BALTIMORE, MD 05-09-09---The prospective field for next Saturday’s 134th Preakness® Stakes received a boost in star power when assistant trainer Scott Blasi informed Maryland Jockey Club director of horsemen’s relations Phoebe Hayes that Kentucky Oaks (Grade I) winner Rachel Alexandra is scheduled to fly into Baltimore next Wednesday for next Saturday’s $1 million classic. A decision on whether she actually gets on the Tex Sutton plane in four days will not be made until the filly works.
The Maryland Jockey Club expects a field of 13 for the 1 3/16th mile, $1 million classic at Pimlico Race Course after Laurel Park-based trainer William Komlo announced today that Tone It Down will run, while Hall of Famer Shug McGaughey told the Maryland Jockey Club that Conservative will not.
“We are excited at the prospect of seeing the first four finishers from the Kentucky Derby and the superstar filly in the Preakness,” said Maryland Jockey Club president and chief operating officer Tom Chuckas. “We could be looking at one for the ages.”
Rachel Alexandra, who won the May 1 Oaks by a record 20 ¼ lengths, was purchased earlier this week by Jess Jackson of Stonestreet Stables and Harold McCormick from L and M Partners, LLC and transferred from the barn of Hal Wiggins to that of Steve Asmussen. Asmussen trained 2007 Preakness winner Curlin for a partnership that included Stonestreet.
“If she continues to be in perfect condition,” Jackson said in a statement yesterday, “our intention will be to run her in the Preakness.”
A Stonestreet spokeswoman said Saturday that no decision has been made to run Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness and a final decision would not happen until after the filly works, which will happen at Churchill Downs Sunday or Monday.
Rachel Alexandra is not nominated to the Triple Crown and can 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, the daughter of Medaglia d’Oro 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 and only three have raced here since 1939.
Pimlico oddsmaker Frank Carulli confirmed that he would make Rachel Alexandra the morning line favorite. Genuine Risk (1980) and Winning Colors (1988), who both came to Baltimore as Kentucky Derby winners, went off as the betting favorites in the Preakness two weeks later.
Rachel Alexandra has won seven of 10 lifetime starts for $958,354, including five straight stakes with jockey Calvin Borel. Jackson announced yesterday that Borel would remain the rider on Rachel Alexandra. This would be the fourth time in Preakness history that a rider of the Kentucky Derby winner did not retain the mount in the middle jewel, but the first time that rider took a call on another starter.
The $64,000 question for trainer Bennie “Chip” Woolley is, “who is going to ride Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird in next Saturday’s Preakness?”
“Calvin Borel will be on the (entry) card,” Woolley said Saturday morning at Churchill Downs. “I do have a backup, but I am not ready to release it.”
Industry sources say among those being considered are Hall of Famer Mike Smith, a New Mexico native like Woolley and owners Mark Allen and Leonard Blach, who won the 1993 Preakness aboard Prairie Bayou, and Chantal Sutherland, who rode he gelding four times as a two-year-old, winning three stakes at Woodbine.
With a sloppy track greeting Mine That Bird for a third consecutive morning, Woolley altered the morning exercise program from two trips around the track to a back-track to the paddock runway and then had him gallop once around with exercise rider Charlie Figueroa up.
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.
In his final day as the only horse stabled in the Preakness stakes barn, Delta Jackpot winner Big Drama galloped around the Pimlico oval at 6:30 a.m. with exercise rider and assistant trainer Celia Fawkes. The son of Montbrook, who is five-for-seven lifetime, has been at Pimlico since early Wednesday morning. Trainer David Fawkes plans on breezing Big Drama four-furlongs Monday morning at 8:30, after the renovation break. Celia Fawkes has been in Baltimore since Tuesday night with her husband arriving tonight. Their 11-year-old daughter, Natalie, will join them Friday.
“She wouldn’t miss this for the world,” said Celia Fawkes.
Papa Clem left Louisville at 10:30 a.m. Saturday via van and is headed to Pimlico. Trainer Gary Stute said the Arkansas Derby winner will walk the shedrow Sunday, gallop Monday and work five-furlongs Tuesday morning. The son of Smart Strike finished fourth in the “Run for the Roses”.
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.
In addition to Mine That Bird, two other Preakness starters, General Quarters and Flying Private will leave Churchill Downs Tuesday and van to Pimlico. Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas named Alan Garcia to ride Flying Private. While Lukas has saddled 32 Preakness starters, hoisting the Woodlawn Vase five times, General Quarters owner/trainer Tom McCarthy, the 75-year-old former principal has never been to Old Hilltop.
“I am eager to get over there and see it,” McCarthy said.
Kentucky Derby runner-up Pioneerof the Nile, Terrain and Hull are expected to be on the plane with Rachel Alexandra Wednesday, which is scheduled to leave Louisville at 12:30 p.m. All four are scheduled to work before heading to Baltimore.
Trainer Todd Pletcher scrapped a work for Take the Points this morning due to inclement weather in New York. The son of Even the Score is now scheduled for a Sunday morning breeze either at Belmont Park or the training oval at the Long Island track.
Trainer Derek Ryan plans on working Musket Man three-furlongs on Tuesday at Monmouth Park and shipping the third place finisher in last week’s Kentucky Derby to Pimlico the morning of the race. Musket Man has won five-of-seven lifetime, including the Grade II Illinois Derby and the Grade III Tampa Bay Derby.
Tone It Down will also ship into Pimlico the morning of the race. The son of Medaglia d’Oro has won two-of-six races and finished third in last Saturday’s Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico. Hall of Fame rider Kent Desormeaux, who won five riding titles at Pimlico from 1987-1989, will ride. Desormeaux has two Preakness victories-Real Quiet (1998) and Big Brown (2008) and has finished in the money five times in 11 tries.
“We felt this was a once-in-a-lifetime deal,” Komlo said. “We are Maryland people and he is a Maryland horse. We feel we have not seen the best of this horse just yet. We have been very patient and he is a nice horse. We don’t know if we can compete but we are willing to try.”
McGaughey said Conservative is “not running” and will be pointed to the Grade III Hill Prince Stakes at Belmont on June 5.
|Mine That Bird||Chip Woolley||Calvin Borel||May 12|
|Musket Man||Derek Ryan||Eibar Coa||May 16|
|Papa Clem||Gary Stute||Rafael Bejarano||May 9|
|General Quarters||Tom McCarthy||Julien Leparoux||May 12|
|Flying Private||D. Wayne Lukas||Alan Garcia||May 12|
|Big Drama||David Fawkes||John Velazquez||May 6|
|Hull||Dale Romans||Miguel Mena||May 13|
|Take the Points||Todd Pletcher||Edgar Prado||May 15 or 16|
|Terrain||Al Stall||TBA||May 13|
|Tone It Down||William Komlo||Kent Desormeaux||May 16|
|Friesan Fire||Larry Jones||Gabriel Saez||May 11|
|Pioneerof the Nile||Bob Baffert||Garrett Gomez||May 13|
|Rachel Alexandra||Steve Asmussen||Calvin Borel||May 13|