Preakness longshot Fenwick “not up here joking”
Fenwick is 50-1 on the morning line for Saturday’s 147th running of the Grade 1 Preakness, and let’s be honest: he deserves to be every penny of that.
But don’t make the mistake of thinking that trainer Kevin McKathan and owners Villa Rosa Farm and Harlo Stable are coming to Baltimore on a lark, or for their love of crabcakes.
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“I love my horse,” McKathan said Monday evening at the post position draw. “I mean, I love my horse.”
Fenwick is a son of 2007 Preakness winner Curlin – one of three horses in the field sired by a Preakness winner – out of the Malibu Moon mare Make the Sun Shine. He cost Villa Rosa Farm $52,000 as a yearling, and so far, his resume is – put it this way – a bit more modest than you’d expect for a Preakness starter.
Oh, and McKathan? He’s better known in the sales end of the game — he’s up in Maryalnd for next week’s Fasig-Tipton Midlantic two-year-old sale, at which McKathan Brothers Sales had entered four hips. McKathan had not trained a horse on the track in more than 30 years prior to taking over the reins on Fenwick prior to his last start.
Fenwick has one win from six career starts with earnings of $53,840. He was 21-1 when he broke his maiden with a front-running score two starts back and 21-1 again when he finished last of 11 in the Grade 1 Blue Grass behind Kentucky Derby show horse Zandon.
So what’s McKathan seeing that you’re not?
“He’s a big-moving horse and a free-running horse,” he said. “If you let him do that, he’s hard to catch.”
Start with that maiden score. Fenwick grabbed the early lead and pulled away to win by over five lengths against 1-20 shot Commandperformance, who had earlier been second in the Grade 1 Champagne. Fenwick reached the one-mile mark in the mile-and-40-yards test in 1:38.19. Later on that same card, en route to victory in the 1 1/16-mile Tampa Bay Derby, Classic Causeway reached the one-mile mark in 1:38.40.
“If he was in that race, he wins the Tampa Bay Derby by seven lengths,” McKathan said. Maybe, but of course Tampa Bay Derby winner Classic Causeway hasn’t exactly flattered himself since, finishing 11th in the Florida Derby and 11th again in the Kentucky Derby.
What about Fenwick’s Blue Grass?
The plan there, McKathan said, was a reprise of his maiden score: get him out and let him go.
“But he broke flat-footed, and he got shut down going into the first turn,” the trainer explained. “He was checked down inside all the way around the turn, and that’s not what he wants.”
So you can – perhaps – draw a line through that last.
On Saturday, McKathan says you can expect his charge to be forwardly placed early under new rider Florent Geroux.
“He’s fast, and if you put him out there, he has such a high cruising speed,” the trainer said. “And if everyone’s saying, ‘He’s 50-1, let him go,’ they’ll never see him again.”
Still, you persist: no other horse in the field is so lightly accomplished. Even Happy Jack – the only other runner here with but a single victory – has managed to be third in both the Grade 2 San Felipe and Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby, albeit a long way behind the winner in both cases.
McKathan acknowledges that Epicenter and Simplification, the second- and fourth-place finishers from the Derby, deserve respect. He notes that Secret Oath, the D. Wayne Lukas-trained filly, “is special.” The rest aren’t scaring him off.
“There are three of four horses to outrun in here,” he said. “I’m way behind them, but I believe, if everything goes right, we’re going to meet a different animal. Or we wouldn’t put him out there.”
So, yes, Fenwick is a longshot and deserves to be one. On the other hand, so was – and so did – Rich Strike when he won the Kentucky Derby at 80-1. Speaking of which…
“My horse deserved to be [50-1]. But the oddsmakers don’t know what I know,” McKathan said. “And that’s fair. I mean, deservingly: watch the last race, he needs to be 80-1, and that’s fine. They made him 50-1, but we’re not up here joking. We’re gonna run the wheels off of them.”