LOUISVILLE — They've been partners in crime since their days as New Orleans schoolmates. And though they routinely send their charges out against each other, the last thing trainers Al Stall Jr. and Tom Amoss would ever regard the other as is the enemy.
After decades of sharing a bond that goes beyond what transpires before and after the finish line, Saturday's Preakness Stakes will be a fresh moment for the Louisiana natives.
The second leg of the 2013 Triple Crown marks the first time lifelong friends Amoss and Stall will have starters in the same Triple Crown race with Amoss handling Mylute, fifth-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, and Stall prepping Illinois Derby winner Departing.
The relative lack of a big-race collision between the two is not surprising considering Amoss and Stall have previously started only five horses combined in the trio of classics.
Through their varied but consistent progression, Departing and Mylute have their trainers happy to tee it up in what could be deemed a combined effort to derail Kentucky Derby winner Orb.
"We've hooked up in hundreds and maybe thousands of races, but we've never been in a big one like (a Triple Crown race)," Stall said. "It would be fun. You know, we'll probably go out to eat and do all those kind of things, and it'll be exciting. His horse is a definite factor."
"The last time I really saw Al in a major race, and by major I mean the (2010) Breeders' Cup (Classic), I remember being a little bit torn because I was such a big fan of Zenyatta and there was (Stall trainee) Blame in front," Amoss grinned. "This time I'll be torn again because I want Mylute to win."
Mylute and Departing ran second and third, respectively, in the Grade II Louisiana Derby on March 30 with Departing bouncing out of that effort to take the Grade III Illinois Derby by 31/4 lengths on April 20.
"Just the way he did it and the way he traveled the whole way and drew off kind of let us know we might have something," Stall said of Departing.
The form of the Louisiana Derby continued to hold up well with fourth-place finisher Golden Soul going on to run second in the Kentucky Derby and race winner Revolutionary finishing just behind in third on May 4.
With neither Golden Soul nor Revolutionary going on to the Preakness, Mylute heads into the 13⁄16-mile race as the horse who has most recently gotten closest to Orb. In order for Mylute to make up the 4 lengths that separated the two on Derby Day, he's going to need Orb to show some ill effects from his classic triumph.
"We have to improve. Whether we do or not we'll see, and Orb has to regress a little bit and I don't know if that's going to happen," Amoss said. "But (Mylute) is doing the things we have seen him do that tell us he's himself. We kind of base it on the Louisiana Derby because that was a big effort in that race, he came back quickly and bounced back quickly."
Mylute's explosive closing kick in the Louisiana Derby created a fair amount of buzz that he would run the sneaky good race he did on the first Saturday in May.
It also told Amoss that he had a handy, quick-learning protege who could adapt to whatever style was needed.
"We actually changed up his training after (running seventh in) the Risen Star and tried to make him a horse who would come from behind," Amoss explained. "He is very adaptable, he took to the training. How that style would fit him and if he would run well with that style, that was answered on Louisiana Derby day."
With an honest pace expected for the Preakness, Mylute and Departing could well be moving in tandem in the final stages.
Should it become clear Amoss's best case scenario won't materialize, there is no doubt where his allegiance will transfer to.
"I can assure you if Mylute starts fading off the television screen, I'll be looking for Departing," Amoss said.
Govenor Charlie confirmed for Preakness
Although trainer Bob Baffert said he has until Wednesday morning to change his mind about shipping the colt, Sunland Derby winner Govenor Charlie was confirmed to be Maryland-bound for a start in the Preakness on Saturday.
"Unless he shows me something, it's pretty likely he'll be on that plane," Baffert said.
Jockey Martin Garcia, who has ridden Govenor Charlie in his three career races, will be aboard in the Preakness.
What: Second leg of Thoroughbred racing's Triple Crown
When: 6:20 p.m. Saturday
Where: Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore
Purse: $1 million
Distance: 13⁄16 miles
Probable field: Orb, Departing, Mylute, Goldencents, Govenor Charlie, Itsmyluckyday, Oxbow, Titletown Five, Will Take Charge.
Alicia Wincze Hughes: (859) 231-1676. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org. Blog: Horseracing.bloginky.com. Twitter: @horseracinghl.