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Robby Albarado is ‘living vicariously’ through Mystik Dan from the Kentucky Derby to the Preakness

Mystik Dan could be 'overbet' at Preakness Stakes
Drew Dinsick and Jay Croucher review post position draw odds for key horses ahead of the Preakness Stakes, highlighting outlooks for Mystik Dan, Imagination and Tuscan Gold.

BALTIMORE — Robby Albarado had never entered the Kentucky Derby winner’s circle during two decades as a jockey that included more than 34,000 races and 5,000 victories.

It’s bad luck in that profession to go in without winning that prestigious race, though he did not mind breaking that superstition earlier this month.

Now 50, his first trip came in the latest phase of his career when Mystik Dan finished first in the Derby by a nose, ridden not by Albarado but by Brian Hernandez Jr. But Albarado has been part of the team since Mystik Dan was a 2-year-old, riding him in the mornings in training after seeing something special from the colt’s first workout.

The Derby victory proved Albardo’s suspicions correct, and he has now become exercise rider to the newest star in horse racing. He’s again taking to the track aboard Mystik Dan this week in preparation for the Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown he has won twice.

“I guess I’m living vicariously through Mystik Dan right now,” Albarado said Wednesday morning after galloping Mystik Dan 1 3/16 miles, the length of the Preakness. “I enjoy the role because I’ve been on him from the start. I knew he was that talented early, or I suspected he’d be this talented. When I got on him, he showed all the signs of a good horse. Now I guess the only downfall to it is that I’m not the one riding the races.”

Albarado, who won the Preakness in 2007 with Curlin and then for McPeek - now Mystik Dan’s trainer - in 2020 with filly Swiss Skydiver. That success, along with three wins in Breeders’ Cup races and one in the Dubai World Cup, has made it easier to stomach not leaving the starting gate and crossing the finish line with Mystik Dan.

“It’s not hard at all because I had a great career,” Albarado said. “I’ve been very fortunate. I’m just glad to be a part of this one.”

McPeek’s team is glad to have him. Assistant trainer Ray Bryner likes that Albarado understands what he and McPeek are looking for every time he gets aboard a horse.

“You can’t substitute that for anything,” Bryner said. “You couldn’t ask for a better tool in the morning. He’s a great exercise rider and a better breeze rider. ... I can’t say enough about him.”

Britney Eurton has been around horse racing her entire life as the daughter of longtime thoroughbred trainer Peter Eurton.

She has been working in it as a broadcaster for a decade and since 2017 for NBC Sports, making her Triple Crown debut in 2017.

This Triple Crown season is just the start of a crazy run for Eurton, who will be part of the network’s Royal Ascot broadcasts June 18-22 and then move on to tennis at the Paris Olympics. It’s her first Olympics.

“This entire stretch, is there anything better?” Eurton said by phone Wednesday. “I really feed off of this type of, I’ll call it, controlled chaos, and the Kentucky Derby is the biggest day in the sport of horse racing and one of the biggest shows I do. It’s such a rush. The moment is so big, and I imagine that the Olympics in Paris will be that times 1,000.”

The stunning news of Preakness favorite Muth being scratched because of a fever left one other horse trained by Hall of Famer Bob Baffert in what’s now a field of eight. Imagination, who drew the outside No. 9 post but will move one slot in with his stablemate out, is “developing every race (and) just getting stronger, better,” according to Baffert, a two-time Triple Crown winner who also has a record eight Preakness victories.

“He’s still learning, we’re learning more about him, (jockey Frankie Dettori is) learning more about him,” Baffert said last week of Imagination, the co-second betting choice at 6-1. “I think he’s improved. Every race he’s improving. And I think distance is not going to be a problem for him.”