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Preakness 2024: From Mystik Dan to Uncle Heavy, get to know the eight horses in the field



Preakness 2024: From Mystik Dan to Uncle Heavy, get to know the eight horses in the field

The Preakness Stakes lost its early favorite when Muth exited the field because of a 103-degree fever. Kentucky Derby champion Mystik Dan is now the unquestioned headliner for an eight-horse field that will still bring many of the world’s most successful trainers to Pimlico Race Course.

Meet the eight contenders for Saturday’s 149th running of the Preakness:

Mystik Dan

Trainer: Kenny McPeek (2020 Preakness winner)

Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.

Post position: No. 5

Morning-line odds: 8-5

Last race: Won May 4 Kentucky Derby in three-way photo finish

Career record: 7 starts, 3 wins, 1 second, 1 third

Quote: “He’s such a smart horse. He takes everything in. Obviously, he loved that [Pimlico] racetrack. … He went over the racetrack smooth and looked around. He’s ready for another round.” — Exercise rider (and two-time Preakness winner) Robby Albarado

Why he can win: In winning the Derby, Mystik Dan proved that, with expert steering from Hernandez, he can hang with the best horses in his 3-year-old class. He had hinted at that potential in his previous standout win in the Feb. 3 Southwest Stakes. That race went off over a muddy track, and rain is forecasted for Saturday at Pimlico.

Why he can’t: The Preakness has not been kind to horses coming back from the Derby in recent years. If Mystik Dan is worn out at all from his tough effort two weeks ago, there are fresher challengers waiting to topple him.

Imagination, a Bob Baffert-trained horse, gets a bath at the Stakes Barn at Pimlico on Wednesday morning. (Jerry Jackson/Staff)


Trainer: Bob Baffert (eight-time Preakness winner)

Jockey: Frankie Dettori

Post position: No. 9

Morning-line odds: 3-1

Last race: 2nd by a neck in April 6 Santa Anita Derby

Career record: 6 starts, 2 wins, 4 seconds

Quote: “Imagination is filling into his frame. He is bred to go the [1 3/16-mile] distance. He is a beautifully balanced horse.” — Trainer Bob Baffert

Why he can win: With Muth out, Imagination is Baffert’s only chance to win his record-extending ninth Preakness. No trainer prepares for Triple Crown races better, as we saw last year when Baffert took the Preakness with modestly accomplished, well-rested National Treasure. He says Imagination is still improving, and his track record says that assessment must be taken seriously.

Why he can’t: The flip side of Baffert’s optimism regarding Imagination is his acknowledgment that the horse is less certain to run a great race than Muth was. His peak performances to date have not been as fast as those of the top 3-year-olds in the class.

2024 Preakness week | PHOTOS

Catching Freedom

Trainer: Brad Cox

Jockey: Flavien Prat (2021 Preakness winner)

Post position: No. 3

Morning-line odds: 7-2

Last race: 4th in May 4 Kentucky Derby

Career record: 6 starts, 3 wins, 1 third

Quote: “It’s just not as common to run these horses back in two weeks as maybe it used to be. It basically comes down to how the horse is doing, and we’re happy with the way he’s training. Based off who we hear is running, he stacks up with that group of horses — bottom line.” — Trainer Brad Cox

Why he can win: Catching Freedom wiped away Cox’s skepticism about running in the Preakness with energetic training the week after the Derby. He has backed that up with his morning gallops at Pimlico, looking fit. If the early pace wears down other top contenders, he’s the best closer in the field.

Why he can’t: His race is pace-dependent. If one of the other top horses is able to sit near the lead without expending much energy, his charge could come up short as it did in the Derby. Like Mystik Dan, he’ll have to outrun fresher competitors.

Tuscan Gold

Trainer: Chad Brown (two-time Preakness winner)

Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione (2019 Preakness winner)

Post position: No. 8

Morning-line odds: 9-2

Last race: 3rd in March 23 Louisiana Derby

Career record: 3 starts, 1 win, 1 third

Quote: “I am confident going into the race. He is fast enough on figures to win.” — Trainer Chad Brown

Why he can win: Brown is the new master of snatching Preakness wins with modestly accomplished horses. He did it in 2017 with Cloud Computing and 2022 with Early Voting and nearly pulled it off with Blazing Sevens last year. A wide trip and too much early pace doomed the inexperienced Tuscan Gold in the Louisiana Derby, but some observers thought he was the best prospect in the race. Brown then pointed him toward the Preakness, and that carries a lot of weight.

Why he can’t: With just three career starts, Tuscan Gold is a mystery. He flashed the talent to compete in this field, but his supporters are betting mostly on Brown’s gift for matching horse with race.

Just Steel

Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas (six-time Preakness winner)

Jockey: Joel Rosario

Post position: No. 7

Morning-line odds: 12-1

Last start: 17th in May 4 Kentucky Derby

Career record: 12 starts, 2 wins, 4 seconds, 1 third

Quote: “His race in the Kentucky Derby was less than perfect. We got into a speed jam and there was no way that we could finish and do well there. But that happens in races. We’ve got to be careful that you don’t penalize the horse for one race like that.” — Trainer D. Wayne Lukas

Why he can win: With the smaller field, Just Steel won’t be as likely to get caught up in an early scramble for the lead. He finished ahead of Mystik Dan in the March 30 Arkansas Derby, so Lukas has reason to believe his best effort is good enough to compete.

Why he can’t: He could still burn out if other horses draw him into an early sprint for the lead. He’s experienced but inconsistent.

Preakness entrant Seize the Grey runs on the Pimlico track Thursday morning in preparation for this Saturday's Preakness Stakes. (Jerry Jackson/Staff)
Seize the Grey runs on the track at Pimlico Race Course on Thursday morning. (Jerry Jackson/Staff)

Seize the Grey

Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas (six-time Preakness winner)

Jockey: Jaime Torres

Post position: No. 6

Morning-line odds: 12-1

Last start: Won May 4 Pat Day Mile

Career record: 9 starts, 3 wins, 3 thirds

Quote: “He’s really set up for a beautiful effort. That Pat Day Mile was just a mile, but it was very, very, very professional. I love the way he ran in it. He was finishing strong at the end. I have no reservations about him getting the added distance of the Preakness at all.” — Trainer D. Wayne Lukas

Why he can win: His career-best performance came in a shorter race, but if Lukas is right about his natural stamina, perhaps he could stay near the lead without expending much energy and surprise us in a fight to the finish.

Why he can’t: When he faced a very good field in the April 6 Blue Grass Stakes, he finished seventh. He would need a significant step forward to beat this competition at this distance.


Trainer: Jeff Engler

Jockey: Joe Bravo

Post position: No. 1

Morning-line odds: 20-1

Last start: 5th in April 6 Blue Grass Stakes

Career record: 12 starts, 1 win, 1 second, 3 thirds

Quote: “Seize the Grey, we finished in front of him in the Blue Grass. I heard Seize the Grey is going in the Preakness, so it’s a logical spot. We were a little frustrated we didn’t get into the Derby. We feel the more distance the better for this horse.” — Trainer Jeff Engler

Why he can win: Mugatu is another late charger, so if the early pace is hot, perhaps he could shock everyone by swooping in at the end.

Why he can’t: Other than his solid showing in the Blue Grass, there’s not much in his record to suggest he can challenge the best horses in this field.

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