For a Preakness Stakes that arguably lacks pre-race drama, trainer Kelly Rubley gives this year's Second Jewel of the Triple Crown its best storyline.
Rubley, who used to be a middle school science teacher, could become the first woman trainer to bring home a winner in Baltimore's famous race when Alwaysmining goes to the starting gate of the 144th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course May 18.
Despite that momentous possibility, Rubley said she's not thinking about it.
"Not at all," she said at the Preakness draw for post positions at Baltimore's Power Plant Live May 15. "There are a lot of great, talented women working in this industry. It is exciting and I'm glad to be part of it."
This year's Preakness will not feature the Kentucky Derby winner, Country House, who has been sidelined by illness. So, there will be no Triple Crown hopeful passing through Baltimore.
Unlike most of the trainers she's going up against in the Preakness -- such as seven-time Preakness winner Bob Baffert, who has the favorite, Improbable (5-2), and six-time Preakness winner D. Wayne Lukas, who has longshot Market King (30-1) -- Rubley is relatively new to racing.
She started as an exercise rider in 2009, and this is just her fifth year as a trainer.
Alwaysmining enters the race with early odds of 8-1 and is starting from the No. 7 post position.
He is riding a
six-race winning streak
, with all of the wins at Laurel Park. Rubley and the horse's owners at Runnymede Racing in Southeast Pennsylvania decided to hold him out of the Kentucky Derby.
"We considered it," Rubley said, "and we decided for the longevity of the horse that this was best, plus we had a nice path to the Preakness."
Beginning at the end of his campaign as a 2-year-old in 2018, Alwaysmining has been running in successively longer races. The steps have been incremental from seven furlongs up through 1 1/8 miles. The Preakness is 1 3/16 miles.
"When we decided not to go to the Derby, the Preakness made logical sense," Rubley said.
And the decision would have been the same, she said, even if the top horses coming into the 2019 Triple Crown season had been in the field.
Along with declared Derby winner Country House sitting out the Preakness, other top horses not in the field are Omaha Beach, who was also scratched from the Derby with entrapped epiglottis, and Maximum Security, who crossed the finish line first at Churchill Downs but was taken down because of a foul.
There have been 15 women trainers to bring horses to the Preakness before. The last was Linda Rice with Kid Cruz in 2014. The best finish was by the late Nancy Alberts, second with Magic Weisner in 2002.
"I think it's more about the horse rather than me being a woman trainer," Rubley said. "The horse brought me here. I'm very fortunate to have him in my barn."
Maryland-based trainer Mike Trombetta, who brings Win Win Win to the Preakness at 15-1, says the defections have helped swell the Preakness field to 13 horses.
"It's certainly had something to do with it," Trombetta said. "I think a lot of horses had their sights set on the Preakness this year and when the dust settled [on who would not race], they decided to come here. I think it'll make for a good race."
Win Win Win drew the No. 13 post position.
Trombetta's horse is one of four Derby starters who will be at Pimlico. The others are Improbable, War of Will and Bodexpress. Improbable had the best finish, crossing the line in fifth but moving up to fourth following Maximum Security's disqualification. Improbable drew the No. 4 post position at Pimlico.
"The two-week turnaround is a little scary ... I was hoping for a better showing in the Derby," Trombetta said.
Win Win Win crossed the finish line 10th but was put up to ninth.
"But our horse came out of it with good energy so here we are at the Preakness," Trombetta added.
No. 1 post position: War of Will (4-1)
Trainer: Mark Casse
Jockey: Tyler Gaffalione
2. Bourbon War (12-1)
Trainer: Mark Hennig
Jockey: Irad Ortiz Jr.
3. Warrior's Charge (12-1)
Trainer: Brad Cox
Jockey: Javier Castellano
4. Improbable (5-2)
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Jockey: Mike Smith
5. Owendale (10-1)
Trainer: Brad Cox
Jockey: Florent Geroux
6. Market King (30-1)
Trainer: D. Wayne Lukas.
Jockey: Jon Court
7. Alwaysmining (8-1)
Trainer: Kelly Rubley
Jockey: Daniel Centeno
8. Signalman (30-1)
Trainer: Kenny McPeek
Jockey: Brian Hernandez Jr.
9. Bodexpress (20-1)
Trainer: Gustavo Delgado
Jockey: John Velazquez
10. Everfast (50-1)
Trainer: Dale Romans
Jockey: Joel Rosario
11. Laughing Fox (20-1)
Trainer: Steve Asmussen
Jockey: Ricardo Santana Jr.
12. Anothertwistafate (6-1)
Trainer: Blaine Wright
Jockey: Jose Ortiz
13. Win Win Win (15-1)
Trainer: Michael Trombetta
Jockey: Julian Pimentel
Photo Credit: Bill Ordine/PressBox