ANIMAL KINGDOM – Trainer Graham Motion sent the Kentucky Derby winner out for his morning gallop in front of about two dozen members of the media at 9 a.m. Wednesday at Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md.
The Team Valor International homebred colt did his exercise on the all-weather Tapeta track at the facility in rural northeast Maryland, 60 miles from Pimlico Race Course. Motion uses the Tapeta track when Fair Hill’s dirt track is muddy. He said his colt galloped about 1¾ miles.
Animal Kingdom will gallop up to the race and will be shipped to Pimlico on Saturday morning. Motion said he likes the way the colt is looking and acting.
“I think he’s super,” he said. “I feel very good about where he’s at.”
Animal Kingdom goes out with a set of Motion’s horses, typically between eight and 10, which Motion said helps keep him focused on the task at hand.
“I think he benefits from having company,” Motion said. “He’s better off having other horses around him than being on his own. He starts looking around a little bit when he’s by himself. He’s a relatively inexperienced horse, so I think he benefits from more activity.”
Two weeks ago, on the Wednesday before the Kentucky Derby, Animal Kingdom was a little-known colt with victories on synthetic surfaces and no racing experience on dirt. He signaled his readiness for the Derby in a six-furlong breeze over the dirt at Churchill Downs on April 30 that was a test of his ability to handle the surface. A few days later, he roared down the stretch to win the Derby by 2 ¾ lengths.
“No doubt, he exceeded my expectations,” Motion said. “Even though he had a very, very good work on the dirt, it was certainly an unknown to us at that point as to how he was going to handle it. We certainly had a good feeling about running him on the dirt, but until you actually lead them over there you don’t really know.”
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 – Stonestreet Stables and George Bolton’s A.P. Indy colt arrived at the Pimlico Stakes Barn shortly after 12:30 p.m. Wednesday after taking a flight from Louisville, Ky. to Baltimore.
Never worse than third in seven career starts, Astrology has finished second in his two races this year, the Sunland Derby (G3) and the Jerome (G2).
Astrology will be trainer Steve Asmussen’s fifth Preakness starter. Asmussen finished fifth with Snuck In in 2000 and Easyfromthegitgo in 2002 and saddled Preakness winners Curlin (2007) and Rachel Alexandra (2009).
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who rode Prairie Bayou to victory in the 1993 Preakness, has the mount on Astrology.
CONCEALED IDENTITY – Linda Gaudet and Morris Bailey’s Concealed Identity breezed three furlongs in 36 1/5 seconds at Bowie Training Center before being entered in the Preakness Stakes.
“He kind of open galloped and we let him pick it up for the last three-eighths. He did everything we asked him,” said Linda Gaudet, whose husband, Eddie Gaudet, trains the Maryland-bred gelding. “He’ll go to the gate tomorrow.”
Sheldon Russell, who was aboard the Federico Tesio Stakes victor last time out, will ride in his first Preakness on Concealed Identity.
DANCE CITY – The son of City Zip, who had an easy early-morning gallop at Churchill Downs under the supervision of assistant trainer Mike McCarthy, arrived at Pimlico shortly after 12:30 p.m. Wednesday following a flight from Louisville to Baltimore.
“He’ll have a couple days to get acclimated to Pimlico, and he seems to acclimate well wherever he goes,” said trainer Todd Pletcher from his base at Belmont Park.
Pimlico will be the fourth different track in five starts this season for Dance City, who has won twice and has never been worse than third.
Ramon Dominguez, a former champion jockey on the Maryland riding circuit, will have the mount on the Estate of Edward P. Evans’ colt for the first time.
“Just talking to the ownership, they felt like Ramon knows the track really well at Pimlico,” said Pletcher, whose colt was ridden by Javier Castellano last time out. “He was based there for a number of years and we’ve had a lot of luck with him – and he was available. Javier rode him really well both times he rode him and he’ll be riding a filly for us that day in the Shuvee (at Belmont Park). It wasn’t at all about Javier’s ride on Dance City.”
The Virginia-bred colt was a close third in the Arkansas Derby, missing all the money by less than two lengths in his stakes debut only four months after his first start. Pletcher said he had planned to get the colt to the races last summer, but Dance City didn’t make his debut until Dec. 2.
“It was just typical baby stuff, a couple minor setbacks along the way,” he said. “He was going to be ready to run at Saratoga, but he popped a little splint and needed some more time. Otherwise, he’s been steadily in training since last May.”
DIALED IN – Robert LaPenta’s Dialed In galloped 1 ½ miles at Churchill Downs Wednesday morning, before shipping from Louisville on the second of two planes that carried eight Preakness horses.
Trainer Nick Zito will saddle Dialed In for a chance to make amends for an eighth-place Kentucky Derby finish in the Preakness. A victory in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown would produce a $6.1 million payday, including a $5 million bonus for LaPenta and a $500,000 bonus for Zito. The son of Mineshaft became eligible for the MI Developments’ Preakness 5.5 bonus with his victories in the Holy Bull (G3) and Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park.
Although disappointed by his stretch-runner’s eighth-place finish, Zito was hardly discouraged by the Derby favorite’s performance, which was hindered by the slow early pace.
“You don’t like to say, ‘Throw out the Derby,’ but a lot of horses have done that over the years – whether they don’t get a break the way the race is run or they have traffic problems,” Zito said. “In our case, we didn’t get a break the way the race was run. We’ve got a lot of people starting to give him credit for the race he ran.”
Zito knows first-hand that a disappointing Derby finish doesn’t necessarily have a negative impact in the Preakness. The Hall of Fame trainer saddled Louis Quatorze for a track record-equaling victory in the 1996 Preakness that followed a 16th –place finish in the Kentucky Derby.
“I just think for some reason with 20 horses – the big field – some of these horses really don’t get the chance to show how good they are. Again, to say, ‘Throw out the Derby,’ is hard to believe, but sometimes you just have to do that. I don’t know why, “With Louis, I don’t know what happened, but he came back in the Preakness and set a track record.”
Dialed In will be ridden by Julien Leparoux again.
FLASHPOINT – The Peachtree Stable’s colorbearer had one final gallop over the Polytrack at Keeneland Wednesday morning before heading to the airport for the flight to Baltimore.
“He did great. He’s been training beautiful and we’re in great shape,” said trainer Wesley Ward, who was set to follow the colt north later in the day.
As the lightest-raced entrant in the field (three career starts), the son of Pomeroy should also be one of the freshest runners in this year’s Preakness. His last start came on April 3, a fourth-place finish in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.
“He’s probably got less war wounds than everybody else,” said Ward, who was given the training job by Peachtree after the colt’s last start for previous trainer Richard Dutrow.
Flashpoint won his first two starts sprinting by a combined 13 ½ lengths, taking down the highly touted Travelin Man in the Hutcheson at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 26. He didn’t race again until the Florida Derby, and he will have had 48 days between starts when he enters the gate Saturday.
“He seems ready to go,” said Ward, a former jockey looking for his first Triple Crown race victory. “He couldn’t be any better going into this race than he is today. He’s doing fantastic. He got two-turn experience in the Florida Derby, so I don’t think that will be too much of a factor. I’m looking very forward to it; it should be very exciting.”
A $100,000 purchase in the 2009 Keeneland September sale, Flashpoint will again be ridden by Cornelio Velasquez, who has been aboard for his three previous starts.
ISN’T HE PERFECT – Trainer Doodnauth Shivmangal has secured the services of former Maryland riding champion Edgar Prado for his first Triple Crown race runner, and the Hall of Fame jockey was aboard the colt Wednesday morning for a gallop around the Belmont Park training track.
“Edgar Prado rode for me before,” Shivmangal said. “I’m very proud to have a jockey like him. I wanted him to ride the horse this morning so he could get a feel for the horse. Prado said he wanted to go around again.”
Persistent rains continued to render most of the tracks on the East coast in less than ideal condition, including those in New York.
“The track was very, very sloppy here, but we did it after the break, immediately after the harrowing,” the 58-year-old Guyana native said. “I normally don’t gallop horses on the wet track, but I really had no choice because yesterday we shedrowed him. I had to do something with him today.”
Prado, despite his remarkable success at Maryland tracks before moving to New York, has never won the Preakness in 13 previous attempts. His best opportunity undoubtedly came in 2006 with ill-fated Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, who suffered serious leg injuries after the start and ultimately had to be euthanized.
Isn’t He Perfect, one of the mainstays of Shivmangal’s cousin’s Kharag Stables, is scheduled to van from Belmont on Thursday around noon.
KING CONGIE – West Point Thoroughbreds’ King Congie galloped 1 ¼ miles at Belmont Park Wednesday morning.
The son of Badge of Silver is slated to van to Pimlico on Friday, following the same schedule used by trainer Tom Albertrani with Bernardini, who captured the 2006 Preakness Stakes by 5 ¼ lengths. The 53-year-old Brooklyn native recalled the bittersweet triumph of his only Preakness starter in the race in which Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro was pulled up on the front-stretch with injuries that would eventually claim his life.
“Before the race I was very confident that Bernardini would run well. I’m not saying that he would have beaten Barbaro, but I know my horse was quite ready and I know he was up to the challenge,” Albertrani said. “When I saw the race unfold, I was a little bit gutted when you see Barbaro getting eased into the first turn. It was really strange because here’s a horse on the track, and it’s something you feel bad about for the connections involved. But I’m happy to see my horse run a big race. I always felt that there would always be a good future for him later on.”
Bernardini went on to win the Travers and Jockey Club Gold Cup before being named 3-year-old champion.
MIDNIGHT INTERLUDE – Arnold Zetcher’s homebred War Chant colt had some light exercise at Churchill Downs Wednesday morning before boarding a flight to Baltimore for the Preakness.
“He jogged today and looked good,” said trainer Bob Baffert, a five-time winner of the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown. “He’s healthy. All systems go.”
Midnight Interlude stepped into the national spotlight with a victory in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) on April 9. He was a non-factor in the Derby, finishing 16th, but Baffert decided to bring him to Pimlico because he didn’t expend much energy in the Derby and looked good in a three-furlong breeze over a sloppy, sealed track at Churchill Downs on Monday morning.
“I think he’s sharper for this race,” Baffert said. “He’s going to have to be. That last race was such a puzzler.”
Midnight Interlude is a late-developing colt who did not make his first start until Jan. 29, which is late for a horse that ends up in the Kentucky Derby. He broke his maiden on March 20 in his third career start and Baffert took a shot with him in the Santa Anita Derby. He won by a head to earn a trip to the Kentucky Derby, but he never was a contender at Churchill Downs.
“He was sort of ready in December. He just came around once I started running him,” Baffert said. “I think he got uncomfortable being behind and sort of blocked in there in the big field at the Derby. He didn’t like that. He’s going to be in the race.”
MR. COMMONS – St. George Farm Racing’s colt had by far the longest journey to the Preakness, a two-day transcontinental trip from California to Maryland through Kentucky. He flew to Kentucky Tuesday, spent the night in a stall in trainer Ian Wilkes’ barn at Churchill Downs and jogged Wednesday morning before boarding a flight to Baltimore.
John Shirreffs, who handled Horse of the Year Zenyatta for Jerry and Ann Moss, trains the son of Artie Schiller, a son of El Prado, for St. George Farm owner Ian Banwell. Mr. Commons emerged as a candidate for the Triple Crown series with a third-place finish in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) on April 9.
Mr. Commons was bred at Banwell’s farm near Lexington, Ky. and went through the 2009 Fasig-Tipton July yearling sale, but ended up as a member of Banwell’s racing stable. Bloodstock advisor David Ingordo, Shirreffs’ stepson who picked Zenyatta out of a sale for the Mosses, bought Mr. Commons but subsequently recommended that Banwell reacquire him.
Ingordo said he had known Banwell for a few years when he was asked to check out the yearlings on the farm in the spring of 2009.
“I looked at two or three and then Mr. Commons came out,” Ingordo said. “The farm manager Craig Boone turned them all out in the field and I just liked how the horse looked. As a matter of fact, I loved him and said to myself, ‘man, that’s a really nice horse.’ He reminded me of some of the El Prado line that I had seen that could run. At the time, he kind of reminded me of Medaglia d’Oro, just with the head and the body that he had.
“There were about 15 colts turned out in this field and when he ran, he kind of rated himself and then he made a big move, this big, sweeping run. I said, `this horse is OK.’”
Ingordo said he bought the colt at the sale – the listed price is $70,000 – which was a little bit higher than the reserve, or minimum acceptable price set by the seller, then recommended that Banwell consider taking him back and racing him.
“I told Ian, ‘If you don’t want this horse, I will take him, but he’s pretty nice and you probably ought to keep him,’” Ingordo said. “A day or two later – I had sent him back to his farm until he decided – he said, ‘yeah, I’ll keep the horse.’
Ingordo said that Banwell met Shirreffs that year and later decided to send Mr. Commons and another 2-year-old to California for him to train. Shirreffs is handling a homebred who technically went through the sale, but is racing for his breeder.
“It wasn’t intended to be a buy back,” Ingordo said. “With my clients, if I buy a horse of theirs and they like it, and they say, ‘well, if you like him, maybe I’ll keep him,’ I try to be real fair. Ian loves racing and he knew I liked the horse a lot.
“His farm manager, Craig Boone, and his vet, Dr. Brian Boone, are brothers and they had done the mating and they had known the horse for a long time. So everybody kind of liked him. Ian is a big racing fan and hopefully it could turn out to be a great story on Saturday afternoon.”
MUCHO MACHO MAN – Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Dream Team Racing’s Mucho Macho Man was the first Preakness horse to arrive at Pimlico Wednesday when he stepped off a van at 10:17 a.m.
After walking her Kentucky Derby third-place finisher off the van and around the shedrow of the Preakness Stakes Barn several times, trainer Kathy Ritvo expressed her pleasure with how Mucho Macho Man handled the ride from Belmont Park. She was also pleased with her 3-year-old colt’s accommodations in Stall 10.
“It’s beautiful. How can you get better than this? The stalls are huge and there’s grass on the other side,” the South Florida-based trainer said.
Mucho Macho Man, who worked four furlongs in 49 1/5 seconds at Belmont Park Tuesday, walked the shedrow before being loaded onto the Pimlico-bound van.
NORMAN ASBJORNSON – Thomas McClay and Harry Nye’s homebred colt galloped two miles and schooled at the starting gate at Bowie Training Center Wednesday morning.
Norman Asbjornson will be trainer Chris Grove’s first starter in the Preakness Stakes, which will be a proud moment for the Frederick, Md. native and his family. The son of former jockey and current Maryland state steward Phil Grove began his racetrack career galloping horses for veteran trainer Donald Barr on the Maryland circuit.
“It was a good experience for me because Donnie had a lot of good horses at the time. He had Who Wouldn’t, who won the (1995) General George,” Grove said. “He won five in a row and was an old class horse with a lot of problems. That kind of taught me how to take care of the older horses and get the best out of them.
“He had a horse called Richie the Coach who made around $500,000. He ran a distance of ground and won several stakes. He set the record for a mile and a quarter at Laurel. He was a pleasure. I loved getting on him. Anytime you put him on the fence, he’d give you everything he had. I got on a lot of nice horses, and got to know what a good horse felt like.”
Grove was the leading trainer in Maryland in 2010 with 95 trips to the winner’s circle.
SHACKLEFORD – Trainer Dale Romans, who came within three-quarters of a length of victory with First Dude in last year’s Preakness Stakes, hopes to do even better this time with the Kentucky Derby pacesetter.
Shackleford galloped over a track listed as “good” at Churchill Downs Wednesday morning under exercise rider Faustino Ramos before boarding the second of two flights to Baltimore.
Romans said he has witnessed no ill effects from the quick turnaround from the Derby, in which Shackleford and rider Jesus Castanon set the pace before weakening to fourth behind Preakness entrants Animal Kingdom (first) and Mucho Macho Man (third).
“I think we had a perfect trip,” Romans said. “Coming out of a race like that can knock you out, but I haven’t seen that from him. It looks like he’s moving forward. It seems like everybody is more impressed with him now than when he ran second to Dialed In (in the Florida Derby).”
Castanon, who has never had a Preakness mount, has been aboard in all four of Shackleford’s starts this year. The son of Forestry, by virtue of his participation in the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby, is eligible for a $550,000 bonus from MI Developments’ Preakness 5.5 bonus series should he win the Preakness.
SWAY AWAY – The good-looking son of 2005 Preakness winner Afleet Alex stepped off a van at Pimlico shortly after 12:30 p.m. Wednesday and settled into his assigned stall at the Preakness Stakes Barn.
Assistant trainer Miguel Carranza accompanied the colt, who departed by air from Louisville shortly after 9 a.m., along with Preakness rivals Dance City and Astrology. Deputizing for West Coast-based trainer Jeff Bonde, Carranzo said the fourth-place finisher in the Arkansas Derby jogged before heading to the airport.
“He had no problems at all,” said Carranza, who has been with the colt since he shipped to Churchill in hopes of making the field for the Kentucky Derby. Sway Away ended up being the 21st horse on the graded-stakes list and was denied a spot in the 20-horse starting gate that ultimately became 19 with the scratch of Uncle Mo.
“He’s been working very good at Churchill,” Carranzo said. “We’re going to gallop him tomorrow morning. We hope he likes it here as much as he did in Kentucky.”
Garrett Gomez will ride in the Preakness for Bonde, who is scheduled to fly in from California on Thursday to join his first Preakness runner since Menacing Dennis finished 10th in 2002.