DANCE CITY FIRES ‘BULLET’ IN CHURCHILL WORKOUT
ANIMAL KINGDOM – Trainer Graham Motion chuckled at a question Sunday morning about turning the page from the week after the Kentucky Derby victory to the week leading up to the Preakness Stakes.
“I think we’re starting to get more into Preakness mode,” he said.
For Motion that means returning to the basics of his business.
“It’s worrying about everything,” he said.
Since he is based at Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md., 60 miles northeast of Pimlico, the heavy rain overnight did not impact Animal Kingdom’s training schedule on Sunday. Rather than sending the Team Valor International colt out to exercise on the wet dirt track, Motion had the luxury of sending his Derby winner to Fair Hill’s inner Tapeta track. Animal Kingdom galloped 1 ½ miles over the artificial surface that drains faster than dirt.
With rain in the forecast for much of the week, Animal Kingdom may be going out on the Tapeta more often.
For Animal Kingdom, who had his shoes changed Sunday, the move into Preakness week will mean a slight change in his training program.
“He basically had a pretty normal gallop today,” Motion said. “We’ll just start doing a little more with him this week. Today, he had the most spirited gallop that he’s had and that’s probably going to be what’s going to happen during the course of the week.”
However, Motion isn’t planning a timed work for the colt because the Derby and the Preakness are so close together.
“I think it’s unlikely. I don’t think he needs it,” Motion said. “I might give him a couple of strong gallops.”
Motion likes Animal Kingdom’s appearance and the way he is acting as he approaches an important date at Pimlico.
“He just seems in really good form,” Motion said. “He certainly hasn’t missed a meal and has barely missed any feed since he ran. He seems very content. He was strong in his gallop today. He looks well. Knock on wood, I couldn’t be happier with how everything is.”
ASTROLOGY/NEHRO – Stonestreet Stables and George Bolton’s Astrology and Zayat Stables’ Kentucky Derby runner-up, Nehro, both galloped 2 miles at Churchill Downs before the renovation break.
The Steve Asmussen-trained colts are both scheduled to work Monday, weather permitting. Rain is in the forecast for Louisville for the next 24 hours, including a 60 percent chance of showers Monday morning.
Nehro’s owner Ahmad Zayat told the New York Racing Association’s Press Office Sunday that the decision on whether to run in the Preakness or wait for the Belmont Stakes will be made Monday. The Derby was Nehro’s third start in six weeks and followed seconds in the Louisiana Derby and the Arkansas Derby.
“I am leaving for Louisville in a few hours and I will be there to watch the horse breeze at Churchill Downs at 6 a.m. Monday,” Zayat said. “Right now I am 70-30 to run in the Belmont and 50-50 to run in the Preakness. He’s had three good races in six weeks; if he goes in the Preakness it will be four races in eight weeks.
“However, he is doing very well. His coat, his energy level, his demeanor have all been excellent since the Derby. After he breezes Monday, I will sit down with Steve Asmussen and make a decision as to where we go.”
CONCEALED IDENTITY – Linda Gaudet and Morris Bailey’s Concealed Identity walked the shedrow at Bowie Training Center Sunday morning as his connections weighed the merits of entering their Federico Tesio Stakes winner in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes.
“All options are open,” Linda Gaudet, wife of trainer Eddie Gaudet, told Maryland Jockey Club stakes coordinator Coley Blind Sunday afternoon.
Eddie Gaudet said Sunday that the $100,000 James W. Murphy Stakes on the Preakness undercard is very much an option for his 3-year-old son of 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones.
“I’m pointing for the other race,” said the veteran trainer, referring to the Murphy, a mile turf stakes for 3-year-olds.
Concealed Identity ranked 15th on the earnings list of Preakness candidates Sunday afternoon and would need a defection to make the field that is limited to 14. Gaudet had expressed concerns about running his colt in a full field.
DANCE CITY – The Estate of Edward P. Evans’ Dance City, working in company with Gulfstream Park allowance winner Escort, turned in a “bullet” five-furlong workout at Churchill Downs Sunday morning. The son of City Zip was clocked in 1:00 1/5 over a track labeled as “good” with exercise rider Fernando Espinoza up.
Dance City spotted Escort a half-length at the outset of the work and finished five lengths in front while producing fractions of :11 4/5, :23 1/5, :34 4/5 and :46 3/5. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:14 1/5.
Mike McCarthy, trainer Todd Pletcher’s Churchill Downs assistant, waited until after the renovation break for the work that was the fastest of 20 at the distance for the morning.
“We waited on purpose because we wanted a harrowed track,” McCarthy said of Dance City’s third work at Churchill Downs since finishing third in the Arkansas Derby (G1) in his most recent start.
McCarthy was with Dance City this winter in South Florida and has been with the colt for the past four weeks in Louisville.
“I like what I see from here, and I was very pleased with his work today,” said McCarthy of Dance City, who had worked five furlongs last Sunday with Praetereo, who had finished 11th in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1).
A further boost to Dance City’s Preakness prospects came Saturday at Belmont Park when Alternation won the Peter Pan (G2). Alternation had finished 4 ½ lengths behind Dance City, who in turn was 1 ½ lengths behind Nehro, the Kentucky Derby runner-up.
“The Arkansas Derby has turned out to be a very live race,” McCarthy said.
DIALED IN – Robert LaPenta’s Dialed In, eighth as the favorite in Kentucky Derby 137, galloped 1 ½ miles early Sunday morning over a muddy Churchill Downs track with exercise rider Carlos Correa up.
Dialed In, who is scheduled to arrive at Pimlico late Wednesday afternoon, will have the opportunity to cash in for $6.1 million with a victory in the Preakness. The son of Mineshaft, who won the Holy Bull (G3) and Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park, is eligible to earn his connections $5.5 million in bonuses offered in MI Developments’ Preakness 5.5.
FLASHPOINT – Peachtree Stable’s roan son of Pomeroy walked the shedrow at Keeneland Sunday morning following a solid five-furlong move of 1:00 3/5 over the Polytrack in Lexington the day before.
“We’re ready for Freddie,” said trainer Wesley Ward, who will be saddling the colt for the first time since taking over for Richard Dutrow in April. “He’s a beautiful horse and he’s got a wonderful demeanor about him. He does everything right and I couldn’t ask for an easier horse to train.”
Flashpoint was a runaway winner of the seven-furlong Hutcheson at Gulfstream before fading to fourth in his two-turn debut in the Florida Derby from a tough outside post.
“I’m not particularly concerned about that,” said Ward, whose Pleasant Prince finished out of the money in last year’s Preakness. “I’ve been given the task at hand, and I’ve been training the horse for this particular race.”
Ward said he will gallop the colt the next few days and ship to Pimlico on Wednesday. Cornelio Velasquez, who was Dutrow’s rider in all three prior starts this season, will retain the mount.
ISN’T HE PERFECT – Trainer Doodnauth Shivmangal said the son of Pleasantly Perfect walked Sunday morning at Belmont Park and is “doing extremely well” six days out from the Preakness.
“He comes back from the track every single day and he takes a nap,” Shivmangal said. “He will get up around 10 or 11 o’clock; we give him something to eat; and he goes back to sleep. I’ve never seen a horse like this in my life.”
Purchased for $27,000 at the 2010 Ocala 2-year-olds-in-training sale, Isn’t He Perfect was fifth in the Jerome on a sloppy track at Aqueduct in his last start. Before that, he finished fifth in the Wood Memorial after challenging Uncle Mo in the stretch.
“I think the Wood took a little too much out of him,” said Shivmangal, who will need at least two defections to make the 14-horse field. “He’s a very smart horse. He relaxes a lot and he doesn’t use up his energy stupidly.”
Isn’t He Perfect, if he draws into the field by Wednesday, will be shipped to Pimlico Thursday.
KING CONGIE – West Point Thoroughbreds’ King Congie went to the Belmont Park main track early Sunday morning for his final serious preparation for Saturday’s Preakness.
“He worked 1:04 3/5 around the dogs,” said trainer Tom Albertrani, noting that King Congie was able to breeze on a fast track that later turned muddy. “It was a nice work and he finished up very nicely.”
Exercise rider Edgar Acosta was aboard the son of Badge of Silver, who finished third in the Blue Grass (G1) at Keeneland last time out, just a head behind victorious stablemate Brilliant Speed.
MIDNIGHT INTERLUDE – Arnold Zetcher’s Midnight Interlude galloped 1 5/8 miles under Peter Hutton before the morning renovation break at Churchill Downs Sunday.
The Bob Baffert-trained Santa Anita Derby winner finished 16th in the Derby.
MR. COMMONS – The Artie Schiller colt worked for trainer John Shirreffs Friday at Hollywood Park and will fly from California to Louisville, Ky. on Tuesday and then on to Baltimore on Wednesday.
The Preakness will be his first start since he finished third in the Santa Anita Derby (G1), his stakes debut on April 9. After breaking his maiden on turf on Jan. 15, Mr. Commons moved to the new dirt track at Santa Anita and turned in a gutsy performance to win a one-mile allowance race by a head. Shirreffs took him to Santa Anita’s showcase race for 3-year-olds and he was a game third while down on the inside.
Mr. Commons had a bullet half-mile work in :46 4/5 on April 21, his first work after the Santa Anita Derby, and has since had three sharp seven-furlong breezes.
MUCHO MACHO MAN – Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Dream Team Racing’s Mucho Macho Man galloped 1 ½ miles over the training track at Belmont Park Sunday morning.
Pleased how well the son of Macho Uno came out of his third-place finish in the Kentucky Derby, trainer Kathy Ritvo is seriously entertaining the idea of giving Mucho Macho Man a breeze this week.
“I’ll see how the track is. Probably on Tuesday we’d like to do a little something with him, and that’ll be it,” Ritvo said. “It’ll depend on what we can do the day before.”
NORMAN ASBJORNSON – Thomas McClay and Harry Nye’s homebred colt returned to the track at Bowie Training Center Sunday, galloping 2 miles over a sealed track. The son of Real Quiet had walked the shedrow Saturday morning after working five furlongs in 1:02 1/5 at Pimlico on Friday.
“The track was sealed, but it wasn’t hard. There was moisture in the track,” said trainer Chris Grove, who celebrated his 42nd birthday Sunday. “He was full of himself today.”
Norman Asbjornson is coming off a pair of solid performances at Aqueduct: a troubled second in the Gotham Stakes (G3) and a fourth in the Wood Memorial (G1), in which he didn’t break well and made a sweeping move on the turn before weakening.
RULER ON ICE – George and Lori Hall’s Ruler On Ice was still “questionable” to make the Preakness, but trainer Kelly Breen received encouraging news at Monmouth Park Sunday morning.
We got his blood back, and this morning it’s looking better,” said Breen, who reported that a blood test taken following his second-place finish in the Federico Tesio last weekend at Pimlico wasn’t ideal. “I’ve got to talk to the Halls about it. We don’t know just yet, but the horse is questionable. He’s doing better. His last blood report after he ran was a little on the low side. We’ll be monitoring him every day.”
Ruler On Ice was the beaten favorite in the Tesio after finishing a strong-closing third in the Sunland Park Derby.
SARATOGA RED – Robert Baker and William Mack’s Saratoga Red, the D. Wayne Lukas trainee who would need three defections as of Sunday afternoon to make the Preakness field, worked five furlongs at Churchill Downs in company in 1:02 4/5. The move, with Jon Court up, was the 14th fastest of 20 at the distance.
Saratoga Red, sixth as the favorite in an optional claiming event on May 7 at Churchill Downs, was one of the first workers of the morning and the move came over a track labeled “muddy.” Saratoga Red made short work of his morning companion, Manhattan Man, who was timed in 1:06.
SHACKLEFORD – The long-shot pacesetter in both the Kentucky Derby and Florida Derby galloped 1 ½ miles at Churchill Downs on Sunday under exercise rider Faustino Ramos.
“He’s training good and acting like he’s happy,” said trainer Dale Romans, who finished second in last year’s Preakness with First Dude. “It’s an important race, just like the Derby. I’m excited about this race.”
In addition to the $600,000 winner’s share of the Preakness, Shackleford could also pick up a $550,000 bonus check tied into his performances in Gulfstream Park’s three major Triple Crown prep races. He was second in the Florida Derby behind Dialed In at odds of 68-1.
“It doesn’t make any difference,” Romans said. “I didn’t even know about it when we committed to come.”
The son of Forestry is scheduled to arrive at Pimlico on Wednesday.
SWAY AWAY – Denied his chance to run in the Kentucky Derby because of insufficient graded stakes earnings, the son of 2005 Preakness winner Afleet Alex has secured a spot in the starting gate at Pimlico, and trainer Jeff Bonde expects a solid performance.
It will be 35 days since Sway Away’s last start, a fourth-place finish in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. He has been one of the top workers at Churchill Downs since shipping there for the unsuccessful bid to make the Derby field. On Saturday, Sway Away went five furlongs in 1:02 1/5, but it was his 1:11 3/5 move on Derby day that really caught clockers’ attention.
“He seems to be finishing much better in his works to where we think he’s maturing,” said Bonde from his base in California. “We’re probably going to go with a smaller blinker than we used in the Arkansas Derby.”
His start at Oaklawn was the first time in five career starts Sway Away raced in the hood and it was also the first time Patrick Valenzuela rode. He took the lead in mid-stretch, but was eventually overtaken by Archarcharch, Nehro and Dance City in the final strides. Garrett Gomez will be back aboard for the Preakness.
Sway Away walked the shedrow on Sunday morning.
Sway Away, second to The Factor in the San Vicente at Santa Anita in February, will arrive from Churchill Downs on Wednesday after a few days of light exercise. Bonde’s only other Preakness starter was Menacing Dennis, a not-so-menacing 10th in 2002.