Along with a few thousand others, Peter Fluor found himself soaked to the bone last year at Pimlico when the heavens unloaded on Baltimore and turned the Preakness into a regatta. He was there to cheer on American Pharoah and his trainer, Bob Baffert, who just that week had taken into the fold a 2-year-old colt by City Zip owned by Fluor and his partner, K.C. Weiner.
"It was my first Preakness and a great experience watching American Pharoah win," Fluor said this week. "But I can promise you I'll be rooting a lot harder for Baffert this year."
That's because the City Zip colt grew up to be Collected, who cost Fluor and Wiener $170,000 as a 2-year-old, and Collected owes nothing to anyone. After picking off some low-hanging fruit on the way to more than $400,000 in winnings, the nimble chestnut with the skinny blaze now will be taking on Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist and Derby runner-up Exaggerator on Saturday in the 141st running of the Preakness.
Collected tipped his mitt last fall at Del Mar with a solid second in the Cecil B. DeMille Stakes on the grass, then disabused any notion that he was a turf horse with a win in the Sham Stakes in January. At that point, he had worked his way up the Baffert depth chart to No. 3, behind Mor Spirit and Cupid, but any serious Derby dreams went awry after his uninspiring fourth in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn.
Baffert knows how to cheer up a horse, though. A month after the Southwest, Collected was allowed to tap his inner American Pharoah in the Sunland Park Festival of Racing Stakes, the scaled-back version of the Sunland Derby, with a front-running win at 1-1/8 miles. That put Collected on course for the Lexington Stakes, which he won by four lengths.
Collected skipped the Derby, which made sense since Lexington winners rarely win the Derby. Lexington winners do, however, win the Preakness, most recently Charismatic in 1999. Before that, there was Hansel (1991) and Risen Star (1988) as well as Master Derby (1975), when the Lexington was known as the Calumet Purse. Hansel, Risen Star, and Master Derby lost at Churchill Downs in between, but that was a different era, and even the current Kentucky Derby points system for eligibility has marginalized the Lexington as a Derby prep.
Whether or not a fresh and confident Collected can ruffle the feathers of Nyquist and Exaggerator is open to debate. His natural speed puts him in the thick of what looks like a serious Preakness pace on paper, although Javier Castellano had Collected calmly stalking in the Lexington before he pounced.
As for the pedigree, City Zip gives Collected a right to be anything. The stallion has begat Breeders' Cup winners at 10 furlongs on turf (Dayatthespa), a 2-year-old mile on grass (Catch a Glimpse), and six furlongs on dirt (Work All Week), as well as a forthright grass miler like Alert Bay. What that will be worth to Collected when the heat turns up on the final Preakness turn is an entertaining mystery, one that Fluor and Weiner are willing to chance.
Fluor is chairman and chief executive and Weiner is president of Texas Crude Energy Inc., a Houston-based exploration and production company founded by Weiner's father, Charles Weiner. The elder Weiner was partners with Fluor's father, J. Robert Fluor, in El Rancho Murietta, a full-service Southern California breeding and training facility where Peter Fluor got his early education in the business.
Robert Fluor's legacy in West Coast racing is exceeded only by his impact on the energy industry as head of the Fluor Corp., an international conglomerate of companies dealing in petroleum, construction, and minerals. The elder Fluor, who died in 1984, also served as chairman of the California Horse Racing Board.
"My father took me to Keeneland for the yearling sales," Peter Fluor said. "We'd go to the farm and to Santa Anita with his adviser, Jack Robbins, to watch the horses train. One day, he saw me looking at a headline in the paper about a race at Santa Anita and asked if I'd like to go. It was the day of Johnny Longden's last ride."
Fluor was 18 at the time and on his way to college, after which he plunged into the petroleum business. It was only in 2014 that he suggested to Weiner that they take a flyer with a few Thoroughbreds, and Weiner said, "Why not?"
The partners stepped up to buy the mares Leigh Court and Hard Not to Like at Keeneland's 2014 November mixed sale. Leigh Court rewarded them with a win in the 2015 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes, while Hard Not to Like took consecutive Grade 1 prizes in the Gamely at Santa Anita and the Diana at Saratoga, defeating Tepin by a nose in the process. Collected came next, suggesting that these guys spend most of their time walking around lucky.
"When we won the Diana Stakes, I raised my glass and toasted my father," Fluor recalled. "I said, 'This is hard not to like, and I wouldn't be doing this were it not for what I learned from you.'
"I think my dad would be thrilled that we've got a horse in the Preakness," Fluor added. "And with Baffert and Castellano in his corner, he'll have every chance."