September 22, 2021

Improbable breezes ‘really easy’ half-mile for Preakness

Improbable stretching his legs for the Preakness (c) Rickelle Nelson/Horsephotos.com

Likely Preakness (G1) favorite Improbable stretched his legs at Churchill Downs Monday morning, touring a half-mile in :51.80 to the satisfaction of trainer Bob Baffert.

“He worked really easy, an easy half around there,” said the Hall of Famer who is seeking an unprecedented eighth Preakness victory. “I didn’t want to do too much with him. I just wanted to make sure that he still has a lot of energy.”

Runner-up to Omaha Beach in the Arkansas Derby (G1) two back, Improbable ultimately took over the mantle of Kentucky Derby (G1) favorite from that sidelined rival. The blaze-face chestnut wound up the official fourth-place finisher in the Derby once the first-past-the-post Maximum Security was disqualified.

“He’s going over the ground really well, looks really healthy,” Baffert said. “He’s held his weight really well, especially for a horse who shipped twice to Arkansas and then came back here to run in the Derby. That’s what you want to see this time of the year. It looks like he’s enjoying himself out there, so I don’t see anything that would make me want to change my mind (about running). We want to go up there and make sure he’s hitting on all cylinders. We don’t want to go up there and embarrass ourselves. So we were looking good today.

“This horse has run some big races,” Baffert noted of last year’s Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) romper who was caught late in the first Rebel (G2) division. “Hasn’t run a bad one, always shows up. That’s what I like about that horse.

“The way the (Preakness) field is shaping up, it looks like it’s going to be a big field. It’s still a pretty even bunch. As we saw in the Derby, they’re all right there. That’s why there was so much traffic. They all have the same style, so you still have to get lucky.

“It’s still wide open. Improbable still needs to get away (from the gate). For some reason, the first 100 yards, he scrambles a little bit. For a horse with as much natural speed as he has, it takes him a while to get going.

“In the Derby, he was right behind those horses and when Maximum Security slowed it down down the backside, everybody was bottled up behind. It was one of those things where he was fifth and stayed fifth the whole way, there was no moving. I think post position and the break are still very important for him.

“A mile and a quarter (in the Derby) might be stretching it,” he added, suggesting the City Zip colt could prefer the 1 3/16-mile Preakness. “The thing about his mechanics, he’s really light on his feet, so he doesn’t really struggle. We’ll see how he handles Pimlico. He looked great today.”

Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith picks up the mount on Improbable.

Fellow Preakness contender Laughing Fox likewise negotiated an easy half beneath the Twin Spires, clocking :51.60 for Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen. The son of Union Rags is on the same schedule as Improbable, having finished fourth in the Arkansas Derby and captured the Oaklawn Invitational on the first Saturday in May.

“Obviously he ran nine days ago – a quick turnaround for him, which we’ve had some success (running back) in two weeks,” Asmussen said. “He’s got a great attitude. Nice cool morning, he felt very good. I thought he went over the racetrack very well. I think in the past we’ve been very happy with how horses who have run at Oaklawn have run at Pimlico, so I feel good about that going up there.”

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