BALTIMORE – Reddam Racing LLC’s Nyquist jogged twice around the Pimlico racetrack Saturday morning, a week before a highly anticipated bid to complete a Kentucky Derby-Preakness Stakes double in next Saturday’s Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
Jonny Garcia was aboard for the Doug O’Neill-trained colt’s morning exercise. Four years ago, the 30-year-old exercise rider was at Pimlico assisting in Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another’s preparation for a run at a successful run in the Preakness Stakes (G1).
Video of Nyquist Saturday morning
“I’ve been lucky to have these horses. It’s been exciting to get on two Kentucky Derby winners. I’m so happy,” Garcia said. “When you’re growing up you never think you’re going to ride a Kentucky Derby winner. The Kentucky Derby is a big race. You never think it can happen, and it’s happened to me twice. I’m so lucky.”
Garcia grew up in Mexico before moving to the United States in 2002 and subsequently went to work at Southern California racetracks.
“I was a hotwalker and a groom before I started riding horses,” he said.
In 2008, he went to work for O’Neill and has become an important member of Team O’Neill.
“Jonny is so valuable. These horses really feed off our energy. If you’re not excited, happy, appreciative to be here every morning serving them, they sense that. Jonny is always smiling. Like the rest of us, I think he feels very privileged to be able to ride horses every morning,” O’Neill said. “Any horse he’s able to get on really benefits from his horsemanship and his energy.”
Garcia, who went home to visit his family after the Kentucky Derby, has been happy with Nyquist’s physical condition since he rejoined the son of Uncle Mo Tuesday.
“He’s so strong. Nyquist is so strong. At Churchill, he’d get so excited when he saw all the people,” Garcia said. “Now, Nyquist is still strong but he’s more relaxed.”
Garcia and his fellow members of Team O’Neill attended Friday night’s game between the Baltimore Orioles and Detroit Tigers at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. O’Neill, a Michigan native who has developed a special appreciation for Baltimore since 2012, didn’t disclose if he was rooting for a particular team in the game won by the Orioles, 1-0.
“I was rooting for the under – not that I have a gambling problem, that’s a rumor,” O’Neill quipped. “I was rooting for a pitching duel and we got it, so it was a happy day for me.”
Cherry Wine Breezes 5F at Churchill Downs
Cherry Wine finished his major preparations for the Preakness by working five furlongs on a fast Churchill Downs track in 1:01.60.
Working on his own and with regular exercise rider Faustino Aguilar aboard, Cherry Wine produced fractions of 24.80 seconds, 49.20, 1:01.60 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:14. The work was the 24th fastest of 38 at the distance.
“I thought he worked well,” trainer Dale Romans said. “He will ship to Pimlico on Wednesday.”
It was the second work for Cherry Wine since finishing third in the Blue Grass Stakes (GI) on April 9 at Keeneland. He had worked five furlongs in 1:00.60 at Churchill Downs on April 30.
“He is a light-framed horse and we space his works out,” Romans said. “Plus, we had a lot to do last Saturday (with horses in eight races including Brody’s Cause in the Kentucky Derby).”
A Preakness victory by Cherry Wine to go along with Shackleford’s 2011 triumph would have extra meaning for Romans.
“I trained the sire (Paddy O’Prado), the dam (C.S. Royce) and her mother (Sweeping Story),” Romans said. “It would be special.”
Cherry Wine will be jockey Corey Lanerie’s first Preakness mount.
Kentucky Derby runner-up Exaggerator had his final morning on the track at Churchill Downs Saturday, galloping 1 ¼ miles. Trained by Keith Desormeaux, Exaggerator is scheduled to leave Kentucky at 5 Sunday morning.
“He has been eating; his energy is good … all positive signs,” assistant trainer Julie Clark said.
Derby third-place finisher Gun Runner galloped 1 ¼ miles at Churchill while trainer Steve Asmussen and owners Winchell Thoroughbreds, Three Chimneys Farm and Besilu Stables decide his Preakness future.
“It hasn’t been ruled out,” said David Fiske, Racing Manager for Winchell Thoroughbreds. “He is ready to go, but we have not decided.”
Collected came out of his seven-furlong work (1:24.80) at Churchill Friday in good order, reported Jim Barnes, assistant to trainer Bob Baffert.
Fellowship, fourth in the Pat Day Mile (G3) on the Derby undercard, galloped 1 ½ miles Saturday morning. The Jacks or Better Farm homebred and a contingent of Mark Casse-trained horses are scheduled to leave Churchill Downs Monday afternoon for an overnight excursion to Pimlico with a Tuesday morning arrival anticipated.
Laoban Breezes 6F at Keeneland
Multiple graded stakes-placed maiden Laoban breezed six furlongs in 1:14.40 at Keeneland Saturday morning in preparation for the Preakness.
“I put him three jumps behind the horse I’m bringing in for the Sir Barton, Fearless Dragon. They went off in 26-and-1 (seconds) and finished in 24 flat,” said trainer Eric Guillot. “It was an easy maintenance work, just trying to get him to relax.”
The son of Uncle Mo, who finished third in the Sham (G3) at Santa Anita and second in the Gotham (G2) at Aqueduct, is coming of a fourth-place finish in the Blue Grass (G1), in which he set the pace into the stretch before fading to fourth behind Brody’s Cause, My Man Sam and Cherry Wine.
“He’s a solid horse. He’s getting better. If you look at the Blue Grass he ran a lot better visually than he did on paper. Everything was coming from the clouds that day. The horses came from 14th, 13th, and 11th to beat me,” Guillot said.
Laoban worked without blinkers and is scheduled to race without them in the Preakness.
“The trick is to take the blinkers off and try to get him to relax instead of pulling the jock around there,” Guillot said.
Uncle Lino Ready to Join Triple Crown Fray
Veteran trainer Gary Sherlock grew up in the racing business and understands the importance of timing. At the age of 70 with a colt who wasn’t quite ready for the Kentucky Derby, Sherlock is set to saddle his first Triple Crown starter – Uncle Lino – in the Preakness.
The son of Uncle Mo is slated to ship from California on Tuesday. He had his final timed work for the Preakness Friday morning at Santa Anita Park, covering five furlongs in 1:00.80.
Sherlock will be the oldest trainer in this year’s Preakness, but is the youngster in the Uncle Lino ownership group. Tom Mansor is 74, and Jim Glavin, who operates as Purple Shamrock Racing, is 80. They have a colt that cost $52,000 as a yearling, who has earned $316,610 while finishing out of the top three only once in seven career starts.
Uncle Lino has been on California’s road to the Triple Crown series this year. He was second in the Robert Lewis (G3), fourth in the San Felipe (G2) and third in the Santa Anita Derby (G1). Sherlock said that finishing behind Exaggerator and Mor Spirit on the sloppy track in the Santa Anita Derby may have been a blessing. Rather than move on to Louisville for the May 7 Run for the Roses, Uncle Lino stayed home and led from gate to wire to win the California Chrome Stakes on April 30 at Los Alamitos Race Course.
“I never wanted to go to the Derby with the horse because mentally he hadn’t gotten there yet. I was kind of fortunate to run third, because that way I didn’t go to the Derby. He needed to win a race and I had a good option. He ran, he won and he set a track record,” said Sherlock, whose colt ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:40.82. “Now I get an extra week on the Derby horses, I think he matured some and we’re going to take a shot.”
Sherlock said he never wanted to run in a Triple Crown race until he had a horse that he felt could win. Sherlock went on to mention the company that Uncle Lino has been keeping in California – Exaggerator, Mor Spirit and Danzing Candy – all of whom ran in the Kentucky Derby.
“Yeah, he’s right there,” Sherlock said. “He’s just got to get better. Hopefully, he’s going the right way.
Fernando Perez, who has ridden Uncle Lino throughout his career, will be aboard in the Preakness.
Lani, the Kentucky-bred, Japan-based son of Tapit who finished ninth in the Kentucky Derby, is training for the Preakness at Belmont Park. Keita Tanaka, agent/racing manager for owner Koji Maeda, said Lani is slated for a strong gallop to stretch his legs Sunday morning. A five or six furlong breeze is scheduled for Wednesday morning.
Lani spent approximately 45 minutes on the Belmont main track Saturday morning when he made four circuits of the track walking and jogging, as well as galloping twice around. He will be shipped to Baltimore Thursday morning.
Pimlico Race Course