Lookin At Lee eyes Preakness glory after strong run in Derby

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BALTIMORE (AP) Charging hard down the stretch, Lookin At Lee barely missed winning the Kentucky Derby as a 33-1 long shot.

His second-place finish seemingly impressed no one.

Lookin at Lee has received little attention at Pimlico Race Course this week and is a 10-1 underdog in the Preakness behind Always Dreaming, the 4-5 favorite in Saturday’s race after outlasting Lookin At Lee by a mere 2 3/4 lengths at Churchill Downs.

What gives?

Click here to stream the 2017 Preakness Stakes on NBC Sports

“We don’t worry about that too much,” Lookin at Lee assistant trainer Scott Blasi said after Wednesday’s draw. “He’s a blue-collar horse and probably easy to overlook, but he’s not for us.”

Lookin At Lee hasn’t won a race since last August but has finished in the money in seven of 10 career races. On April 15, Lookin At Lee finished 1 1/2 lengths behind Classic Empire and a length behind runner-up Conquest Mo Money in the Arkansas Derby.

He’s a gritty competitor, which goes a long way toward explaining his impressive run in the slop two weeks ago.

“His personality and gamesmanship are what gave us confidence in him going into the Derby,” trainer Steve Asmussen said. “You have no control over how the other horses run, but you always feel Lookin At Lee is going to do his best.”

Lookin At Lee was ridden expertly in Kentucky by jockey Corey Lanerie, who never sat on the horse until hopping on board in the paddock before the Derby. Lanerie rallied the bay colt along the rail, passing most of the field before coming up short at the end.

At one point, he thought: “I’m going to win the Derby!”

It almost happened, but …

“Always Dreaming just wouldn’t come back,” Lanerie said. “You come so close and you don’t get it done, it’s tough. But to run second on only my third Kentucky Derby mount, it was pretty special.”

Though the odds maker at Pimlico may not have been impressed, Todd Pletcher, the trainer of Always Dreaming, expects another close race on Saturday.

“I think he’s a very good horse,” Pletcher said of Lookin At Lee. “He ran a terrific race in the Kentucky Derby. We were fortunate to win. I thought he ran a very good second, so that makes him certainly a horse you have to keep your eye on for this race.”

Speaking from experience, Blasi expects Lookin At Lee to build on his showing at Churchill Downs.

“Very proud of his effort in the Derby,” Blasi said. “Historically, I think the horses that have run well in the Derby run back well in the Preakness. We’ve won this race twice with Curlin and Rachel Alexandra, both coming back off two weeks rest, and we’re very familiar and very comfortable with what’s getting ready to happen.”

Triple Crown winner Justify under observation at Del Mar

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DEL MAR, Calif. (AP) Triple Crown winner Justify has re-located to Del Mar where trainer Bob Baffert is keeping him under observation after swelling in his left front ankle emerged two weeks ago.

Baffert says Justify will probably just walk around the stable area for the next two weeks at the track north of San Diego. The probable scenario for the colt is a return to racing sometime in the fall with the ultimate goal being the $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs in November.

“Right now, we’re just looking to get him 100 percent,” Baffert said Monday. “We’re in a holding pattern. I’d love to run him again because he’s so much fun and exciting to watch. We should know more in a couple of weeks.”

Justify has won all six starts in his brief career that began this year. He has won four straight Grade 1 races, including a sweep of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont to become horse racing’s 13th Triple Crown champion.

The colt hasn’t had a workout since the Belmont Stakes on June 9.

Funtastic wins Monmouth’s United Nations Stakes in 23-1 upset

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OCEANPORT, N.J. — Funtastic led all the way in a 23-1 upset Saturday in the $300,000 United Nations Stakes at Monmouth Park.

Chad Brown, the Eclipse Award winner the last two years as the nation’s leading trainer, got his third victory in the New Jersey’s biggest turf race. He won with Big Blue Kitten in 2013 and 2015.

The U.N. and the $1 million Haskell on July 29 are the two Grade 1 stakes at Monmouth.

Brown saddled four of the nine runners in the U.N. and ran 1-2 as Money Multiplier rallied to finish a half length behind Funtastic and jockey Antonio Gallardo.

The other two Brown horses were Silverwave (fifth) and Kurilov (eighth).

The time was 2:12.36 for 1 3/8 miles over the firm course.

Funtastic paid $48, $15.80 and $8.60. Money Multiplier, the 2-1 favorite, returned $4 and $2.80.

Bigger Picture, last year’s U.N. winner, was third, paying $5.80 to show.