While it may be white knuckles for all on Saturday, the Wednesday before Preakness is the white knuckle day for the trainers, as that is the day of the draw for the post positions, all hoping to draw the statistically most favorable post. And unfortunately for trainer Bobby Baffert, the Preakness if off to a tough start for his Kentucky Derby winner American Pahroah, as it was his horse that drew the “dreaded” number 1 slot in the gate. The stats aren’t good for the inside slot, as it has been 21 years since a horse won from the #1 spot: Tabasco Cat in 1994.
Nevertheless, American wants a Triple Crown winner, and so in just two days most everyone (sometimes even the competition) will be cheering for American Pharoah as the three-year-old colt by Pioneer of The Nile leaves the gate in the 140th running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Racecourse in Baltimore. Will he best a field of eight and get one step closer to a Triple Crown victory? The odd makers say yes, but there are seven other horses standing in his way that would like to take home the Woodlawn Vase (the most expensive trophy is the sporting world, if we need to remind you).
Even though Marylanders will be cheering for a Triple Crown horse, we will also be cheering for the Maryland-based Divining Rod, who has been under the training of Armaud Delacour. The 39-year-old native of Normandy, France operates a training stable at the Fair Hill Training Center in Cecil County with his wife Leigh (a former Pony Clubber and foxhunter from Annapolis). Mr. and Mrs. Roy Jackson’s Lael Stables of Pennsylvania owns the Kentucky-bred Divining Rod (by Tapit out of Princess Kitten). The Jacksons owned the 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, who was also trained out of FHTC. Divining Rod will break from post position seven and is ridden by Javier Castellano, who won the Preakness Stakes in 2006 aboard Bernadini.
Another entry with Maryland connections is Bodhisattva, who drew post position six in Saturday’s race. The California-bred colt is by Student Council out of Dr Cheryl P. Bodhisattva won the Federico Tesio on April 18 at Pimlico, which is considered Old Hilltop’s traditional Preakness prep. He is owned and trained by Jose Corrales and was bred by Andy Stronach. The Stronach family owns breeding operations in Maryland, Florida, Kentucky and Canada.
Mr. Z, in post position three, was bred by Richard Maynard and is by Malibu Moon, who is partly owned by Country Life Farm in Bel Air. Mr. Z hit heavy traffic in the Kentucky Derby to finish 13th. Just this week, Ahmed Zayat sold him to Calumet Farm, whose most recent Preakness win was with Oxbow in 2013. Mr. Z is trained by D. Wayne Lukas and will be ridden by Corey Nakatani in what will be Nakatani’s fifth Preakness Stakes.
Danzig Moon is also by Malibu Moon and will start from the fourth post position. The colt out of Leaveminthedust finished fifth in the Kentucky Derby. He was bred by William D. Graham, is owned by John C. Oxley and trained by Mark Casse. Julien Leparoux, who has had six other Preakness starts but no wins, will ride him.
Dortmund, owned by Kaleem Shah and trained by Bob Baffert, has the second post position spot. The colt, by 2008 Preakness winner Big Brown out of Our Josephina, finished third in the Kentucky Derby to stablemate American Pharoah and will be ridden by Martin Garcia, who won the 2010 Preakness Stakes aboard Lookin at Lucky.
Tale of Verve will start from the number five spot. The colt by Tale of Ekati was scratched from the Kentucky Derby when he did not draw into the field off of the also-eligible list. Joel Rosario will be the ride for owner/breeder Charles Fipke and trainer Dallas Stewart.
The final post position goes to Firing Line, who challenged American Pharoah down the final stretch of the Kentucky Derby to finish second by a length. The Line of David colt out of Sister Girl Blues has finished first or second in six starts. He was bred by Clearsky Farm and is owned by Arnold Zetcher. Trained by Simon Callaghan, Firing Line will be ridden by Hall of Famer Gary Stevens. Stevens has won the Preakness Stakes three times, most recently with Oxbow in 2013. He also won with Point Given in 2001 and Silver Charm in 1997.