The Iowa-connected horse that finished third in the Kentucky Derby may run in the Preakness.
Des Moines attorney Jerry Crawford formed Donegal Racing and invited friends to join two years ago after he purchased the horse named Paddy O’Prado. Crawford, one of 10 Iowans who invested in the horse, flies out of Des Moines this afternoon, to watch the horse train in Kentucky.
“I’m eager to see him with my own eyes tomorrow, maybe also Sunday, but at least tomorrow,” Crawford says. “And then, after evaluating how he seems to be doing and how ready he seems to be, we’ll make a decision on the Preakness.”
The Preakness will be run on Saturday, May 15 in Baltimore, Maryland at the Pimlico Racetrack. The horses run a mile and three-sixteenths race, slightly shorter than the mile-and-a-quarter track at Churchill Downs. Crawford says the length of the track is neither better nor worse for his horse.
“He’s a pretty push-button horse. He can run on the front. He can come from behind,” Crawford says. “That’s a more speed-favoring track, so if he does run I think you’ll see him a little closer to the front than you did in the Derby.”
The Preakness is the second stop in horse racing’s so-called “Triple Crown.” Crawford says the team hasn’t decided whether the horse will run in the Belmont Stakes on June 5.
“Oh there’s always a chance. I would say the odds are against it, but you have to wait and let the horse to tell you,” Crawford says. “Their very good about communicating how they feel. They do it through their personality, through the way they eat or don’t eat and through the fluidity they show you on the track and I feel a special responsibility to all of our horses to let them tell us rather than us saying, ‘We want to be in this race, so you’re going there.'”
Some horses show nerves at “showtime,” but Crawford says Paddy O’Prado seems to enjoy the crowd at the Derby. “Not only was he calm, he was cocky. He kind of loved the attention and after the race — if you watch what we call the ‘gallop out’ which is the horses, once they get past the wire — he just kept going,” Crawford says. “…He’s kind of what we call a throw-back horse. He’s an old-fashioned horse bred to run a long, long ways. He has a huge heart — we’ve measured it, so we know — and that usually leads to endurance.”
Crawford initially thought Paddy O’Prado would skip the Preakness and run in the Belmont Stakes.
“I knew he could run a mile and a half, which you have to do at the Belmont, and I thought it would be nice to givehim five weeks to fully recover but what everybody’s telling me is forget about fully recovering, we’ve already gone through that phase,” Crawford says, with a laugh. “You know these are the three, cornerstone races available in any horse’s entire career if you add in the Breeder’s Cup Championship and so his value as a stallion will be determined in significant measure by how he does in either the Preakness or the Belmont.”
Crawford is a prominent Des Moines attorney who is active in Democratic Party politics. He’s also been in the horse business, buying his first race horse three decades ago. Paddy O’Prado was in a group of eight colts that Crawford bought in the fall of 2008. Crawford is perhaps a bit giddy when talking about this year’s racing season and Paddy O’Prado’s success.
“I’m a farm kid from Iowa and I grew up loving horses and I’ve loved horses my whole life,” Crawford says. “It has been the dream of a lifetime and I’ve been able to share it with my friends and my family.”
The 10-person ownership group Crawford heads is also known by the name “Derby Dreams.” Paddy O’Prado is trained by Dale Romans in Kentucky. The Baltimore Sun is already reporting that Paddy O’Prado will run in the Preakness and that Kent Desormeaux, the jockey who rode the horse to third in the Derby, will ride him in the Preakness. Desormeaux has jockeyed two other horses to victory in the Preakness.