Critics might not yet know what to make of Mine That Bird's Kentucky Derby triumph, but a slew of contenders are ready to find out whether the gelded son of Birdstone is for real.
The connections of graded stakes winners Musket Man, General Quarters and Terrain all confirmed Wednesday that they intend to head to Pimlico Race Course next week to take on Mine That Bird in the Preakness Stakes. Terrain, fourth behind General Quarters in the Grade I Blue Grass Stakes, had also been under consideration for Saturday's Grade III Lone Star Derby.
"We are not exactly sure what we saw last Saturday," trainer Al Stall Jr. said of Mine That Bird's upset victory and the decision to go on to Baltimore with Terrain.
Stall said he plans to work Terrain on Saturday or Sunday at Churchill Downs and ship to Baltimore next Wednesday.
Musket Man, third in the Kentucky Derby, is stabled at Monmouth Park in New Jersey. Trainer Derek Ryan said he plans to work the colt possibly Tuesday before heading to Pimlico later in the week.
"We will not be coming to Pimlico early. We want to stay here as long as possible," Ryan told Pimlico officials.
Tom McCarthy, owner and trainer of General Quarters, said the colt has bounced out of his 10th-place finish in the Derby in good order, evidenced by his strong 11/4-mile gallop at Churchill on Wednesday morning.
"I knew I couldn't walk him another day, and (exercise rider) Julie (Sheets) couldn't stop him," McCarthy said. "He came out of this race better than any race yet."
McCarthy said General Quarters could van to Pimlico next Tuesday.
"That would give us Wednesday, Thursday and Friday to gallop over there," McCarthy said. "Julien (Lepa roux) would ride him back."
Other confirmed Preakness contenders include Grade II winner Papa Clem, fourth in the Kentucky Derby; Flying Private, who was last in the 19-horse Derby field; undefeated Derby Trial winner Hull; Todd Pletcher trainee Take the Points; and Delta Jackpot winner Big Drama.
As his list of rivals grows, Mine That Bird remains at Churchill Downs, galloping twice around the 1-mile oval Wednesday morning with exercise rider Charlie Figueroa up.
"He looked super and switched leads perfectly," trainer Bennie "Chip" Woolley Jr. said. "I was happy with him yesterday (when Mine That Bird galloped a mile). He tried to run off a little bit, and that surprised me. I will let him do a little bit more tomorrow."
Mine That Bird is scheduled to ship to Pimlico on Tuesday.
Although no decision has been made on whether Pioneerof the Nile will go on to the Preakness, the Derby runner-up jogged at Churchill on Wednesday morning in his first day back at the track since Saturday.