Preakness remains ‘tight’ for Charlatan

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Legendary trainer Bob Baffert concedes it is going to be “tight” trying to get Charlatan fit for a run in the Preakness Stakes come September.

Baffert says any final decision is likely to be left until mid-August but he certainly isn’t giving up hopes, though he now stresses that a patient approach may instead see Charlatan waiting for the Breeders’ Cup instead.

Charlatan won the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park in early May to confirm his potential. His preparation for June’s Belmont Stakes was interrupted by what the trainer described as a “filling in a front ankle”.

That setback was also enough to scratch any plans of a run in the rescheduled Kentucky Derby in early September. However, the October 5th staging of the Preakness is still on the radar.

Charlatan is one of two high-profile Baffert-trained horses to miss this year’s Kentucky Derby, with Nadal having been forced into retirement due to a condylar fracture.

A positive test for Lidocaine resulted in Charlatan’s being retrospectively disqualified from the Arkansas Derby, though the colt remains unbeaten on the racetrack.

Baffert told the press on Wednesday that he is still aiming for the Preakness date, though he considers the Breeders’ Cup Meeting at Keeneland in November may turn out to be in the best interests of the horse.

“He had done the surgery and it went very well,” Baffert said of his recovery from the aforementioned ankle issue. “They felt really good about it. Right now he won’t join me until maybe August.

“Preakness, it’s gonna be tight,” Baffert said. “It’s gonna be tight. We’re gonna do what’s right. I think Breeders’ Cup, maybe have a shot there, but Preakness is gonna be a little tight.”

Purchased at the 2018 Keeneland September sale for $700,000, Charlatan made an explosive first impression on the track when he broke his maiden at Santa Anita in February. He also won an allowance race at that track prior to passing the post first in the Arkansas Derby on his first taste of stakes action.

The Arkansas Racing Commission suspended the Hall of Fame trainer Baffert for 15 days on Wednesday following the news that two of his horses had tested positive for Lidocaine, with Charlatan and a filly, Gamine, forfeiting some $336,000 in prize money as a result.

After winning on that Arkansas Derby card in early May, Gamine won the Acorn Stakes at Belmont Park in New York by nearly 19 lengths in a stakes-record time the following month.

Baffert remains America’s pre-eminent trainer, having won the coveted Triple Crown in 2015 with American Pharoah – the first such success since Affirmed in 1978 – while he repeated the feat in 2018 with Justify.

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