“A friend asked me if I am getting tired of the phone calls,” said Bill Casner, chairman and co-owner of WinStar Farms. “Bluegrass Cat ran second in the 2006 Derby and nobody called, so this is pretty special.”
“It’s just an elusive race to win,” Casner said. “From the time that foal is born to the time he crosses that wire at Churchill, everything has to go perfect. Any interruption compromises the time table. He will also need the experience and the seasoning to be able to perform on the first Saturday in May and then you have all the factors that unfold in the race. Everything has to go perfectly. So when it happened on Saturday, it was a very surreal moment when the horse crossed the wire.”
Casner and business partner Kenny Troutt re-entered the racing game after a nearly two-decade absence as partners with Prestonwood Farm and won the 1998 Belmont Stakes with Victory Gallop. Two years later, the duo purchased the 1,450-acre property Versailles, KY., and renamed it WinStar. Super Saver comes from the next-to-last crop of the late sire Maria’s Mon. He was born in March 2007 to the mare Supercharger at WinStar.
“It’s a very satisfying feeling,” added Casner, who also bred 2003 Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide . “This win belongs to WinStar. When everybody on your team has a hand in making it happen, that’s a victory you can share. That’s one of the great things about this game. >From the day we signed on the dotted line to buy Prestonwood and it became WinStar Farm, the goal was to breed a horse that could win the Kentucky Derby and we accomplished that with Funny Cide. To do this with a homebred is absolutely beyond dreams.”
Super Saver’s next goal is capturing the 135th running of the Preakness® Stakes, the middle jewel of racing’s Triple Crown. Only 11 thoroughbreds have won the elusive Triple Crown and none since Affirmed in 1978. The $1 million classic is the headline event of the May 15 card at historic Pimlico Race Course.
Casner and Troutt’s prize pupil took a one-mile jog shortly after 7 o’clock at Churchill Downs. Looking on was Elliott Walden, vice president and racing manager of WinStar Farm.
“The phone is still ringing,” Walden said of the congratulatory calls. “It’s a nice problem to have.”
Walden liked what he saw from Super Saver.
“He’s feeling good and proud of himself,” said Walden, who saddled Victory Gallop and Menifee to runner-up finishes in the 1998 and 1999 runnings of the Preakness, respectively.
Trainer Todd Pletcher is scheduled to return to Louisville from his New York base on Friday night.
Super Saver will arrive at Pimlico Wednesday, May 12 on a Tex Sutton plane that is expected to include another Pletcher starter Aikenite, Derby third place finisher Paddy O’Prado and his stablemate First Dude, Pleasant Prince, Hurricane Ike and any runners from the Nick Zito and Bob Baffert stables.
“We’ll expect a full gate,” Pletcher said. “You expect plenty of people to show up and give the Preakness a try. It is a race of tremendous magnitude.”
As expected Zito announced that Derby runner-up Ice Box would skip the Preakness and be pointed towards the Belmont Stakes on June 5. The Hall of Famer indicated a decision regarding Jackson Bend’s Preakness status would be made Monday. Jackson Bend, who finished 12th in last Saturday’s Run for the Roses, galloped a mile and a quarter early Thursday morning at Churchill.
“I may blow him out Monday, I don’t know,” Zito said. “He’s doing good.”
Jackson Bend’s Derby finish marked the first time in 10 starts the colt had not finished first or second.
“Mike Smith told me right after the race he wanted to ride him back,” Zito said. “Give him another chance.”
Baffert told Pimlico officials a decision on Lookin at Lucky, the Derby betting favorite, and speedy Conveyance, who finished 15th at Churchill Saturday, would be made Monday.
“He looks good. He’s got a swagger about him,” Baffert said at Churchill as Lookin At Lucky, sixth in the Derby, left the track. “He (Conveyance) looked nice out there, but there is still a long way to go.”
“He’s 51 now,” Baffert said of Lookin At Lucky, speaking of the 50-50 chance of his possible Preakness starters. “This one (Conveyance) is 50.”
D. Wayne Lukas’ runners will be the first to settle in the Preakness stakes barn when Dublin and Northern Giant arrive on Tuesday, May 11.
Dublin returned to the track for the first time since his seventh-place Kentucky Derby finish, jogging a mile in the first set Lukas sent out Thursday morning.
“He’s doing excellent; sharp as a tack,” Lukas said. “You’d never know he even ran.”
Schoolyard Dreams finished ahead of Super Saver in the Grade 3 Tampa Bay Derby on March 13. Today the son of Stephen Got Even produced a bullet five furlong work in 59.60 seconds at Monmouth Park with jockey Eibar Coa in the irons. It was fastest of 12 works at the distance this morning and left trainer Derek Ryan brimming with confidence heading into the third Saturday in May.
“The work went perfect,” said Ryan, who finished third in the 2009 Preakness with Musket Man. “Finally got something to go right. If we could only get a race to go like this. I’m coming there to win it. I don’t want to be second or third again. That horse should have won last year. If he didn’t get kicked at the three-eighths pole, the most important part of the race, I would have been two or three behind Rachel Alexandra turning for home. We were twelve behind. He did his trademark run, but we were beaten a length and a half.”
Ryan will ship into Pimlico the day before the Preakness with Schoolyard Dreams, Ponzi Scheme, who will run in the James Murphy Stakes on the Preakness undercard, and Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan starter C C’s Pal.
Another live new shooter will be Caracortado. The Southern California-based gelding began his career with five consecutive victories, including an impressive score in the Grade 2 Robert Lewis Stakes. The Mike Machowsky trainee then finished third in the Grade 2 San Felipe and a troubled fourth in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby where the son of Cat Dreams suffered a minor left foot injury. But the conditioner sees an improved version.
“He’s just so much better than he’s been in a long time,” Machowsky said. “He’s fresh and he’s put on weight. He’s not a big horse looking at physically. Before the Santa Anita Derby I put him on a scale and he weighed 1,060 pounds, which was a surprise because I didn’t think he weighed that much. I put him on a scale a few days ago and he picked up 29 pounds since that race.”
Caracortado will work seven-eighths Saturday morning at Santa Anita Park and will arrive at Pimlico on May 12.
A Little Warm galloped at Delaware Park this morning, according to trainer Tony Dutrow. The Grade 2 Louisiana Derby runner-up will work either Sunday or Monday. John Velazquez will have the Preakness mount.
“We are on schedule to come,” Dutrow said. “Everything is fine.”
Noble’s Promise returned to the track at Keeneland after spending a few days resting at trainer Kenny McPeek’s farm in Lexington. The front-running fifth place finisher in last Saturday’s Derby was considered “possible” Monday afternoon but his Preakness status is now unclear.
“No firm decision has been made on Noble Promise’s next start,” McPeek said. “He did come out of the Derby in good order.”
Graham Motion entered Turf Melody in Saturday’s Grade 2 Dwyer Stakes at Belmont Park. The trainer said this morning he expects the son of Maria’s Mon to run in New York.
“At this point I’m 90% sure he’ll run in the Dwyer,” Motion said. “Unless the Preakness field should start to fall apart.”
Make Music for Me walked the shedrow at Keeneland this morning. Trainer Alexis Barba indicated the fourth place finisher from Saturday’s Derby would return to the track tomorrow and is not expected in Baltimore next weekend.
“It is very unlikely we’ll be headed to the Preakness but very likely we’ll be part of the Belmont field,” Barba said. "I was confident he'd go a mile and a quarter (the Kentucky Derby distance) and I am confident he can go a mile and a half (Belmont Stakes distance) because he finishes strong every time."
The Preakness is limited to 14 starters. Fifteen of the last 18 years have seen double-digit starters.