BALTIMORE – Reddam Racing LLC’s Nyquist jogged two miles at Pimlico Race Course Monday morning, taking a break between circuits of the racetrack to school in the paddock in preparation for a highly anticipated start in Saturday’s 141st Preakness Stakes (G1).
The Kentucky Derby (G1) winner walked nonchalantly in the paddock under exercise rider Jonny Garcia, stopping to stand calmly in a stall during a drama-free schooling session. He subsequently schooled in the starting gate.
“He was great. He was just a true professional. He walked through the paddock and acted like he’d been there before,” trainer Doug O’Neill said. “He went from the paddock to the gate and got to meet Bruce Wagner and his boys, Kevin (Dzbynski) and Chris (Campitelli), and they were unbelievable with him the way they acted around him and the way he acted around them. They got along great. He schooled super in there. We’re just really happy. It was a really good morning.”
Nyquist, who turned in a thoroughly professional 1 ¼-length victory in the Derby in front of nearly 170,000 people May 7, has given his trainer confidence that he has the temperament to handle the Preakness crowds and a festive atmosphere as well as he has handled his competition thus far during his undefeated career.
“He’s undefeated winning five Grade 1s on five different tracks. He’s a very special horse. He continues to show that on a daily basis,” O’Neill said. “We’ve been blessed with a lot of good horses, but he’s by far the best horse we’ve ever had. He’s got a lot of energy and you see it in the afternoon when he competes. But he conserves his energy in the paddock and around the barn area around here. He sleeps a lot in his stall. He’s got the perfect combination for a top race horse.”
Jockey Mario Gutierrez has formed a special bond with Nyquist while being aboard the colt for all eight of his victories, managing to maintain a calm demeanor while performing at the highest level on big days.
“Mario is very calm. He has a good mind on him. He’s a good finesse rider. These two get along really fantastic,” O’Neill said.
Gutierrez, O’Neill and Reddam Racing will seek their second Preakness success Saturday, teaming with 2012 Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another for a triumph in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
“I think the relationship all starts with Paul and Zilla Reddam of Reddam Racing. Paul is so loyal. What Paul has shown Mario and I – and all his trainers – is that he will always have your back. I think that’s helped Mario and I through slumps, knowing that Reddam Racing isn’t going to fire you,” O’Neill said. “It all starts with Paul the way he leads us. Mario continues to just show up in these big races. He’s incredible.”
Nyquist is scheduled to remain on his schedule of alternating jogs and gallops throughout Preakness Week. He is slated to gallop Tuesday, jog Wednesday, gallop Thursday and jog Friday to prep for his Triple Crown quest in the Preakness.
ABIDING STAR – Stonehedge LLC’s Abiding Star galloped 1 ½ miles at Parx Racing Monday morning as trainer Ned Allard awaited word that would allow the son of Uncle Mo to participate in the Preakness.
Abiding Star and other healthy horses stabled at Parx have not been allowed to leave the Philadelphia area track since April 1 due to a quarantine for equine herpesvirus, and it is hoped that the quarantine will be lifted in the next couple days.
“The blood’s being drawn this morning. There are 14 horses. I’ve been told we could hear as early as late this afternoon. If not, I’m sure we’ll hear the first thing in the morning,” Allard said.
Abiding Star is riding a five-race winning streak that includes triumphs in the Private Terms Stakes at Laurel March 12 and the Parx Derby on May 7.
“I haven’t met any Muhammad Alis yet,” Allard said. “He just does what he has to do. Let’s hope he can do it with a little better horses.”
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.
AWESOME SPEED – Colts Neck Stable’s Federico Tesio winner Awesome Speed galloped 1 ¼ miles at owner Richard Santulli’s New Jersey training facility under the watchful eye of trainer Alan Goldberg Monday morning.
“We’ll probably breeze him tomorrow,” said Goldberg, who at age 66 will be running his first Preakness horse. It will also be the first Preakness for 21-year-old rider Jevian Toledo, Maryland’s leading jockey in 2015.
“I like him very much,” said Goldberg, whose most celebrated training job was with Hall of Fame sprinter Safely Kept. “He’s a real good rider.”
Toledo was aboard Awesome Speed for the first time in the Tesio, in which he set the pace before beaten by a nose to Governor Malibu, only to be awarded the victory via the disqualification of the first-place finisher.
The early weather forecast is calling for a fair chance of rain for Saturday, but the son of Awesome Again won the Tesio on a wet track labeled “good” at Laurel on April 9. That earned him an automatic berth in the Preakness starting gate.
Goldberg said the track condition probably won’t make that much difference, maintaining his colt needs to improve dramatically to contend with the likes of Nyquist and Exaggerator based on speed figures.
“My chances are long now,” Goldberg said. “I think he’s a way long shot.”
CHERRY WINE – William Pacella, Frank Jones Jr. and Frank Shoop’s Cherry Wine went twice around the track at Churchill Downs Monday morning under regular exercise rider Faustino Aguilar.
“He galloped today,” said trainer Dale Romans, who won the Preakness in 2011 with Shackleford. “He galloped two miles today and he’ll gallop tomorrow.”
Cherry Wine is scheduled to ship to Pimlico on Wednesday with Romans coming in to Baltimore Tuesday night. The son of Paddy O’Prado will represent the fifth Preakness starter for Romans. It will be jockey Corey Lanerie’s first mount in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
“I never have ridden there,” Lanerie said. “I will have a couple of mounts Saturday before the Preakness.”
Lanerie has been aboard Cherry Wine in his past four starts beginning with a maiden-breaking score at Churchill Downs on Nov. 28.
“I never had been on him until that race,” Lanerie said. “It was an off-the-turf race and it was hard to get a gauge on him, but he came home real fast and handled the mud just fine. I don’t think I moved on him.”
Following that 9 ¼-length romp, Cherry Wine was a six-length winner on a fast track at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 9 in an optional claiming race.
“He impressed me a lot that day,” Lanerie said. “A lot of horses don’t handle that kick-back well, but he did and he just ran right by them. I had a real good gauge on him then.”
Romans trained both the sire and dam (C.S. Royce) of Cherry Wine, who finished third in the Blue Grass (G1) in his last start at Keeneland.
COLLECTED – Speedway Stable’s Collected continued his preparation for the Preakness Monday with a 1 ¼-mile gallop under George Alvarez at Churchill Downs.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert will try for his record-tying seventh victory in the Preakness with the son of City Zip, who has won four of six lifetime starts and is scheduled to ship to Pimlico on Tuesday morning. Nineteenth century star Robert Walden has the record. Baffert and D. Wayne Lukas have won the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown six times apiece.
Baffert pulled even with Lukas last year when American Pharoah skipped through the mud for a lopsided victory on his way to a sweep of the Triple Crown. Five trainers, Walden, Thomas Healy, Ben Jones, Tom Bohannan and Lukas have won the Preakness in consecutive years. Walden won five straight beginning in 1878, but Baffert is the only trainer to be a repeat winner twice. He doubled with Silver Charm in 1997 and Real Quiet in 1998 and again with Point Given in 2001 and War Emblem in 2002. He is in position to repeat a third time.
Purchased for $170,000, Collected has already earned $433,700 while winning two Grade 3 stakes, the Sham at Santa Anita and the Lexington at Keeneland. Pimlico will be his sixth different track in seven career races.
“He’s fast. He’s won on turf and dirt, which makes him an exceptional horse,” Baffert said. “The only bad race he had was in the Southwest, where he got away slow. He never got engaged and just ran fourth.”
Baffert said the setback in the Southwest at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 15 did not knock him off the trail to the Triple Crown series.
“We never really discussed the Kentucky Derby with him,” Baffert said. “The Preakness has always been the long-range plan for him, but we just took it a race at a time. We were basically running him, trying to make some money and have some fun with him.”
Mission accomplished. Now it’s on to Grade 1 competition.
Noting how speed held up well in the Kentucky Derby, with Nyquist and Gun Runner finishing first and third, Baffert said he could somewhat second-guess the decision to try for the race.
“Even if he had the points, I don’t think we would have run in the Derby at a mile and a quarter,” Baffert said. “The way it looks like now, he might have hit the board in the Derby. He’s a pretty solid, consistent horse.”
Three-time defending Eclipse Award winning jockey Javier Castellano rode Collected to his win in the Lexington on April 16 and will be aboard in the Preakness.
Alvarez, who was the regular exercise rider for Triple Crown winner American Pharoah last year, as well as 2010 Preakness winner Lookin At Lucky and 2012 Preakness runner-up Bodemeister, has teamed with Collected during his stay in Kentucky.
“Other guys were on him in California and I just started getting on him here in Kentucky for four weeks,” Alvarez said. “He is the nicest horse in the barn and makes it easy on us.”
Collected was at Keeneland for a few days before winning the Lexington Stakes (G3) on April 16. Since he has been at Churchill Downs he has had three works.
“The horse is doing very well,” Alvarez said. “He ran a good race at Keeneland and worked very well here the other day (seven furlongs in 1:24.80 on Friday).”
DAZZLING GEM – Trainer Brad Cox said Monday morning that he was leaning toward running Dazzling Gem in the $100,000 Sir Barton at 1 1/16 miles on Saturday rather than the Preakness.
Dazzling Gem, who worked a half-mile in 49.60 seconds on Sunday at Churchill Downs, walked the shedrow Monday. He is scheduled to ship to Pimlico on Wednesday and will be ridden by Luis Saez.
EXAGGERATOR – It’s well documented that Kent Desormeaux’s Hall of Fame riding career exploded once he moved from Louisiana to Maryland, where he became a record-setting apprentice jockey. But his older brother Keith, the 49-year-old trainer of Kentucky Derby runner-up and Preakness Stakes contender Exaggerator, also got his big push in Maryland about 30 years ago.
Keith Desormeaux said by phone from California that he was in college at Louisiana Tech when his kid brother encouraged him to come to Maryland.
“That’s where it all started,” said Desormeaux, an animal science major at Louisiana Tech. “I started galloping at Laurel and then was an assistant trainer with the great Charles Hadry. I spent most of my time at Pimlico in the barn across the street from the stakes barn. That’s where I cut my teeth. I haven’t been back there, I think, since 1991, so it’s been quite a while.
“Kent was asked to come out with (current Kentucky trainer) David Vance. He was at Louisiana Downs and he was going from there to Maryland. Maryland has always been a great place for apprentices to develop. That’s why Kent went. He was there six months, a year before I went. I was in college and I wanted to work on the track during the summer. That would have been my first summer job, and Kent was already on a roll there in Maryland. Why would I go anywhere else? I had a free room to bunk in. He knew people and I got a job there.”
Exaggerator, the Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner, walked the shedrow the morning after vanning Sunday from Churchill Downs to Pimlico with assistant trainer Julie Clark at the wheel. After training hours ended at 10 a.m., Exaggerator was led over to the indoor paddock to school.
“He likes to get out early and then have a nap,” Clark said. “We’ll probably (paddock school) another couple of times. He’s a little bit of a handful over and coming home, so the more we practice the better we all are.”
Clark said Exaggerator came out of the Derby in fine fashion, adding with a laugh, “I wouldn’t mind if he were a little more tired. Just for one day.
“… Even the Sunday after (the Derby), he looked pretty good, and by Monday he was back to his normal self…. The first couple of days I thought he looked a little bit drawn. I really feel like I was just nit-picking. There wasn’t anything to complain about, but if I had to complain about one thing that would be it. But even after shipping here, he’s regained (any lost weight). And he eats everything in sight, I swear. He’s just a vacuum.”
Clark said the trip, with Exaggerator in a 32-foot trailer accompanied by a gelding, took about 10 hours. Four other Desormeaux-trained horses at Churchill vanned to Maryland via a big Sallee van.
“He loves to ship, he’s very good in the trailer,” she said. “So I just put a gelding in there with him. We had some 2-year-old colts that are real boisterous, and I thought it would be a nice quiet trip without all the boys ‘talking.’ I give the hard ones to (Sallee).”
Exaggerator will gallop Tuesday morning. He’s likely to stand in the starting gate on Friday.
FELLOWSHIP – Jacks or Better Farm’s Fellowship galloped a mile Monday morning at Churchill Downs.
Trained by Mark Casse, Fellowship will be the third Preakness starter in as many years for the conditioner. Danzig Moon finished sixth last year, while Dynamic Impact checked in seventh in 2014.
Fellowship was scheduled to leave Churchill Downs by van Monday afternoon with an early Tuesday morning arrival at Pimlico.
Norman Casse, assistant to his father, said Fellowship would gallop Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at Pimlico with a possible paddock schooling session on Thursday.
Fellowship finished fourth in the Pat Day Mile (G3) on the Kentucky Derby undercard.
“I think that Fellowship is doing really well. He came out of the Pat Day Mile with good energy and he’s really been full of himself in the morning. I actually thought he ran really well in the Pat Day Mile. It was a tough thing to do to cut him back to a one-turn mile after routing him all winter,” the younger Casse said. “It seemed like the horse that won the race (Sharp Azteca) did something that was rather unique. He went really fast early, drew off and that doesn’t seem to happen very often, so we thought he ran well.”
GUN RUNNER – Winchell Thoroughbreds, Three Chimneys Farm and Besilu Stables’ Gun Runner worked a half-mile in 51.40 seconds Monday morning at Churchill Downs.
With exercise rider Carlos Rosas aboard for trainer Steve Asmussen, Gun Runner posted splits of 25.40 seconds and 51.40, galloping out five furlongs in 1:04.60. The work was the 38th fastest of 42 at the distance over a fast track.
“I thought he worked beautifully; he moved well,” Asmussen said of the Louisiana Derby (G2) winner who finished third behind Nyquist in the Kentucky Derby. “I am very happy with him physically (after the Derby). He has a good attitude and a good appetite and I hope it continues that way.”
No decision has been made on Gun Runner’s possible Preakness participation.
“I will speak with the owners and go from there,” Asmussen said.
LANI – Koji Maeda’s Lani had a very quiet morning at Belmont Park Monday, the day after he worked approximately a half-mile on the main track.
Following what Maeda’s agent, Keita Tanaka, said was a normal Japanese training practice, the colt stayed in his stall during the morning. Tanaka said Lani might walk around the barn in the afternoon.
“The morning he had completely off,” Tanaka said. “This is following the routine that is common in Japan.”
Tanaka said the son of Tapit, who finished well to end up ninth in the Kentucky Derby, came out of the breeze in fine shape.
“He is nice and happy,” Tanaka said. “He ate everything we gave him.”
Lani is scheduled to return to the track Tuesday morning. Tanaka said the colt typically goes out at 7 a.m. and spends about 45 minutes on the oval. In recent days he has covered some six miles with a combination of walking, jogging and cantering.
Since his arrival at Belmont Park on May 9, two days after the Derby, Lani’s home has been a stall in trainer Barclay Tagg’s barn. Tanaka said that New York Racing Association officials assigned that location.
“It’s the closest to the track, so it’s very convenient,” he said. “And Mr. Tagg and his team are super supportive of my team. I really appreciate his support.”
Trainer Mikio Matsunaga is scheduled to arrive in New York from Tokyo on Tuesday afternoon, when he will take a look at the colt and finalize plans to train him on Wednesday morning.
“It’s just a matter of how far we’re going to go,” Tanaka said. “We’re definitely going on Wednesday, if everything is right.”
Lani’s mid-week work is something of a throwback to the training programs used years ago in America but rarely employed these days. It is in sharp contrast to the training of Derby winner Nyquist who gallops one day and jogs the next in an attempt to keep him fresh and reduce the chance of injury.
“I understand that this is totally different from what American trainers do,” Tanaka said, “but this is pretty normal for Japanese trainers, to give a final workout, either on Wednesday or Thursday, before a horse has a race on the weekend.”
LAOBAN – Trainer Eric Guillot reported that Laoban galloped 1 ½ miles Monday morning at Keeneland and is scheduled for a Tuesday morning flight to Baltimore to begin his local regimen for Saturday’s Preakness.
“He’s doing good; the horse is great,” Guillot said. “He leaves Louisville tomorrow morning to catch a plane at 9 o’clock.”
Laoban has been in Kentucky since his fourth-place finish in the Blue Grass (G1) at Keeneland on April 9. He was entered in the Kentucky Derby but didn’t draw into the 20-horse field off the also-eligible list. Guillot said the extra rest should work to his advantage at Pimlico.
“It was probably the best thing for the horse,” he said of the son of Uncle Mo who sold for $260,000 at the Keeneland Fall Sale in 2014. “I’ve got a fresh horse, you know.”
He’s also got a fresh rider in Ricardo Santana Jr., a star at Oaklawn Park in recent years and, like Guillot, a first-time player in the Preakness. Santana will be the fourth different rider for Laoban in six career starts.
With a triumph in the Preakness, the dark bay colt would have the rare distinction of breaking his maiden in a Triple Crown race. His best finish in stakes company to date was a second to favorite Shagaf in the Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct in March.
Guillot will run Laoban without blinkers for the first time in his last five races.
STRADIVARI – Todd Pletcher knows his Preakness reputation: That he’s “allergic” to the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown at Pimlico Race Course. The seven-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer said nothing is farther from the truth, noting he’s just trying to enhance his horses’ chances of winning major races down the road after the grind of the Kentucky Derby.
Pletcher’s record is 1-2-3 with 45 Kentucky Derby starters, including triumphant Super Saver in 2010. That puts him three starters behind his former boss, D. Wayne Lukas’ record of 48.
Pletcher’s best Triple Crown record comes in the Belmont Stakes (G1) at his New York base, where Pletcher is 2-3-2 out of 16 starters, winning in 2007 with the filly Rags to Riches and in 2013 with Palace Malice. His Preakness ledger: one third (Impeachment in 2000, his first time in the race) in seven starts, the last being in 2011, when Dance City was fifth.
But with current Preakness candidate Stradivari, Pletcher said he has a lightly raced colt who deserves a chance. The son of Medaglia d’Oro was fourth in his Nov. 8 debut at Aqueduct before winning a Gulfstream Park off-the-turf maiden race by 11 and a 1 1/8-mile Keeneland allowance by 14.
“First of all, I have nothing against the Preakness,” Pletcher said. “I love Pimlico. I love the people who work there. I have the utmost respect for the Preakness, and I would absolutely love to win it. Saying that, for as bad as our Derby record is, I think our record is pretty good with horses coming out of the Derby and having productive campaigns afterwards. I attribute that in some part to the fact that we recognize how difficult the Derby trail can be, how taxing the Derby can be on horses and by giving them time, passing the Preakness and either pointing to the Belmont or other race .
“Stay Thirsty, for example, improved a lot in the (2011) Belmont, finishing second and then was able to go on and win the Jim Dandy (G2) and Travers (G1). Take Verrazano, he was disappointing in the (2013) Derby but came back and won the Pegasus (G3) and the Haskell (G1). Palace Malice comes back and wins the Belmont.”
Pletcher also could have mentioned Flower Alley, who was ninth in the 2005 Derby and didn’t race again until summer, giving the trainer his first Travers victory.
“It’s worked well for us,” he said. “We’ve picked the few horses that we’ve run back in the Preakness. Impeachment was third. Then we’ve run a few like Aikenite and King of the Roxy that unfortunately weren’t in the Derby because they didn’t qualify or just weren’t quite up to a classic standard. But it was nothing personal about skipping Preakness.
“We take a lot of shots in the Derby, and we’ve run a lot of long shots, frankly a lot of horses that probably had no shots. But we’ve corrected those mistakes by not doing it two times in a row in two weeks.”
Stradivari galloped 1 3/8 miles Monday at Belmont Park.
UNCLE LINO – Veteran trainer Gary Sherlock will see if he can extend his Grade 1 road unbeaten streak to three Saturday when Uncle Lino competes in the 141st Preakness.
Sherlock, 70, won the Humana Distaff (G1) at Churchill Downs and the Ballerina (G1) at Saratoga with Intangaroo in 2008. With partners Tom Mansor and Jim Glavin’s Purple Shamrock Racing, he is readying to saddle Uncle Lino in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
Uncle Lino, a son of Uncle Mo, is coming off a gate-to-wire score in the California Chrome on April 30 at Los Alamitos. He will ship to Pimlico from Santa Anita on Tuesday.
Jockey Fernando Hernandez Perez, who has ridden Uncle Lino in all of his seven starts, will join the three owners making his Triple Crown debut in the Preakness. Perez, 29, is a native of Mexico and began the North American portion of his career in Canada.
Pimlico Race Course