NORMAN ASBJORNSON TO WORK FIVE-FURLONGS AT PIMLICO FRIDAY MORNING
BALTIMORE, 05-12-11 --Graham Motion was accompanied by family dogs, Bentley and Ginger, on the walk to the racetrack Thursday morning to supervise the training of his horses in the bucolic setting of Fair Hill Training Center.
“I told my wife, Anita, ‘It’s one step closer to normalcy,’ ”said Motion, whose life and career were caught up in a whirlwind of attention in the direct aftermath of Animal Kingdom’s 20-1 upset victory in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs last Saturday.
Motion, who has been training a public stable at Fair Hill for 10 years, appreciated the calm of his familiar and relatively serene surroundings while watching his Derby winner take to the main dirt track for the second time in preparation for Saturday’s Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course. Ponied by assistant trainer Dave Rock, Animal Kingdom jogged 1 ½ miles the wrong way under exercise rider David Nava and in company with Master Expert.
“I feel more relaxed about everything. The horse is great. He’s not worried about anything,” said Motion, who is currently planning to remain at Fair Hill with Animal Kingdom until Friday, May 20. “He seems to be traveling well, which is always a concern coming out of a race like that. He seems to be taking everything in stride and that’s a big deal.”
Motion expressed pleasure with the manner in which the Team Valor International colt came out of his Kentucky Derby victory.
“I think he looks very much the same,” said Motion when asked to compare his colt’s physical appearances before and after the Derby. “He’s had a long journey from Kentucky and a tough race so you’d think he’d be kind of tucked up and looking a little worn. But he looks great to me and looks as good as he did before the Derby.”
The Kentucky Derby victory is the career highlight of the 46-year-old trainer, who has saddled Better Talk Now (2004 Turf) and Shared Account (2010 Filly & Mare Turf) for Breeders’ Cup triumphs, but the Preakness holds a special place in Motion’s heart.
“To go to the Preakness with the Derby winner – that’s a dream,” said Motion, who began his training career in Maryland and saddled his first winner at Laurel in 1993.
Animal Kingdom, who captured the Derby by 2 ¾ lengths while drawing away from 18 rivals, will go to post in the Preakness two races shy of a Triple Crown sweep, last achieved by Affirmed in 1978.
“I want to enjoy the Derby this week, then next week we’ll start worrying about winning the Preakness,” Motion said. “There’s no doubt there’s going to be pressure, because you’re going to feel like everybody’s on your shoulders. Everybody wants this to happen, so how do you not feel pressure?”
Animal Kingdom made his first dirt start in the Kentucky Derby and his trainer isn’t sure that the racing industry has even seen the best of his colt.
“I think it’s possible that we haven’t, but having said that, it’s still going to be awful tough to come back in two weeks. It’s unlikely to me that he’s going to progress in the Preakness coming back in two weeks. I think it’s a race where you just hope that he’s that good that he can handle the two weeks. That’s the tough part of it,” Motion said. “To expect him to improve, I think that’s asking a lot. But he showed he’s a brilliant horse. If he’s as brilliant a horse as I think he might be, then I think he can handle it.”
Animal Kingdom is scheduled to go to the track at Fair Hill at 9 a.m. each day. Per Graham Motion’s request, TV crews are asked to set up in the vicinity of the clocker’s stand, where he will try to accommodate each request to the best of his ability.
ASTROLOGY/NEHRO – Stonestreet Stables and George Bolton’s Astrology galloped a mile early Thursday morning at Churchill Downs and Zayat Stables’ Nehro, runner-up to Animal Kingdom in Kentucky Derby 137, visited the Churchill starting gate under exercise rider Carlos Rosas.
Mike Smith, who rode Astrology for the first time in the Jerome (G2) in his most recent start on April 23, will have the mount in the Preakness.
CASPER’S TOUCH – Magadalena Racing’s Casper’s Touch, third in the Coolmore Lexington (G3) in his most recent start, will not be heading to Baltimore for the Preakness.
“I’m not sure what his next race will be,” said Philip Bauer, assistant to trainer Ken McPeek. “Usually in the Preakness, you are picking on horses that are beat up from the Derby, but this year there are a lot of fresh faces.”
CONCEALED IDENTITY – Veteran trainer Eddie Gaudet said the Maryland-bred son of Smarty Jones, winner of the Federico Tesio on Saturday, galloped Thursday morning at his home base, the Bowie training center.
“He’s come off his race good and is acting good,” Gaudet said.
DANCE CITY – The Estate of Edward P. Evans’ Dance City galloped 1 1/2 miles under exercise rider Obed Perez before the morning renovation break at Churchill Downs.
DIALED IN – Robert LaPenta’s Dialed In galloped 1 1/2 miles under exercise rider Carlos Correa before the renovation break at Churchill Downs.
“He looked good out there,” said trainer Nick Zito, who drove down to the track kitchen near the half-mile pole to watch the morning activity.
FLASHPOINT – Peachtree Stable’s Pomeroy colt will be flown from Kentucky to Baltimore on Wednesday. The winner of two of three career starts, Flashpoint was fourth in the Florida Derby on April 3 in his most recent start.
“He had a beautiful gallop today here at Keeneland and we’re looking forward to a nice breeze on Saturday,” trainer Wesley Ward said.
HARLAN’S HELLO/ISN’T HE PERFECT – Trainer Doodnauth Shivmangal said Thursday that Isn’t He Perfect is still being considered for the Preakness, but that stablemate Harlan’s Hello was no longer a candidate.
Harlan’s Hello is entered in a race at Belmont Park on Friday and Isn’t He Perfect is entered in the Peter Pan (G2) Saturday. However, Shivmangal said that Isn’t He Perfect might wait and run in the Preakness.
“We haven’t decided what we’re going to do, so he’s in the (Peter Pan) and we’ve got to look at the field for (the Preakness) and see if we can get in or not.”
Isn’t He Perfect ranks 17th in the earnings list at $90,222. The field is limited to 14 starters.
KING CONGIE – Trainer Tom Albertrani won with his only previous Preakness starter, Bernardini in 2006, and is using a similar approach this time around with the West Point Thoroughbreds colt. Depending on the weather, King Congie will have his final breeze on Sunday or Monday at Belmont Park and will stay in New York until Friday, May 20.
Like he did five years ago, Albertrani is planning to fly in from New York for the post position draw, which will be held at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Pimlico, and head home that evening.
King Congie galloped 1 1/2 miles Thursday morning at Belmont Park.
MIDNIGHT INTERLUDE/THE FACTOR – Arnold Zetcher’s Midnight Interlude, 16th-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, galloped a mile and a half after the renovation break at Churchill Downs under Peter Hutton, assistant to trainer Bob Baffert.
Going out before the break was Fog City Stable and George Bolton’s The Factor, who jogged a mile on his first day back to the track after working five furlongs in 1:00 on Tuesday.
“He was pulling my guts out,” Hutton said of The Factor. “He came out of that work great. He will work again Monday and Bob will be here Sunday night.”
Baffert said earlier this week that The Factor was a long shot for the Preakness.
MR. COMMONS – Trainer John Shirreffs said a final decision on the Preakness plans for the Artie Schiller colt will be made after he works Friday morning at Hollywood Park.
Shirreffs said Mr. Commons is scheduled to fly from California to Louisville, Ky. on Tuesday and continue his cross-continent journey on a fight from Kentucky on Wednesday. Victor Espinoza has the mount for the Preakness.
Mr. Commons broke his maiden on the turf at Santa Anita on Jan. 15, followed up with an allowance victory on dirt on Feb. 26 and ran third in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) on April 9.
“The Santa Anita Derby was his first real opportunity to experience a race from the inside,” Shirreffs said. “He got a lot of dirt in his face and got a lot of education out of that race. He came out of the race very well and is training excellent since then.”
MUCHO MACHO MAN – The bay son of Macho Uno owned by Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Dream Team Racing remains on course toward the Preakness, trainer Kathy Ritvo said.
The third-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby jogged once around the training track at Belmont Park in the wrong direction then was turned around and galloped 1 1/2 miles.
Ritvo said the colt is doing very well and said that whispers that Mucho Macho Man would skip the second stop on the Triple Crown series were not correct.
“Put those rumors to rest,” she said. “As long as he continues what he’s doing, we’re coming.”
Chuckling, Ritvo said,” Whoever it is, they’re probably afraid of us, that’s why they’re saying it.”
Ritvo’s plans for the colt are fluid. With wet weather in the forecast for the next several days, she said she hasn’t decided when she will ship him from New York to Baltimore.
Still to be decided is whether Ritvo will work the colt between the Derby and the Preakness.
“We’ll see how he keeps going,” she said. “He probably wouldn’t need to because he has a lot of miles under him, but I just want to see how he’s going and just do what’s right for him.”
NORMAN ASBJORNSON – Thomas McClay and Harry Nye’s Real Quiet colt trained by Chris Grove stood in the gate and galloped 1 1/2 miles at the Bowie training center.
The Gotham (G3) runner-up will have his final work for the Preakness at 8:30 a.m. Friday at Pimlico.
RULER ON ICE – George and Lori Hall’s Roman Ruler gelding, who was second as the favorite in the Federico Tesio Saturday, returned to the track at Monmouth Park on Thursday morning.
Trainer Kelly Breen said he will talk with the Halls during the weekend about running Ruler On Ice in the Preakness.
SANTIVA – Tom Walters’ Santiva galloped 1 1/2 miles at Churchill Downs before the renovation break under Brendan Walsh, assistant to trained Eddie Kenneally.
A decision on the Preakness has not been made for Santiva, who finished sixth in last Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.
“We don’t need to make a decision today,” Kenneally said of Santiva, who returned to the track on Wednesday. “I want to see how he trains and we’ll decide in a few days.”
SARATOGA RED – Trainer D. Wayne Lukas is in a holding pattern regarding Robert Baker and William Mack’s Saratoga Red, a maiden winner in February at Oaklawn Park.
“I’d consider it if we could get in,” Lukas said of Saratoga Red, who has $17,000 in graded stakes earnings and $41,330 overall. “I called over there yesterday and there are like 17 horses on the list and I don’t think he’ll get in.”
SHACKLEFORD – Michael Lauffer and W.D. Cubbedge’s homebred Shackleford galloped 1 1/2 miles at Churchill Downs under exercise rider Faustino Ramos after the renovation break.
SWAY AWAY – Batman Stable, Philip Lebherz, Cindy Olsen, Janet Sharp and Glen Wallace et al’s Sway Away galloped 1 1/2 miles under exercise rider Keith Davis before the renovation break at Churchill Downs.
Trained by Jeff Bonde, Sway Away is scheduled to work Saturday or Sunday.