“They’re on their way,” Pletcher said. “They went out for a real light gallop this morning and are headed this way.”
Super Saver gave Pletcher his first victory in the Kentucky Derby. With a ground-saving ride by jockey Calvin Borel, the WinStar Farm colt finished 2 ½ lengths ahead of fast-closing Ice Box. He is one of the five Derby runners who were entered in the Preakness.
Borel, who was aboard a victorious Rachel Alexandra in last year’s Preakness, will be seeking a repeat score aboard his third Kentucky Derby winner in four years. The last repeat winner of the Preakness was Pat Day, who won three in row: Tabasco Cat in 1994, Timber Country in 1995 and Louis Quatorze in 1996.
Aikenite is owned by Dogwood Stable, whose Summer Squall won the Preakness in 1990.
CARACORTADO – The California-bred gelding was picked up at Santa Anita at 2:45 a.m. Pacific Wednesday to begin his journey to Baltimore, which included a stop in Louisville, Ky., where he was joined by eight other Preakness hopefuls.
Caracortado, who had never flown prior to Wednesday’s cross-country trip, has fulfilled the high hopes his owner/trainer/breeder, Mike Machowsky, had for his dam, Mons Venus.
“I bought her as a yearling with a couple of partners. She never made it to the races, and they didn’t want to be in the breeding business,” Machowsky said. “She always showed me a bunch of ability training, but I couldn’t get her to the races. So, I took a shot at breeding her.”
The daughter of Maria’s Mon, the sire of this year’s Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, was bred to unproven sire, Cat Dreams, a son of Storm Cat who stood at stud in California for $1500.
“There wasn’t a whole lot of thought that went into it. My buddy was standing the stud. He was a new stallion who raced only once,” Machowsky said. “He was 1-for-1; he was well-bred and he looked like he had some ability.”
Machowsky still owns Mons Venus, who is in foal to Giant’s Causeway, and a half-sister to Caracortado by Southern Image. Machowsky saddled Southern Image for a victory in the 2004 Pimlico Special.
“I hope this trip will be just as much fun,” said the 44-year-old trainer, who served as Hall of Famer Richard Mandella’s assistant before going out on his own in 1989.
Paul Atkinson has the return mount aboard Caracortado, whom he has ridden in all seven starts, including five straight wins to begin the gelding’s career.
DUBLIN/NORTHERN GIANT – Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, a five-time winner of the Preakness, sent his colts out for an early-morning jog at Pimlico Wednesday morning. Lukas’ horses were the only Preakness prospects on the grounds at the time. Nine others were scheduled to arrive later in the day. The Lukas horses were shipped by van from Churchill Downs on Tuesday and arrived at Pimlico at 5:52 p.m.
Dublin finished seventh in the Kentucky Derby. Northern Giant, the runner-up in the Lane’s End at Turfway Park, will be making his first start since finishing ninth in the Arkansas Derby on April 10.
Lukas spent more than an hour standing outside the Preakness Stakes Barn, greeting acquaintances he’s made since saddling his first Preakness horse, Codex, the 1980 winner, and talking with the media. The 74-year-old Hall of Famer smiled when asked if he plans to retire.
“I think I’ll just ride that big horse there, fall off, have them harrow me under and that will be it,” said Lukas, nodding in the direction of his pony.
Lukas said that it takes time and a plan to prepare horses for the Triple Crown races, the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes. He said that he and other trainers who regularly have horses in the Derby – like Nick Zito, Bob Baffert and Todd Pletcher – have a program in place for months.
“The guys that wake up April 15 and say, ‘maybe I’ve got a Derby horse,’ are the guys who are probably up against it,” he said. “We start in January and say, `look, we need to develop this horse and get him to the point of maybe getting there.’ You start going through your babies and say ‘this one has got the talent to maybe do it, or the pedigree, or the efficiency of motion, or the lung capacity.’ Then you start making a plan for them.”
Lukas said that he had begun thinking about this year’s Triple Crown races at Saratoga last summer when Dublin broke his maiden and won the Grade 1 Hopeful.
“Dublin is an exceptional horse,” Lukas said. “He’s been unlucky in a lot of ways.”
Dublin is owned by longtime Lukas clients, William Mack and Robert Baker. Northern Giant is owned by Joe and Scott Ford’s Westrock Stables, which has been sending horses to Lukas for a couple of years. Northern Giant, purchased at the 2008 Keeneland September sale for $150,000, broke his maiden on his sixth try. Lukas said he did not look like he might be a stakes-caliber horse until January or February. The colt subsequently finished third in the Rebel (G3) and second in the Lane’s End (G2).
“He’s a totally different body type than Dublin,” Lukas said. “He’s slight, feminine looking. He’s got a great efficiency of motion, but he didn’t come along or develop as quick.”
FIRST DUDE/PADDY O’PRADO – The Dale Romans-trained colts were among the nine Preakness hopefuls aboard a Baltimore-bound flight from Louisville Wednesday.
“They galloped this morning and everything is good with them,” Romans said.
When 15 horses were being considered for a start in the Preakness earlier in the week, it had appeared that First Dude might be excluded from the 14-horse field, based on a three-tier qualifying process. With the defections of Hurricane Ike, A Little Warm and Mission Impazible, there will be plenty of room in the starting gate for the son of Stephen Got Even.
Paddy O’Prado finished third behind Super Saver and Ice Box in the Kentucky Derby after closing from 10th during a less-than-ideal trip.
Ramon Dominguez will ride First Dude, while Kent Desormeaux will have the return mount aboard Paddy O’Prado.
HURRICANE IKE – Trainer John Sadler was forced to cancel flight plans from Louisville to Baltimore for Hurricane Ike Wednesday morning after being informed that his Derby Trial winner had incurred an unspecified injury to the left hind leg.
“My horse isn’t so fine. It’s something that came up this morning. I got a call telling me that he was off behind,” said Sadler from Hollywood Park after receiving the disheartening news from assistant trainer Larry Benevidez, who has been overseeing the colt’s day-to-day training at Churchill Downs.
Dr. Ken Reed attended to the injury in Hurricane Ike’s left hind leg.
Hurricane Ike had been scheduled to accompany nine other Preakness hopefuls on a noon flight to Baltimore.
“This is extremely disappointing,” said Sadler, who had been looking forward to saddling his first starter in the Preakness. “It’s disappointing, but what can you do? Sometimes they don’t cooperate. Hopefully, we’ll get him into some big races later this year.”
JACKSON BEND – Trainer Nick Zito missed out on the Preakness party last year for the first time since 2003, but he is reunited with Hall of Fame colleagues Wayne Lukas and Bob Baffert thanks to the consistent resume of majority owner Robert LaPenta’s three-time, graded-stakes runner-up.
Jackson Bend will be the 20th starter in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown for Zito, who won this race with Louis Quatorze in 1996 and narrowly missed with A P Valentine (2001) and Go for Gin (1994).
Jackson Bend was aboard a flight from Churchill Downs that was scheduled to arrive in Baltimore Wednesday afternoon. Before departing, he galloped on the track where his four-furlong breeze Monday was the best of 69.
“Did you see that work?” Zito asked, sounding more like a proud papa than the colt’s trainer. Jackson Bend has been a notoriously fast worker, cranking out a best-of-42 work at Palm Meadows the week before he was second to pre-Kentucky Derby favorite Eskendereya in the Grade 2 Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park in February.
He also fired a bullet days before finishing second in the April 3 Wood Memorial to Eskendereya, then repeated the trend nine days before the Kentucky Derby. Unfortunately, a sloppy track and some traffic problems left Jackson Bend with his first off-the-board finish (12th) in 10 career starts.
Mike Smith, who won the 1993 Preakness with the ill-fated Prairie Bayou, has the mount. This will be his first Preakness mount for Zito.
LOOKIN AT LUCKY – It was travel day for the 2009 champion 2-year-old colt Wednesday, booked on a trip from Louisville to Baltimore on the Tex Sutton flight that originated in California. Trainer Bob Baffert, who reported Wednesday morning that everything was fine with his colt, also embarked on a trip to Baltimore and is expected to be at the post position draw at 5 p.m.
Lookin At Lucky will be Baffert’s 11th Preakness starter since Cavonnier in 1996. He was won the Preakness four times: Silver Charm, 1997; Real Quiet, 1998; Point Given, 2001; and War Emblem, 2002.
Martin Garcia will replace Garrett Gomez, the leading money-earning rider the past four years, aboard Lookin At Lucky, who finished sixth as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby. Garcia made his Kentucky Derby debut this year on the Baffert-trained Conveyance, finishing 15th after setting the pace for three-quarters of a mile. This will be his first appearance in the Preakness.
Garcia, 25, has become one of Baffert’s favorite riders this year and according to Equibase stats, they have won seven stakes together, including two Grade 1 races, the Santa Monica Handicap with Gabby’s Golden Gal and the Santa Anita Handicap with Misremembered.
The native of Veracruz, Mexico won his first stakes race on February 4, 2006 and has won a total of 36 stakes at 10 different tracks. He has won a total of 10 graded stakes. His stakes wins with Baffert are: the Santa Monica Handicap (G1) on Gabby’s Golden Gal, Jan. 31 at Santa Anita; Southwest Stakes (G3), Conveyance, Feb. 20 at Oaklawn Park; Santa Anita Handicap (G1) on Misremembered, March 6 at Santa Anita; Joe Hernandez Stakes on Sangaree, March 7 at Santa Anita; Harry Henson Handicap on Freedom Star, March 28 at Sunland Park; Texas Mile (G3) on Mythical Power at Lone Star Park; Lone Star Derby (G3) on Game on Dude, May 8 at Lone Star Park.
PLEASANT PRINCE – It was off the track and onto a plane for the Florida Derby runner-up, who galloped for trainer Wesley Ward Wednesday morning before boarding the flight to Baltimore from Churchill Downs. Owners Ken and Sarah Ramsey will be making only their second start in the Middle Jewel of racing’s Triple Crown with Pleasant Prince, a colt who has already far surpassed his $30,000 purchase price with $224,398 in earnings through nine starts. They finished ninth with Ten Cents A Shine for trainer Wayne Lukas in the 2003 Preakness.
Although he’s still eligible for an entry-level allowance race, Pleasant Prince lost out on an immediate chance to earn a spot in the Kentucky Derby when Ice Box caught him by a nose in the Florida Derby. The wrong end of that photo finish left him lacking sufficient graded-stakes earnings to run in the Kentucky Derby, the race Ramsey unabashedly admits has been his ultimate goal.
“We’re both Kentuckians, so that’s the one we’ve always wanted,” Ramsey said. “But we’d be more than happy to take this one, too.”
Eclipse Award-winning rider Julien Leparoux, who has been aboard Pleasant Prince in his last four starts, will ride on Saturday while seeking his first Preakness victory. He was second aboard Macho Again in 2008. This will be trainer Wesley Ward’s first Preakness entrant.
SCHOOLYARD DREAMS – The son of Stephen Got Even “galloped an easy mile” Wednesday morning at Monmouth Park for trainer Derek Ryan. He’ll remain there until race day, when Ryan will van the colt the approximately two and a half hours to Pimlico, just as he did last May when Musket Man ran third in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown. Musket Man finished only a length and a half behind eventual Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra in the 2009 Preakness.
Eibar Coa will be aboard the Tampa Bay Derby runner-up, becoming the seventh different rider in as many starts for Schoolyard Dreams. Ryan said in most cases it was simply a product of local availability and the typical juggling by jockey agents as Triple Crown preps unfolded.
Daniel Centeno rode the colt’s 3-year-old debut when they shipped to Tampa in January, but he had a commitment to Uptowncharleybrown. Ryan wanted Eibar Coa for the Grade 3 Sam Davis, but when Coa opted to head to Gulfstream, the owner decided to take him off all his horses. That rift has since been repaired and Coa is back aboard.
YAWANNA TWIST – A few years ago, a 3-year-old bred in New York named Funny Cide came to the 2003 Preakness and destroyed the field. On Saturday, a lightly raced and much less heralded New Yorker will try to duplicate that feat for Steel Your Face Stables.
“I think his last two races were pretty good,” said managing partner Jim Riccio, a Bayonne, N.J. resident who owns a school bus company. “I think his Gotham was probably stronger than the Illinois Derby. If he improves some, and he’s doing well, what makes us think that he can’t improve? With some improvement, he could be live in the race.”
The son of multiple-stakes winner Yonaguska was a fast-closing second in the Gotham at Aqueduct on March 6 in only his third career start. Needing more graded stakes money to make the Kentucky Derby field, trainer Rick Dutrow sent the colt to the Illinois Derby, in which his second-place finish didn’t produce enough graded cash to get into the gate in Louisville.
“We didn’t have the earnings and the 20-horse field in the Derby is tough for a horse like this (four starts, one as a 2-year-old),” said Riccio, who declared Yawanna Twist the best runner the stable has had to date. “We figured we’re going to have 12 here, if we get lucky and get a good draw maybe we could get a piece.”
The homebred colt’s dam, Twist and Pop, is a daughter of 1994 Preakness runner-up Oliver’s Twist. He finished a half-length behind winner Timber Country at odds of more than 25-1.