The business of owning Thoroughbreds is not supposed to look so easy. It’s not supposed to be a venture where, less than two years after buying their first horse in partnership, an ownership group already has multiple graded stakes winners including one set to start in a Triple Crown race.
It is a credit to the team Peter Fluor and K.C. Weiner have assembled that their Speedway Stable has led a bit of a charmed existence since signing their first sales ticket in November 2014. One year after attending the Preakness Stakes as a side venture while scouting juvenile prospects, Fluor and Weiner have more deliberate plans — and a firm rooting interest — in the second leg of the Triple Crown this year.
If Fluor couldn’t help but cheer for eventual Triple Crown hero American Pharoah in last year’s Preakness, his support for another Bob Baffert trainee — in Saturday’s 141st edition of the race — is a no-brainer. Multiple graded-stakes winner Collected is poised to become the first starter in a Triple Crown race for Speedway Stable and, should he upset a field that includes unbeaten Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist, the son of City Zip will give Baffert a record-tying seventh victory in the middle leg of the Triple Crown.
“Last year, because I was going to the (Fasig-Tipton 2-year-olds in training) sale in Timonium (Md.), we said, ‘Well let’s go to the Preakness,’” Fluor recalled. “So we went and I had the pleasure of watching American Pharoah win. Here a year later, we’ve got a horse with Bob and we’re back at the Preakness, so the irony of all that is stunning to me.”
Speedway Stable’s meteoric rise is due in no small part to the guidance of advisers and bloodstock agents John Adger and Marette Farrell. The first horse the group purchased, Canadian champion Leigh Court, added to her résumé with a win in the Grade III Whimsical Stakes at Woodbine on April 10. Their second purchase, Grade I winner Hard Not to Like, provided across-the-board returns when she scored victories in the Grade I Gamely and Grade I Diana Stakes last year before being sold for $2.2 million at the 2015 Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale.
We never really discussed the Kentucky Derby with him. The Preakness has always been the long-range plan for him, but we just took it a race at a time.
Bob Baffert, trainer of Collected
While the initial focus of Speedway Stable was obtaining proven fillies with top broodmare potential, they quickly branched out to the 2-year-olds sales for racing prospects. Purchased for $170,000 at the 2015 OBS March 2-year-olds in training sale, Collected has continued carrying the Speedway mantle, winning four of his six career starts including his most recent victory in the Grade II, 1 1/16 -mile Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 16.
“We never really discussed the Kentucky Derby with him. The Preakness has always been the long-range plan for him, but we just took it a race at a time,” Baffert said. “We were basically running him, trying to make some money and have some fun with him. He’s fast. He’s won on turf and dirt, which makes him an exceptional horse.”
After breaking his maiden first time out on the downhill turf course at Santa Anita Park last Oct. 12, Collected had no problem transitioning to the main track when he won the Grade III Sham Stakes by 1¼ lengths in his season debut Jan. 9.
The question of how far the chestnut colt wants to run lingered when he came up empty late during his fourth-place finish in the Grade III Southwest Stakes going 1 1/16 miles at Oaklawn Park. Barely a month later, Collected put classic aspirations back on the table when he notched a front-running victory when stretched out to 1 1/8 miles in the Sunland Park Festival of Racing Stakes on March 20.
“Sunland at least made the Preakness talking consideration,” Fluor said. “The Preakness will be a 16th (of a mile) farther than he has ever run but he never quits and seems to give it his best. Bob has done a wonderful job of managing a horse that we still don’t know how far he can go, but he has let him mature and he has just done a terrific job.”
Along with Stradivari and Uncle Lino, Collected figures to be among a handful of horses in the Preakness field with early speed. How tactical he can be against classic contenders is another question mark, but he is surrounded by connections that have made the challenges look effortless.
“He needs a good break and my guess is he’ll be up front dueling it out with the horses who have early speed,” Fluor said. “So it will be a tough race and exciting. I was laughing to myself driving to work this morning when I said I know I was rooting for Bob last year, but I know I’m really rooting for Bob this year.”
Gun Runner to bypass Preakness
Trainer Steve Asmussen confirmed Tuesday that Gun Runner, the Louisiana Derby winner who finished third in the Kentucky Derby, will bypass the Preakness Stakes.
“We’re going to continue to train at Churchill and plan on a serious summer of 3-year-old races with him,” Asmussen said. “He’s been in tremendous physical condition going into the Derby and coming out of it, and we expect for him to continue to physically develop.”
Gun Runner’s defection leaves a likely field of 11 set to start in the Preakness.
▪ Stakes winner Abiding Star breezed 4 furlongs in 50.16 seconds Tuesday at Parx Racing and was cleared to start in the Preakness when the quarantine that had been in place at the suburban Philadephia track because of an outbreak of the equine herpesvirus was lifted later in the day.
Plans call for Abiding Star to be shipped to Pimlico early Thursday.
The Maryland Jockey Club is prepared to take special precautions for Parx-based horses shipping into Pimlico. Parx horses would train at 5 a.m. before regular training hours and would be housed in isolation stalls on the Pimlico backstretch, far from the Preakness Stakes Barns.
At Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md.
Post-position draw: Wednesday, 5 p.m. (live stream on DRF.com)
Race: Saturday, 6:45 p.m. (NBC)
Expected field: Abiding Star, Awesome Speed, Cherry Wine, Collected, Exaggerator, Fellowship, Lani, Laoban, Nyquist, Stradivari, Uncle Lino.