Favorite epicenter in Preakess Stakes is getting hot

BALTIMORE — Epicenter lost the Kentucky Derby to a hot pace.

Now he’s facing hot temperatures in the Preakness.

Two weeks after being overtaken 80-1 by Rich Strike just before the finish line in the Derby, Epicenter goes into Saturday’s Preakness as a favorite and clear class of the nine horse field. In a race with no Rich Strike and no chance of a Triple Crown, there is still some excitement, largely because of filly Secret Oath and that it will be a test of Epicenter’s ability to beat the Heat, which could be nearing a record high.

“You’re managing what you have control over and putting yourself in the best possible position and trying to eliminate as many variables that might get in the way of that,” said Epicenter trainer Steve Asmussen. “If it’s actually 95, 96 degrees here and we know it can be pretty stuffy when it gets warm in Baltimore, then I think they’re all going to have to deal with that.

“He’s a big horse that turns back in 14 days so just make sure he’s drinking plenty of water and hydrated just like your kids.”

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The National Weather Service is forecasting a high of 94 degrees Fahrenheit for Saturday afternoon, with only a slight drop ahead of 7:01 p.m. ET for the 147th edition of the Preakness. The record is 96, set in 1934 when High Quest won the race.

Epicenter is the 6-5 favorite on the morning line, joining this list of Preakness winners after finishing an unlucky runner-up in the Derby. Even after owner Rick Dawson decided not to ride Rich Strike at the Pimlico circuit to beat an unlikely Triple Crown, his excitement at Churchill Downs was still the talk of the week, especially for those around the horse that up had driven there to victory he wasn’t.

Betting on the Preakness Stakes?

“Even my 6-year-old looked at me after the race and said, ‘Daddy, Epicenter ran the best race,'” said Epicenter owner Ron Winchell. “He drove a great race so the confidence is great. But in any big race you just hope you show up and run and I think if he shows up and runs we’re in a good position.”

Kenny McPeek, who won the 2020 Preakness with filly Swiss Skydiver, called Epicenter “definitely the horse to beat” and said the favorite will likely need to fall behind for his gray 10-1 shot Creative Minister to finish first comes. But he and majority owner Greg Back felt confident enough to raise $150,000 to get him in the race.

POST POSITION HORSE OPPORTUNITIES
1 simplification 6-1
2 creative minister 10-1
3 Fenwick 50-1
4 secret oath 9-2
5 Early vote 7-2
6 Happy Jack 30-1
7 Armagnac 12-1
8th epicenter 6-5
9 Hopper Longstocking 20-1

McPeek told Back if the creative minister won his race on the Derby card, “We’ll take him anywhere you want to take him — on the moon if you want.” He was fast enough to prove that he belonged in the company of the other Preakness horses.

“What did Wayne Gretzky say? You never take a shot you don’t take,” McPeek said. “That’s the fun of sport. … If you feel like you have a legitimate chance of just hitting the board, don’t be afraid because there’s a lot going on.”

It would take a lot for Fenwick to pull down another Triple Crown shocker at 50-1, and a little less for Happy Jack at 30-1, who finished 14th in the derby, or Skippylongstocking at 20-1 to make 1, $65 million up for grabs/16-mile preakness. There’s a lot of respect for the odds of 6-1 Simplification finishing fourth in the Derby as well as 7-2 runner-up choice on the morning line early voting.

But most of the chatter surrounding the Preakness revolves around Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath, who 86-year-old Hall of Famer coach D. Wayne Lukas is betting he can beat the boys. In the absence of the Derby winner – for the fourth straight year there’s no real chance of a Triple Crown at the Preakness – the focus is on the filly in what Lukas called an otherwise vanilla race.

“If you don’t have the filly in here, the mood is bad,” said Lukas, who is aiming for a record-breaking seventh Preakness win. “The filly made that at least a little bit interesting.”

https://nypost.com/2022/05/21/heat-will-be-turned-up-on-favorite-epicenter-in-preakess-stakes/ Favorite epicenter in Preakess Stakes is getting hot

JOE HERNANDEZ

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