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Close to-record warmth for Preakness one other take a look at for Epicenter | Sports



BALTIMORE — Epicenter misplaced the Kentucky Derby due to a sizzling tempo.

Now he’ll face sizzling temperatures within the Preakness.

Two weeks after getting handed by 80-1 lengthy shot Rich Strike simply earlier than the end line on the Derby, Epicenter goes into Saturday’s Preakness as the favourite and clearly the category of the nine-horse area. In a race with out Rich Strike and no probability at a Triple Crown, there may be nonetheless some buzz largely due to filly Secret Oath and that will probably be a take a look at of whether or not Epicenter can beat the warmth that would method a report excessive.

“You handle what you have control over and put yourself in the best position possible and try to eliminate as many variables that could get in the way of that,” Epicenter coach Steve Asmussen mentioned. “If it’s actually 95, 96 degrees here, and we know it can be pretty sticky when it gets warm in Baltimore, so I think that all of them are going to have to deal with that.

“He’s a big horse turning back in 14 days, so just make sure he’s drinking plenty of water and hydrated, just like your kids.”

The National Weather Service is forecasting a excessive of 94 levels Fahrenheit (34.4 Celsius) for Saturday afternoon, with only a slight dip earlier than the 7:01 p.m. EDT submit time for the 147th working of the Preakness. The report is 96, set in 1934 when High Quest received the race.

Epicenter is the morning line 6-5 favourite to affix that checklist of Preakness winners after ending a tough-luck second within the Derby. Even after proprietor Rick Dawson determined to not run Rich Strike at Pimlico Race Course to take a swing at an unlikely Triple Crown, his upset at Churchill Downs was nonetheless the discuss of the week, particularly for these across the horse who was cruising to victory till he wasn’t.

“Even my 6-year-old after the race, he checked out me and mentioned, ‘Daddy, Epicenter ran the best race,’” Epicenter owner Ron Winchell said. “He ran a great race, so the confidence level is great. But with any big race, you just hope you show up and run, and so I think if he shows up and runs, we’re in a superb place.”

Kenny McPeek, who received the 2020 Preakness with filly Swiss Skydiver, known as Epicenter “definitely the horse to beat” and mentioned the favourite would possible must regress for his gray 10-1 shot Creative Minister to complete first. But he and co-majority proprietor Greg Back felt assured sufficient to pony up $150,000 to enter him within the race.

McPeek instructed Back if Creative Minister received his race on the Derby undercard, “We’ll run him anywhere you want to run him — the moon if you want.” He was quick sufficient to indicate proof he belonged within the firm of the opposite Preakness horses.

“What is it Wayne Gretzky said? You never make a shot you don’t take,” McPeek mentioned. “That’s the fun of the sport. … If you feel like you’ve got a legitimate chance to just hit the board, you can’t be scared because a lot happens.”

Lots must occur for 50-1 lengthy shot Fenwick to tug off one other Triple Crown shocker and barely much less for 30-1 Happy Jack, who completed 14th within the Derby, or 20-1 Skippylongstocking to win the $1.65 million, 1 3/16-mile Preakness. There’s loads of respect for the probabilities of 6-1 Simplification, who was fourth within the Derby, in addition to 7-2 second selection on the morning line Early Voting.

But probably the most chatter across the Preakness is about Secret Oath, the winner of the Kentucky Oaks, who 86-year-old Hall of Fame coach D. Wayne Lukas is betting can beat the boys. Absent the Derby winner — the fourth consecutive yr there is no actual probability at a Triple Crown on the Preakness — the main target is on the filly in what Lukas known as an in any other case vanilla race.

“If you don’t have the filly in here, the mood is zilch,” mentioned Lukas, who’s going for a record-tying seventh Preakness victory. “The filly made this at least have a little bit of interest.”

McPeek was glad it felt like “old times” on the Preakness, particularly after it was run in October two years in the past with no followers within the stands. He fondly recalled his first journey to Baltimore in 1995, when Lukas was in his heyday.

“I’ve put a few miles on since then and a few belt loops are missing and I’ve shaved my head since then, but Wayne’s still here,” McPeek mentioned. “Where’s Bob?”

Bob, after all, is two-time Triple Crown-winning coach Bob Baffert, whose absence at Pimlico is jarring after years within the highlight. Currently serving a suspension in Kentucky for remedy violations that is being honored by Maryland and different states, he wasn’t allowed to enter horses within the Derby or Preakness.

But he does have a presence in 12-1 late entry Armagnac, whom Baffert educated and saddled in three races earlier than transferring him to former assistant Tim Yakteen. After Taiba completed twelfth and Messier fifteenth within the Derby with Baffert’s shadow hanging over the race, there’s much less strain this time.

“I’m trying to get under the radar,” Yakteen mentioned. “I enjoyed the Derby. I wish we would’ve had a different outcome.”

Winchell, Asmussen and Epicenter jockey Joel Rosario really feel the identical method after turning for house beneath the dual spires at Churchill Downs pondering they’d received the Kentucky Derby.

“That was very, very exciting at that point,” Rosario mentioned. “What can I say? The horse had run really well. It would’ve been really great if we could’ve won that, but that’s how it goes sometimes.”

Concerned in regards to the warmth and disillusioned he isn’t getting one other alternative to beat Rich Strike, Asmussen is not apprehensive about positioning on the Preakness so long as Epicenter is “in front at the wire.” He shares his proprietor’s confidence however is a little more cautious about expressing it after the crushing Derby defeat.

“It was, I believe, the longest shot on the board that actually won the race,” he mentioned, “so you can’t count anybody out.”


Follow AP Sports Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhynoHorses


More AP sports: https://apnews.com/hub/apf-sports and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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