Preakness Notes : 4 Days Until The Big Race

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American Pharoah, Dortmund Looking Good in Morning Gallops

BALTIMORE – Zayat Stables’ Kentucky Derby (G1) winner American Pharoah and Kaleem Shah’s third-place Derby finisher Dortmund galloped 1 ½ miles on a mild Tuesday morning at Churchill Downs.

“Those two looked good,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “American Pharoah, he is something to see out there. He just floats over the track. Dortmund looked like a happy horse out there today.”

Going on the track after the harrow break, the two backtracked to the front side of the track. American Pharoah, with Jorge Alvarez up, began his exercise with Dortmund and Dana Barnes following less than a minute later.

Baffert, who has won the Preakness five times, is three-for-three with his Derby winners coming back in two weeks to prevail at Pimlico. Silver Charm was the first in 1997, followed by Real Quiet in 1998 and War Emblem in 2002.

“They were totally different horses,” Baffert said.  “The main concern is that they look healthy and are doing good. That is all you can hope for going into a race.”

Baffert’s other Preakness winners, Point Given in 2001 and Lookin At Lucky in 2010, had finished fifth and sixth respectively in the Derby before going to Pimlico.

“I always won with the best horse,” Baffert said. “Usually those were the best horses of that crop.”

All five of Baffert’s Preakness winners came on a fast track and the 62-year-old conditioner noted that the long-range forecast for Saturday in Baltimore called for a chance of thunderstorms.

“If it rains, we know American Pharoah loves the mud,” Baffert said alluding to the colt’s 6 ¼-length 2015 debut victory in the slop at Oaklawn Park in the Rebel (G2). “I don’t know about Dortmund.”

After the two colts train Wednesday morning, Baffert and his Preakness candidates are scheduled to fly to Baltimore.

Firing Line Completes Preakness Preparation at Churchill

Arnold Zetcher’s Firing Line completed the Louisville leg of his preparation for Saturday’s Preakness by galloping 1 ½ miles under exercise rider Humberto Gomez after the morning break for renovation.

“He won’t train in the morning,” said Carlos Santamaria, assistant to trainer Simon Callaghan. “He will load here at 10 and Simon will be waiting for us at Pimlico.”

Firing Line had concluded his past two days of training with open gallops and Gomez said the colt was looking for more today.

“I wanted to give him an easy day today and he wants to do more,” Gomez said. “He’s got a great attitude and when he gets to the quarter-pole. He wants to go.”

Santamaria is ready for the next step on the Triple Crown trail to commence with the flight to Baltimore tomorrow.

“Everything has gone perfect,” Santamaria said. “The weather has cooled and he has done well. Knock wood, we keep it the same until we leave.”

Meanwhile, at Churchill, Charles Fipke’s Tale of Verve returned to the track Tuesday morning, galloping 1 ½ miles under exercise rider Kortez Walker.

“I was going to jog him today, but, instead, had him gallop an easy mile and a half,” trainer Dallas Stewart said of Tale of Verve, who had walked Monday following a five-eighths work of 1:00.40 on Sunday. “He’ll jog in the morning and load at the barn (for the flight to Baltimore) at 10.”

With Tale of Verve going out early for his morning activity, Stewart has had time to do a little scouting of his other Preakness competition training at Churchill Downs.

“American Pharoah looks really good. He is the horse to beat,” Stewart said. “They all trained well before the Derby and Firing Line looks strong. Those two look the strongest and (trainer Mark) Casse’s horse (Danzig Moon) always looks good training.”

Materiality Removed from Preakness Consideration

Trainer Todd Pletcher informed Maryland Jockey Club officials Tuesday morning that Florida Derby (G1) winner Materiality will not run in Saturday’s Preakness. The seven-time Eclipse Award trainer will point his sixth-place Kentucky Derby finisher toward the Belmont Stakes, the third jewel of the Triple Crown at Belmont Park on June 6.

“We were considering it very seriously. Basically, it came down to we just felt two weeks was a little bit risky. We felt five weeks to the Belmont would be an advantage for him. He’s been at Belmont since two days after the Derby and has been training well. He’s by a Belmont-winning sire. If you come back in two weeks and you turn out to be wrong, not only could you not run well in the Preakness, it could compromise your chances in the Belmont as well.”

Materiality, a son of 2005 Preakness and Belmont winner Afleet Alex, had captured his first three races, including the Florida Derby, at Gulfstream Park before getting away from the gate last in the Derby and closing well to finish sixth.

Pletcher reported that Carpe Diem, 10th in the Derby, is also likely to return in the Belmont Stakes; Competitive Edge, the undefeated winner of the Pat Day Mile (G3) on the Derby undercard, would run next in either the Woody Stephens (G2) or the Met Mile (G1) on Belmont Day; and Stanford, who was scratched from the Derby, is likely to run in either the Woody Stephens or Easy Goer on Belmont Day.

Javier Castellano Picks Up Mount on Divining Rod

Trainer Arnoud Delacour received confirmation from agent Matt Muzikar Tuesday morning that champion jockey Javier Castellano will ride the Lael Stables’ Divining Rod in the Preakness Stakes.

Castellano, the two-time winner of the Eclipse Award, replaces Julien Leparoux, who is scheduled to ride Danzig Moon. Divining Rod will be Castellano’s fourth Preakness mount. He won with Bernardini in 2006.

Divining Rod galloped 1 ¼ miles on the Tapeta track at Fair Hills Training Center Tuesday morning then schooled in the gate. Delacour said he decided to use the synthetic surface instead of the dirt track because it had rained overnight.

Divining Rod turned in a breakthrough performance winning the Lexington Stakes (G3) at Keeneland on April 11. The homebred Tapit colt sat off the pace, accelerated when asked and moved on to a professional victory.

“I’m very interested to see how he will handle the step up in competition and the stretch out,” Delacour said. “I’m a lot more confident after the Lexington about his ability to do both.”

Earlier in his career, the colt used his speed to be on the lead and had some trouble lasting. He committed to the lead from an inside post in the Tampa Bay Derby and finished third. However, he showed a different dimension and rated kindly in the Lexington.

“I think the horse has started to understand it a little bit. This is the time of the year that a 3-year-old should start showing that experience,” Delacour said. “What I hope is going to make the difference now is that the horse can still break well and get a position – that he doesn’t have to make the lead and can sit off the pace a little bit if he needs to. That will be up to the jock and why we have that kind of rider.”

Danzig Moon Full of Energy for Preakness

John Oxley’s Danzig Moon galloped a mile at Churchill Downs under exercise rider William Cano shortly after the track opened Tuesday morning. The son of Malibu Moon is scheduled to train again Wednesday before boarding a flight to Baltimore under the watchful eye of assistant trainer Norman Casse.

“Norman knows him better than anybody,” said father/trainer Mark Casse, who is slated to depart his home base in Canada for Baltimore on Thursday. “I stayed around to watch for a couple days after the Derby and he was good. He’s a pretty simple horse to train. He’s doing well and he’s got a lot of energy.”

The versatile colt is slated to make the fifth start of his sophomore campaign at his fifth different racetrack in the Preakness. He was fifth in the Kentucky Derby despite a traffic-marred trip at odds of 22-1, but his trainer seems relatively at ease with the quick turnaround.

“Not that the two weeks is ideal for anybody, but I don’t think it will bother him much,” Mark Casse said. “He’s tough. You just never know until they run, but we think he’s still on his game.”

Danzig Moon had only two races as a juvenile and didn’t  break his maiden until his sophomore debut at Gulfstream Park going a mile on Jan. 7. He was fourth in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and second to Carpe Diem in the Blue Grass (G1)at Keeneland in his final Derby prep.

“He’s a talented horse,” Casse said. “He likes to do what he does and if you’re not careful he can get a little too ambitious. The thing is, though, he will rate in a race.”

Bodhisattva Seeking to Make a Name for Himself

Neither horse nor trainer is exactly a household name, but owner/trainer Jose Corrales is hoping that changes by the end of the Preakness Stakes on Saturday.

“Most people can’t even pronounce his name, not even me,” said Corrales, whose colt’s rambling moniker is derived from a Buddhist term meaning “enlightened one.” Corrales, a former jockey, is himself a relative unknown outside of Maryland making his first start in a Triple Crown race in either capacity.

“He’s doing great,” Corrales said Tuesday morning from Laurel Park after his chestnut colt jogged and galloped over the main track. “I don’t know if he’s going to run a big race or what, but so far everything’s going good. I’m so low-key – I was as a jockey and now as a trainer. I never wanted to say my horse is better than your horse or my horse will win this because you never know what’s going to happen. So many things can happen in a race.”

Corrales does, however, admit that he had Kentucky Derby aspirations with the son of Student Council as far back as last year. Despite having only a maiden win on his resume, Corrales took the colt to New York to run in the Grade 2 Remsen, in which he finished fifth. A win three weeks later in a Laurel allowance revived his hopes.

But after running three minor stakes to start his sophomore season and only managing one second-place finish in the Private Terms, Corrales realized the Derby dream was over and he began to focus on the Preakness. When he won the Federico Tesio at Pimlico on April 18, it was full speed ahead to the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

“I just wanted to let my horse know one thing that I used to say as a jockey,” said Corrales, who won more than 1,000 races after coming to the U.S. from Panama in 1976. “When I was a jockey I used to say, ‘I’m not better than nobody, but nobody’s better than me.”

Rested Commissioner Takes Aim at Pimlico Special (G3)

BALTIMORE – Seven weeks after delivering a career-best performance to win his first graded stakes, WinStar Farm’s Commissioner can make it two in a row in Friday’s $300,000 Sagamore Racing Pimlico Special (G3).

The 45th running of the 1 3/16-mile Special is one of seven stakes, four of them graded, on a spectacular 14-race Black-Eyed Susan Day program at Pimlico Race Course that also includes the Ultimate Girls Day Out, a celebration of the spirit and strength of women.

Trained by seven-time Eclipse Award-winner Todd Pletcher, who won his first Special last year with Revolutionary, Commissioner posted a Beyer Speed Figure of 109 in winning the Skip Away (G3) by a neck over Sr. Quisqueyano March 28 at Gulfstream Park.

Also run at 1 3/16 miles, the Skip Away made Commissioner the only horse of 10 in the Special field with a victory at the distance. Of the six others to have tried it only Cat Burglar, third in last year’s race, has hit the board.

“The horse looks super, he’s training well and the mile and three-sixteenths suits him well. Hopefully everything is pointing in the right direction,” Pletcher said. “We always felt the Pimlico Special was going to be our next stop. It just seemed to make sense from a timing perspective, and there wasn’t enough time to run in something in between. We like the distance for him, and we’ve been pointing for this since the Skip Away.”

Commissioner was on the Triple Crown trail last year, sandwiching a third in the Sunland Derby (G3) between sixth-place finishes in the Fountain of Youth (G2) and Arkansas Derby (G1). Pletcher skipped the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness (G1) to point for the 1 ½-mile Belmont Stakes (G1), in which the 4-year-old A.P. Indy colt nearly stole the race on the front end only to be caught at the wire by Tonalist, losing by a head at odds of 28-1.

“We always felt like being a son of A.P. Indy that the Belmont was the Classic that he was best designed for,” Pletcher said. “We decided on the Peter Pan as a prep and he ran well in there. That kind of set him up for the Belmont, and we almost pulled it off.”

Following the race, Commissioner needed surgery to remove an ankle chip and did not race again until Jan. 10, finishing third by a neck in a 1 1/16-mile optional claiming allowance at Gulfstream Park. A lackluster effort in the Donn Handicap (G1) was followed by his Skip Away score.

“I think he’s fully recuperated and has come back, and like you would expect from most A.P. Indys, he seems to be getting better and better as he gets older,” Pletcher said. “Hopefully he continues to improve throughout the summer and fall.”

Commissioner will break from outside post 10, carrying Javier Castellano and top weight of 120 pounds. The two-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey was up in the Skip Away and has never been worse than third in four tries on the bay colt, including the 2014 Belmont.

“I think [the post] is OK. We’ll just try to get some position away from there,” Pletcher said. “He’s a horse that generally is pretty good away from the gate and hopefully we can get into position around the first turn without losing too much ground.”

Shrinking Violet, Emotional Kitten Breeze for Saturday Stakes

Trainer Wesley Ward breezed a pair of horses Tuesday morning at Churchill Downs in preparation for starts on Saturday’s undercard for the Preakness Stakes.

The Ward-owned Shrinking Violet went five furlongs over the turf course in 1:05.20, while Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Emotional Kitten covered the same distance in 1:05.40.

Shrinking Violet will return from a four-month layoff in the $100,000 The Very One for filly and mare sprinters 3 and up, while Emotional Kitten is headed to the $150,000 Gallorette (G3) for females three and over at 1 1/16 miles. Both races will be contested over the Pimlico turf.

Ward, reached at his home base of Gulfstream Park in Hallandale, Fla., said he got glowing reports on his workers in Kentucky.

“Shrinking Violet looked very good, as well as Emotional Kitten,” Ward said. “They’re all set and doing great. We’re very excited.”

The Very One will be Shrinking Violet’s first start since winning the 6 ½-furlong Monrovia (G2) Jan. 4 on the downhill turf course at Santa Anita. She emerged from the race with a shoulder issue that took time to heal, but the 5-year-old chestnut daughter of Congaree has been training well in recent weeks.

“I kind of had to do nothing with her for a while, brought her back slow and breezed her easy, but she still wasn’t quite right so I gave her another month off,” Ward said. “Now she’s just breathing fire again and feeling her oats, so we’re looking for a big effort.”

Ward felt 2013 Mrs. Revere (G2) winner Emotional Kitten was “immensely” compromised by soft turf in her last start, where she was never a threat in finishing sixth as the favorite in a one-mile allowance April 9 at Keeneland.

“She’s always kind of liked her feet rattling underneath her,” Ward said. “That race came up really, really salty. There were a lot of nice stakes horses in the race. To go on a surface that she just didn’t prefer, I probably should have come out of the race and looked for another spot, but I went ahead with it and suffered the consequences.”

Also on Saturday, City of Vengeance will run for Ward in the $100,000 Chick Lang for 3-year-old sprinters going six furlongs on the main track.

Allaire DuPont (G3) Contender Queen’s Blade a World Traveler

Queen’s Blade may not win the $150,000 Allaire DuPont Distaff Stakes (G3) on Friday; in fact, Pimlico-based trainer Valora Testerman would be over the moon if she did. But where the 4-year-old filly finishes really isn’t the point.

The daughter of Menifee, who finished second in the 1999 Kentucky Derby and Preakness before starting his breeding career in South Korea, Queen’s Blade is a big, strong and successful filly from the Republic of Korea. She finds herself in Baltimore as a way to help the Korean Racing Association establish a guideline for a numerical speed-figure program that will correspond to those in the United States and Europe.

It’s a tall order for Queen’s Blade, who is only here for three races and had to learn a new “language” and new operating procedure before she could even go on the race track.

“I think she did speak a different language when she first arrived,” Testerman said. The filly has since discovered a fondness for peppermints, adjusted to walking with a pony and no longer shies away from the noise of a racetrack.

“It took her awhile to adjust,” she said. “When she first got here we couldn’t even bring her out of the barn without a rider because every sound spooked her. And it’s hard just getting her a race she’s qualified for.”

The reason is based on Queen’s Blade success at home. She won seven of her 16 starts in Korea, including the Korean Derby (G1) against males and the Korean Oaks (G1), and earned nearly a million dollars. She’s also operating on time restrictions, having arrived in the midst of Maryland’s particularly cold, snowy and disruptive winter with the directive to run in three races prior to returning to Korea June 23.

None of this is new to Testerman, who has been working with Vivace Stable owner Raul Riech, who has been sending her Korean horses for several years. But the job doesn’t get easier.

“The question going into this race is: Can she run as fast as our horses do? She’s a big girl, but she breezed well on Saturday so we’ll see,” Testerman said. “I ran her in the Primonetta Stakes here at Pimlico. It was for sprinters and she’s not a sprinter, but I had to get her a race. I asked [Maryland racing secretary] Georganne [Hale] to write a race for her and she did, but no one else entered, so it didn’t go. The only races she can run in are stakes because she’s won so much and earned so much.”

As a result, Queen’s Blade finds herself in the 1 1/8-mile DuPont.

“You’d like her to be going in something easier to get her started,” Testerman said. “Stakes are hard and this is a really strong field. But I know she’s a distance runner. If she’s relaxed and runs her race, we’ll keep our fingers crossed.” 

Maturing Fortune Pearl Up for Rematch with Stopchargingmaria in DuPont

Trainer Graham Motion is looking forward to another test for his 4-year-old filly Fortune Pearl against hard-charging Todd Pletcher trainee Stopchargingmaria in the DuPont.

“She’s had enough time [to recover] since her last win at Keeneland,” Motion said. “And she was very competitive against Todd’s horse last summer.  I like to think my filly has improved since then.”

A year ago, the two horses met at Pimlico in the Black-Eyed Susan (G2), where Stopchargingmaria won and Fortune Pearl was third. But Fortune Pearl was slow to grow into form,which was not unexpected, Motion said, given her sire, Mineshaft, also developed later in his career.

“That stallion wasn’t precocious in his youth,” Motion said. “He got better as he got older and she’s gotten better as she’s matured, too. She showed very little as a 2-year-old and I ran her in a claiming race. Thank goodness no one claimed her or I’d look pretty foolish right now, with someone else having won the Delaware Oaks with her.”

Over the last year, Fortune Pearl has won three of her last five starts, including the Delaware Oaks (G2).

About Pimlico Race Course

Historic Pimlico Race Course, home of the Preakness® Stakes, the middle jewel in horse racing's famed Triple Crown, first opened its doors on October 25, 1870, and is the second oldest racetrack in the United States. Pimlico has played host to racing icons and Baltimoreans have seen the likes of legendary horses such as Man o’ War, Seabiscuit, Secretariat, Affirmed and Cigar thunder down the stretch in thrilling and memorable competition. For more information on Pimlico, visit     

Pimlico Race Course is a Stronach Group company, North America’s leading Thoroughbred racetrack owner/operator. The Stronach Group racetracks include Santa Anita Park, Gulfstream Park & Casino, Golden Gate Fields, Portland Meadows, Laurel Park and Pimlico Race Course, home of the world-famous Preakness. The company owns and operates the Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida and is one of North America's top race horse breeders through its award-winning Adena Springs operation. The Stronach Group is one of the world's largest suppliers of pari-mutuel wagering systems, technologies and services. Its companies include AmTote, a global leader in wagering technology; Xpressbet, an Internet and telephone account wagering service; and Monarch Content Management, which acts as a simulcast purchase and sales agent of horseracing content for numerous North American racetracks and wagering outlets. The Stronach Group is also a leading producer of social media content for the horseracing industry. For more information contact David Joseph atnullnullnullnullnullnull or call 954.457.6451.

About Longines, the Official Timekeeper and Watch of the Preakness Stakes Longines has been based at Saint-Imier in Switzerland since 1832. Its watchmaking expertise reflects a strong devotion to tradition, elegance and performance. Longines has generations of experience as official timekeeper of world championships and as partner of international sports federation. Known for the elegance of its timepieces, Longines is a member of the Swatch Group Ltd, the World’s leading manufacturer of horological products. With the winged hourglass as its emblem, the brand has outlets in over 140 countries.


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