Lukas-trained long shot Market King cleared for Preakness

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BALTIMORE — Long shot Market King has been cleared by officials to race in the Preakness on Saturday.

Market King had been on the veterinarian’s list in Kentucky after being scratched before the Pat Day Mile on the Kentucky Derby undercard on May 4. He was entered in the Preakness on the condition that he’d only run if he passed the adequate tests to be removed from the list, and those results came back satisfactory on Thursday.

“He’s off the list and good to go,” Kentucky Horse Racing Commission equine medical director Dr. Mary Scollay told The Associated Press by phone.

The D. Wayne Lukas-trained Market King arrived at Pimlico Race Course on Tuesday and trained each of the past two mornings. Lukas borrowed trainer friend Bob Baffert’s exercise rider for Market King’s workout Thursday morning and said his horse appeared to be in great shape.

“He’s doing well,” Lukas said. “He’s done everything I’ve asked of him. He’s doing very well. He shipped in here beautifully and everything. He’s doing well. He’s very alert.”

Market King last ran in the Blue Grass Stakes on April 6 and finished 11th. He’s a 30-1 shot in a 13-horse field at the Preakness, but that’s not much of a disincentive for Lukas, who has won the race six times and often by surprise.

“I’m 30-1 every year here,” Lukas said. “We’ve had great luck here. Bob and I both train a lot alike and we’ve got 13 or 14 of them in between us. We train a lot alike and I think that our style of training lends itself well to this type of race and this track.”

Lukas has been up front that he isn’t sure whether Market King can handle the 1-3/16 mile distance of the middle jewel of the Triple Crown. The 83-year-old wonders if Market King might be a really good horse to run a mile but is taking a chance because of how the Preakness sets up.

“I never was realistic when I first came here, but I’m getting better at it,” Lukas said. “But if you’re going to stretch a horse and see if they can run it, this is the best place. This track lends itself to maybe speed holding on a little longer. So we’ll try.”

Kentucky Derby modifies qualifying, elevates prep races

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Churchill Downs has modified paths to the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, awarding points to the top five finishers in qualifying races and increasing significance for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and late prep season events.

Most Derby prep races during the qualifying series for 3-year-olds will award points on a 10-4-3-2-1 sliding scale after using a 10-4-2-1 system since 2013. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, run during the season-ending championships on Nov. 4 at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky, will increase points from 20-8-4-2 to 30-12-9-6-3 to differentiate the Grade I event from others during prep season.

Select prep races for the 20-horse Derby field have elevated points from a 10-4-2-1 scale to 20-8-6-4-2 to increase their importance and motivate hopefuls to begin their 3-year-old campaigns earlier in the season, track officials stated in a release.

“We believe these modifications adhere to and amplify our goal of assembling the finest group of 3-year-olds in the starting gate for a race at the classic distance of 1\ miles on the first Saturday in May,” Churchill Downs vice president/general manager Mike Ziegler said.

The 149th Kentucky Derby and Oaks for fillies will be held on May 5-6, 2023. Derby qualifying season begins with Saturday’s $300,000, Grade III Iroquois for 2-year-olds at Churchill Downs.

The point changes apply to Oaks qualifiers.

Elevated Derby preps include the Lecomte at Fair Grounds in Louisiana; Southwest at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas; Withers at Aqueduct in New York; Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park in Florida; Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita in California; Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs; and John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park in Kentucky.

Bob Baffert wins record 16th Del Mar Futurity with Cave Rock

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DEL MAR, Calif. — Cave Rock won the $302,000 Del Mar Futurity by 5 1/4 lengths, giving Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his record 16th victory in the Grade 1 race in which he finished 1-2.

Ridden by Juan Hernandez, Cave Rock ran seven furlongs in a stakes-record time of 1:20.99 on closing day at the seaside track north of San Diego. He lowered the old mark of 1:21.29 set by Declan’s Moon in 2004.

Baffert tied Phil D’Amato for the trainers’ title with 19 wins each at the 31-day summer meet. It was Baffert’s eighth title at Del Mar, but his first since 2003.

Hernandez won the jockeys’ title.

Havnameltdown, also trained by Baffert, finished second in the race for 2-year-olds. Skinner was another 4 1/4 lengths back in third.

Longtime Baffert clients Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman own the first and second-place finishers.

Cave Rock paid $2.80 to win as the 2/5 favorite. He earned $180,000 for the win.