stakes for older sprinters in 2018 at Oaklawn, was an allowance winner Saturday at Churchill Downs for 2015 Oaklawn training champion Chris Hartman. … Walter De La Cruz, Oaklawn’s ninth-leading jockey this year, entered Tuesday with 954 career victories, according to Equibase, racing’s official data gathering organization. … Ezequiel Lara, Oaklawn’s leading apprentice jockey this year with 13 victories, won his first race as a journeyman Saturday at Indiana Grand.