The winner of his past two at Oaklawn Park by a combined margin of 12 1/2 lengths, Warrior’s Charge is expected to make his stakes debut in the Preakness (G1). But the late developer wasn’t Triple Crown nominated, so his connections – Ten Strike Racing and Madaket Stables – will have to supplement for $150,000, a fee that makes him eligible for the Belmont (G1) as well.
Trainer Brad Cox, who already has Lexington (G3) winner Owendale confirmed for the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, explained the rationale for Warrior’s Charge.
“The owners got together and thought with some of the (Kentucky Derby [G1]) horses not going back in the Preakness – I don’t want to use the word short field but not a full field yet – they’re definitely going to entertain it,” Cox told Pimlico publicity. “But we’re pointing to it, and as of right now, we would enter in the race.
“Look, if there was a Justify out there, we probably wouldn’t be having this conversation or thinking about it. We wouldn’t try to tackle a horse like that. But I think it’s just one of those years that you maybe take a chance here.
“If something developed over the next week that made us feel like we had no shot, I guess we’d look at the Sir Barton (on the Preakness undercard),” Cox added of Warrior’s Charge. “But right now it’s the Preakness.”
Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano, twice on the Preakness honor roll with champion Bernardini (2006) and Cloud Computing (2017), picks up the mount.
After placing third in his first three starts, Warrior’s Charge broke through in a 1 1/16-mile maiden at Oaklawn March 16. The Florida-bred son of Munnings followed up that six-length romp with another in an April 12 allowance over the same track and trip.
“We thought a lot of him last fall,” Cox said. “Honestly, I kind of wondered how far he wanted to go. He’s a really strong horse – big, strong hips on him. He’s not a big, tall, gangly horse. (But) he has speed and he can carry it around two turns. He showed that his last two starts.
“Three back, his first start around two turns, he broke just a touch slow and just really didn’t get involved quick enough in the race. He’s done nothing wrong since. The timing is good. I believe it will be five weeks and a day between the races. He had a fantastic work last week at Churchill (1:00.20 for five furlongs).”
Warrior’s Charge is scheduled to work back at Churchill Saturday, as is stablemate Owendale. Eighth in the Risen Star (G2) two back before rebounding in the Lexington, Owendale keeps Florent Geroux aboard in Baltimore.
“These horses didn’t accomplish enough early on in their three-year-old year to make it to the Derby,” Cox said of his duo. “It would have been great to have been in the Derby with either one of them, but it wasn’t to be. This opportunity presented itself. We’re not running back in two weeks, which I think is a plus. That doesn’t mean that a horse who ran in the Derby won’t win the race, but I think things are setting up well.”
In other Preakness news Thursday, Fountain of Youth (G2) runner-up Bourbon War breezed five-eighths in 1:01.76 on the main track at Belmont Park. The Mark Hennig pupil worked in company with older stablemate Carlino, who posted the same time. Exercise rider Jose Mejia guided Bourbon War, with Irad Ortiz Jr. to reunite with his familiar partner in the Preakness.
“He worked well. I was pleased with his work,” Hennig said. “He went off aggressively, finished strong, galloped out strong. Pretty much what we were looking for.”
Bourbon War lacked sufficient points to make the Kentucky Derby after a fourth in the Florida Derby (G1) to Maximum Security. That Gulfstream Park form held up well at Churchill Downs when Maximum Security was the first-past-the-post, only to be disqualified for interference, and Florida Derby third Code of Honor was promoted to second in the Run for the Roses.
“We felt like we would have been a worthy participant in the Derby,” Hennig said. “When we didn’t get in, we felt like the thing to do was watch the Derby and see how things shook out after the Derby. Certainly there was nothing from the result of the Derby to give us any less confidence going forward.
“Had the Florida horses not run well, or if Omaha Beach had been in the race and won by 10 or someone else did, then you might be like, ‘Maybe we need to take a more conservative approach.’ With the result the way it was and the confidence we have in our own horse, we just thought it was silly not to give him the opportunity to be in a Triple Crown race.”