BROOKLYN STRONG ON TRACK FOR PREAKNESS
Though they ultimately decided to pass on Saturday’s $125,000 Federico Tesio, owner Mark Schwartz and trainer Daniel Velazquez remain on course to bring Grade 2 winner Brooklyn Strong to Pimlico Race Course for the 146th Preakness Stakes (G1).
Brooklyn Strong could have earned an automatic berth with a victory in the 1 1/8-mile Tesio, a ‘Win and In’ qualifier for Triple Crown-nominated 3-year-olds to the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown May 15. The Tesio headlines six stakes worth $650,000 in purses on an 11-race Spring Stakes Spectacular program.
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Velazquez said that the connections opted to give Brooklyn Strong more time following a fifth-place finish in the Wood Memorial (G2) April 3 at Aqueduct, his sophomore debut. It was his first race in four months, since winning the Remsen (G2) in December.
Plans following the 1 3/16-mile Preakness include a start in the final leg of the Triple Crown, the 1 ½-mile Belmont Stakes (G1) June 5 at Belmont Park.
“Mark really wants to run in the Belmont. I told Mark, ‘If we run in the Tesio, we’re not going to run in the Belmont. We’re going to do Preakness-Belmont, that’s it,” Parx-based Velazquez said. “The horse is doing really good. He came out of the race good. He worked the other day nice and easy. I have no complaints. I feel like he’s ready to rock and roll when it’s time.”
Brooklyn Strong, respectively a son and grandson of Grade 1-winning millionaires Wicked Strong and Medaglia d’Oro, won three of four starts at 2 including the Sleepy Hollow at Belmont against fellow New York-breds last fall on start prior to Aqueduct’s 1 1/8-mile Remsen.
In the Wood, Brooklyn Strong encountered traffic trouble racing inside and wound up beaten 4 ¾ lengths behind 72-1 long shot winner Bourbonic, one of four Kentucky Derby (G1) hopefuls for trainer Todd Pletcher, including Wood runner-up Dynamic One and Florida Derby (G1) winner Known Agenda.
“There’s no shame in that. It wasn’t the most ideal trip and we didn’t have all the training that we needed going into that race, so I’m proud of him. He showed up,” Velazquez said. “We only had one shot to try and get in the Derby and we kind of had to press it a little bit but it is what it is. As long as he stays healthy, he’s a gelding, he has a bright future.”
Brooklyn Strong had his first work since the Wood April 19 at Parx, going a half-mile in 49.55 seconds. Velazquez, the son of trainer Alfredo ‘Freddie’ Velazquez, owns 188 career wins since 2009 mostly working for his father before going out on his own in 2016. The Remsen was his first graded-stakes triumph.
“He can definitely handle the distance. Now that he has that big tightener underneath him … we have a nice window for the Preakness and we’d just go in real ready and 1,000 percent prepared for the Preakness,” Velazquez said.
“Obviously we have other options with him. If we really wanted to just be easy on him, we could just go New York-bred on him and he’ll win those little stakes races,” he added, “but we think he’s definitely better than that. We just want to target some good races and have some fun with him.”