Animal Kingdom Likely Morning-Line Favorite

NEHRO WORKS, PREAKNESS DECISION ON TUESDAY

Ruler On Ice Out; Concealed Identity Likely In

 

ANIMAL KINGDOM– Trainer Graham Motion sent his Kentucky Derby winner out for a 1 ½-mile gallop on the dirt track at Fair Hill Training Center Monday morning.

     The Team Valor International homebred trained on the synthetic Tapeta surface Sunday morning following heavy overnight rain that left the dirt track muddy, but Motion decided to go back to the dirt Monday. 

     “It was not ideal, but it was fine,” Motion said.

     Aside from the wet conditions, everything is going well with the Leroidesanimaux colt, Motion said, as he moves closer to the second stop in the Triple Crown series at Pimlico.

     A full field of 14 horses is expected to be entered Wednesday morning. While the Preakness typically draws fields between 10 and 13 runners, it is rare for the maximum number to go the gate. The last time14 horses ran in the Preakness was in 2005 after Giacomo won the Derby at odds of 50-1. Prior to 2005, the last time the Preakness attracted 14 runners was in 1992 when the top three finishers in the Derby were Lil E. Tee at 16-1, Casual Lies at 29-1 and Dance Floor at 33-1.

     Although Animal Kingdom was a convincing winner of the Derby by 2 ¾ widening lengths, his victory at odds of 20-1 has not scared the competition, including as many as five other Derby runners, from testing him again in the Preakness.

 “I kind of expected as much. Hopefully, we get a halfway decent post position,” Motion said.

     Maryland Jockey Club linemaker Frank Carulli said he plans to make Animal Kingdom the morning-line favorite when post positions are drawn Wednesday, but Motion said he wouldn’t be surprised if his colt did not go off as the betting favorite.

ASTROLOGY/NEHRO– Trainer Steve Asmussen said a decision on whether to run Nehro in the Preakness will be announced Tuesday by the colt’s owner, Ahmed Zayat.

     Asmussen and Zayat watched the Kentucky Derby runner-up breeze a half-mile in 50 4/5 seconds over the sloppy and sealed track at Churchill Downs Monday morning. The question that Asmussen and Zayat are dealing with is whether to have the colt run for the fourth time in eight weeks or wait for the Belmont Stakes on June 11.  

     “He traveled well, seemed to come back from it well and we’re very pleased with him,” Asmussen said.

     Nehro, who continues to be listed as “possible” for the Preakness, turned in fractions of :12 4/5, :25 2/5 and :37 4/5, and galloped out five furlongs in 1:05 1/5.

     “We had Mr. Zayat here with us and we will just see how we feel in the morning,” Asmussen said. “There is no sense in making a decision until (Tuesday).”

     Prior to the Derby on May 7, Nehro was second in the Louisiana Derby (G2) on March 26 and second in the Arkansas Derby (G1) on April 16.

     “He’s done a lot over a short period of time,” Asmussen said.  “I think you’re trying to evaluate the runs, the races themselves and how he’s doing, while also trying to weigh the opportunity that is ahead of you.”

     Stonestreet Stable and George Bolton’s Iroquois (G3) winner Astrologycovered the half-mile distance in 51.60 seconds just after the track opened for training at 6 a.m. Nehro came out a little later. Carlos Rosas was in the saddle for both works.

     Astrology, considered a definite starter in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown, turned in fractional times of :14 2/5, :27 2/5 and :39 2/5 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:06 1/5.

     “He went over the track very well, very handy,” Asmussen said.  “There were concerns about an awfully wet racetrack this morning, but he handled it well and went over it well.”

CONCEALED IDENTITY – The Federico Tesio Stakes winner is “80-20” to run in Saturday’s Preakness, said Linda Gaudet, who owns the son of 2004 Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones in partnership with Morris Bailey.

     With the defection of Ruler On Ice Monday morning, the Bowie Training Center-based Concealed Identity moved into the prospective Preakness field, which is limited to 14 horses.

      “We’re very realistic. We’re shooting for the stars, but other than the horses from the Derby – the 1-2-3-4 finishers that are coming – we’re on the same page with the other horses,” said Gaudet, the wife of trainer Eddie Gaudet. “The horse has run very well at Pimlico and has done everything we’ve asked.”

     Concealed Identity, who won the Maryland Juvenile Championship last year, was winless in three starts this year before being sent around two turns at Pimlico on April 15, when he won an entry-level allowance by more than three lengths. The Maryland-bred gelding came right back on May 7 to score a two-length victory over favored Ruler On Ice in the Tesio.

     “We don’t have to ship. The horse has run well at Pimlico, so that’s always been an advantage,” Gaudet said. “Eddie hasn’t had a horse in the Preakness before and they don’t come along very often. Is he a superstar? Probably not, but he’s a nice little horse.

     It’s an opportunity we might take advantage of. It’s home; it’s close; he’s good; we’re all a little excited.”

     Sheldon Russell will retain the mount, said Gaudet.

DANCE CITY– The son of City Zip, who hasn’t raced since finishing third in the Arkansas Derby, had a light jog a little over a mile at Churchill Downs  Monday, a day after his bullet work (five furlongs in 1:00 1/5).

     “It seems like he’s coming up to the race well,” said trainer Todd Pletcher from his base in New York at Belmont Park. He said that plans are to go to the track Tuesday morning, then ship to Pimlico on the first of two flights for Preakness contenders from Louisville on Wednesday.

     Pletcher was forced to scratch 2-year-old champion Uncle Mo from the Kentucky Derby (intestinal disorder) and had to settle for 12th place with Stay Thirsty a year after winning his first Derby. The Preakness is the only Triple Crown race to elude Pletcher, but he doesn’t feel as though Dance City is a third-stringer as some have described him.

     “I’d say he could step up to first string in a hurry on Saturday,” he said. “At least that’s what we’re hoping for.”

      And Pletcher said he’s unconcerned about distance limitations with his colt, who won at nine furlongs in his maiden-breaker and finished less than two lengths behind winner Archarcharch in the Arkansas Derby.

     “He seems to be physically all about his mother’s side,” said Pletcher, whose colt is out of the Pleasant Colony mare Ballet Colony. “He’s a big, scopey, leggy horse that if you didn’t look at the paper you wouldn’t know he’s by City Zip. He’s got tactical speed, but he’s a horse that’s made to run two turns.”

DIALED IN – Robert LaPenta’s Dialed In galloped 1 ½ miles under Stacy Prior on a sloppy track on a damp, brisk Monday morning at Churchill Downs.

     “He handled it well out there,” trainer Nick Zito said of the morning activity for Dialed In, who never has run on a track other than fast. “I don’t think an off track would bother him. He had a good day.”

     Dialed In was favored to win the Kentucky Derby after winning the Holy Bull (G3) and Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park. The son of Mineshaft was squeezed at the start and trailed the 19-horse field as Shackleford set slow fractions for the first six furlongs. The Zito trainee closed strongly to finish eighth, less than eight lengths behind victorious Animal Kingdom.

     “You just can’t win in those situations, but he came with his run,” Zito said. “It was probably the best eighth-place finish in Kentucky Derby history.”

     Dialed In will be eligible to parlay his Florida victories into a $6.1 million payday with a victory in the Preakness, including $5.5 million in bonuses offer by MI Developments’ Preakness 5.5 bonus series.

     “He came out of the race great. He was very happy today,” Zito said. “Physically, he looks great.”

ISN’T HE PERFECT– The waiting game continued Monday for New York-based trainer Doodnauth Shivmangal, whose chances of having his first Preakness runner make the field became slimmer with the likely entry of Concealed Identity.

     If Concealed Identity goes, Isn’t He Perfect would stand 15th on the list of Preakness hopefuls based on earnings, with the impending decision regarding Nehro deciding his fate.

     “I’m thinking positive,” said Shivmangal, the Guyana native who gave up training for almost 15 years before returning to the backstretch in 2009. “I’m thinking that we’re going to get in.”

     A son of multiple-stakes winner Pleasantly Perfect and a South American mare, Isn’t He Perfect has yet to hit the board in three stakes starts this season, most recently finishing fifth in the Jerome over a sloppy track at Aqueduct on April 23.

     His career earnings of $90,222 left Isn’t He Perfect about $30,000 behind Concealed Identity, but if Derby runner-up Nehro does not enter, that becomes a moot point.

     “He’s doing really, really, really, really good,” said Shivmangal Monday after his colt jogged around the Belmont Park training track. Channing Hill has been aboard in his last two starts, but Shivmangal said he was still undecided about a rider for the Preakness. 

     KING CONGIE – West Point Thoroughbreds’ King Congie walked the shedrow Monday morning after working five furlongs in 1:04 3/5 around the dogs at Belmont Park on Sunday.

     The son of Badge of Silver is coming off a third-place finish in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 16, when he encountered traffic but still came within a head of his victorious stablemate Brilliant Speed.

     King Congie’s brief career has pretty much mirrored that of Brilliant Speed. Both horses debuted on dirt before finding success on turf and synthetic surfaces.

     “They’re almost the same the way they’ve developed. They both started on the dirt and made a transition to the turf and ran very well. They’ve run together on two different occasions, and in their last race in the Blue Grass, they finished just a head apart. They both seem to be making a big step forward in their careers at the same time,” said trainer Tom Albertrani, who is pointing Brilliant Speed to the Belmont Stakes on June 11.

     Robbie Albarado will ride King Congie for the first time in the Preakness.

MIDNIGHT INTERLUDE– Five-time Preakness-winning trainer Bob Baffert said Midnight Interlude, the 16th-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, passed the test in a breeze at Churchill Downs Monday morning and is headed to Baltimore this week.

      “I was always coming to Pimlico. I just wanted to make sure he was fine,” Baffert said. “I had to give him the hairy eyeball.”

     Baffert returned to Kentucky from his home base in California to watch the breeze – three furlongs in 35 3/5 seconds – which was done over a sloppy track.

     Working on his own under assistant trainer Peter Hutton, the Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner posted a first furlong fraction of :12 and then gallop-out times of :48 3/5 and 1:02 4/5 before pulling up at the half-mile pole.

     “He looked good. He looked strong and came out of it very well,” Baffert said. “The track was pretty greasy today. I just wanted to put a little pep in his step, and it looks like he came out of the work great and it looks like he’s happy.

     “We’re taking a shot at it. I don’t know what happened in the Derby, but he never ran a jump. I think he needs to run his Santa Anita race back and that will put him right in the hunt.”

     Midnight Interlude broke from the 15 hole for the Kentucky Derby and Baffert feels the post position draw will be the key for his horse in a 14-horse Preakness field.

     For Baffert, who saddled last year’s winner Lookin At Lucky, there is no question of who the horse to beat is in Saturday’s Preakness.

     “Animal Kingdom is definitely the horse to beat,” said Baffert, who will name Martin Garcia to replace Victor Espinoza on Midnight Interlude. “He was the best horse in the Derby, no question.”

     Baffert confirmed that The Factor will not be entered in the Preakness.

MR. COMMONS– St. George Farm Racing’s colt stood in the gate Monday morning before jogging and galloping at Hollywood Park.

     The son of turf champion Artie Schiller will begin his journey to Baltimore and the Preakness at 2 a.m. (PDT) Tuesday and fly to Louisville, Ky. He will take a second flight to Baltimore on Wednesday.

     Mr. Commons, the third-place finisher in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) on April 9, has worked four times for the Preakness, the first a fast half-mile and then three at seven furlongs. On Friday, he completed the seven furlongs under jockey Victor Espinoza in a quick 1:24 2/5.

     “The timing for the races was a little messed up,” trainer John Shirreffs said. “I just opted for longer works in lieu of a race because there wasn’t an opportunity to run him anywhere. The timing was kind of screwed up between races. And he not having had a lot of experience, I wanted to get him into the rhythm of a nice long stride, covering the ground and not being in a hurry.”

     Shirreffs said the colt was following the program until the work on Friday.

     “He was very good; he was just doing it really fast,” Shirreffs said. “A week before the race, I didn’t want him to go too fast. I was hoping maybe he would go around in 1:25-and-change or 1:26, but he was motoring around there.”

     Shirreffs said that he isn’t worried that Mr. Commons went too fast too close to the Preakness.

     “I don’t think it will affect him. It was eight days out,” Shirreffs said. “I told Victor, ‘don’t worry, he’s a very fit horse so we’re not working him for any type of conditioning. We’re just working him because we want that stride and rhythm thing going on.’

      “I was very surprised last week when he worked seven eighths; he handled it very well. This week when he went seven eighths it wasn’t any more than a gallop. He cooled out so fast. As a matter of fact, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a horse come out of a work as well as he did.”

     MUCHO MACHO MAN – Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Dream Team Racing’s Mucho Macho Man galloped 1 ½ miles under exercise rider Mike Herra over the Belmont Park training track Monday morning.

     “He’s settled into his training schedule. He has a lot of energy. He loves his job. He loves to train, he really does,” trainer Kathy Ritvo said. “We’ll probably do a little something tomorrow, hopefully, if the weather holds up – maybe three-eighths or let him do something down the lane. No big deal.”

     Considering that Mucho Macho Man is a June 15th foal, Ritvo was particularly pleased with the manner in which he handled the commotion and rigors of the Kentucky Derby while offering a professional third-place performance.

“I was so proud of him that he kept his energy for when he needed to use it, and he’s still a baby.” Ritvo said. “He’s pretty laid back. He never gets upset at anything. I’ve never seen him shaken up.”

NORMAN ASBJORNSON – Thomas McClay and Harry Nye’s Norman Asbjornson galloped 1 ½ miles at Bowie Training Center Monday morning.

     The 3-year-old son of 1998 Derby and Preakness winner Real Quiet only came into his own when he was sent around two turns late last year after three off-the-board finishes at sprint distances.

     “He’s a Pennsylvania-bred colt so it’s important to run in state-bred races up there, because you get the bonuses. I couldn’t get any of the 2-year-old and or even early 3-year-old races to go two turns up there. The races just didn’t fill,” trainer Chris Grove said. “Finally the late 2-year-old races and early 3-year-old races began to fill and he was able to show what he can do.”

     Norman Asbjornson broke his maiden in a mile maiden special weights race at Penn National on Dec. 8. He came back to win an entry-level allowance race at Parx Racing on Jan. 15 before heading to Aqueduct, where he finished second in the Gotham and fourth in the Wood Memorial.

RULER ON ICE– George and Lori Hall’s Ruler On Ice isn’t likely to run in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes, trainer Kelly Breen said Monday morning.

     “He’s fine. I haven’t talked to the owners yet, but I don’t believe we’re going to make the Preakness. I’ll talk to them later today and try to see what’s best for the horse. It’s a long year. We might think about the Belmont, but I’m not sure,” Breen said. “He came out of that last race with low blood, and we’re just trying to get him pumped up right now.”

     Ruler On Ice finished second as the 3-2 favorite in the Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico on May 7.

SARATOGA RED – Robert Baker and William Mack’sSaratoga Red came out of a Sunday work in 1:02 4/5 for five furlongs in good order, according to trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Saratoga Red walked Monday morning.

     Saratoga Red would need two more defections to draw into the 14-horse Preakness field. Lukas told Maryland Jockey Club stakes coordinator Coley Blind that if the son of Eddington doesn’t get into the Preakness, he would be supplemented to the $100,000 William Donald Schaefer Memorial Stakes (G3) on Saturday’s undercard.

SHACKLEFORD– Trainer Dale Romans came to the 2010 Preakness with high hopes and a dangerous front-runner named First Dude, who finished a strong second to Lookin At Lucky. He figures to have another solid contender on Saturday in Derby pacesetter Shackleford.

     “He’s doing great,” said Romans from Churchill Downs after his fourth-place Derby finisher went for a morning gallop. “He’s just going to gallop into the race. He’ll school in the paddock and in the gate one day up there, but that’ll be it.”

     The son of Forestry appears to have a lot in common with First Dude, who displayed dangerous speed throughout his 3-year-old campaign, but Romans said the similarities end there.

     “This horse has a lot better turn of foot,” Romans said. “First Dude was a big freight train who just got going and kept going. This horse can quicken a lot easier than First Dude could. He can sit off them; he doesn’t have to be in front.”

     Shackleford is scheduled to be aboard the second of two flights from Louisville on Wednesday and will be making his fifth start of the season. His best finish was a second to Dialed In in the Florida Derby at odds of nearly 70-1. Jesus Castanon will be aboard seeking his first Preakness win. 

SWAY  AWAY– There is plenty of Preakness influence in Sway Away’s pedigree, a factor that is not lost on the camp of the son of 2005 winner Afleet Alex, and the disappointment of missing the Kentucky Derby field by one defection could be a mixed blessing,

     Sway Away’s dam is a daughter of 1977 Preakness winner Seattle Slew and a granddaughter of 1990 winner Summer Squall.

     “He’s got a very good pedigree, there’s no doubt of that,” Bonde said from his barn at Hollywood Park. “We’re going to hope that our disadvantage from (Kentucky) will be our advantage this weekend, absolutely.”

     Sway Away had the lead in mid-stretch in the Arkansas Derby under jockey Pat Valenzuela, but weakened to finish fourth as Archarcharch and eventual Kentucky Derby runner-up Nehro came charging past. Sway Away narrowly missed the graded-stakes earnings necessary to get into the starting gate at Churchill, but stablemate Twice The Appeal did and finished 10th for Bonde.

     “I was hoping that both horses could run,” he said. “Each race is a new race and we’re hopeful of having Sway Away run a good race there.”

      Sway Away walked the shedrow at Churchill Downs Monday for the second day following his six-furlong breeze in 1:13 3/5 on Saturday. He is scheduled to be aboard the first flight from Louisville on Wednesday, leaving at approximately 8:30 a.m.

-MJC-