MIDNIGHT BOURBON CONFIRMED FOR PREAKNESS

Midnight Bourbon
Midnight Bourbon won the Lecomte Stakes at the Fair Grounds. Photo by Hodges Photography.

Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen confirmed Thursday morning that Winchell Thoroughbreds’¬†Midnight Bourbon¬†will run in the 146th Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course May 15.

Asmussen, via text from Texas, also confirmed that Irad Ortiz Jr., the defending three-time Eclipse Award champion, will ride the son of Tiznow in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

Winchell Thoroughbreds is seeking its first victory in a Triple Crown race in the family’s many decades in horse racing, while Asmussen won the Preakness in 2007 with two-time Horse of the Year Curlin and two years later with the filly and Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra. Winchell Thoroughbreds did finish third with Tenfold, just three-quarters of a length behind eventual Triple Crown hero Justify in the foggy 2018 Preakness. Tenfold went on to win the 2019 Pimlico Special (G3).

Midnight Bourbon closed from well back to finish sixth in the Kentucky Derby (G1) after breaking slowly and taking him out of his up-close running style.

“We didn’t think he got the opportunity that he deserved after he missed the break and his back end went out from underneath him,” said David Fiske, the longtime racing and bloodstock manager for the late Verne Winchell and subsequently for Verne’s son Ron Winchell. “He got jostled around by the horses on either side of him, then lost some ground. He was pretty wide on the second turn; I think eventually he ran 52 or 56 feet farther than the winner. So that would have put him a little closer. And speed seemed to be lethal on Saturday. There weren’t a whole lot of horses that were closing on the front-runners. Then the fact that it took two handlers to get him back to the barn to give him a bath, it didn’t seem to take that much out of him. So we thought we’d give it a try.”

Midnight Bourbon visited Churchill Downs’ starting gate for routine schooling Thursday, followed by a controlled gallop.

“The horse is doing great,” said Scott Blasi, the assistant trainer who oversees Asmussen’s Churchill Downs operation. “I don’t think he did a lot of running early (in the Derby), so he seems to have come out of the race pretty fresh.”

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