Only six horses are certain starters for the Preakness on May 17 at Pimlico, which would be the smallest field for the middle leg of the Triple Crown since Spectacular Bid crushed four rivals in 1979.
Four Preakness probables will come from Churchill Downs -- Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide, and three horses who finished behind him. Trainer Bobby Frankel will leave Empire Maker, the Derby runner-up, in the barn, probably to run in the Belmont Stakes on June 7, and run Peace Rules, who finished third in Louisville, beaten by only a head by his stablemate.
Other Derby horses headed for Baltimore are Scrimshaw, who finished 11th, and Indian Express, who was 14th in the 16-horse field. It is surprising that there is such a small group of holdovers from the Derby, because Funny Cide, although he ran the 10th-fastest winning time in race history, was a 12-1 shot who benefited from a perfect trip. Even Funny Cide’s trainer, Barclay Tagg, suggested that luck played a part in his horse’s victory. “Pimlico’s a speed-favoring track, but my horse should like it,” he said Thursday. “I would like to see him stalk the pace and get the same kind of trip he had in the Derby.”
Usually there are fresh horses in the Preakness, their trainers hoping to catch the Derby winner tapering off. But the only confirmed newcomers are Senor Swinger, winner of Crown Royal American Turf Stakes the day before the Derby at Churchill; and Midway Road, a colt who won by 11 3/4 lengths in allowance company at Keeneland on April 24, after not having finished better than sixth in three stakes starts.
Another possible starter is Cherokee’s Boy, undefeated in three starts at Pimlico. Trainer Gary Capuano’s colt broke his maiden there in September, then on April 19 he won the 1 1/8-mile Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico. At 1 3/16 miles, the Preakness is the shortest of the Triple Crown races.
There will be some jockey shuffling. Pat Valenzuela will replace Tyler Baze on Indian Express, who was expected to be a pace factor in the Derby but lost all chance when he showed his inexperience leaving the gate and ran into traffic problems on the first turn. Valenzuela won both the Derby and the Preakness with Sunday Silence in 1989. Gary Stevens will replace Cornelio Velasquez on Scrimshaw. Stevens has won the Preakness twice, with Point Given in 2001 and with Derby winner Silver Charm in 1997.
Pat Day, who rode Senor Swinger for the first time when the colt won his last start, will be aboard again in the Preakness.
Senor Swinger and Indian Express give Bob Baffert a double threat as he tries to win the Preakness for the third consecutive year. Baffert saddled War Emblem and Point Given the last two years, and, together with Real Quiet and Silver Charm, has won four of the last six runnings at Pimlico.
Senor Swinger and Scrimshaw give Bob and Beverly Lewis opportunity to win their third Preakness outright. The Newport Beach couple, who bought Senor Swinger privately for an estimated $1 million and paid $550,000 at auction for Scrimshaw, owned Silver Charm and Charismatic, the 1999 Preakness winner. The Lewises also had an interest in Preakness winner Timber Country in 1995.
Lido Palace, Chile’s horse of the year in 2000 and a Grade I winner three times after John and Jerry Amerman bought him and brought him to California, has been retired....Bob Walter, who campaigned Cavonnier and other stakes winners with his wife, Barbara, died Wednesday night in Northern California. Staff writer Bob Mieszerski contributed to this report.