I’ll Have Another’s arrival at Pimlico for the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown will be the earliest by a Kentucky Derby winner in many years.
“I don’t think it’s sunk in yet. Words can’t describe how I feel. Seeing him at the 1/16th-pole coming down the racetrack in front and crossing the finish line, I said, ‘Wow! We did it! ’” said Sisterson, who has been working for O’Neill for a year. “Even the excitement getting to the race was a real experience in itself. On the walk-over, I said, ‘Wow! Here we go!’”
I’ll Have Another, who became the first horse in Derby history to win after breaking from the No. 19 post, received a dream trip under jockey Mario Gutierrez before running down pacesetter Bodemeister nearing the finish line on his way to victory by 1 ½ lengths.
For Sisterson it was a victorious homecoming, of sorts. He attended the University of Louisville on a soccer scholarship and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in equine administration. He worked for trainers Todd Pletcher and Eddie Kenneally in Kentucky before venturing to Southern California three years ago.
Sisterson and five other members of O’Neill’s crew that accompanied I’ll Have Another to Pimlico were still feeling the jubilation of their Kentucky Derby experience Monday, but the assistant trainer said that the work atmosphere in the stable is always upbeat on a daily basis.
“It’s fantastic working for somebody who (creates) such a teamwork effort,” Sisterson said. “It’s a complete open-door policy. I suppose if you work for a boss like that, you feel more comfortable going to work. If you come out to California and come to the barn, the spirits are high and we’re all family. If the spirits are high with the employees, I think it rubs off on the horses. I think that was brought out on Saturday.”
The Derby winner’s owner, J. Paul Reddam, has rented a house for the crew’s two-week stay in Maryland.
I’ll Have Another, who had won the Robert Lewis (G2) and the Santa Anita Derby (G1) at Santa Anita before making his triumphant trip east, was accompanied to Pimlico by Lava Man, the multiple Grade 1 stakes winner who is now serving as a stable pony, among several other O’Neill-trained horses.
“Lava Man was the celebrity of the week (before the Derby),” said Sisterson of the former claimer who went on to earned $5.2 million. “They were like a tag team, Lava Man and I’ll Have Another. Lava Man brought him to the start on Saturday.”
I’ll Have Another leads all Preakness prospects with $2,060,600 on the graded earnings list, on which the first seven automatically earn a berth in the 14-horse field. Bodemeister, Creative Cause and Went the Day Well earned an automatic Preakness start by earning a check in the Kentucky Derby. Hansen, Union Rags and Liaison round out the Top 7.
In the second-tier of qualifying, the four horses with the most stakes earnings (minus restricted stakes earnings) are Isn’t He Clever, Optimizer, Hierro and Tiger Walk.
The remaining prospects are ranked by total earnings, including Pretension, Paynter and Zetterholm.
In the unlikely event that all of the above horses are confirmed for the Preakness, Cozzetti and Brimstone Island would be on the also-eligible list.
WENT THE DAY WELL – Trainer Graham Motion was in the process of closing up shop at Barn 22 Monday morning as Team Valor International and Mark Ford’s Went the Day Well walked the shedrow.
“We were fortunate enough to catch a ride with the Derby winner (I’ll Have Another) to Baltimore today,” Motion said of the fourth-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby. “He is doing well and the plan is to run in the Preakness as long as he is doing well.”
Barry Irwin’s Team Valor confirmed later that Went the Day Well will be pointed to the Preakness on Twitter.
Went the Day Well will van to the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md. to resume his training.
COZZETTI/DULLAHAN – Albaugh Family Stables LLC’s Cozzetti, worked five furlongs after the morning renovation break at Churchill Downs in 1:01.
Working on his own with exercise rider Faustino Aguilar up, Cozzetti broke off at the half-mile pole and posted fractions of :12.60, :24.80, :37, :48.80 and out six furlongs in 1:13.80 and seven-eighths in 1:27.20. The move was the fifth fastest of 19 at the distance.
“I thought he worked well,” trainer Dale Romans said of Cozzetti, who finished fourth in the Arkansas Derby (G1) in his most recent start.
Romans, who won the Preakness last year with Shackleford, plans to take Cozzetti to Pimlico for a bid to make him the first trainer since Bob Baffert in 2001-02 to take the Preakness in consecutive years. Baffert won with Point Given and War Emblem.
Cozzetti has amassed $85,000 in graded stakes earnings from the Arkansas Derby and a third-place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2).
“The Preakness is still on if he can get in,” Romans said.
Romans could have one other Preakness entrant in third-place Kentucky Derby finisher Dullahan for Donegal Racing, who has not been ruled out.
“We are going to talk it over in a little while, but we are not committed to the race yet,” said Jerry Crawford, manager of Donegal. Dullahan would be an automatic qualifier for the Preakness based on his finish in the Derby.
BODEMEISTER/LIAISON/PAYNTER – It was a quiet Monday morning on the Bob Baffert side of Barn 33 at Churchill Downs as the trainer’s two Kentucky Derby runners walked under the watchful eye of assistant Jim Barnes.
Zayat Stables and Michel and Tiffany Moreno’s Bodemeister (second) and Arnold Zetcher’s Liaison (sixth) are considered as possible for the Preakness although no decision will be made until Baffert returns from Southern California this weekend.
Also walking the shedrow Monday was Zayat Stables’ Paynter, who worked five furlongs in 1:00.20 on Sunday and also is considered a possible Preakness participant. Paynter finished second in the April 28 The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial (G3) that was run on a sloppy track.
Also considered possible to head to Pimlico from the Baffert barn is Peachtree Stable’s undefeated filly Mamma Kimbo, Two-for-two in her career with a victory in the Fantasy (G2) in her most recent start, Mamma Kimbo worked a bullet five-eighths in :58.80 on Sunday as a prep for a possible start in the May 18 Black-Eyed Susan (G2).
HANSEN – Dr. Kendall Hansen and Skychai Racing’s Hansen walked the shedrow at trainer Mike Maker’s barn at the Trackside Training Center. Maker said the 2011 Eclipse Award winner as champion 2-year-old came out of his ninth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby in good order and is scheduled to return to the track Wednesday.
HIERRO/ISN’T HE CLEVER – Stonestreet Stables’ Hierro, winner of The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial (G3) at Churchill on April 28, worked a half-mile in: 52 under exercise rider Carlos Rosas before the morning renovation break.
Working on his own, Hierro posted fractions of :12.80, :25.60 and galloped out five-eighths in 1:05.60 for trainer Steve Asmussen.
Also working for Asmussen was J. Kirk and Judy Robison’s Isn’t He Clever, runner-up in the Sunland Derby (G3) and eighth in the Arkansas Derby (G1) in his most recent start. Isn’t He Clever worked five furlongs in 1:02 with Rosas up. Working on even terms in company with 7-year-old stakes winner Jimmy Simms, Isn’t He Clever posted fractions of :14, :26.80, :38.20 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:15.60 and seven-eighths in 1:28.80.
Both horses are thought to be possible for the Preakness.
“We have not made a decision on the Preakness,” Robison said from El Paso, Texas. “We want to see how the race is shaping up and do the best thing for our horse. He will work again next Monday and we may not have a decision until then.”
OPTIMIZER – Bluegrass Hall’s Optimizer is scheduled to return to the track Wednesday according to trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Optimizer finished 11th in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.
Lukas is planning to bring several other horses to Pimlico when he brings Optimizer for the Preakness. Included among those will be Bluegrass Hall’s Skyring, a gritty winner on the Derby Day card.
“He will run in one of the undercard races,” Lukas said.
ZETTERHOLM - Trainer Richard Dutrow said that the Winter Park Partners' New York-bred colt is pointed to the Peter Pan (G2) Saturday at Belmont Park, but would rather run him in the Preakness.
"When Pimlico tells us we're in, I'll start planning for the Preakness," Dutrow said. "Right now there is the race at Belmont and we'll go there unless we hear we're getting into the field for the Preakness
Zetterholm is on a three-race winning streak. He broke his maiden at Aqueduct on Feb. 4, added an allowance victory on March 4 and finished first in the one-mile Patsyprospect Stakes on April 6. The Silver Train colt has three wins and a second in five career starts and has earnings of $123,505.
BARN TALK – Jonathan Rey, Javier Sarmiento and Dante Zanelli Jr.’s Oaks Lily, who was on the also-eligible list for the Kentucky Oaks but did not draw into the race, worked a bullet half-mile in :46.80 Monday morning at Churchill Downs. The move, completed before the renovation break and over a fast track, was the best of 33 at the distance for the morning. She galloped out five furlongs in 1:00.60.
“We are leaving in the next day or two for Pimlico,” said Zanelli, who is supervising the Keeneland maiden winner’s training in Kentucky. “I think we should be able to get in (the May 18 Black-Eyed Susan).”