05/08/2008 11:00PM

Add Hey Byrn and Icabad Crane


Even though just one of the horses who took on Big Brown in the Kentucky Derby is going to try again in the 133rd Preakness Stakes on May 17 at Pimlico, that hasn't stopped a number of new shooters from taking aim at the Derby winner in the second leg of the Triple Crown. On Friday, the overall list of challengers to Big Brown in the Preakness grew by one, with the addition of both Hey Byrn and Icabad Crane and the defection of Macho Again, bringing the total Preakness field to a surprising 13 horses.

The Preakness is capped at 14 runners, and while the convoluted earnings rule used to determine an oversubscribed Preakness field is still unlikely to be invoked, the field is far larger than anyone would have imagined just days ago.

If more than 14 horses enter the Preakness on Wednesday, the field is determined thus: The top seven get in based on graded stakes earnings, the next four qualify on earnings in all unrestricted races, and the final three get in based on overall earnings, without restrictions.

In the Derby, the field is capped at 20 runners, and earnings in graded stakes races is the sole criterium if the field is oversubscribed. This year, four horses were excluded from the Derby when 24 entered.

Hey Byrn captured the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park on April 12, a victory his connections hoped would put him into the top 20 for graded stakes earnings for the Derby. But his $140,000 in graded earnings was well short of what was needed to run in the Derby this year.

Icabad Crane won last month's Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico, which often is used as a prep for the Preakness. On Friday at the Fair Hill training center in Maryland, Icabad Crane was given an official time of 1:02.60 for a five-furlong work for trainer Graham Motion.

Hey Byrn, who is based at Calder with trainer Eddie Plesa, ran once previously against Big Brown, in the Florida Derby, in which Hey Byrn finished a distant fourth. His subsequent win in the Holy Bull was at the same 1 3/16-mile distance as the Preakness.

"We were looking at the Ohio Derby, but the owner wants to run in the Preakness, so that's where he'll go," said Plesa, who trains Hey Byrn for owner Bea Oxenberg.

"Obviously, we know what we're getting into going up against a horse like Big Brown," Plesa said. "But take him out of the equation and everyone else pretty much looks equal."

Plesa said Hey Byrn would van to Pimlico on Monday, accompanied by stablemate Gottcha Gold, who is scheduled to run on Friday in the Pimlico Special for older horses. Hey Byrn had his last major work for the Preakness on Monday, when he traveled a mile in 1:45 at Calder.

"He's done pretty much everything he needs to do to be ready for this race," Plesa said.

Plesa said he did not yet have a rider for Hey Byrn.

"Because we made a late decision to run, we're still searching for a rider," he said. "Our first choice was Edgar Prado, who has already won two races on the colt, but he's not available."

Prado is scheduled to ride Riley Tucker for trainer Bill Mott.

Jeremy Rose, whose miraculous balancing act helped Afleet Alex win the Preakness in 2005, will be on Icabad Crane, Motion said. Icabad Crane is also under consideration for the Barbaro Stakes on the Preakness undercard, "but right now it looks like the Preakness," Motion said.

Macho Again, who was never more than a possibility for the Preakness, will instead go to the Ohio Derby at Thistledown later this month, trainer Dallas Stewart said.

At Churchill Downs, trainer Rick Dutrow elected to jog Big Brown for a third straight day because steady rain left the track a sloppy mess Friday morning. Dutrow had wanted to send out Big Brown for his first gallop since the Derby, but once again said he did not want to take any chances.

Big Brown, with exercise rider Michelle Nevin aboard, went to the track at about 6:45oa.m. Eastern for a quick once-around while going in a clockwise direction, accompanied by a stable pony ridden by Walter Blum Jr.

With the rain expected to subside later Friday, Dutrow was hoping Big Brown could resume a normal gallop schedule Saturday, when the weather was supposed to be ideal. However, more rain was forecast for Sunday; after that, no more, according to The Weather Channel, at least through Wednesday, when Big Brown is scheduled to be flown to Baltimore after training.

Dutrow said earlier in the week that he has "no problems" with the Churchill surface, and that in fact its safety and consistency is a primary reason he elected to stay put after the Derby.

Big Brown was shod on his back feet after his Thursday jog. Dutrow, as is his custom, had the two back shoes pulled after the race. The glued-on, acrylic rubber shoes have remained affixed to his front feet and will stay on until after the Preakness, Dutrow said.

- additional reporting by Marty McGee and Mike Welsch