There comes a time in every athlete’s life when you have to figure out just how good you really are. You can’t know how big you are unless you stand next to the measuring tape. For one striking Thoroughbred, the Preakness Stakes will tell us just how tall he currently stands.
Creative Minister is a brilliantly marked son of Creative Cause. Unraced at two, his three-year-old campaign has been full of promise. After finishing second in his career debut on March 5 at Gulfstream Park, this Kenny McPeek trainee has won back-to-back races.
First came his maiden-breaking run at Keeneland on April 9. Racing just off the pace early in a field of 12, the Minister made his way home a length and a half in front. Covering the mile and a sixteenth in 1:46.49 over a sloppy and sealed track, McPeek’s gray colt gave a glimpse of what might could be.
The latest run by Creative Minister on May 7 at Churchill Downs has given his veteran coach every reason to think he can compete in the upper echelon of the three-year-old division. After a not-so-glorious beginning, jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. guided his mount just off the pace in another 12 horse field. Swinging into the four path as the runners turned for home, an explosive turn of foot saw Creative Minister roll past the frontrunners. Covering this mile and a sixteenth in 1:42.37 and winning by 2 ¾ lengths, the marked improvement greased up the mental gears for his team.
“He’s a horse that fits the mold as potentially a top three-year-old”, says McPeek. “He’s jumped through some two-turn hoops now and we think it’s time to find out just how good he really is.”
Having never raced in Stakes company, is the second jewel of the Triple Crown series the place to put this grandson of Tapit? With over 1800 career wins, the Arkansas native seems to know his way around the game. And that run on the Kentucky Derby day undercard was more than just another allowance win.
“The Equibase number for his win on Derby day was a 107 and the horse that won the Kentucky Derby got a 106”, says the trainer that sent filly Swiss Skydiver to the Preakness winner’s circle in 2020. “He trained with our Derby horses (Smile Happy, Tiz The Bomb) and looked great doing it. He’s healthy and we think the time is right for him.”
With Kentucky Derby winner Rich Strike choosing not to race in the Preakness and many of the other Derby entrants sitting this one out as well, opportunity abounds. With top talents like Kentucky Oaks winner Secret Oath, Derby runner-up Epicenter, fourth-place finisher Simplification, and Wood Memorial runner-up Early Voting in the mix, this is no doubt a grade 1 field.
“We understand the level of competition but think the race shapes up as pretty wide open”, says McPeek. “There is no doubt this is a measuring stick race but we’ve got some great owners (Fern Circle Stables, Back Racing LLC) and they deserve a shot at something like this. We have been swimming in the shallow waters. Now we are jumping into the deep end of the pool.”
The Preakness Stakes will be run at Pimlico Race Course on May 21.