Preakness Notes : 3 Days Until The Big Race

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Trainer Graham Chooses Black-Eyed Susan for Gypsy Judy

BALTIMORE – Though she entered James Hibbert’s homebred Gypsy Judy in a pair of stakes on Friday at Pimlico Race Course, trainer Robin Graham only had one race in mind.  

The Laurel Park-based Graham is ready to saddle Gypsy Judy in the 91st running of the $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2). The 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-old fillies is one of seven stakes on a spectacular 14-race program that includes the $300,000 Pimlico Special (G3), $150,000 Allaire DuPont (G3) and $150,000 Adena Springs Miss Preakness (G3).

As part of the day Pimlico is also hosting the Ultimate Girls Day Out with several events dedicated to the spirit and strength of women.

Winner of the seven-furlong Wide Country Stakes Feb. 16 at Laurel, Gypsy Judy will be making her graded debut in the Black-Eyed Susan. She was cross-entered in the $100,000 Hilltop, also for sophomore fillies, going 1 1/16 miles on the grass.

“I’ve been thinking about the Black-Eyed Susan all along,” Graham said. “Even when the nominations come out, someone can always stick a supplement in there just to cover our bases, I entered her in the Hilltop, also. I had an opportunity to work her on the grass and everything was great, but we were really thinking about the Black-Eyed Susan. There’s always a turf race to go in, but there’s only one Black-Eyed Susan.”

In her most recent start, Gypsy Judy ran third behind Grade 1 winner By the Moon in the one-mile Caesar’s Wish Stakes March 21 at Laurel. She didn’t make her career debut until Nov. 20, when she was beaten a neck by Spotted Heart in a Laurel maiden special at six furlongs, with Stellar Wind another half-length back in third.

Spotted Heart went on to win the Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship Stakes and Stellar Wind has become a multiple-graded stakes winner, including the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) April 4. Second in that race was Luminance, the 9-5 program favorite for the Black-Eyed Susan. Gypsy Judy is listed at 20-1 on the morning line.

“We only have to ship 45 minutes up the road and everyone else has to come a lot further,” Graham said. “I don’t know who [the public] will make the favorite but I would think Luminance would be one of the top ones. Stellar Wind beat her in California and we beat Stellar Wind. I know a lot has changed since they were babies and first-time starters but, still, it doesn’t look totally ridiculous to try it.”

Graham has two other horses to run in Black-Eyed Susan Day stakes. Xmas Sky (20-1), a half-brother to Gypsy Judy, will take on Maryland-bred multiple-graded stakes winner Ben’s Cat in the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint, while Lady Sabelia is the even-money morning-line favorite in the $100,000 Skipat.

The McKay is a five-furlong turf sprint for 3-year-olds and up. The Skipat is for fillies and mares going six furlongs on the main track.

“Having horses to run on that kind of day is really great,” Graham said.

Mrs. Frank P. Wright’s Lady Sabelia had a four-race win streak snapped in the Madison (G1) April 4 at Keeneland, setting a blazing early pace and fading to sixth. She won three straight stakes prior to that, capped by a front-running 1 ½-length victory in the Feb. 14 Barbara Fritchie (G2).

“She’s just really an honest mare. She’s got a ton of class and when you ask her to run, she runs,” Graham said. “She’s got enough natural speed to run three-quarters without having to rush. If a horse gets out real fast and wants to open up, that’s fine. She can sit back and wait. She’s doing great.”

Another Hibbert homebred, Xmas Sky was most recently fifth behind multiple stakes winner Page McKenney in the First Responder Stakes in October at Parx. He cuts back to a sprint for the first time since last May in his 6-year-old debut.

“When he first started running he was originally running five-eighths all the time. I figured it wasn’t a bad distance to try him,” Graham said. “I’d have to train him another month to go a mile and a sixteenth. He’d have to run against those same horses if it was an allowance race, so we figured we may as well go ahead and run that day, see if he can pick up a check and help contribute to the day.”

Keen Pauline Making Stakes Debut in Black-Eyed Susan

Stonestreet Stable's Keen Pauline has faced stakes-caliber fillies, but not in a stakes race. She'll get her chance Friday when she makes her stakes debut in the $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2).

“This filly is one that's just coming around, and I'm taking a chance that she has her breakthrough race here,” trainer Dale Romans said. “She acts like she's doing good enough to do that, and I've always thought a lot of her. I don't think we've seen the best of her. Hopefully, it's in this race.”

A Stonestreet Stable homebred, Keen Pauline is a daughter of Pulpit and the Two Punch mare Grand Pauline. The filly has won one of five starts. 

As a 2-year-old at Churchill Downs, she finished in front of such fillies as I'm a Chatterbox, an eventual multiple-graded stakes winner at Fair Grounds who ran third in the Kentucky Oaks (G1), and Fantasy (G2) runner-up Oceanwave, who would finish seventh in the Kentucky Oaks.

This year, Keen Pauline ran third in a Gulfstream Park race won by Eskenformoney, who would go on to the Kentucky Oaks. Keen Pauline debuted in a Saratoga turf race won by Lady Eli, the eventual Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) winner. Puca, who wound up 12th in the Kentucky Oaks, was third in that maiden race.

“She's run with some good ones and run competitive with them, and I really think she's a good filly,” Romans said. “And I think she's on the verge of breaking out and showing everybody how good she really is.”

As far as Romans is concerned, he is owed a Black-Eyed Susan victory after a disqualification cost his trainee Smart N Pretty a win in 2006. Smart N Pretty finished first, 3 ½ lengths in front of jockey Ramon Dominguez and Regal Engagement, but placed second following an inquiry and objection for interference. 

Regina Christina, Brenda’s Way Ready for Friday Stakes

After searching Friday’s Black-Eyed Susan Day undercard for a spot to run his filly Regina Christina, trainer Damon Dilodovico ultimately settled on the $150,000 Adena Springs Miss Preakness (G3).

“This one is a lot tougher than we hoped,” Dilodovico said. “It’s a very salty race; all the races appear to be. We have Brenda’s Way in the [Allaire DuPont Distaff (G3)] and it’s the same way.  Did you see it, with the Black-Eyed Susan (G2) winner from last year in there? I think the racing secretary and those guys in her office may have done their jobs too well.”

In fact, Maryland Jockey Club racing secretary Georganne Hale said her staff has done an excellent job.

“I think this is the strongest Black-Eyed Susan Day card I’ve ever had, with the stakes and the undercard,” said Hale, who has been in charge since 2000. “If we don’t have rain, the handle should be huge. The whole racing office worked hard, talking to trainers and getting horses to us for Friday. We’re very proud of how it has turned out, and I think the card will be just as good Saturday.”

Dilodovico said that despite the challenges presented, he is eager to see how his fillies run.

“We’re very excited to get Regina Christina in a race,” Dilodovico said. “She breezed very well, but she’s kind of full of herself.  By race day I want a controlled ‘full of herself.’ Our best shot will be for her to be near the front of the pact. Obviously, the horses we’re running against are great horses. Setting up a race to go the way you want won’t be easy for anyone.”

Dilodovico claimed the daughter of Stonesider in January for Adam Staple’s Big Bertha Stables. She hasn’t finished worse than third in five career starts on dirt, but she comes into the Miss Preakness off a ninth-place finish in the Stormy Blues Stakes on turf last month at Pimlico.

“The last start, there was some thinking she might have some turf pedigree, but we knew it wasn’t going to be her day,” Dilodovico said. “But she’s 100 percent and ready to go on the dirt now.”

The trainer feels equally good about his DuPont entry Brenda’s Way, who has won 50 percent of her races and also has two seconds.

“She looks great,” he said. “Her coat looks super and [jockey Jevian] Toledo came over and worked her [Sunday] for us.  It was a nice controlled workout and she really looks good. But, again, the field is full of really good horses.”

‘Racing the Times’ to Premiere Friday on Maryland Public TV

Maryland Public Television will broadcast a new documentary on the history of Maryland thoroughbred racing Friday at 9 p.m.  ‘Racing the Times,’ from Emmy Award-winning director W. Drew Perkins, will tell the story of Maryland’s unequaled 300-year horse breeding and racing history through re-creations, interviews with racing industry leaders and historical vignettes.

Among the many stories the film will touch are those of America’s first official horse race held in Annapolis in 1743; the great match races of 1877, when the U.S. Congress closed its doors and members rode a train to Pimlico to be on hand; the 1938 Pimlico Special between Seabiscuit and War Admiral; and the 1983 Preakness victory of Deputed Testamony, the lone Maryland-bred to claim the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

The film will have re-broadcasts May 16 at 1 a.m. on MPT and May 28 at 8 p.m. on MPT-2.

American Pharoah 4-5 Morning-Line Favorite for Saturday’s Preakness

BALTIMORE – Kentucky Derby (G1) winner American Pharoah was installed as the 4-5 morning-line favorite for Saturday’s 140th running of the Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course.

The Zayat Stables’ homebred colt headlines an eight-horse field entered Wednesday for the $1.5 million Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown. The Bob Baffert-trained son of Pioneeerof the Nile, who drew the No.1 post position, is scheduled to be joined in the starting gate Saturday by stablemate Dortmund, Kaleem Shah’s third-place Kentucky Derby finisher, who was rated second in the morning-line at 7-2 after drawing the No. 2 post.  Arnold Zetcher’s Firing Line, who finished a length behind American Pharoah and two lengths in front of Dortmund in the Derby, is rated third in the morning line at 4-1 and drew the No. 8 post.

The Top 3 Kentucky Derby finishers arrived at Pimlico Wednesday afternoon following a flight from Louisville that also included  two other Preakness entrants, John Oxley’s Danzig Moon, the fifth-place Derby finisher, and Charles Fipke’s Tale of Verve, who was entered in the Derby but did not draw into the race from the also-eligible list.

Also entered in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness were Lexington Stakes (G3) winner Divining Rod, Calumet Stable’s newly acquired Mr. Z and Federico Tesio winner Bodhisattva.

Preakness Stakes Post Position Draw Quotes

Trainer Bob Baffert (American Pharoah, PP #1, 4-5) (Dortmund, PP #2, 7-2): “I can’t believe I drew the 1-2 of all draws. I’m just glad I didn’t draw that for the Derby. Sometimes you’ve got to give a little. It’s a short field, eight horses. He still has to break well. If he’s the best horse, we’ll find out.”

(Is it easier because it’s a small field?): “I don’t like the inside. I never like the one-hole. Sometimes they don’t break as well. He’s drawn the one-hole before at Santa Anita. When I was watching the draw and all these numbers were coming up, I go, ‘This is not looking good.’ It’s the luck of draw. We’re there. I don’t love it, but they’ll be easy to watch.”

Trainer Simon Callaghan (Firing Line, PP #8, 4-1): “We're happy with that. We've got options from out there. It's perfect. We're happy.”

“I guess [the rail post position] makes it a little tougher for [American Pharoah], but we're certainly happy with our post position.''

Jockey Gary Stevens (Firing Line): “If I can draw the trip up the same way that I would have drawn the draw up, then we're in good shape. I'm pretty pleased.”

(On American's Pharoah's position):  “I think it's going to force their hand a little, and then with Mr. Z. drawn to the outside, I don't think it's any secret, Wayne wanted his horse up close in the Derby. New owners, new connections now. It's really going to force their hand down inside, and I'll have options. He's sat before. I sat in the Bob Lewis, and I was second to Dortmund the first time. He'll sit about any trip. I wasn't overly concerned about the draw. I told (owner) Mr. (Arnold) Zetcher just prior to it, I'd love the outside, but if we don't, I'll be fine with where we're at. But with the way everybody else drew, with those three being down inside, it gives me a lot of options.''

Trainer Arnaud Delacour (Divining Rod, PP #7, 12-1): “I’m kind of happy with that. There is a lot of speed on the inside with American Pharoah and Dortmund. We should be able to get a position, sit off the pace and see what happens.”

Trainer Mark Casse (Danzig Moon, PP #4, 15-1): “I thought it was a great post. We know they’re all going to outrun us, so hopefully we can tuck in. Hopefully the rail’s good and we can come with a good run.” 

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas (Mr. Z, PP #3, 20-1): “It's fine. There's a long run to the turn, so I don't think it's that significant. We're going to probably be forwardly placed. We've got a horse on the outside of us, a couple of them, that haven't got a lot of speed, so I think we'll be OK from there. It's a good spot. I was very pleased with it.”

“He didn't get any chance to run in the Derby. I think he'll run a good race. He didn't get a lot out of the Derby and he's training well. We'll give him a shot. I've been lucky here before.”

Owner/Trainer Jose Corrales (Bodhisattva, PP #6, 20-1): “I like it. I like the outside position better than the inside position. The other two horses inside of me (Dortmund and American Pharaoh) have a lot of speed. My horse used to be a come-from-behind horse, but now he can play either way. It’s a tough race; we’ll see what happens from there.”

Jockey Trevor McCarthy (Bodhisattva): “I think it’s a great position to be near the middle with the speed down on the fence, which is great. We’ll just have to see how everybody breaks. I haven’t talked to Jose yet to see what the plan is. We’ll go over the race together and see what our plan is.”

Trainer Dallas Stewart (Tale of Verve, PP #5, 30-1): “My post position is fine. We’re in the middle and he’s a come-from-behind horse.”


Preakness Stakes a Favorite for Familiar Face Bob Baffert

BALTIMORE – Though he’ll be on a mission to win Saturday’s 140th running of the Preakness Stakes with either Kentucky Derby winner American Pharoah or Derby third-place finisher Dortmund, Bob Baffert won’t be all business when he arrives at Pimlico Race Course Wednesday.

The Hall of Fame trainer likes the Preakness and looks forward to making pretty much annual spring visits to Baltimore.

“It's the fun leg of the Triple Crown,” Baffert said. ”Everybody is having a good time and enjoying Baltimore. It's a beautiful little city. Everybody is in the same barn. It's a lot of fun.

“It's a laid-back very relaxing type atmosphere. They roll out the red carpet. They treat us well and we enjoy ourselves.”

The Preakness Stakes Barn is unique to Pimlico and its marquee race. With very few exceptions, all of the runners are stabled under the same roof. It's a one-stop location for the media and racing fans to find the stars of the Derby and the new shooters on the Triple Crown trail.

“It's just fun,” Baffert said. “There is security and all that, but everybody really gets to see the horses. It's a big barn with plenty of room. They're not piled up on top of each other.”

Baffert knows the Preakness drill well. If they go to the gate as planned, American Pharaoh and Dortmund will be his 16th and 17th starters since he debuted with Cavonnier, who was fourth in 1996. For the next few years, Baffert seemed to own the race. He won with Derby winners Silver Charm in 1997 and Real Quiet in 1998. He earned his third title in 2001 with Point Given and added No. 4 the following year with his third Derby winner, War Emblem. In eight consecutive appearances he won three times and was third once.

Following a five-year gap without a Preakness starter, Baffert returned in 2009 to start what is now a seven-year run. He won with Lookin at Lucky in 2010 and was second to I'll Have Another with Bodemeister in 2012. He has a 5-1-1 record from 15 starters in a span of 19 years.

Preakness records from 1909 show D. Wayne Lukas with the most starters, 40, with six wins in the 33 years from 1980 through 2013. Nick Zito saddled 21 runners in 20 years. Max Hirsch had 19 starters in a span of 53 years and fellow Hall of Famer Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons brought 18 runners to the Preakness in 52 years.

Robert Walden, a star of the 19th century, leads Preakness trainers with seven wins, five of them in consecutive years, and Lukas has six. Baffert is tied for third with Thomas J. Healey, who snagged his five wins in the 1920s.

Baffert started his Triple Crow;n career with a flurry of success, but this will be the first Derby winner he has brought to Baltimore in 13 years.

“I feel that I should have brought the Derby winner a few more times but they had bad luck in the Derby,” he said.

Two of them, Point Given and Lookin at Lucky, were the best in Baltimore after disappointing in Louisville, Ky.

The morning after American Pharoah's Derby victory, Baffert was in a reflective mood and didn't serve up nearly as many funny lines. He said his approach had to do with perspective and winning with the favorite.

“That was because I know how difficult it is to do it,” he said. “Whether you have the best horse or not, it's difficult. It was a relief.”

Baffert has his fourth Derby, matching Lukas' total. On Saturday, he will attempt to equal Lukas' number in the Preakness. Rivals and pals, Baffert asked Lukas to be his presenter at his Hall of Fame induction in 2009.

Both of them have had plenty of success in the Triple Crown series, but neither one has completed the sweep. Yet. Though Baffert will have the Derby winner in the Preakness Stakes Barn this week, he will be doing his best not to talk about the prospect of a Triple Crown.

“I'm not even thinking about it,” he said. “We have to win first. To me, the shoulda, woulda, couldas – I don't roll that way. My job is to get them there and try to run first and second.”

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 www.pimlico.com.     

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 at or call 954.457.6451.

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