California Chrome, Sherman Take Aim At Middle Jewel

RIDE ON CURLIN BREEZES ‘EASY’ HALF-MILE IN 49 3/5 SECONDS;
TRAVEL DAY FOR BAYERN, DYNAMIC IMPACT, RIA ANTONIA, PABLO DEL MONTE

CALIFORNIA CHROME– Trainer Art Sherman was typically upbeat Wednesday morning after watching his Kentucky Derby (G1) winner California Chrome gallop 1 1/2 miles in preparation for Saturday’s 139th Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course.

Sherman spent nine days between the Derby and the Preakness in California supervising his stable based at Los Alamitos, while his son, Alan, oversaw the daily training of California Chrome.

Art Sherman, 77, inspected the horse after flying to Baltimore Tuesday and watched him gallop under exercise rider Willie Delgado Wednesday shortly before 7 a.m. on a gray, damp, chilly morning.

“I thought it was a good gallop,” Sherman said. “He looked around quite a bit the first time around like he usually does. He’s a very inquisitive horse. Then he took a hold of the bit and was pulling pretty good the next time around. That’s his style and the way he gallops every day.”

California Chrome won the Derby impressively over a track surface that Sherman and his son said he tolerated. Sherman reported that the son of Lucky Pulpit appeared comfortable at Pimlico.

“He looked like he handled it really well.  It’s got a nice cushion on it, this track,” Sherman said. “It reminds me of the days I rode back here in the East. I always liked that kind of dirt. It’s different than the synthetic tracks. He’s run on four different tracks already so I don’t think you have to take the race track with him when he performs.”

Sherman’s one concern has been the 14-day turnaround between the Derby and the Preakness. So far, he is satisfied that California Chrome is ready for another demanding test.

“It always bothers me coming back in two weeks, like I think it does most trainers,” Sherman said. “It takes a horse a good 10 days to bounce out of a race good, but he’s holding his weight, which is a big factor. He’s eating good; he finished every oat last night. He seems to be thriving in this type of training, so I’m sure not changing anything. Let’s go for it.”

California Chrome was measured this week and Sherman estimated that Steven Coburn and Perry Martin’s homebred colt had gained 35 pounds since running in the Derby.

Sherman’s smile widened when asked if California Chrome was the horse to beat in the 139th Preakness.

“Well, I wouldn’t want to be in anybody else’s shoes right now, I’ll tell you that,” he said.

Later in  his conversation with the media outside the Preakness Stakes Barn, Sherman returned to the difficulty of coming back so quickly in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown against seven fresh contenders this year and in the Belmont Stakes another three weeks down the road.

“The challenge is there,” Sherman said. “I’m not one to run back in two weeks. I know it’s a tradition, but it’s hard on the horses. I can see where they have a lot of fresh shooters; they miss the Derby and then they come for you at the Preakness. It’s going to be even worse when I get to the mile-and-a-half race at the Belmont; they’re going to have a lot of horses in the wings waiting for me there.

“I’ve got to keep my horse happy and fresh and hope he’s in top shape. I don’t have to do much with him. He’s one of those horses that almost trains himself. He does what he has to do and you can see in the afternoon what he does. I don’t have to prove anything. He’s on a five-race winning streak. There is always pressure, but sometimes I look back at the races and he even blows my mind the way he moves away from the field – some good horses. I just keep my fingers crossed that he has a good trip.”

Although the Derby field included a number of horses that had shown speed in their careers, the race was run in a slow time. California Chrome could encounter a quicker pace scenario in the Preakness.

“The Preakness field is different to me because of the speed-laden horses that are in there,” Sherman said. “I’ve watched Bayern run at Santa Anita and he’s got a lot of gas. I’ve seen there are a couple of new shooters in here. Wesley Ward’s horse (Pablo Del Monte) has speed. Social Inclusion has speed. I’m just going off paper.

“But my horse, people don’t realize, has got a little gas himself. He’s run some super races. He can go :22, 45, 1:09 and change, a mile in 1:33. He’s run that. I think I’m in just as good shape as anybody. How the field breaks away from there and where you’re at; the first 70 yards are very important to me in a race.”

In the Derby, California Chrome beat 18 other 3-year-olds at 1 1/4 miles. The Preakness is one-sixteenth of a mile shorter with a field of 10.

“It’s always easier when you’ve got less horses. It’s less traffic,” Sherman said. “But with his style, if he comes away from the gate in good shape – there are three speed horses in here and he likes a target to run at – I really think that with good racing luck he should be in a position where he’ll be in the clear.”

As for the prospect of running his horse on a wet track – there is rain in the forecast for Friday –Sherman said he is not concerned.

“I’m not going there until I see the racetrack, but knowing this horse, I don’t really think the racetrack is going to have a lot to do with it,” Sherman said. “He seems to handle just about everything that we’ve tried. I’m from the old school. If you’ve got a horse that can run, he runs on anything: grass, dirt.  A runner is a runner. You can’t make excuses about racetracks.”

California Chrome is scheduled to gallop Thursday at 6:45 a.m. Sherman, who has plans to school his Derby winner in the gate and the paddock, will be available to the media between 7:30 and 8 a.m.

 BAYERN –Kaleem Shah’s Bayern was one of the first horses on the track at Churchill Downs Wednesday morning, jogging a mile under exercise rider Jorge Alvarez before shipping to Baltimore.

Bayern has shown signs of brilliance in his four races this year and Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said he is ready for the Preakness test. After a 15-length allowance victory in his second start on Feb. 13, Baffert thought he might have a horse similar to Bodemeister, who won the Arkansas Derby in 2012, then finished second in both the Derby and Preakness. Bayern finished third as the favorite in the Arkansas Derby and Baffert opted to send him into the one-mile Derby Trial on April 26 instead of the Kentucky Derby.

Baffert entered Bayern and Chitu in the Trial, but scratched Chitu and sent him to the Derby, in which he was on the pace but finished ninth. In the Trial, Bayern finished first under jockey Rosie Napravnik, who will be back aboard in the Preakness, but was disqualified and placed second for interference in the stretch.

“I was thinking Derby when I went to Arkansas,” Baffert said. “I was hoping for a Bodemeister, coming out of the same type of race. He ran well, but he got a little tired there at the end. He ran an incredible race. But then I saw that we were not looking good for the points (to get into the Derby field.)”

Baffert settled on the Derby Trial as the proper next step for the colt.

“After the Derby Trial I was thinking Preakness. I wasn’t going to get him back in a week and run him,” Baffert said. “I was a little bit disappointed the he couldn’t separate himself from those horses. He still won, but I was looking for a bigger effort out of him. Then he came back well, so maybe he just needed some seasoning, some racing. I wasn’t going to just throw him to the wolves a week later.”

Baffert has decided to make an equipment change and take the blinkers off for the Preakness. He ran in them in his winning debut on Jan. 4 but did not wear them in his next two starts, only to be equipped with them again for the Derby Trial.

 “I’ve been going back and forth and I just think that if he’s going to lay off horses, I think he’s going to be better off without blinkers,” Baffert said. “He actually has a pretty good mind.”

Baffert said he likes how Bayern has come out of the Derby Trial.

“He came back – he didn’t really shut it down – and he trained well right after that,” Baffert said. “He wasn’t exhausted when he came back. He was tired in Arkansas. I think his training at Churchill Downs has helped him a lot.”

Even with the blinkers off, Baffert said that Bayern will be prominently placed in the Preakness.

“He has a lot of speed and is going to be up close. We’re not taking him back,” Baffert said.

“This is time to find out. He’s ready for it now and I feel good about him going in. If he’s good enough, he’s good enough. If he’s not, we’ll find out more about him after the race. Is he going to have distance limitations? Is this going to be the right spot? You don’t know until the gate comes open. That’s going to be up to Rosie. Rosie knows the horse pretty well now. I think she has him figured out.”

Bayern, along with Preakness hopefuls Dynamic Impact, Ria Antonia and Pablo Del Monte, boarded a plane at Louisville International Airport for a 1:20 p.m. departure.

DYNAMIC IMPACT –John Oxley’s Dynamic Impact completed his Wednesday morning activity just in time to make it back to the barn before a heavy downpour hit Churchill Downs a little after 7:30.

With exercise rider Marco Cano aboard, Dynamic Impact galloped 1 ¼ miles and then visited the starting gate in the mile chute.

“That is standard for us (going to the gate),” said Norman Casse, assistant to his father Mark Casse. “It is just to let him know he is running this week.”

Norman Casse will accompany Dynamic Impact on the Wednesday flight to Pimlico along with stablemate Tepin, who is entered in Friday’s Miss Preakness Stakes. Miguel Mena will ride both Casse horses.

Joining the Casse team in Baltimore will be exercise rider Wayne Brown. Coming from Woodbine, which is home to the main Casse string, Brown was at Oaklawn Park this winter with Dynamic Impact.

GENERAL A ROD– Skychai Racing and Starlight Racing’s General a Rod galloped 1 ½ miles under exercise rider Joel Barrientos. Trainer Mike Maker said he will school in the gate Thursday following his morning gallop.

“Nothing out of character,” Maker said of the morning’s exercise. “He takes a good hold in his training, and here it’s been no exception. He gets over it good.”

Eclipse Award-winning jockey Javier Castellano, currently the nation’s leading rider, will be back aboard General a Rod for the Preakness. Joel Rosario rode him in the Kentucky Derby, in which he finished 11th after being steadied early and late, but he was committed to  Ride On Curlin for the Preakness.

“He (Castellano) rode him well in the Fountain of Youth,” Maker said of the close second behind Wildcat Red on Feb. 22 at Gulfstream Park. “Anytime you can get him, you’ve got to be pleased.”

Castellano rode We Miss Artie to a 10th-place Derby finish, but trainer Todd Pletcher elected to skip the Preakness.

Maker and the connections of General a Rod decided to persevere in the Triple Crown series despite a troubled-trip seventh in the Kentucky Derby.

“Obviously it’s a prestigious race,” Maker said of the Preakness. “We’re not here just because it’s the Preakness. We have a lot of confidence in our horse, but having said that, we’ve got to really step up and get a fair shake this time.”

Maker worked as an assistant to five-time Preakness-winning trainer D. Wayne Lukas from 1993-2003 but wasn’t present at Pimlico for the three winners – Tabasco Cat (1994), Timber Country (1995) and Charismatic (1999) during that tenure.

“I usually stayed back in Louisville, but the last couple years I came with him and got to see what it was like here,” said Maker, who has saddled horses in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes, but not the Preakness until now. “I figure I’ve been doing this long enough that I should have an inclination by now. It might not be the right one, but we’ll see.”

The 45-year-old Michigan native went out on his own in 2004 and last spring saddled his 1,000th winner. He won 228 races and more than $8 million in purses last year.

 KID CRUZ – Vina Del Mar Thoroughbreds and Black Swan Stable’s Kid Cruz was sent to the track early Wednesday morning for a 1 ½-mile gallop under exercise rider Reul Munoz as he continued his preparation for Saturday’s Preakness.

“He’s fine, doing well and has settled into his new surroundings well,” said trainer Linda Rice, who arrived in the Baltimore area later Wednesday morning and headed to the 2-year-olds-in-training sale at nearby Timonium.”Everything’s been pretty routine.”

Named for New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz by Black Swan’s managing partner John Destefano Jr., Kid Cruz is the only member of the 10-horse Preakness field with a race at Pimlico. He won the ungraded Federico Tesio Stakes here on April 19 by 3 ½ lengths in a small field of six sophomores.

“That’s definitely a plus,” Rice said. “But these are much better horses, so he’ll have to step up quite a bit. We’re excited to try it.”

Rice’s other concern centered on the weather and a possibility of a less-than-fast track.

“He’s never run in the mud,” said Rice, who is preparing to saddle her first Preakness runner.  “He’s trained well in the mud – I mean galloped well in the mud – but I’ve never breezed (worked) him.”

The son of Lemon Drop Kid has tasted defeat only once in four dirt starts after a dismal debut on grass for then-trainer Bill Mott. He was beaten less than a length in an Aqueduct allowance race in his first start after being claimed for $50,000 by Vina Del Mar and partners Steven Brandt of Frederick, Md. and Richard Boylan.  Destefano, a former trainer, subsequently bought back into the colt he had named.

Rice is set to become the 15th woman to saddle a Preakness contender. The late Nancy Alberts saddled 45-1 shot Magic Weisner for a second-place finish behind War Emblem in the 2002 edition.

PABLO DEL MONTE- Trainer Wesley Ward sent Pablo Del Monte on his way from Keeneland to Baltimore Wednesday morning and said the Giant’s Causeway colt is ready for the Preakness Stakes.

Ward said the colt galloped at Keeneland before being loaded on a van that carried him to Louisville to catch a flight to Baltimore-Washington International Airport.

“I couldn’t be any more happy,” Ward said. “He’s just tearing the barn down right now, bucking and kicking coming off the track at Keeneland this morning. The outrider had to lead him off the track because he was feeling so good and we didn’t want him stepping on himself or doing something stupid. His groom was right there to pick him up.

“He’s shining like a copper penny as you’ll see at Pimlico.”      

Jeffrey Sanchez is scheduled to ride Pablo Del Monte, who was third in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) on April 12 in this last start. 

RIA ANTONIA –Christopher Dunn and Loooch Racing Stable’s Ria Antonia galloped 1 ½ miles under exercise rider Maurice Sanchez shortly after the Churchill Downs track opened at 6 o’clock Wednesday morning.

Sanchez was slated to accompany Ria Antonia on the flight to Pimlico. Trainer Tom Amoss is scheduled to arrive Friday night.

Ria Antonia will be ridden by Calvin Borel, who won the 2009 Preakness on Rachel Alexandra.

Borel was asked where that Preakness victory with Rachel Alexandra ranked among his all-time favorites.

“Top five? No, all-time it’s in the top three,” Borel said with a smile.

Ria Antonia will represent Borel’s fourth Preakness starter. The others were Kentucky Oaks (G1) winner Rachel Alexandra and Kentucky Derby (G1) winners Street Sense (2007) and Super Saver (2010).

Borel had ridden those three horses extensively and he realizes this is a different situation.

“The filly worked super, super good the other morning,” Borel said of a half-mile in :47 3/5 on Sunday. “If the people want to take a chance and they give me the opportunity to ride, I’ll take it. There are no outstanding horses other than California Chrome. If we can find a hole, we’ve got a shot.”

Borel is scheduled to compete in Friday’s $50,000 Xpressbet Hall of Fame Jockey Challenge at Pimlico.

RIDE ON CURLIN– Trainer Billy Gowan watched Ride On Curlin breeze “an easy half-mile” in 49 3/5 seconds from the Pimlico press box porch Wednesday morning with a small entourage that included owner Daniel Dougherty and invited guest Art Sherman, trainer of Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness Stakes favorite California Chrome.

Pimlico clocker Mark Euga called fractions of 12 2/5 (seconds), 25 1/5 and 37 3/5 for three furlongs after exercise rider Bryan Beccia broke off from the half-mile pole. The seventh-place finisher in Louisville galloped out in 1:03 3/5 for five furlongs.

“I thought it was good,” said Gowan, who has only four horses in his stable, including the Arkansas Derby runner-up. “He probably couldn’t make him go much slower without just throwing him down. He could have gone a little faster, of course. We’ve been taking it real slow since the Derby. I usually like to work him five or six days out (from a race), but with the Derby, walking him three days and shipping up we had to wait. It’s not a big deal.”

Ride On Curlin, along with General a Rod, is one of only two Derby runners to come to Baltimore to re-try Sherman’s budding superstar in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

“The way things are today, people don’t like to run their horses back in two weeks,” said Gowan, a former assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg. “My horse came out the next day after the Derby and I was walking him and he was on his hind legs. I say if they’re doing good, run ‘em.”

Ride On Curlin has run more than most of the sophomores in the upper echelon of this generation. He’s had 10 career starts and the Preakness will be his sixth trip to the starting gate already this season. The Derby was the only race in which he failed to hit the board, but that was a troubled trip under Calvin Borel. Gowan is switching riders to Joel Rosario for this race.

“I think he’ll be a good fit for the horse,” Gowan said. “Hopefully with the speed in here there’ll be something for him to run at. I’m just hoping we get a good trip this time.”

Sherman and Gowan expressed mutual respect three days out from their rematch.

“He (Ride On Curlin) looked pretty good,” said Sherman, who arrived on Tuesday from California. “This is a great view of the track from up here.”

“He (California Chrome) looks like a pretty good horse to me,” Gowan said. “I can’t see any flaws in him.”

RING WEEKEND– St. Elias Stable and West Point Thoroughbreds’ Ring Weekend galloped 1 5/8 miles under Alice Clapham Wednesday morning at Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md.

After being gelded following a 2-year-old campaign that included a third-place finish on dirt and a third-place finish on a synthetic track in three starts, the son of Tapit debuted with a sharp second-place finish in a turf race at Gulfstream. Switched back to dirt, the son of Tapit broke his maiden at Gulfstream and won the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) before finishing second in the Calder Derby.

“I think he can do either (turf or dirt). When we made the decision to try him back on the dirt after he ran so well at Gulfstream on turf, it was that time of year,” said trainer Graham Motion of the time of year when everyone with a talented 3-year-old starts thinking about the Triple Crown. “Everything about his pedigree indicates he can handle the dirt. I think he’s one of those horses that can handle whichever.”

Motion can be considered somewhat of an expert on horses with the capability of racing on a variety of surfaces, having campaigned Animal Kingdom, the 2011 Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness runner-up who was an elite runner on dirt, turf and synthetic.

“A horse like Animal Kingdom had so much raw ability that he could handle any surface. I think the really, really good ones can,” he said.

Ring Weekend is scheduled to van to Pimlico Thursday morning.

SOCIAL INCLUSION– Rontos Racing Stable Corp.’s Social Inclusion jogged from the gap at the top of the stretch to the three-quarter pole before galloping a mile under exercise rider Domingo Navarro Wednesday morning at Pimlico.

Social Inclusion is scheduled to make only his fourth lifetime race in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes after showing enormous potential while winning his debut by 7 ½ lengths on Feb. 22, defeating Honor Code by 10 lengths in a March 12 allowance while breaking the Gulfstream track-record for 1 1/16 miles, and finishing third after setting the pace in the Wood Memorial (G1).

“His first two races he won easy, and for me, he ran a wonderful race at Aqueduct,” trainer Manny Azpurua said.

Had Social Inclusion finished second in the Wood, he would have won an automatic spot in the Kentucky Derby field, and his connections admit they probably would have run him at Churchill Downs on May 3. However, because of his late start, the Preakness Stakes, not the Kentucky Derby, had been the main target for Social Inclusion before he made his first start.

“I got my horse in my barn on the 15th of December. I didn’t want to push him. I wanted to give him enough time. He was a big horse. Now he’s bigger and stronger,” Azpurua said. “When you’re patient with a horse, they give back.”
 

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 major producer of televised horse racing programming through its HRTV cable and satellite network and is North America's premier supplier of virtual online horse racing games, as well as a leading producer of social media content for the horseracing industry.