LOUISVILLE — This is the part of the equation trainer Bob Baffert really embraces.
While many horsemen balk at the two-week turnaround from the Kentucky Derby to the Preakness Stakes, the Hall of Famer relishes the task. If you have a horse who ran well in the first leg of the Triple Crown, holding form over the next 14 days — in his experience -— should be the easy part.
Having flown in from California the night before, Baffert got to see for himself Monday morning just how well Derby winner American Pharoah and stablemate Dortmund were holding up in advance of the 140th Preakness Stakes on Saturday.
He came away emboldened as ever about his Preakness theory after watching American Pharoah and Dortmund, the Derby's third-place finisher, gallop 11/2 miles at Churchill Downs.
Baffert saw his duo for the first time since heading back to California the morning after American Pharoah's 1-length Derby triumph. The son of Pioneerof the Nile, in particular, continued to make a strong impression as he picked up the pace noticeably under exercise rider Jorge Alvarez, galloping at a clip that could have been mistaken for a timed workout.
"They looked great, I'm happy with them. They haven't regressed any," Baffert said. "Pharoah is still floating over the ground, he looked really into it. I let them pick up their gallop a little bit the last half and they went really well.
"Dortmund was really getting aggressive with (exercise rider) Dana (Barnes). Energy wise, they still have it. You can tell by their brightness and the way they carry themselves on the track."
Baffert has repeatedly said he considered the 13⁄16-miles Preakness the least trying of the classics — and he has the track record to back it up. Baffert has won the race five times and has never lost when coming in with a Kentucky Derby winner, taking the Preakness with Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002).
He also said he has no misgivings about bringing Kaleem Shah's Dortmund to Baltimore to possibly derail Zayat Stables' homebred American Pharoah. To Baffert, it's not as much about chasing history as it is giving his charges a chance to build on their momentum.
"The Triple Crown, I don't think about that until this race is over," Baffert said. "Let's get this one and then we'll all know if (American Pharoah) is that kind of horse.
"We're just trying to win. If we had five good horses, we'd run five in there."
Dortmund and American Pharoah are set to gallop Tuesday and then train Wednesday at Churchill Downs before shipping to Baltimore later that afternoon.
Also slated to ship Wednesday is Firing Line, who had another strong gallop at Churchill Downs Monday. The son of Line of David is trying to reverse a negative trend regarding Derby runners-up in the Preakness. Since 1960, only three horses that ran second in the Derby went on win the middle classic — Bally Ache (1960), Summer Squall (1990) and Prairie Bayou (1993).
"He's got a very good cruising speed during his races, and I think that should lend itself to a slight cutback in distance," said Simon Callaghan, trainer of Firing Line. "I think this could be an absolutely perfect distance for him."
As of Monday, seven horses were confirmed for the Preakness, with Danzig Moon, Tale of Verve, Divining Rod and Bodhisattva slated to face the top three Derby finishers.
Trainer Todd Pletcher told yjr Maryland Jockey Club he'll be prepared Tuesday to make an announcement on which of his horses he would run, though indications favor the inclusion of Grade I winner Materiality, sixth in the Kentucky Derby.
Daily Racing Form reported Monday that Grade I winner Carpe Diem would bypass the Preakness and await the Belmont Stakes on June 6.