SUPER SAVER/AIKENITE/MISSION IMPAZIBLE – Kentucky Derby winner and likely Preakness favorite Super Saver walked Tuesday at Churchill Downs, on the morning after he breezed three furlongs in :36.60.
“He came out of the work very well,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “Everything is on ‘go,’ so we’re planning on getting on the plane in the morning.”
“He’s in good form and trained well this morning,” Pletcher said. “He’s ready to head to Pimlico.”
Mission Impazible, winner of the Louisiana Derby, will not run in the Preakness, Pletcher said. The colt finished ninth in the Kentucky Derby and was being considered for the Preakness.
“We were on the fence with him and never had fully committed to going,” Pletcher said. “We wanted to see how he trained and felt like at the end of the day that he needed a little more time.”
Pletcher said the summer goal for the colt is the Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park.
A field of 13 horses is expected for the 135th running of the Preakness.
“We anticipated a full gate and I guess it’s close to that,” Pletcher said. “It’s an interesting Preakness to me with what looks like eight newcomers who did not participate in the Derby. We’re happy to be coming with the Derby winner and feel like he’s doing very well.”
CARACORTADO – Trainer Mike Machowsky checked on Caracortado at Santa Anita Tuesday morning before heading to the airport for the first leg of his trip to Baltimore.
“He galloped and everything was good,” said Machowsky, while waiting for a connecting flight at the Salt Lake City airport.
Caracortado, who won his first five races before finishing third in the San Felipe and fourth in the Santa Anita Derby, broke his maiden on dirt at Fairplex, giving his trainer reason to believe his gelding will handle the surface at Pimlico.
“I can’t see that as a problem. He won at Fairplex and the surface at Hollywood is similar to a dirt track, and he’s won there twice,” Machowsky said. “It’s the oldest of the synthetics. Whatever materials they’ve added to it over the years have made it more and more like a dirt track. I enjoy running horses at Hollywood.”
Caracortado is scheduled to ship to Baltimore via Louisville Wednesday morning
DUBLIN/NORTHERN GIANT – Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, his two colts and members of his staff left Churchill Downs at 4 a.m. Tuesday for the expected 12-hour drive to Pimlico. Dublin, who finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby, will have a new rider in the Preakness, veteran Garrett Gomez, who rode Lookin At Lucky in the Kentucky Derby. Lukas has not announced who will ride Northern Giant at Old Hilltop. Both colts breezed Monday at Churchill Downs.
Northern Giant, a son of Giant’s Causeway, will be making his first start since finishing last in a field of nine in the Arkansas Derby on April 10. He was found to be ill the day after the race. Lukas, tied for second with five Preakness victories, said Tuesday that the colt belongs in the anticipated 13-horse field on Saturday.
“He ran a nice third in the Risen Star,” Lukas said. “He was wide in that race and with a little better trip he could have won that. If he had won, you’d be saying that he’s one of the nicer horses in the race. Then he came back and ran second in the Lane’s End at Turfway, on the Polytrack, which he doesn’t like at all. Those two races really give us a little hope that he would maybe step up. We don’t have any grandiose ideas that he’s going to sweep over the Preakness and the Belmont, but he’s a very good mover, a very nice, sound horse and I thought he merited a chance with this bunch.
“The last race, the Arkansas Derby, he finished up the track, but he came up with a mucous the next morning and we had to clear that up. That happens. They’re like kids; they’ll be clean-nosed one day and snotty-nosed the next. He’s back on track and he’s training well. We don’t think he’s 2-1, by any means, but he’s training awfully good.”
HURRICANE IKE – The Derby Trial winner walked at Churchill Downs Tuesday after working seven furlongs in 1:25.80 under jockey Robby Albarado the previous morning at Churchill Downs.
“It looks like he came out fine,” said trainer John Sadler from Hollywood Park after receiving an update on Hurricane Ike from assistant Larry Benavidez.
Hurricane Ike has demonstrated vast improvement in his last two races over the dirt surfaces at Aqueduct, where he finished a strong second in the Bay Shore Stakes, and at Churchill Downs. The switch from synthetic surfaces to traditional dirt has been widely credited with the success this year of California-based horses that have shipped east. While acknowledging the fitness factor created by training on a synthetic surface before racing on dirt, Sadler said it’s not the only factor in the winning ways of the West Coast horses.
“The California brand is very good. They kind of look down on us sometimes, saying, ‘Oh, they’re California horses,’” Sadler said. “But look at Bob Baffert, John Shirreffs, myself, Doug O’Neill and Jerry Hollendorfer. We all ship around and we’ve all had a lot of success.”
The son of Graeme Hall still has a question to answer in the 1-3/16-mile Preakness. Hurricane Ike’s only start around two turns came last year in a “disastrous” Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland, where he was forced to race at least five-wide throughout the race.
“The question will be his ability to get the distance,” Sadler said. “He finished up strong in the Trial (a one-turn mile), so we’re hoping it won’t be an issue.”
Dawn and Ike Thrash’s Hurricane Ike will ship from Louisville to Baltimore Wednesday morning.
JACKSON BEND – The son of Hear No Evil walked the shedrow Tuesday after his eye-popping breeze 24 hours earlier (four furlongs in 46.60), and trainer Nick Zito said all systems are go for the Preakness.
“I always get nervous when they go fast, but he did it all by himself,” Zito said. “I just told Stacy (exercise rider Stacy Prior) to let Jackson do what he wants to do. He’s an incredibly tough horse. Hey, I worked Louis Quatorze four days before the Preakness in :58 and he went out and broke the track record.”
Zito’s1996 Preakness winner currently shares the record for 1-3/16 miles (1:53 2/5) at Pimlico with Tank’s Prospect (1985) and Curlin (2007). Jackson Bend, the most experienced Preakness contender with 10 lifetime starts, will ship Wednesday from Churchill on a flight leaving Louisville at approximately 11:30 a.m.
He will be ridden in the Preakness by Mike Smith, who was aboard for the first time in a troubled 12th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby. Smith was second in last year’s Preakness with Mine That Bird and won the 1993 edition aboard Prairie Bayou.
“Mike Smith is one of the reasons we considered coming to Baltimore,” Zito said. “He told me last Sunday he would do well at Pimlico. This tough little guy deserves another chance.’’
LOOKIN AT LUCKY – The hard-luck son of Smart Strike galloped Tuesday morning at Churchill Downs. He is scheduled to be flown to Baltimore Wednesday with nine other horses scheduled to compete in the Preakness.
“He looked good and he’s happy,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “So far, so good.”
Baffert had confirmed Monday that the colt would be entered in the Preakness.
Despite drawing the rail in a 20-horse field, Lookin At Lucky was the 6-1 betting favorite in the Kentucky Derby. He encountered traffic problems in the first quarter of a mile in the race and was shuffled back to the rear of the field. He rallied under jockey Garrett Gomez with an impressive move in the second turn and finished sixth, seven lengths behind the winner, Super Saver.
“I’m giving him one more shot at the classics; he won’t run in the Belmont,” Baffert said. “We’re just glad to be back. We’re glad that the horse is doing well and that he’s in the race.”
Saying he was trying to change the colt’s luck, Baffert made a jockey switch for the Preakness, replacing the veteran Gomez with 25-year-old Martin Garcia, a California-based rider who will be making his Preakness debut. Garcia has become a Baffert favorite and rode Conveyance in the Kentucky Derby for the Hall of Fame trainer. He rode the Baffert-trained Game on Dude to victory in the Lone Star Derby last Saturday at Lone Star Park.
Garcia ranks 10th on Equibase’s 2010 earnings list with $3,276,801. He has 674 career victories and purse earnings of $21,903,124.
Baffert said the five-year veteran from Mexico is a bright prospect.
“He’s still young,” Baffert said. “He’s not a completely polished rider like a Gomez or (John) Velazquez, but he’s getting there. He’s got a ways to go. He’s a raw talent and he’s riding with a lot of confidence right now. When he rides for me, he rides with a lot of confidence. I’ve been clicking with him really well lately. Everywhere I send him, he wins. He’s not intimidated. He rode in the Derby and he was a little bit nervous, but he did as good as he could under the circumstances.
“He just has that raw talent and he rides in California and he fits in there. I think the jockey colony is very strong in California, and he seems to be fitting in well. I think he’s got a huge future in this business. I’ve been using him. He works a lot of my horses. He’s worked Lookin At Lucky a lot. He knows the horse really well.
“If he was a basketball player, he would have gone to the NBA right out of high school. He’s got that kind of raw talent.”
PADDY O’PRADO/FIRST DUDE – Donegal Racing’s Paddy O’Prado caught the eye of his connections at the 2008 Keeneland September sale.
“We liked his pedigree profile and he was a big, rugged, nice-looking colt,” recalled trainer Dale Romans following training hours at Churchill Downs Tuesday Morning. “I’ve had a lot of success with El Prado.’
Romans, who trained the El Prado-sired Kitten’s Joy during the turf star’s 2004 Eclipse Award-winning season, is particularly impressed with the stallion’s ability to sire stakes winners on all surfaces. Paddy O’Prado, who finished third in the Kentucky Derby, has performed well on dirt, synthetic and turf surfaces.
“Our horse is a stakes winner on turf (Grade 3 Palm Beach) and is Grade 1-placed on ‘poly’ (second in the Blue Grass) and Classic-placed (third in Derby),” said Romans, who noted that Paddy O’Prado has gotten better with every start, which is a trait of late-maturing offspring of El Prado.
Kent Desormeaux will have the return mount aboard Paddy O’Prado.
First Dude, who had been on the bubble for making the Preakness field before the defections of A Little Warm and Mission Impazible the last two days, has also shown versatility. The late-developing son of Stephen Got Even broke his maiden on the dirt track at Gulfstream Park and finished third behind Stately Victor and Paddy O’Prado in the Blue Grass over Keeneland’s Polytrack surface.
“I don’t think it matters what he runs on,” Romans said. “I think all top horses will run on anything.”
Both Paddy O’Prado and First Dude galloped at Churchill Downs Tuesday, on the morning before they are slated to arrive at Pimlico following a flight from Louisville.
PLEASANT PRINCE – The Wesley Ward-trained Pleasant Prince galloped a mile and a half at Churchill Downs Tuesday morning and is scheduled to board a plane from Louisville Wednesday after going through his morning routine. Owner Ken Ramsey will be at the Pimlico Stakes Barn with his colt until Ward arrives at Pimlico on Friday.
“He’s doing great,” said Ward, who won the Eclipse Award in 1984 as North America’s top apprentice rider before becoming a trainer more than five years later.
Pleasant Prince will be Ward’s first participant in a Triple Crown race when entries are taken for the Preakness Wednesday morning.
“It’s been a lot of work to get here. It’s pretty nice,’ he said. I’m just trying to do the right thing by the horse to get to the race Saturday.”
When reminded that the probable Preakness field had shrunk by one to 13 competitors, Ward was already armed with a reply: “Let’s hope it gets down to one,” he quipped.
After being nosed out by eventual Kentucky Derby runner-up Ice Box in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream on March 20, Pleasant Prince was scheduled to make his next start in the Run for the Roses. However, when the graded-earnings cut-off for the 20-horse Derby field was considerably higher than expected, Ramsey decided to race him in the Blue Grass. After finishing seventh at Keeneland, Pleasant Prince was then entered in the Derby Trial in a last-ditch effort to get him into the Derby field, but he could only manage a third-place finish instead of the second-place finish he needed to qualify for the first race in the Triple Crown.
SCHOOLYARD DREAMS – Majority owner Eric Fein’s son of Stephen Got Even kept his edge with a sharp gallop at Monmouth Park under the watchful eye of trainer Derek Ryan.
“It was just a regular morning, but we gave him a two-minute lick for a mile,” said Ryan, who will remain in New Jersey with the colt until Saturday morning. “It’s something we do about every 10 days with him.”
Schoolyard Dreams won an optional claiming race at Tampa Bay to kick off his sophomore season, then posted second-place finishes in a pair of Grade 3 stakes there before finishing fourth in the Wood Memorial in his most recent start on April 3. Since then, he’s posted consecutive bullet works at two different tracks in preparation for the Preakness.
“He works fast if you put him in company,” said Ryan, a native of Tipperary, Ireland who was once an assistant to Joe Orseno. “If he’s not in company, he tends to be a very laid-back horse. He’s coming into the race the right way.”
Ryan and owner Fein brought Musket Man to the 2009 Preakness and finished third behind Rachel Alexandra and Mine That Bird.
YAWANNA TWIST – The Illinois Derby runner-up walked the shedrow at Churchill Downs Tuesday on the morning after working five furlongs in 1:01.80. Yawanna Twist will be on the plane with several other Preakness contenders leaving Kentucky on Wednesday.
“It looks like we’re gonna run,” said trainer Rick Dutrow, who will be seeking his second Preakness victory in three years (Big Brown in 2008). “We’ve kind of had this on our minds for awhile, He runs big every time we’ve run him; he never disappoints us.”
The New York-bred son of Yonaguska is out of the mare Twist and Pop, whose sire Oliver’s Twist finished second in the 1995 edition of the Preakness. Dutrow and owner Steel Your Face Stables claimed the mare out of a 2004 victory at Aqueduct and bred her to the former sprint stakes star.
Yawanna Twist, who made his first start in December of 2009, will be the least experienced Preakness starter with only four starts. He has two wins and two seconds, and the connections paid a late $6,000 Triple Crown nomination fee after his impressive second-place finish in the Illinois Derby on April 3. His graded-stakes earnings were insufficient to make the Kentucky Derby field.
“I’m happy he ran that big in the Illinois Derby,” Dutrow said. “It kind of told us where he was at.”
In his only other stakes appearance, Yawanna Twist was second in the Gotham at Aqueduct behind Kentucky Derby also-ran Awesome Act. He won his first two starts by a combined 9 ½ lengths against state-bred company in New York.