Saturday, May 18, 2013
Baffert brings a longshot to the Preakness
BALTIMORE -- Bob Baffert would settle for a competitive effort from Govenor Charlie in the Preakness Stakes on Saturday.
An upset of Kentucky Derby winner Orb, the even-money favorite, might be asking too much.
"Can he beat Orb? We don't know," the silver-haired trainer said. "I think he could be 1-2-3 and if feel that way, we have a chance."
An outsider's chance.
Govenor Charlie is a 12-1 shot among the eight rivals trying to knock off Orb.
"I'm a longshot and I should be a longshot," Baffert said. "I think we're all thinking about what kind of horse Orb is. Is he a super horse? We know he's a very good horse."
Baffert, a five time Preakness winner, is still learning how good Govenor Charlie might be. The winner of the Sunland Derby in record time is making only his fourth start. While he has improved dramatically with each race, the Preakness is a big leap.
Govenor Charlie suffered a minor foot bruise in April, losing valuable training time before the Derby. Baffert skipped the race, giving the colt bred by longtime client and friend Mike Pegram the benefit of more time.
A sharp workout on Monday at Churchill Downs was Baffert's cue to send the colt to Pimlico.
"We were waiting for something like that," Baffert said. "The light just went on."
Martin Garcia, the only jockey Govenor Charlie has ever known, will be aboard. Garcia and Baffert combined to win the 2010 Preakness with Lookin At Lucky.
HORNUNG'S HERE: Former Green Bay Packers great Paul Hornung is looking to pull an upset in the Preakness with his 3-year-old colt Titletown Five -- named for the number of NFL titles won by the Packers when Hornung played for them.
"We're ready to go," a smiling Hornung said Friday morning sitting on a bench at the stakes barn housing most of the horses running in the second leg of the Triple Crown. "He's been on his toes, and I'm just hoping he runs good, stays sound and we can run him at Saratoga this summer."
Hornung and former Packers teammate Willie Davis are co-owners of Titletown Five, who was named by Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. The colt is one of three from Lukas' stable taking on even-money favorite Orb.
Hornung grew up -- and still lives- in Louisville, Ky., and has been a racing fan for most of his life.
"Orb is great horse, and I couldn't be happier for Shug," he said of Orb's trainer Shug McGaughey. "It couldn't have happened to a better person. And Orb may be the type of horse that can be a Triple Crown winner. He will be tough to beat on Saturday."
CHASING HISTORY: Robert Wyndham Walden holds the Preakness training record with seven wins, including five in a row starting in 1878.
Walden, inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1970, was one of the most successful trainers in last quarter of the 19th century. In addition to his Preakness success, Walden also won the Belmont Stakes four times with horses conditioned at his Bowling Brook Farm in Carroll County, Md.
Lukas, Bob Baffert and Thomas J. Healey, all fellow Hall of Famers, are tied for second with five.
Both Lukas and Baffert have a chance on Saturday to move within one of Walden.
Lukas sends out a trio of long shots: Will Take Charge (12-1), Oxbow (15-1) and Titletown Five (30-1). Baffert saddles Govenor Charlie (12-1).
Lukas feels the sport has changed so much that comparisons between then and now are meaningless.
"I don't have much of an appreciation for the 1800s," Lukas said. "They were beating five or six horses back then. None of those guys, and I have great respect for all of them, had to outrun 20 head in the Derby. They sat around here and when the Preakness came, they ran fresh horses. That's a whole different ballgame."
Even though the challenge is harder today, Lukas is confident either he or Baffert will eventually catch Walden.
"It's not over," said Lukas, who turns 78 in September. "We're still in it. We'll get it done."
ORB TWEETS: The merchandising and marketing efforts to promote Orb have hit high gear following his Derby win.
Fans can follow his Twitter account (at)Orb-Colt while All Pro has launched a line of officially licensed Orb products at allpro2.stores.yahoo.net/orbstore.html. The royalties generated from sales of the shirts and hats benefit the Grayson-Jockey Club Research Foundation and the Jockey Club Safety Net Foundation. The organizations support research into horse health and provide financial assistance to needy members of the thoroughbred industry and their families.
Those two charities are also the beneficiaries of Maserati's sponsorship of Orb's Triple Crown bid. Seizing on the synergy between automotive and equine horsepower, Maserati's logo will appear on Orb's coolout blanket and on the shirts and jackets worn by the stable crew.
The luxury sports car maker obtained the right to use Orb's likeness in its advertising and promotional materials.
"I never dreamed we would have an Orb website and an Orb store," trainer Shug McGaughey said. "I never expected this much attention."
SALUTE THE VETS: As Preakness Day is also Armed Forces Day, Pimlico will have a military salute on Saturday topped by a medley of "Battle Hymn of the Republic" and "America The Beautiful" performed by the Grammy-nominated recording artists The Band Perry. The musical tribute will be followed by a flyover by a World War II vintage B-25 Mitchell Bomber, the lead craft in the 1942 Doolittle Raid that attacked Japan in retaliation for the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
AP Sports Writer Richard Rosenblatt contributed to this report.