Blaine Wright was home Sunday, watching Mucho Amour, a horse he trains, cruise to an easy victory in the first stakes race of the season at Auburn’s Emerald Downs.
On Tuesday, he was off to Baltimore, looking to win a much bigger prize.
Wright, 44, will saddle Anothertwistafate in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course, and the 3-year-old, who has three wins and two seconds in six lifetime starts, is one of the top contenders. He will start from post 12 in the 13-horse field and is the 6-1 third choice on the morning line.
Jose Ortiz will ride Anothertwistafate for the first time, and his biggest challenges appear to be Improbable, the morning-line favorite at 2-1, and War of Wills, the second choice at 4-1.
Local trainers dream of having a horse good enough to compete in a Triple Crown race, but it’s an elusive dream. Wright appears to be the first locally based trainer to have a horse in a Triple Crown race since 1956, when Longacres of Renton trainer Lloyd Lawson started locally owned Count Chic in the Kentucky Derby and finished fourth.
“A guy always hopes that one day he will get there,” said Wright, whose father, Richard, was a local trainer and jockey. “The whole family is excited. It’s not often where we come from that people get these opportunities.”
Wright won training titles at Emerald Downs in 2016 and 2017 and was second last year. The past two seasons, he has won 20 stakes races at Emerald and the next best is eight.
Wright, from Enumclaw, also has a stable at Golden Gate Fields outside San Francisco, which is Anothertwistafate’s home base. The horse is owned by Peter Redekop, whose base is Hastings Park in Vancouver, B.C.
“We’ve got three tracks that we are representing in Hastings, Emerald and Golden Gate,” Wright said. “We’re enjoying this, and hopefully we can have some luck when we are back there.”
The dream was to run Anothertwistafate in the Kentucky Derby, but the horse was 23rd on the eligibility points list, with the field limited to 20. When it seemed unlikely there would be enough defections to get into the field, Anothertwistafate traveled back to Golden Gate to prepare for the Preakness, a race he earned automatic entry into by winning the El Camino Derby at Golden Gate in February.
By not running in the Kentucky Derby, Anothertwistafate will be fresh entering the Preakness, with his last race being a second-place finish in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 14. Wright said the horse has been training great. He worked out Saturday before flying east Tuesday.
“I haven’t been disappointed one day,” Wright said.
Not even in the horse’s first career race in November, when he finished ninth at Santa Anita in Southern California in a 6-furlong race, less than the horse’s ideal distance.
“He was highly, highly regarded all along,” Wright said. “He laid in very good position and showed good natural speed down the backside … but once dirt started hitting him in the face, he didn’t take to that real well and he dropped way back. But he ran a pretty good race down the lane. It doesn’t look good on paper, but the horse laid his body down and galloped out tremendous.”
Anothertwistafate won his next three races, all at Golden Gate, capped by an impressive 7-length win in the El Camino Derby that stamped him as a Kentucky Derby contender.
Then came second-place finishes in the Sunland Derby in New Mexico and in the Lexington in Keeneland despite some traffic issues in each race.
Wright said the horse will get better with added distance, which should help Saturday as the Preakness is 1 3/16 miles, a sixteenth of a mile farther than he has run before. The horse appears to be ready for a big race.
“I sure hope so,” Wright said. “We’re not going there to lose. We wouldn’t be going if we didn’t feel like we had a shot. I want to see him get that big, long stride going. I think he was compromised a little last time (in the Lexington Stakes) by being covered up down by the fence. … He’s a horse that needs to be out and getting his big stride going.
“Will he be on the lead? We’re going to let him come out of the gate running and let the rider do his job from there. If he needs to take him back a little bit because of a hot pace, we know he can do that. Most of our work is done. We just need some racing luck and hope he shows up with his ‘A’ game.”