BALTIMORE, MD 05-08-09---A decision as to whether Kentucky Oaks (Grade I) winner Rachel Alexandra will be supplemented into the field for the 134th Preakness® Stakes could be made Sunday or Monday after the filly works for her new trainer, Steve Asmussen. The $1 million Preakness will be held on Saturday, May 16 at historic Pimlico Race Course.
The Preakness field currently has nine confirmed starters: Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, Musket Man, Papa Clem, General Quarters, Flying Private, Big Drama, Take the Points, Terrain and Hull.
The status of two other likely Preakness starters, Derby runner-up Pioneerof the Nile and Derby favorite Friesan Fire, will be made Monday and Tuesday respectively after both work.
Conservative and Tone It Down are also under consideration for Maryland’s marquee race. The Preakness is limited to 14 starters.
Rachel Alexandra, who was purchased by Stonestreet Stables and Harold McCormick two days ago and transferred to Asmussen, made one trip around the sloppy Churchill Downs oval before 7 a.m. with exercise rider Dominic Terry up. Yesterday Asmussen, who conditioned 2007 Preakness winner Curlin for a group that included Stonestreet, indicated his new star, who won last week’s Oaks by 20 ¼ lengths, would work Sunday or Monday at Churchill Downs.
Rachel Alexandra is not nominated to the Triple Crown and could only get into the middle jewel of the Triple Crown if less than 14 pre-nominated horses are entered and her connections pay a $100,000 supplementary nomination fee. If she runs, Rachel Alexandra would be the first Oaks winner ever to run in the Preakness. Fifty-two fillies have competed in the Preakness with four crossing the finish line first: Flocarline (1903), Whimsical (1906), Rhine Maiden (1915) and Nellie Morse (1924). The most recent filly to run in the middle jewel was Excellent Meeting ten years ago.
The lone Preakness starter in the Pimlico stakes barn, Delta Jackpot winner Big Drama, jogged a mile and then galloped under exercise rider and assistant trainer Celia Fawkes, who said the son of Montbrook would have the same routine Saturday and Sunday leading up to Monday’s breeze. Big Drama has won five-of-seven lifetime starts and saw his five-race win streak end in the March 28 Swale Stakes (Grade II) at Gulfstream Park despite setting a track record at seven-furlongs when he was disqualified for interfering with the runner-up.
“I think a fresh horse has an advantage going into the Preakness, that’s why we’ve seen so many spoils in the Triple Crown,” said trainer David Fawkes. “The horse hasn’t done anything wrong. He’s always gotten the distance we’ve asked him to get. First time at a mile and a sixteenth over a deep racecourse at Calder he did it. Went to a bullring at Delta Downs, he did that.”
Papa Clem, the fourth place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, will be the next Preakness starter in the Pimlico stakes barn when the Gary Stute trainee arrives Saturday evening. The Arkansas Derby winner is expected to leave Louisville at 10 a.m. Stute’s father, Mel, won the 1986 Preakness with Snow Chief.
“You only get one chance with the Derby, Preakness and Belmont and with my stable I don’t know if I’ll get too many more opportunities,” Stute said. “Most of my horses are claiming horses and most of them are used to running back in two weeks so to be honest I’m kind of anxious to run this horse back in two weeks. I thought the Preakness would be the perfect distance for my horse and my dad’s two for two, he won the Preakness and the Dixie (Kadial-1988) there so far at least at Pimlico the Stutes are undefeated.”
Stute plans on walking Papa Clem Sunday, galloping Monday and working the son of Smart Strike five-furlongs on Tuesday morning.
Larry Jones will ship Friesan Fire into Pimlico Monday afternoon and plans on breezing the son of A.P. Indy, who suffered cuts in his left front foot while getting bumped shortly after the start of the “Run for the Roses” and finished 18th as the betting favorite, five-furlongs with jockey Gabriel Saez Tuesday morning and then make a final decision.
Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird galloped a little more than two miles over a sloppy Churchill Downs racing surface Friday morning under exercise rider Charlie Figueroa.
“Everything has fallen into place since the Derby,” trainer Bennie “Chip” Woolley Jr. said. “He is doing good. He is eating good. He hasn’t lost any weight, not that he could afford to lose any.”
The son of Birdstone will leave Louisville via van on Tuesday morning and arrive at Pimlico sometime after the afternoon rush hour. The Maryland Jockey Club has arranged a police escort for Mine That Bird and his connections from Interstate 70, prior to the Baltimore Beltway, into Pimlico.
D. Wayne Lukas (Flying Private) and Tom McCarthy (General Quarters) plan on vanning their Preakness starters from Churchill to Pimlico on Tuesday.
Terrain, Hull, Pioneerof the Nile and Rachel Alexandra, if the latter two run, will fly into Baltimore Wednesday, May 13, the day of the post position draw.
Trainer Derek Ryan told Maryland Jockey Club officials that Musket Man, the third place finisher in the Derby, will remain at Monmouth Park until the morning of the Preakness, with a scheduled arrival at 6:30 a.m., the morning of the middle jewel.
“We’ve been on the road for a long time and we want to be able to stay home for as long as we can,” said Ryan. “Plans remain the same, to work the horse 3/8ths on Tuesday if the rain cooperates. We seem to be coming in under the radar, but were used to it. We knew we had a big horse coming into his first start.”
Take the Points will put in his final Preakness work on Saturday or Sunday, according to trainer Todd Pletcher. The connections skipped the Derby for the son of Even the Score to compete in the Preakness.
Trainers Shug McGaughey and William Komlo informed Maryland Jockey Club officials that a decision would be made tomorrow on the Preakness prospects of Conservative and Tone It Down respectively.
“We got together last night and after discussing the race, decided to sleep on it some more,” said Komlo of the third place finisher from last Saturday’s Tesio Stakes at Pimlico. “We’ll get together again later today and try to come up with a decision.”