BALTIMORE, MD 05-10-09---Kentucky Oaks winner Rachel Alexandra turned in a strong workout Sunday morning at Churchill Downs, but a full field of 14 Triple Crown-nominated horses could stymie plans to enter the standout filly in Saturday’s 134th running of the Preakness.
Pimlico officials had been expecting a field of 13 runners – including Rachel Alexandra – to be entered in the Preakness, but late Sunday afternoon it appeared that the filly who captured the Oaks by more than 20 lengths might be excluded from the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown by the prospect of two new shooters being entered.
Rachel Alexandra was not nominated to the Triple Crown, but she could be eligible to compete in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown if her new owner, Stonestreet Stables, owned by Jess Jackson, pays a $100,000 supplemental entry fee and one of the 14 positions in the starting gate is available. Nominated horses have preference, however, and the probable Preakness field suddenly swelled Sunday to 15, including 14 Triple Crown nominees and Rachel Alexandra.
Ahmed Zayat, the owner of the Kentucky Derby runner-up Pioneerof the Nile said in an interview on the HRTV (Horse Racing Television) program RaceDay America Sunday morning that he had been called by Mark Allen, the co-owner of Derby winner Mine That Bird, and discussed entering other horses to exclude Rachel Alexandra. If Rachel Alexandra did make it into the Preakness field, Allen would be forced to find a replacement for Derby-winning jockey Calvin Borel, who has made a year-long commitment to ride Stonestreet’s star filly. Mike Smith would likely get the assignment.
Zayat, who nominated 22 horses to the Triple Crown, said in the interview that he agreed to enter a second horse. Allen also told HRTV that he intends to enter Indy Express, a maiden owned by Fourteen Enterprises, in which he has an interest. Indy Express is winless in nine career starts and has earnings of $12,618.
Late Sunday afternoon, Zayat told Maryland Jockey Club president Tom Chuckas that he intended to enter only Pioneerof the Nile.
At mid-day Sunday, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas announced that he planned to enter a second colt, Marylou Whitney’s Luv Gov, who broke his maiden on the Derby Day program, in addition to Flying Private, who finished last in the Derby. Whitney owns Birdstone, the sire of Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird.
Jackson purchased Rachel Alexandra early last week and transferred her from trainer Hal Wiggins to Steve Asmussen’s stable. In her first work for Asmussen Sunday, she covered four furlongs in 48.40 seconds. Following the breeze, Jackson confirmed that he planned to enter Rachel Alexandra in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
“Rachel Alexandra had an impressive workout today and she is ready to run in the Preakness,” Jackson said in a statement. “Since it’s Mother’s Day, I wish I could announce to all mothers everywhere that this incredible filly is entered to take on the boys, but Triple Crown rules may prevent us from sending her to Pimlico. I want the fans to know that we are prepared to enter here and I’m hopeful that her entry will be accepted. I know that we all want the thrill of seeing her race next weekend.”
The first four finishers in the Kentucky Derby (Mine That Bird, Pioneerof the Nile, Musket Man and Papa Clem) automatically make the Preakness field because they earned purse money in Louisville. The next three in the field, based on graded earnings are General Quarters, Friesan Fire and Big Drama. Terrain, Flying Private, Take the Points and Hull qualify in the next category (earnings in all non-restricted stakes). The final three spots are currently filled by Luv Gov, Tone It Down and Indy Express (total lifetime earnings). All 14 were pre-nominated to the Triple Crown prior to the Kentucky Derby.
Rachel Alexandra would rank fifth on the list and bump all the others down one notch.
MINE THAT BIRD – The Kentucky Derby winner galloped a little more than two miles at Churchill Downs Sunday morning in preparation for his start in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes.
“He’s doing super, as good as ever,” exercise rider Charlie Figueroa said. “I know he hasn’t backed off. There is no regression at all.”
Trainer Bennie “Chip” Woolley echoed Figueroa’s assessment of his gelding who shocked the racing world to score by nearly seven lengths at 50-1 in the Derby.
“The horse has been training super,” he said. “We’ve been tracking him just about every day and he’s really doing well.”
Woolley has been enjoying a return to relative normalcy in recent days.
“It’s been a little hectic, but things have settled down a little, so we’re actually able to enjoy it,” said the New Mexico-based trainer. “It got pretty wild, but we’ve getting time to reflect on everything that’s happened.”
Things will be getting considerably more hectic beginning on Tuesday, when he puts his Derby winner on a Pimlico-bound van.
BIG DRAMA – Trainer David Fawkes scheduled a leisurely morning for Big Drama at Pimlico Sunday. The Florida-bred colt was sent to the turf course following training hours to get acquainted with the grassy area where Fawkes will saddle him for a start in the134th running of the Preakness Stakes.
Big Drama, who arrived at Pimlico on Wednesday morning from South Florida, impressed his Calder-based trainer with his appearance.
“Coming into the cooler weather has been great,” Fawkes said. “He’s doing super. He’s coming into himself right now. He looks great; his color’s good; his weight is good; I have no complaints the way he is right now.”
Big Drama will get back to work Monday, when jockey John Velazquez is scheduled to be aboard for a half-mile workout after the renovation break (8:30 a.m.).
Big Drama has finished first in his last six races since finishing third in his debut last summer. The son of Montbrook swept the Florida Stallion series last year before capturing the Delta Jackpot (G3) to conclude his productive juvenile season. In his only start this year, he ran seven furlongs in a blistering 1:20.88 to finish first in the Swale Stakes (G2) at Gulfstream, only to be disqualified and placed second.
“He’s one of those super hard-trying horses. He always gives you 110 percent. In his works in the morning, if you ask him to work good, he works good. If you don’t want him to work fast, he’ll do what you want,” Fawkes said. “In the afternoon, he always gives you 110 percent.”
Fawkes has saddled only one horse at Pimlico, where Hidden Tomahawk finished off the board in the 1992 Maryland Breeders’ Cup.
FLYING PRIVATE/LUV GOV – Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas sent Marylou Whitney’s colt Luv Gov out for a four-furlong breeze in 48.20 seconds Sunday morning Churchill Downs. Flying Private is scheduled to work Monday morning at Churchill.
“I think I’ll just go an easy half with him,” Lukas said. “He doesn’t need much. That two-week span between the Derby and Preakness is a concern of getting the energy back, so I don’t have to do a lot with him. He’s had plenty of racing.”
Flying Private has three seconds in seven starts this year. He finished last in the field of 19 in the Derby over a sloppy sealed track that Lukas said may have affected many of the runners in the field.
“I’ve got a nice horse. He’s a very good horse,” Lukas said. “He didn’t show up in the Derby, granted, so tell them to bet on somebody else. Having said that, he’s a well-bred horse, he’ll go a mile and three sixteenths. He’s got a top rider in Alan Garcia, who just won the Peter Pan (Saturday at Belmont Park). There’s a lot to like.”
Lukas also said Sunday that he intends to enter Luv Gov, a colt bred and owned by Marylou Whitney, in the Preakness. After running second in three consecutive races, the son of Ten Most Wanted broke his maiden on the Kentucky Derby Day program at Churchill Downs. The colt turned in a solid breeze Sunday morning.
“We think he’s our Belmont Stakes horse and we are looking for another spot to get a good one in,” Lukas said. “He’s truly a mile-and-half, a mile-and-three-sixteenths horse. And he ran a huge race on Derby day. He actually ran better than most of the horses in the Derby. We’re going to give him a shot to go.”
Lukas said that both horses will ship to Pimlico on Tuesday. He has not named a rider for Luv Gov.
FRIESAN FIRE – The Louisiana Derby winner is scheduled to be vanned from Delaware Park to Pimlico Monday morning.
Trainer Larry Jones plans to send Friesan Fire to the Pimlico track Tuesday morning for a five-furlong workout that will determine the Preakness status of the Kentucky Derby’s beaten-favorite. The son of A.P. Indy returned from his 18th-place finish at Churchill Downs with cuts in all four legs, believed to be suffered in bumping incidents shortly after the start.
Should he pass the test, Friesan Fire will be ridden by Gabriel Saez, who’ll be aboard for Tuesday’s workout.
GENERAL QUARTERS – The Blue Grass Stakes winner galloped 1 ½ miles under exercise rider Justin Court Sunday morning at Churchill Downs. Trainer Tom McCarthy plans to ship his one-horse stable to Pimlico on Tuesday.
“He’s doing great, so far,” said the 75-year-old former school teacher and principal. “I’ll give him a real easy maintenance breeze tomorrow, about a half-mile.”
The son of Sky Mesa, while ridden for the first time by Julien Leparoux, had a litany of issues when finishing 10th in the Kentucky Derby. Leparoux will also ride McCarthy’s first Preakness starter.
“He came out of the race pretty good the next day, but right after the race he had one nostril completely closed or clogged,” McCarthy said. “(Atomic Rain) must have hit him right there in one eye. It was closing pretty fast when we got to it and got all the dirt out from under the lid. He took a pretty good knock.”
It was also the first time the Sam Davis Stakes winner had raced on anything other a fast track or a firm turf in his 12 career starts.
“He just couldn’t get a hold of the track more than anything,” McCarthy said. “He’s got a great big Size 7 foot on him and he got hit a couple times. It was just kind of a rough Derby. There were some very nice horses that finished behind me.”
HULL – The lightly raced unbeaten winner of the Derby Trial worked five furlongs in a “bullet” 59.40 seconds Sunday at Churchill Downs under regular rider Miguel Mena.
Trainer Dale Romans said the owners of the son of Holy Bull are still undecided about running, but their decision may have a lot to do with the entry of the filly Rachel Alexandra.
“She changes the dynamics of the whole race,” Romans said. “She’s true speed that keeps on going. She’s real quality. It makes it a tougher decision to go. We’re going to sit down and talk about it on Tuesday and see if we want to go up there and run against her. Right now, I still think we’re going to go, but we’ll see what happens.”
Hull didn’t get to the races as a 2-year-old, but has gone undefeated in three starts in a career that began on Feb. 7 at Fair Grounds. Owned by Heiligbrodt Racing Stable, Team Valor and Gary Barber, Hull has won his three starts by a total of 16 lengths at three different race tracks.
MUSKET MAN – One trainer who seemed more than comfortable with the possible addition of Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness field is trainer Derek Ryan, whose late-running colt might benefit from more pace up front.
“I’m glad she’s in there,” Ryan said Sunday from Monmouth Park, where his colt will remain until race day. “Why not? She’ll keep Big Drama pretty honest on the lead and if you get beat by her, you’ll be getting beat by one of the best (fillies) of all time. If you beat her, you’ve beaten one of the great ones of all time – plus, plus.”
Ryan said he’s comfortable staying in New Jersey for all of Musket Man’s prep work. The son of Yonaguska has won five of seven career starts with two thirds. This year, the Kentucky bred is 3-for-5 with a pair of thirds.
“He just galloped a mile and a half today,” Ryan said. “There’s no rush to get there; we’re only about three hours down the road. He shipped for his first three races (all wins), so it’s no problem.”
Ryan said he plans to work Musket Man on Tuesday and then gallop up to the race. Musket Man won the Tampa Bay Derby (G3) and Illinois Derby (G2) before finishing a troubled third in the Kentucky Derby.
“He ran his race, but he probably should have been second,” Ryan said. “He came out of it good.”
PAPA CLEM – The Kentucky Derby must have seemed like a walk in the park compared to the fourth-place Derby finisher’s van ride from Louisville to Baltimore, a journey that began at 10:30 a.m. in Kentucky and ended at 1:10 a.m. Sunday morning.
“He looked fine this morning,” said trainer Gary Stute, who will be saddling his first Preakness runner. “We just walked him today, I don’t see any problem.”
The Arkansas Derby winner was only a nose and a head from finishing second in the Derby at odds of 12-1 with some traffic issues in the stretch. Stute’s father, Mel, won the Preakness with Snow Chief in 1986.
PIONEEROF THE NILE – Ahmed Zayat’s Kentucky Derby runner-up is scheduled to work Monday morning at Churchill Downs. The son of Empire Maker galloped 1 ½ miles Sunday morning.
“It was great to gallop on a fast track,” trainer Bob Baffert said.
RACHEL ALEXANDRA – Just over a week after her 20 1/4-length victory in the Kentucky Oaks on May 1, Rachel Alexandra tuned up for a planned run in the Preakness with half-mile breeze in 48.40 seconds Sunday at Churchill Downs.
Exercise rider Dominic Terry was in the saddle as Rachel Alexandra turned out fractional times of: 12.40 and: 24.40 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:02 over the fast track. The move ranked 13th among 81 works at the distance.
“I thought it went beautiful,” Asmussen said. “I’m surprised the racetrack dried out so well considering they cancelled (races) two days ago.
“She’s a beautiful filly. I think she’s doing extremely well. Every sight of her has been impressive and I’m just very happy to get this light move in this morning under very good conditions.”
Asmussen won the Preakness in 2007 with eventual “Horse of the Year” and 3-year-old champion Curlin, who rallied to edge Kentucky Derby (GI) winner Street Sense in that race. He declined to speculate where Rachel Alexandra fits among the males being pointed toward Saturday’s race at Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course.
“I think it’s like all races – you only worry about what you can take care of,” he said. “The filly has proven what a tremendous mare she is. Mr. Wiggins has done a remarkable job with an amazing filly and we’re just very fortunate to be around her.”
Rachel Alexandra’s win in the Kentucky Oaks was her fifth consecutive victory – all in stakes competition – and lifted her career earnings to $958,354. Her career record stands at 7-2-0 in 10 races.
TAKE THE POINTS – The Starlight Partners’ colt Take the Points, turned in a very good five furlong work in 1:00.09 Sunday over the training track at Belmont Park. It was the second fastest of 38 at the distance on that track.
“He worked in company with Monba, who we’re also running on Preakness Day on the turf,” said Don Lucarelli, one of the principal owners in the stable. “According to Angel Cordero, who was aboard Monba, Take the Points outworked Monba a little bit.”
Take the Points finished fourth in the Santa Anita Derby and did have enough graded stakes earnings to qualify for the Kentucky Derby, but the owners and trainer Todd Pletcher decided to aim for the Preakness instead.
“Since we added the blinkers after his last race in California, he has really stepped up,” Lucarelli said. “That’s what gave us the encouragement to potentially bypass the Derby to go on a track that favors speed a little more. Not that you’ll see us on the lead, but that track should lend itself to his style of running. He galloped out real strong and they were very happy with the work.”
TERRAIN – Trainer Al Stall Jr. sent Terrain to the Churchill Downs track Sunday morning for a five-furlong workout in company with Map of the World. The gelded son of Sky Mesa was clocked in 1:02.60 while finishing on even terms with his stablemate, who broke off two lengths ahead. Jamie Theriot was aboard for the workout, which ranked 19th of 35 at the distance.
“I had worked a few horses earlier in the morning and the track was fast. I didn’t want any lights out work,” said Stall, who reported that he’ll name a rider for Terrain on Wednesday morning. “He is ready to run. He got dialed in today. I told Jamie just to sit behind him and when he chirped to him, he was right on him and they finished heads up. Jamie was happy with him.”
Terrain is scheduled to fly from Louisville on Wednesday.
TONE IT DOWN – Sunday was “walk day” at nearby Laurel according to 73-year-old trainer Bill Komlo for the third-place finisher in the recent Federico Tesio (G3), who will likely be the only Preakness runner to have ever raced over the Pimlico surface.
“(The Preakness) was kind of always in the back of our minds when we got the horse in the Timonium sale last May,” said Komlo, a former University of Maryland football player. “When he ran second in his first start going a mile, we thought maybe we’ve got a distance horse here.”
That first start came with only four days left in his 2-year-old season, and the son of hot young sire Medaglia d’Oro has since won twice going longer in five starts at age 3. Komlo said jockey Mario Pino probably had the colt too close to the lead in his last two starts and has replaced him with former Maryland champion Kent Desormeaux.
“I think he wants to come from off the pace,” said Komlo, who said he may not give Tone It Down another work since the Tesio was only two weeks ago. He will ship in to Pimlico on race day.