BALTIMORE, 05-05-09---Only Robert Wyndham Walden, who trained seven Preakness winners, including five straight from 1878-1882 has hoisted the Woodlawn Vase more times than D. Wayne Lukas, who has won five middle jewels. The Hall of Famer will attempt for his sixth victory in the 134th Preakness® Stakes on May 16 with Flying Private.
Flying Private, who finished second in the Grade II Lane’s End Stakes in March, finished last in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. The Equibase chart indicated the son of Fusaichi Pegasus was five wide into the first turn and within striking distance but faded after five furlongs.
Lukas has saddled 32 starters in Maryland’s signature race since 1980, the most of any conditioner. He tasted victory with Codex (1980), Tank’s Prospect (1985), Tabasco Cat (1994), Timber Country (1995) and Charismatic (1999).
“We have been successful at Pimlico and the hospitality is second to none,” added Lukas. “The Derby has a niche in our industry but so does the Preakness. Pimlico is the place to be in the middle of May. Not only do the owners and trainers get treated well but the help is also taken care of in a first class manner. We enjoy the experience.”
However it appears the Preakness field will not include a starter from Hall of Fame conditioner Nick Zito for just the fourth time since 1991. The Zito stable initially thought last weekend’s Tesio Stakes winner Miner’s Escape would represent the barn. Just a Coincidence, who had back-to-back wins at Gulfstream Park this winter, was on the Preakness radar screen before a disappointing third in the Grade I Wood Memorial.
“It looks like we will not make the Preakness at this stage of the game,” said Zito’s longtime assistant Tim Poole. “It is a little too close for the Tesio winner. He had not run in six weeks (March 14) and we want to give him time. Just a Coincidence has had a rough campaign. Nick is probably going to give him some time.”
Zito will start Strike Tomisue in the Grade II Allaire duPont Distaff on the Preakness undercard.
The Preakness field could include Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, with Pioneerof the Nile. Baffert tasted victory in the $1 million “Run for the Black-Eyed Susans” four times from 1997-2002. Pioneerof the Nile will return to the track Wednesday morning for the first time since his runner-up finish in the Kentucky Derby.
Meanwhile in Louisville, Kentucky Derby 135 winner Mine That Bird back-tracked to the paddock tunnel and then ‘loped’ once around a fast Churchill Downs main track Tuesday morning before the renovation break. Trainer Bennie “Chip” Woolley Jr. is still finalizing travel plans.
“We will leave Monday or Tuesday, probably Tuesday (May 12). He may jog the morning we leave. Woolley said. “I’d like to leave about 9 and get into Pimlico around 7 that evening.”
The Maryland Jockey Club has arranged for a police escort to meet the son of Birdstone (who will appear on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated) and his connections on Interstate 70 prior to the Baltimore beltway and accompany them to Pimlico.
The magnitude of pulling off the second-largest mutual shocker ($103.20) still has not sunk in on Woolley.
“The whole thing is still a whirlwind,” Woolley said. “It is hard to get a grip on it that it really happened. Eventually you’ll get used to the fact that it really did happen. Sunday I was in the paddock getting ready to do an interview and looked up at the sign ‘Kentucky Derby 2009, Mine That Bird’ and I almost started crying. I couldn’t believe it.”
Two confirmed Preakness starters based at Churchill, Papa Clem and Hull, were on the famed Louisville oval this morning. The former jogged the wrong way around accompanied by a pony, while the latter galloped.
The fourth definite Preakness starter Big Drama is “on his way” to Pimlico from south Florida according to trainer David Fawkes. The Delta Jackpot winner is expected to arrive sometime Wednesday morning. The son of Montbrook has won five-of-seven lifetime starts, including a rare sweep of the three races that comprise the Florida Stallion Stakes as a two-year-old. Fawkes will give his star the day off Wednesday and expects Big Drama to be on the track Friday morning “at the latest”. Fawkes plans a Monday morning breeze at Old Hilltop.
Others considering the Preakness include Kentucky-based General Quarters and Terrain.
Owner/trainer Tom McCarthy walked General Quarters on Tuesday morning and plans to return the 10th-place Kentucky Derby 135 finisher to the track in the morning.
“The Preakness is a possibility, but I want to see how he gallops and go from there,” McCarthy said. “He is doing so well. I’d like to get him over there (Pimlico) and get a few turns around the track. He ships so well, I may van him up.”
The decision as to whether Terrain goes to Lone Star Park for Saturday’s Lone Star Derby or remains in Stall 7 at Barn 47 at Churchill Downs and trains for the Preakness will be made today.
“We’ve got a decision to make,” trainer Al Stall Jr., said Tuesday morning. “The plane for Texas leaves at 7 o’clock in the morning. We are not 100 percent for the Preakness. He is at Keeneland and is coming over here this afternoon. If he does not go to Texas, he will work here this weekend and fly to Baltimore next Wednesday.”
Terrain ran fourth in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (Grade I) at Keeneland on April 11 in his most recent start.
“We gave him a little time off after the Blue Grass and he has had two works since,” Stall said of Terrain, who worked a half-mile in :50.40 at Keeneland on Sunday. “He has done real well since the Blue Grass.”
Terrain has run twice this year, opening with a third-place finish in the Louisiana Derby (Grade II) on March 14. Fourth in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Grade I), Terrain closed 2008 with a fifth-place finish in the Grade III Delta Jackpot behind possible Preakness rival Big Drama.
In New York, high profile trainers Todd Pletcher and Kiaran McLaughlin are plotting moves involving four colts.
Prior to the Derby, Pletcher announced Take the Points, would be pointed to the Preakness and the Starlight Partners ownership group has made hotel plans with Pimlico Director of Horsemen’s Relations Phoebe Hayes.
“Take the Points is training very well,” Pletcher said. “We plan on breezing him Saturday or Sunday at Belmont Park.”
The Eclipse Award winning trainer said that Join in the Dance, who finished seventh in the Derby, is no longer under consideration for Maryland’s signature event.
It appears that McLaughlin could be running Grade II Futurity winner Charitable Man but not Withers winner Mr. Fantasy as previously expected.
“We would love to come back to the Preakness because we have had good luck down there the last three or four years,” said West Point Thoroughbred president Terry Finley, who co-owns Mr. Fantasy and owned 2008 Preakness runner-up Macho Again and 2007 William Donald Schaefer winner Flashy Bull. “The colt ran so hard in the Withers and we feel he can benefit from a little bit more time between races.”
Charitable Man was undefeated as a two-year-old, including a victory in the Futurity at Belmont Park, where he beat Kentucky Derby favorite Friesan Fire. In his lone start this year, the son of Lemon Drop Kid finished a disappointing seventh in the Grade I Bluegrass at Keeneland.
Musket Man, who was an impressive third place finisher Saturday in Louisville is back home at Monmouth Park. The Illinois Derby (Grade II) and Tampa Bay Derby (Grade III) winner has never finished off the board in seven lifetime starts.
“The race is under consideration,” said trainer Derek Ryan. “Our thinking is to go next in either the Preakness or the Belmont, but not both.”
Other potential Preakness starters are Friesen Fire, Lexington runner-up Conservative and European invader Sky Gate.
The Preakness is limited to 14 starters. Fourteen of the last 17 years have seen double-digit starters.
450 HORSES NOMINATED TO PREAKNESS WEEK STAKES
While the Preakness is rightfully the centerpiece of the Pimlico spring meeting, fifteen other stakes (eight graded) will provide a weekend full of excitement for racing fans. A total of 450 horses were nominated to those added money races, 206 on Friday and 244 on Saturday.
The $150,000 Black-Eyed Susan Stakes (Grade II) tops the May 15 card that features six other stakes races. Thirty-three three-year-old fillies were nominated to the Black-Eyed Susan. Forty-one fillies were nominated to the $100,000 Adena Stallions’ Miss Preakness Stakes (Grade III). Thirty-one horses were nominated to the $100,000 Jim McKay Turf Sprint. Thirty-two female turf specialists were nominated to the $50,000 The Very One Stakes, while twenty-six were nominated to the $50,000 Skipat Stakes. Twenty-one three-year-old fillies were nominated to the $50,000 Hilltop Stakes and another twenty-two to the $35,000 Kattegat’s Pride Starter Handicap for Maryland-breds.
The May 16 undercard features eight added money races, including six graded races. Thirty-three top grass specialists were entered in the $150,000 Dixie Stakes (Grade II). Thirty-two fillies and mares have been nominated to the $150,000 Allaire duPont Breeders’ Cup Distaff (Grade II). The $100,000 Maryland Sprint Handicap (Grade III) features thirty-four nominations. Thirty-five fillies and mares were nominated to the $100,000 Gallorette Handicap (Grade III). Twenty-seven horses were nominated to the William Donald Schaefer (Grade III). Twenty-five three-year-old sprinters were nominated to the $100,000 Hirsch Jacobs (Grade III). Thirty-one turf specialists were nominated to the $75,000 Woodlawn Stakes. There were 27 horses on the list for the $35,000 Deputed Testamony Starter Handicap.