If trainer Bob Baffert hopes to go on to his third Triple Crown sweep with Kentucky Derby winner Medina Spirit, he may find his toughest competition is -- himself.
"Can he win the Triple Crown? I don't know. But he's the Derby winner, and that's all that matters," Baffert said Sunday morning at Barn 33 on the Churchill Downs backstretch, celebrating his record seventh Kentucky Derby win.
A day after the Kentucky Derby, few other trainers were actively talking about going on to Baltimore for the second leg of the Triple Crown, the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico May 15. That might leave a bigger-than-usual opportunity for so-called "new shooters" -- horses who did not contest the Derby.
And chief among those is another from the Baffert barn -- Concert Tour, a colt who might have been among the favorites Saturday in Louisville were it not for a puzzling third-place finish in the Arkansas Derby. That was his first career loss and prompted Baffert to take him out of the Kentucky Derby mix.
Concert Tour worked 5 furlongs Sunday morning at Churchill Downs and Baffert said he "worked well." But he added owner Gary West "wants the horse to develop and don't get in a rush with things. We know he's a really good horse so we'll talk to him and see how he is next week."
Baffert would not even definitively confirm a Preakness slot for Medina Spirit, who led virtually all the way in the Derby en route to a gutsy 12-1 upset win. But he clearly would have to find some reason not to give the colt a chance at Pimlico.
"He came back (from the Derby) and he was handling it pretty well. He wasn't as tired as I thought he was," Baffert said. "So far, he came out of it well. It usually takes about a week. I'll just watch him closely. Right now, I don't see anything that would discourage me.
"I really can't make a call right now on anything."
Transportation also suddenly has become an issue as Baffert revealed the air charter company that normally would fly Derby horses to Baltimore for the Preakness has been shut down temporarily.
"We're going to have to van there. We're still working on it. This is hot off the press," he said.
As for the remainder of the Derby contenders, the future seemed even more up in the air than usual. Brad Cox, who trained runner-up Mandaloun and fourth-place finisher and favorite Essential Quality, could have plenty of prospects for Baltimore but wasn't definitive about any of them.
Caddo River, who passed up the Derby after finishing second in the Arkansas Derby, is a prospect for Cox. So, too, is Fulsome, an undefeated Juddmonte Farms homebred who won Saturday's $300,000 Oaklawn Stakes in Arkansas.
"We’ll regroup and talk to Juddmonte, Garrett O’Rourke, about possibly running (Fulsome in the Preakness) and also Mandaloun could be a question mark as well," Cox said from Churchill Downs. "Don't know yet (about Caddo River). Probably know more the middle of next week if we're going to consider that with him."
Doug O'Neill, who trains the third-place Derby finisher, Hot Rod Charlie, said he and the colt were headed back to California with an eye on the third leg of the Triple Crown June 5 at Belmont Park.
"We'll look to run him next in the Belmont Stakes," O'Neill said. "We'll get him back to California and start planning for that."
Trainer Todd Pletcher started four of the 19 Kentucky Derby contenders, finishing ninth with Known Agenda, 11th with Sainthood, 13th with Bourbonic and next-last with Dynamic One. He said they all exited the Derby in good shape and will head back to New York with no immediate target in Baltimore.
"That’s not my M.O.," Pletcher said. "We'll get back to New York and regroup. Then we can think about some major decisions with those horses."
Pletcher did indicate the door is not shut on the chance Friday's Kentucky Oaks winner Malathaat might take a shot at the Belmont Stakes.
"We're not sure about that one yet," he said. "She's a special filly and appears quite capable of running the (1 1/2-miles) distance. At some point this year she's likely to take on the boys but we're still not sure where or when that might be."
Another of the well-fancied Derby runners, Rock Your World, was bumped and shuffled back in the Kentucky Derby and never got a chance to run. Trainer John Sadler said, "Disappointing is the word" for the experience, especially as Medina Spirit finished second to Rock Your World in the Santa Anita Derby.
"We'll get him home and regroup," the trainer said. "At this point, I don't know what we're going to do with him. But we'll come up with a plan."
With so many looking to regroup or come up with a plan, the lineup for the Preakness could look a lot or very little like the Derby field.