Seven weeks after capping off his 27th birthday with a victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (GI) on Fort Larned, jockey Brian
Hernandez Jr. was on a roll at Fair Grounds with four victories from eight mounts.
“I had just won on Bind and (trainer) Al (Stall Jr.) was bragging on this first-time starter in the next race,” Hernandez said. “That was Departing. I had never been on him and he ran huge.
He was my fifth winner on the card and the most impressive.”
Fast forward nearly five months later and Departing, owned by Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, has emerged as one of the top contenders to Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI)
winner Orb in next weekend’s Preakness.
Hernandez has been aboard
Departing for all five of his starts, all victories save for a
third-place finish in the Louisiana Derby (GII).
“I was riding some good maidens at the time, (eventual Kentucky Derby runner-up) Golden Soul for Dallas (Stewart) and Proud Strike for Steve Asmussen,” Hernandez said. “My agent,
Frank Bernis, thought Departing was the best of them.”
Following the Louisiana
Derby, the Kentucky Derby was ruled out and Departing was pointed to the
Illinois Derby, a race he won by 3 ¼ lengths despite breaking from the
“After the Louisiana Derby,
they made the plan to go to the Illinois Derby and then the Preakness,”
Hernandez said. “I can’t be disappointed in missing the Derby. We have a
chance to upset Orb and the Preakness is
not a bad race to run in.”
The trip to Pimlico will be a first for Hernandez.
“After this meet was over, I
used to ride at Delaware Park and I have ridden some at Laurel but never
at Pimlico,” Hernandez said. “I am going to go over a day early and
ride a horse for Al (Tread in the Miss
Departing continued his
Preakness preparations Thursday morning at Churchill Downs, galloping
two miles over a fast track well before the renovation break under Trina Pasckvale. Departing is scheduled to work
Sunday morning after the renovation break.
In other Preakness activity Thursday morning at Churchill Downs, fifth-place Kentucky Derby finisher Mylute galloped 1 ½ miles before the break under exercise rider Maurice Sanchez for trainer Tom
Amoss; Oxbow and Will Take Charge, the sixth- and eighth-place Derby finishers respectively for D. Wayne Lukas galloped 1 ½ miles shortly after the track opened for training at 6 o’clock with Rudy Quevedo on Oxbow and Taylor
Carty on Will Take Charge; Titletown Five jogged for Lukas under Quevedo and Sunland Derby (GIII) winner Govenor Charlie jogged under Jorge Alvarez for trainer Bob Baffert.