BALTIMORE – Kentucky Derby hero Nyquist galloped a strong mile Sunday morning at Pimlico Race Course in preparation for Saturday’s 141st Preakness Stakes (G1).
“He’s a special horse. When you get here in the morning and walk down the shedrow and you’re able to look in his eye, you know you’re right alongside greatness,” trainer Doug O’Neill said. “What he did today gave you goose bumps, but he does that every day. It’s only been eight days since he won the Derby, so you’d expect a little deflation in his energy level, but he was as strong as ever.”
Reddam Racing LLC’s undefeated 3-year-old colt backtracked in the company of a pony ridden by assistant trainer Jack Sisterson to the top of the first turn before reversing direction and breaking off for a once-around gallop that was completed in full stride under exercise rider Jonny Garcia.
“We’re very happy. The plan going into today was to have a comfortable gallop. We got him going a minute and 55 seconds for a mile, under a two-minute lick,” O’Neill said. “Jonny was happy. The way he looked out there left us all smiling.
Video of Nyquist Sunday morning (galloping down stretch begins at 1:15):
Nyquist, who scored a 1 ¼-length decision over Exaggerator in the Derby, has an alternating training schedule that includes jogging one day, galloping the next day. The son of Uncle Mo is slated to jog two miles at Pimlico Monday morning.
“He had five races as a 2-year-old, and with babies you’ve got to go easy on them. He just never missed a beat. We started having that approach with him early on, and as he continued to win, we weren’t going to change,” said O’Neill of the unique training regimen.
Nyquist has flourished under the alternating morning activities while capturing five Grade 1 stakes among his eight victories without defeat.
“He’s a special horse. We just got to stay injury free, and this journey hopefully has a long road ahead,” O’Neill said.
Nyquist will go to the track Monday at 8:30 a.m. Trainer Doug O’Neill will address the media at 9:30 a.m.
ABIDING STAR – Trainer Ned Allard has been forced to alter Abiding Star’s racing schedule this spring due to a quarantine in effect at Parx Racing since April 1 due to equine herpesvirus. The veteran conditioner is hopeful that the quarantine is lifted and he’s able to follow through on his plan to run the son of Uncle Mo in the Preakness.
“We still need the quarantine to be lifted on Tuesday but everything I’ve heard from everyone is that it will be a shock if it’s not,” Allard said.
Maryland Jockey Club is prepared to take special precautions for Parx-based horses shipping to Pimlico, should the quarantine be lifted. Parx horses would train at 5 a.m. before regular training hours and would be housed in isolation stalls on the Pimlico backstretch, far from the Preakness Stakes Barns.
Abiding Star is riding a five-race winning streak, including a triumph in the $100,000 Parx Derby by 1 ¾ lengths as the 3-5 favorite May 7.
The Florida-bred colt was winless in the first six races of his career before breaking through with a score in a $40,000 maiden claimer at Laurel Park Jan. 1. Stonehedge LLC’s homebred followed up his long-awaited first victory with an allowance win at Parx and a triumph in the Private Terms Stakes at Laurel March 12. He captured an allowance and the Parx Derby in his last two races.
Although he’s had to call some audibles for Abiding Star and stablemate Always Sunshine, a candidate for the Maryland Sprint Handicap (G3) on Preakness Day, Allard is optimistic that the quarantine at Parx could ultimately work to his advantage.
“As it’s turned out, at least we were able to find some races in between as far as keeping them racing, and the purses were good. It really hasn’t been as inconvenient as you might think. Who knows? It might have been beneficial because they got some races into them, built up their confidence and picked up some money to boot,” Allard said. “We did miss some races, and who knows how they would have turned out? But they had some races and built up their confidence.”
J.D. Acosta is scheduled to ride Abiding Star, who is tentatively scheduled to ship to Pimlico Thursday morning.
AWESOME SPEED – Awesome Speed continues to go through a routine exercise program at his Colts Neck Stable base in New Jersey, galloping Sunday and scheduled for another endurance-building gallop on Monday before a possible final work on Tuesday.
“We may give him an easy breeze on Tuesday, maybe a half-mile,” said trainer Alan Goldberg, who takes no solace in being one of the longer shots in the prospective field. “If I had Nyquist I’d be excited.”
Awesome Speed, a $335,000 son of Awesome Again, earned an automatic berth in the Preakness when he won the Federico Tesio at Laurel on a disqualification on April 9.
“We’ll ship down on Thursday,” said Goldberg, who personally may not come to Pimlico until race day. “It’s about three hours.”
Awesome Speed is 4-for-6 lifetime and has won two of his three starts as a sophomore. He was fourth behind Mohaymen in the Fountain of Youth (G2) before being pushed up over Governor Malibu in the Tesio. Governor Malibu came back to run second in the Peter Pan (G2) at Belmont on Saturday.
The Colts Neck colorbearer won the Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream on Jan. 2 and the J.F. Lewis III at Laurel last fall as a 2-year-old.
CHERRY WINE – William Pacella, Frank Jones Jr. and Frank Shoop’s Cherry Wine walked the shedrow at trainer Dale Romans’ barn at Churchill Downs a day after working five furlongs in 1:01.60.
“He came out of the work fine,” said Romans’ assistant Baldemar Bahena.
Cherry Wine is scheduled to ship to Pimlico on Wednesday.
COLLECTED – Speedway Stable’s Collected returned to the track at Churchill Downs Sunday morning to jog under exercise rider George Alvarez.
Trained by six-time Preakness winner Bob Baffert, Collected had walked Saturday following a seven-furlong work of 1:24.80 on Friday.
A two-time Grade 3 winner, Collected is scheduled to ship to Pimlico on Tuesday.
DAZZLING GEM – Steve Landers Racing’s Dazzling Gem worked a half-mile in 49.60 seconds over a fast track at Churchill Downs Sunday morning, but trainer Brad Cox did not commit to a start in Saturday’s Preakness.
“No decision has been made nor has a rider been confirmed,” said Cox, who is weighing the Preakness or Sir Barton on the Preakness undercard as Dazzling Gem’s next start. “We’ll have a decision in the next day or two.”
With exercise rider Fernando Espinoza aboard, Dazzling Gem was one of the first horses on the fast track after it opened for training a little before 6 a.m. Working on his own, Dazzling Gem produced fractions of 12.60 seconds, 24.60, 49.60 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:02.80 and six furlongs in 1:16.40. The work was the 16th fastest of 30 at the distance.
“I thought he worked really well; nice and steady,” Cox said. “He is fit and I didn’t want to do a lot with him. It was just a maintenance work.”
It was the third work for Dazzling Gem at Churchill Downs since a fourth-place finish in the Arkansas Derby (G1). Dazzling Gem is scheduled to ship to Pimlico on Wednesday.
EXAGGERATOR – Assistant trainer Julie Clark personally was hauling Kentucky Derby runner-up Exaggerator to Pimlico Sunday in a big trailer that also transported a 2-year-old, according to the Churchill Downs stable office. Exaggerator left the grounds about 6 a.m., not long after four other horses trained by Keith Desormeaux, including stakes horses Swipe and Right There, left for Maryland on a Sallee van, according to stable office records. Right There was entered Sunday in Friday’s $150,000 Adena Springs Miss Preakness (G3).
FELLOWSHIP – Jacks or Better Farm’s Fellowship galloped a mile and a half at Churchill Downs under exercise rider Brian O’Leary.
Trained by Mark Casse, who posted his 2,000th career victory Sunday, Fellowship is scheduled to depart by van Monday afternoon for Pimlico.
“He will train in the morning and then will have the day off Tuesday,” said Norman Casse, assistant to his father.
GUN RUNNER – The Preakness status of Gun Runner, the Louisiana Derby winner and Kentucky Derby third-place finisher, will remain undecided until after the Candy Ride colt works a half-mile Monday at Churchill Downs.
“And we’ll see how he comes out of that Tuesday,” said David Fiske, longtime racing and bloodstock manager for co-owner Winchell Thoroughbreds.
Trainer Steve Asmussen is famous for his “easy half-miles” the Monday before a race, with 50 seconds frequently being the time. Asked for the ‘over-under’ on what Gun Runner’s clocking would be, Fiske quipped, “I’d say if the over-under is 49 4/5, I’d take the under.”
Fiske said it will likely be a last-minute decision on the Preakness, with Asmussen having reservations on Tex Sutton equine charter flights to Baltimore both Tuesday and Wednesday.
Exercise rider Carlos Rosas will be up for the work.
Scott Blasi, Asmussen’s top assistant, said the stable is running Oaklawn allowance winner Cced in Friday’s $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan, stakes-winner Simple Surprise and Oaklawn allowance winner One True Kiss in the $150,000 Adena Springs’ Miss Preakness and Churchill Downs’ Dogwood (G3) winner Super Majesty in the $150,000 Allaire DuPont Distaff (G3).
LANI – Koji Maeda’s Lani turned in a leisurely, unofficial half-mile work of approximately 50 seconds at Belmont Park Sunday morning during the 45 minutes he spent on the main track.
Keita Tanaka, who serves as Maeda’s agent, said the Tapit colt made two laps of the 1½-mile track in a canter – approximately what is referred to as a gallop – and was asked to increase his speed for four furlongs on the second circuit. Tanaka described the move as “stretching out.”
“I’ve heard that it was 50 seconds for four furlongs,” Tanaka said, noting that the time was according to plan. The extended time on the track – unusual by North American standards – is part of the daily routine for the Kentucky-bred who is based in Japan.
Lani is scheduled to breeze five or six furlongs at Belmont Park Wednesday morning and ship to Baltimore early Thursday morning. He will be the first Japan-based horse to run in the Preakness and will again be ridden by 16-time Japanese champion Yutaka Take.
A strong finish in the Kentucky Derby convinced the connections of Lani, bred and owned by Maeda and his wife Yoko’s North Hill Management, to consider the colt for the 141st Preakness Stakes.
Tanaka said that the Kentucky Derby and the Belmont Stakes (G1) were the original targets for the colt after he won the U.A.E. Derby on March 26 in Dubai. However, when the colt rallied from last to finish ninth at Churchill Downs, the team decided to prepare him for the Preakness.
“It was good race, but it was not his day and he was unlucky,” Tanaka said. “The pace was very fast and the winner got a good position. The horses who placed ahead of Lani got better trips. He didn’t have a smooth run on the turn, but he kept coming and coming. We’re quite happy with how he ran that day.”
The Preakness was added to the schedule. Trainer Mikio Matsunaga returned to Japan to saddle a runner in the Victoria Mile (G1) on Sunday at Tokyo Racecourse and is scheduled to fly back to New York on Tuesday.
“As long as we came to the U.S., I want to participate in all legs of the Triple Crown,” Tanaka said. “The Preakness was not planned before the Derby, but he came out of the Derby OK in good condition, and so we have decided to have him run at Pimlico.”
It will be the first visit to Pimlico for the Lani team.
Following his victory in the U.A.E. Derby, Lani was flown to Chicago, where he spent time in quarantine, then shipped to Churchill Downs. Even though the Preakness became a target, Lani was sent to Belmont Park two days after the Kentucky Derby.
“I could have gone straight to Pimlico from Churchill Downs, but the trainer thought he preferred a bigger and wider track for the galloping in preparation for the next race,” Tanaka said. “This is why we choose to keep him at Belmont Park instead of going straight to Pimlico.”
LAOBAN – Laoban walked the shedrow at Keeneland Sunday morning, the day after working 1:14.40 for six furlongs in his final timed breeze for the Preakness.
“He came out of it good. We’re going to go back to the track Tuesday morning,” trainer Eric Guillot said. “He’ll leave around 11 (a.m.) from Louisville. We should be there (Pimlico) in the afternoon.”
The $260,000 son of Uncle Mo, who finished fourth in the Blue Grass (G1) was on the also-eligible list for the Kentucky Derby but failed to get into the race. Laoban, who has run with blinkers in four of his five career starts, will be without them for the Preakness.
He will also be ridden by the fourth different jockey in as many races as Guillot named Ricardo Santana Jr. as the new rider for this race. Laoban’s five races have all been on different race tracks, so Guillot isn’t concerned about shipping.
“If you have a good horse, you’ve got to travel,” said Guillot, who has the tall task of trying to break his colt’s maiden in the Preakness. “The race is loaded with speed and this horse is going to have to learn to be a good horse. He’s going to have to learn to sit off them a little bit.”
Laoban was third in Santa Anita’s Sham (G3) and second in the Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct after a pair of failed maiden tries in California as a 2-year-old.
STRADIVARI – After Stradivari broke his maiden in his second lifetime start by a handy 11 ¼ lengths at Gulfstream Park Dec. 5, trainer Todd Pletcher had to scrap a plan to point the son of Medaglia d’Oro to some prep race for the Triple Crown. The seven-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer had to wait four months for Stradivari’s return to action in a Keeneland allowance race April 17.
“We just had a minor setback with him [after the Gulfstream win]. He never was totally out of training. He stayed at Palm Beach Downs and we just got a little behind schedule in some of the traditional Derby preps,” Pletcher said. “We just ran out of time a little bit and decided that the allowance race was the direction to go.”
Stradivari followed up his maiden victory in even more dazzling fashion in the entry-level allowance, scoring by 14 ½ lengths after running 1 1/8 miles in 1:48 3/5.
“On one side of it you have a fresh horse that hasn’t been through the rigors of the prep series and a race like the Derby. On the other side of the coin you have a horse that’s pretty light on experience and is giving up some seasoning to some horses that have been on that campaign,” Pletcher said. “You might gain a bit in one area and lose a bit in the other, but historically I think it takes a pretty special horse to be able to compete in races like that against these types of horses. We are really impressed with the way he’s run and the way he’s trained.”
UNCLE LINO – Yet another stakes-winning son of the hot young sire Uncle Mo steps into the Preakness from a smashing win in the California Chrome – named after the 2014 Derby and Preakness winner – at Los Alamitos. Trained and co-owned by Gary Sherlock, Uncle Lino led from gate to wire in the California Chrome and set a track record for 1 1/16 miles of 1:40.82.
Uncle Lino was one of three yearlings Sherlock and Tom Mansor purchased at the 2014 Keeneland September Yearling Sale. They subsequently brought in another California resident, Jim Glavin as a partner on the trio. Mansor has owned horses for many years. One of his recent successes was with the sprinter Big Macher. Glavin has been in the sport for many years and operates at Purple Shamrock Racing.
Sherlock said that he identified Uncle Lino as an individual that could develop into a capable runner but was a bit of a gamble.
“He just needed to do a few things right,” Sherlock said. “His withers needed to come up. He was a little off. He needed to grow into his pasterns. He did all those things and more and he did everything right in his races. He’s a very good horse.”
Uncle Lino will be Sherlock’s first starter in Maryland.
The colt is out of a strong female family. His dam, Haysee by sprint champion Orientate, never made it to the races, but she is a half-sister to 2011 Preakness winner Shackleford and the mare Lady Joanne, winner of the historic Alabama (G1) at Saratoga, and two other graded-stakes winners. Sherlock paid $52,000 for the yearling colt who has finished in the top three in six of his seven starts and earned $316,600.
“I’m surprised that I got him that cheap with his pedigree,” he said. “I just got lucky.”
Sherlock started training Quarter Horses and Thoroughbreds in 1966, but his main focus was Quarter Horses at Los Alamitos. When he made the switch to Thoroughbreds in 1980, he was third in Quarter Horse victories in California. A health emergency – a blocked artery –forced him to leave training in 1995. He returned a decade later had great success with one of his early purchases, the sprinting filly Intangaroo. A $37,000 buy, she won three Grade 1 sprint races in 2008 and sold for $1.8 million as a broodmare prospect.
These days, Sherlock operates a small stable of 20 horses.
“It just fits,” he said. “I don’t want to have 100. I just want better. It’s a good number.”
Pimlico Race Course