BALTIMORE – 05-22-11 – Trainer Dale Romans returned to the Preakness Stakes Barn shortly after 7:30 a.m. Sunday with trays of Starbucks drinks for media members who arrived for updates on his impressive winner of the Middle Jewel of racing’s Triple Crown.
“I went to bed for an hour or two,” Romans said looking a bit bedraggled behind sunglasses on a sunny Sunday morning. “I don’t know how Todd Pletcher and Wayne Lukas do it. They look so pristine all the time. I walk out of my house to my car and I’m sweating and wrinkled and my shirttail’s out. Dan Bork at Churchill Downs (assistant racing secretary) said I was the best at making an expensive suit look cheap.”
Shackleford certainly made Romans look pretty good on Saturday, bouncing back in two weeks from his fourth-place finish in the Derby to turn the tables on Animal Kingdom by a half-length.
“He was just so game,” Romans said of the son of Forestry bred by Lauffer, who was a part-owner of Horse of the Year Rachel Alexandra before her sale to the late Jess Jackson. “I mean, he ran fast early and kept right on going. Animal Kingdom was running, but at no point did it look like he was going to get to him, in my opinion. When I saw 10 jumps before the wire that we weren’t going to get beat, it was just an unbelievable rush.”
Shackleford went back to Kentucky for some rest and possible preparation for the Belmont Stakes on June 11. Romans said he is staying in Baltimore for the Mid-Atlantic Two-Year-Olds in Training Sale at Timonium Monday and Tuesday.
“I thought last night of going onto Belmont right away,” said the 44-year-old Louisville native. “But I wanted to send him back to Kentucky so we’ll get him with his regular team, go over him, watch him train a couple days and then make the decision. Ultimately it will be Mike’s (Lauffer) call, but he’ll let me have a lot of input, I’m sure. If he trains like he did going into the Derby, I don’t know why we would pass. I think it’s better than 50-50.”
The Preakness was the seventh career start for Shackleford, but his first victory since an allowance score at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 5, the first time Jesus Castanon rode the colt. His Preakness payoff of $27.20 was the ninth-highest in 136 runnings.
“Jesus has done a super job with this horse all year ever since we put him on him in the allowance race,” Romans said. “This horse has just been improving. Mentally he was a little immature. In the Florida Derby he was kind of looking around when he got to the lead. In the Kentucky Derby it looked like he had finally kind of put it all together the last two weeks. It was almost like he figured out what this was about.”
Romans said it would be good for racing to see a rivalry develop with the likes of Animal Kingdom and some of the other top sophomores, who to this point have been somewhat maligned by the mainstream racing media.
“I think these 3-year-olds are a lot better than people are giving them credit for, even without Uncle Mo (sidelined with a gastrointestinal disorder),” he said. “When he gets back in the picture, I think this is a good group of horses.”
Romans said he had already received numerous phone calls and some 250 text messages of congratulations by late Saturday night. He said he only responded to one call from Frank Taylor of Taylor Made Farms, where Forestry stands at stud.
“That was a phone call that I answered because Frank Taylor told me in Florida if I won a Grade 1 (stake) with a Forestry, I had free meals for life at Malone’s (in Lexington, Ky.),” said Romans, the most robust of this year’s Preakness trainers. “That was the one call I did answer to remind him of what he said.”
ANIMAL KINGDOM – Trainer Graham Motion said the Kentucky Derby winner came out of the Preakness in good condition, but that it was a little too early to commit to a run in the Belmont Stakes.
“The horse seems fine this morning,” Motion said. “He almost ate up last night. He didn’t completely eat up, but I think all things considered he did very well. He looks great physically. He does seem a little drawn to me, like he had a hard race, which I think he did. Otherwise, he seems very well.”
While the colt spends some time recovering from the stress of running in the Derby and Preakness within a span of two weeks, Motion and Team Valor International president Barry Irwin will develop a plan for the future.
“I think we’ve got to give him a week,” Motion said. “Barry and I would both love to do the Belmont, but we’ve got to give him a week to see how he bounces out of this. He’s had two very tough races now and he’s a lightly raced, relatively inexperienced horse. We just want to give him a chance to give us a chance to evaluate him to see how he’s doing. But we would love to do it.”
Motion said he has handled the personal disappointment of Animal Kingdom’s runner-up finish in the Preakness that ended his chances of becoming the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.
“It’s an odd emotion,” Motion said. “I think I’ve experienced every kind of emotion you could in the last three weeks, from the week before the Derby to this day after the Preakness. It’s a different atmosphere around the barn. I think probably those guys (stable staff) are taking it the worst of all. Not that they are upset, but there is certainly an air of disappointment from everybody. And I think everybody has put a tremendous amount into this last two weeks and, quite frankly, I couldn’t have done it without the crew I have.”
Still, Motion acknowledged that winning the Derby was very important and a positive to embrace in the wake of the close loss in the Preakness.
“You had to prepare yourself for the fact that you wouldn’t win the Preakness, as much as we would have liked to have done, as much as we hoped to,” he said. “I got an amazing thing from the (Derby) Museum yesterday, a picture of him winning the Derby and I can’t imagine how many people have signed it, just wishing us luck. The Derby is a different phenomenon to the Preakness. Obviously, no one can take it away from us. We won the 137th Derby.
“I think the thing with this horse that people are forgetting a little bit is that he just ran his first race ever on the dirt in the Derby. This was his second start on the dirt. I think he probably was taken out of his game a little bit from the get-go. He got shuffled back further than we wanted to and I think it took him a little longer to figure out the track because he got so much dirt kicked back. They had a lot of new dirt on the track yesterday and I think it made it a little bit harder for him to adjust. There was a lot of time between races and I think it was a very different scenario to him yesterday as opposed to running on the dirt at Churchill. And it took him a long time to kind of figure it out.”
Once he did, Animal Kingdom made another strong move and was gaining on the winner Shackleford as they approached the wire.
“There is no doubt in my mind, in another sixteenth of a mile we get there,” Motion said. “That’s why it’s a Triple Crown. That’s why there are so many different intangibles to the Triple Crown. That’s why it hasn’t been done for so long.”
ASTROLOGY – Stonestreet Stable and George Bolton’s consistent colt headed home to Churchill Downs Sunday morning after hitting the board once again with a third-place finish. Through eight races in his career, the son of A.P. Indy has a record of 2-3-3.
Trainer Steve Asmussen said the colt appeared to come out of the race well but was very unlikely to run in the Belmont Stakes. Asmussen is preparing Derby runner-up Nehro for the Belmont.
Starting from the rail, Astrology sat just behind the pacesetters, moved up to second in the stretch, but was passed by Animal Kingdom in deep stretch.
“I thought that he competed really well,” Asmussen said. “He was training well going into it and had a big chance.”
Astrology was a top 2-year-old in 2010, but an illness during the winter slowed the start of his campaign and ultimately kept him out of the Kentucky Derby. His finish in the Preakness might be another step closer to a breakthrough performance.
“We have been playing catch-up with the horse all year and yesterday was a great opportunity for him,” Asmussen said. “We felt that he had a very good chance going in and that he validated that by competing well. I think it’s within him to get something like that done.”
DIALED IN – Trainer Nick Zito was asked how he was doing Sunday morning after watching Robert LaPenta’s Dialed In finish fourth at Pimlico Saturday, coming up short of collecting a $5.5 million Preakness 5.5 bonus.
“Beat up, as usual,” said the dejected Hall of Fame trainer, whose horse had finished eighth in the Kentucky Derby after winning the Holy Bull (G3) and Florida Derby (G1).
Zito reported that his son of Mineshaft came out of the Preakness in good order.
“I just don’t like it when he’s squeezed. It infuriates me. I don’t know why,” said Zito, whose colt closed from 14th to fourth after breaking from the No. 10 post position and experienced early crowding and bumping at the quarter-pole. “You almost wish you had Post 1 the way it turned out.”
Dialed In vanned to the Oklahoma training track in Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Sunday morning. His status for the Belmont Stakes is uncertain.
“You think about it, but it’s too early to tell,” Zito said.
DANCE CITY – Trainer Todd Pletcher said the fifth-place finisher in the Preakness came out of the race in good order, but would not be going on to the Belmont Stakes.
The Preakness marked the first time in five career starts that the son of City Zip had finished off the board. He had been third in the Arkansas Derby in his previous start for the Estate of Edward P. Evans.
“We’ll regroup and freshen him up and probably get him ready for Saratoga,” said Pletcher, who now is 0-for-7 in the Middle Jewel of racing’s Triple Crown. “He ran a credible race.”
MUCHO MACHO MAN – Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Dream Team Racing’s Mucho Macho Man came out of his sixth-place Preakness finish missing a shoe.
“He caught his left front shoe. I’m going to watch the replay over and over and over again; I need to find out what happened with it,” said trainer Kathy Ritvo, whose colt lost his right front shoe in a third-place finish in the Louisiana Derby.
“He’s got to be doing something. I haven’t had a horse pull a shoe for three or four years and now I’ve got two in three races,” she added. “I think he’s snatching himself coming out of the gate. I think he’s so excited to get out of the gate that he’s springing before his front feet are gone. He’s not a nervous horse. It’s got to be something. I’ve got to figure out what happened and when he lost it.”
Mucho Macho Man, who finished third in the Kentucky Derby, had some early traffic problems before racing four and five-wide under jockey Rajiv Maragh.
Rajiv said he wasn’t handling the track. When he got to the quarter-pole, he was just jumping up and down,” Ritvo said. “He’s got little cuts all over him, but no big deal.”
Mucho Macho Man vanned to Belmont Park Sunday morning with the Belmont Stakes a goal.
“We’re on. I think it’s his kind of track and his kind of race,” she said. “We just have to see how he comes out of this race.”
KING CONGIE – Trainer Tom Albertrani reported that West Point Thoroughbreds’ King Congie came out of his seventh-place finish in the Preakness well.
The son of Badge of Silver vanned to his trainer’s Belmont Park base mid-morning on Sunday. Albertrani said no definite plans have been made for his colt’s next race.
“We need to talk about it, but the Virginia Derby maybe,” said Albertrani, referring to Colonial Downs’ $600,000 turf stakes for 3-year-olds on July 16.
MR. COMMONS – Trainer John Shirreffs said the colt came out of the Preakness in good condition and was shipped back to California Sunday.
After breaking his maiden on turf, the Artie Schiller colt made the switch to dirt, winning a mile allowance race before finishing third in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) to earn a trip to the Preakness. He drew the outside post and never was able to get into contention.
“We’ll probably get him back on the turf because we know he does a little better on the turf,” Shirreffs said. “We hoped that he would be a little bit more forwardly placed. When they get down on the inside and they get a lot of kickback it’s a little tough for them.”
ISN’T HE PERFECT – The ninth-place finisher in the Preakness was vanned back to Belmont Park Sunday morning and could be a candidate for the Belmont Stakes at his home track in 20 days, according to trainer Doodnauth Shivmangal, who flew back to New York Saturday night.
Shivmangal said his colt did not adjust well to his new surroundings after arriving at the Pimlico Stakes barn, his first time away from New York.
“Perfect is a horse that takes his rest,” said the Guyana native. “I was very worried the first night we got here. He did not sleep; he did not eat his food. He didn’t eat (Friday) morning and he did not sleep at all, the guard told me. Perfect would always sleep in his stall.”
On race day, Isn’t He Perfect wasn’t showing his trainer his normal behavior either.
“He’s a horse that’s really relaxed,” Shivmangal said. “When he left his stall (Saturday) he was very quiet, but when he saddled in the infield he was all hyped up and he broke out. He was perspiring a lot, and that’s not him. My only concern was that he didn’t rest and he worked himself up too much before the race. We did not see the real him.”
Still, the 30-1 outsider in the field managed to defeat five others in the race.
“I’m pleased with the way he came back,” Shivmangal said. “I’m going to speak to (owner/cousin) Dejainauth Ramnarayn and see what we do from here – if we’re going to try for the Belmont or not. He’s a strong horse. Once he gets home, he’ll eat and he’ll be back to normal. He looks very fit, no problems, no cuts or anything. I am still high on him. I may run him or Harlan’s Hello in the Belmont, maybe both of them. I don’t know yet.”
CONCEALED IDENTITY – Linda Gaudet, who owns Concealed Identity in partnership with Morris Bailey, expressed pleasure with the manner in which the son of 2004 Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones came out of his 10th –place finish in the Preakness.
“He came back and didn’t take a drink of water cooling out. He grazed for 20-30 minutes and was bucking and playing again,” said Gaudet, wife of trainer Eddie Gaudet. “He was good this morning, ate up and was no worse for the wear.”
The son of 2004 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Smarty Jones, who is stabled at Bowie Training Center, will be pointed toward minor stakes in New Jersey and Maryland.
NORMAN ASBJORNSON – Thomas McClay and Harry Nye’s Norman Asbjornson pleased trainer Chris Grove with his physical condition in the aftermath of his 11th-place finish in the Preakness.
“We’re not terribly disappointed with his effort in the Preakness,” Grove said. “He’ll go in Pennsylvania-bred races from here.”
SWAY AWAY – The son of 2005 Preakness winner Afleet Alex bore little resemblance to his celebrated sire in a 12th-place finish that had trainer Jeff Bonde scratching his head.
Bonde was on a plane back to California Sunday morning and the colt was to follow him later in the day for an as-yet undetermined summer schedule. The Belmont Stakes is not part of that plan.
A groom attending the colt said he came out of the race “sound” and he was resting comfortably in his stall in the Pimlico Stakes Barn shortly after 8 a.m. on Sunday.
MIDNIGHT INTERLUDE – Moments after the Preakness was completed, trainer Bob Baffert said his Preakness 13th-place finisher is on his way to a career on turf. Sunday morning, the Arnold Zetcher homebred was shipped back to California. Baffert said he came out of the race fine.
When Midnight Interlude finished 16th in the 19-horse Kentucky Derby, Baffert said the slow pace and big field might have affected his colt. A similarly poor outing in the Preakness has convinced Baffert that Midnight Interlude ought to return to the grass.
“My horse is too heavy and strong to handle deeper, sand tracks back here. He needs it firm,” Baffert said. “We’re still puzzled how he ran there and emptied out. We’re going to have to just go home, regroup and figure out what his real style is. I think at the end of the day he might be a really good turf horse that wants to settle and come running and go on further.”
Baffert said he will know in a week or so whether Jaycito or one of his other 3-year-olds might run in the Belmont Stakes.
FLASHPOINT – Trainer Wesley Ward was back in Kentucky Sunday as his colt awaited a van ride to the BWI Airport to return to Keeneland and begin the second half of his 3-year-old campaign as a sprinter.
“There are some pretty good races out there for him,” Ward said of the Preakness pacesetter who tired badly and finished last. “We know he’s got plenty of speed and he’s a talented colt. We’ll give him some rest and see what’s out there.
Peachtree Stable’s son of Pomeroy won a pair of sprints in his first two career starts by a total of 13 ½ lengths.