Shocking Derby Upset Leaves Steve Asmussen in Awe: Unveiling the Potential Preakness Contenders

Epicenter’s Kentucky Derby Heartbreak and Uncertainty for the Preakness Stakes

Trainer Steve Asmussen’s Kentucky Derby drought reached a staggering 24 races, leaving him perplexed and unsure about the participation of his Derby runner-up, Epicenter, in the upcoming Preakness Stakes on May 21.

The Agonizing Near Miss

Epicenter, the favorite with odds of 4.10/1, delivered a commendable performance but fell short of securing Asmussen’s first victory in the Kentucky Derby. The runner-up position leaves Epicenter’s availability for the Preakness Stakes in question.

Asmussen couldn’t hide his disbelief after the Derby, particularly when reflecting on the final moments of the race. Just 50 yards away from breaking his Derby losing streak, Epicenter was overtaken by the unexpected 80/1 long shot, Rich Strike. It was a heartbreaking scene as Rich Strike snatched the coveted roses from Epicenter’s grasp.

“I can’t believe it after Epicenter’s effort,” Asmussen expressed with a mix of frustration and amazement. “And the scenario in which I went 0-for-24, you couldn’t make up. I got beat by the horse that just got in.”

This reference was directed at Rich Strike, who managed to secure a place in the Derby field just five minutes before the scratch deadline thanks to four-time Derby-winning trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Lukas scratched Ethereal Road under the wire, offering Rich Strike the opportunity to compete.

The Lingering Disbelief

Both Lukas and Epicenter’s jockey, Joel Rosario, shared the sense of disbelief and frustration. Lukas admitted that if he hadn’t scratched his horse, he believed Epicenter would have emerged as the winner. Rosario, still in shock, expressed his disappointment at the outcome: “Everything was perfect. We thought we were home. Too bad that horse got us right at the end. I thought Epicenter ran a tremendous race. He did everything. He responded when I asked him. We ran too good to get beat.”

As for Lukas, a six-time winner of the Preakness Stakes, he plans to make a decision later in the week regarding the participation of Ethereal Road and filly Secret Oath in the second jewel of the Triple Crown.

Zandon’s Uncertain Fate

Zandon, who was also a victim of Rich Strike’s remarkable journey, is also uncertain about running in the Preakness. Trainer Chad Brown will discuss the possibility with owner Jeff Drown, but he has another contender in mind for the 1 3/16-mile race—Early Voting. Brown made the decision to withdraw Early Voting from the Derby, saving him for the Preakness.

Brown thought his own Derby winless streak, currently at 0-for-8, was nearing an end when Zandon and Epicenter were battling for the win in the final stretch. However, Rich Strike’s unexpected surge from the inside left both Zandon and Epicenter behind. Jockey Flavien Prat had believed victory was within reach when approaching the eighth pole.

Other Potential Contenders for the Preakness

Trainer Antonio Sano confirmed that Simplification, the fourth-place finisher in the Derby, will indeed compete in the Preakness. However, Kenny McPeek’s ninth-place finisher, Tiz the Bomb, who previously outran Rich Strike in both Turfway Park preps, will not participate. McPeek remains undecided about Smile Happy, the eighth-place finisher. On the other hand, Creative Minister, a winner in a 1 1/16-mile allowance on the Derby undercard, is a possible contender.

Trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. announced that White Abarrio, the 16th-place finisher and previous Florida Derby winner, will not run in the Preakness. Instead, Joseph mentioned the likelihood of Skippylongstocking’s participation in the race. Skippylongstocking finished third in the Wood Memorial, trailing behind Mo Donegal.

Todd Pletcher’s Trio Unlikely for Pimlico

Todd Pletcher’s highest-placed horse from the Derby, Mo Donegal, who finished in fifth place, is unlikely to enter the Preakness. Pletcher, who seldom runs his horses in the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, intends to send Mo Donegal, Charge It (17th), and Pioneer of Medina (19th) back to his New York base.

Decisions Pending for California Duo

Trainer Tim Yakteen expressed that both Taiba (12th) and Messier (15th), the California duo, emerged from their Derby experience in good health. A decision regarding Taiba’s participation in the Preakness will be made within the next 48 hours, according to Yakteen. Messier’s disappointing performance may lead to considerations of his limitations in terms of distance.

Potential Newcomers for the Preakness

The Pimlico racing office indicated that non-Derby starters In Due Time, Morello, Fenwick, and Un Ojo are being considered for the Preakness. While Morello and Un Ojo were eligible to run in the Derby, they were ultimately scratched.

Conclusion

The Kentucky Derby concluded with trainer Steve Asmussen’s frustrating failure to secure a win after 24 races. Epicenter, the favorite and runner-up in the Derby, faces uncertainty regarding his participation in the Preakness Stakes. Meanwhile, other trainers and jockeys express their disbelief and evaluate their options for the upcoming race. The Preakness Stakes promises to deliver another exciting chapter in the Triple Crown series, showcasing both familiar contenders and potential newcomers seeking victory.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Will Epicenter participate in the Preakness Stakes following his impressive Derby performance?

Asmussen remains unsure about Epicenter’s involvement in the Preakness, despite his commendable performance in the Kentucky Derby.

2. Who was the unexpected long shot that dashed Epicenter’s Derby victory?

A remarkable 80/1 long shot named Rich Strike emerged from the also-eligible list just minutes before the Derby’s scratch deadline, seizing the victory from Epicenter.

3. Which trainers have yet to secure a win in the Kentucky Derby?

Both Steve Asmussen and Chad Brown continue their quest for their first victory in the Kentucky Derby.

4. Are there any newcomers to look out for in the Preakness Stakes?

Non-Derby starters In Due Time, Morello, Fenwick, and Un Ojo are under consideration for the Preakness, offering potential surprises in the upcoming race.

5. What are the chances of seeing a Triple Crown contender emerge from the Preakness Stakes?

With a mix of familiar contenders and newcomers vying for victory, the Preakness Stakes holds the potential to unveil a serious Triple Crown contender.

Doug I. Jones

Doug I. Jones

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