“He was well behaved at the gate,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “He was calm, cool and collected. He is very professional and has always been that way. It is a huge edge when you have a horse with talent that also has the proper mind-set.”
Aikenite worked five furlongs in company with Megaholtz in 1:01.40 with Willey up. Fractions for the work over a fast track were :12.60, :25.20, :37.60 and :49.40. Aikenite galloped out six furlongs in 1:15. The move was the ninth fastest of 19 at the distance.
“He broke off a couple lengths behind Megaholtz and they finished on even terms,” Pletcher said. “It was a good work, typical of how he works and he had a solid gallop out. He will walk tomorrow and go back to the track Tuesday.”
Aikenite has only won one of his eight career starts – his debut at Saratoga on August 9 – but he emerged as a prospect for the Triple Crown series with good performances in graded stakes. The Dogwood Stable colt dropped out of consideration for the Kentucky Derby with an eighth-place finish in the Blue Grass, but earned a trip to the Preakness with a strong second in the Derby Trial on April 24.
Mission Impazible remains a possibility for the Preakness. In a report on his Facebook page, written in the first person as if he had pounded on the keyboard himself, the Louisiana Derby winner rated his chances of running in the Preakness at 60 percent. Pletcher said that the ninth-place finisher in the Derby will breeze at Churchill Monday with a decision on his Preakness future expected to be made on Tuesday.
A LITTLE WARM – Trainer Anthony Dutrow said Sunday he will likely decide the Louisiana Derby runner-up’s status for the Preakness on Monday.
“I’m going to Delaware Park tomorrow to see how everything is,’’ said the 52-year-old Dutrow, eldest of three sons of the late Maryland trainer Dick Dutrow. “I’ll make a decision tomorrow morning with what I’m going to do with him.”
A Little Warm, a son of Stormin Fever owned by Edward P. Evans, would be the first starter in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown for Dutrow, whose younger brother Richard saddled Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown for a Preakness victory in 2008.
CARACORTADO – The California-bred gelding looked “really good” to trainer Mike Machowsky Sunday morning after working seven furlongs at Santa Anita in 1:24.60 the previous morning. Machowsky’s homebred, who was forced to sit out the Kentucky Derby due to a lack of graded-stakes earnings, is scheduled to ship to Baltimore via Kentucky on Wednesday. The 44-year-old trainer is encouraged by the success California-based horses have enjoyed after shipping east this year.
“The racetrack at Santa Anita is a great surface to train on,” said Machowsky of the synthetic Pro-Ride surface. “Horses seem to stay really fit.”
Caracortado, whom Machowsky owns in partnership with Blahut Racing LLC, has also performed well on synthetic surfaces in the afternoon, but he will not be uninitiated on a traditional dirt surface when he goes to post in the Preakness. The son of Cat Dreams broke his maiden over the dirt track at Fairplex in his debut last September.
“He has no wasted motion. He’s a clean-moving horse. I think that’s the reason I think he’ll run well on any surface,” Machowsky said.
Southern California journeyman Paul Atkinson, who has ridden Caracortado in all seven of his starts, including a victory in the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes, will have the return mount.
DUBLIN/NORTHERN GIANT – Both colts trained by D. Wayne Lukas are scheduled to work Monday morning at Churchill Downs. They galloped under Arielle Witkowski before the renovation break Sunday. Lukas confirmed that veteran Garrett Gomez will replace Terry Thompson on Dublin, but has not announced a rider for Northern Giant. Gomez rode Lookin At Lucky in the Derby, but trainer Bob Baffert will use Martin Garcia in the Preakness. Eight different jockeys have ridden Northern Giant during his nine-race career. Victor Espinosa was aboard for the most recent start, a ninth-place finish in the Arkansas Derby.
Using a sports analogy, Lukas explained why he made the rider switch on Dublin.
“If Peyton Manning is available, you are not going to leave him in the locker room,” Lukas said.
HURRICANE IKE – The impressive Derby Trial winner, who galloped a mile and a half at Churchill Downs Sunday morning, is slated to work seven furlongs in the shadow of the Twin Spires Monday morning.
“It will be kind of a stamina drill,” trainer John Sadler said.
Hurricane Ike, who had been winless in six starts since breaking his maiden at first asking, scored by nearly three lengths in the Derby Trial under Calvin Borel, who would go on to ride Super Saver for a victory in the Kentucky Derby a week later.
“I knew when they hit the wire (in the Derby) that I had lost Calvin. It didn’t take me long to know our jock was not going to take off the Derby winner,” said Sadler, who didn’t even entertain the thought that Borel would take off the Derby winner to ride another horse in the Preakness as he did last year while picking eventual Preakness winner Rachel Alexandra over Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird.
Sadler opted for Robby Albarado to ride Hurricane Ike.
JACKSON BEND – The son of Hear No Evil galloped a mile and a half at Churchill Downs Sunday morning under exercise rider Stacy Prior. Jockey Mike Smith was aboard Jackson Bend for the first time in the Kentucky Derby, in which they encountered a tough trip on the sloppy, sealed surface.
Jackson Bend won all five starts as a 2-year-old, but is 0-for-4 as a sophomore, his best finishes being back-to-back seconds to pre-Derby favorite Eskendereya in the Fountain of Youth and the Wood Memorial.
Zito, who saddled Louis Quatorze for victory in the 1996 Preakness, said a final decision is likely to be made Monday following a workout at Churchill Downs.
“We’ll do a little something tomorrow, maybe blow him out a little bit,” Zito said Sunday. “Then I’ll talk to Bob (principal owner LaPenta) and we’ll see what he wants to do.”
LOOKIN AT LUCKY – Without using percentages, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said Sunday that it is more likely that the beaten Derby favorite will compete in the Preakness.
“I’d say there is a very good chance, unless I see something this afternoon that changes my mind,” Baffert said.
If Lookin At Lucky does run in the Preakness, he will be ridden by Martin Garcia. Garrett Gomez rode the colt in all nine of his career starts, but Baffert said it was time for a switch that might produce some better karma for the talented colt, who manages to find trouble – in victory and defeat. Gomez has picked up the mount on Dublin, trained by D. Wayne Lukas.
The morning after the Derby, Baffert said it was possible that the colt might go on to Pimlico. He increased the chances to 50-50 a few days later and then to 51 percent. On Saturday, Lookin At Lucky was up to 52 percent. By Sunday, Baffert was even more positive about the likelihood of the Smart Strike colt running, but stopped short of confirming he was a go for the race.
“I’m going to wait until (Monday) to make the decision, but right now he’s getting stronger every day,” Baffert said. “I’m leaning toward it, but I’m just not sure. Everybody is trying to nail me down, but I don’t want to say yes today, because I’ve been known to change my mind quite often. I’m sort of being wishy-washy about it, but I’d rather wait and see how he is on Monday. Today, I liked what I saw.”
Baffert was critical of how Gomez rode the colt in a third-place finish in the Santa Anita Derby, but kept him on the colt for the Kentucky Derby. Lookin At Lucky drew the rail in the 20-horse Derby and was bounced around a couple of times in the first time through the stretch. He made a huge run in the second turn to get into a contending position, but could not sustain the rally and finished sixth.
“I talked with Garrett a few days ago,” Baffert said. “I told him that we’ve just been having such bad luck and I wasn’t sure if I was going to run, so I wanted to give him a chance to find another mount. And if I did run, I was maybe going to replace him only just to change our luck.
“He was good about it because we’re good friends. I wanted to try something different one time and see. Maybe we’ll draw better or do something. I’m just trying to change our luck.”
Garcia, 25, is a rising young star on the Southern California circuit. Baffert uses him often and the two teamed to win the Grade III Lone Star Derby Saturday at Lone Star Park. Through Saturday, Garcia ranked 10th on the Equibase list of purse earnings by a jockey with $3,244,201.
Lookin At Lucky galloped a mile and a half Sunday morning and is scheduled to gallop again on Monday.
PADDY O’PRADO/FIRST DUDE – Paddy O’Prado, who finished third in the Kentucky Derby, galloped a mile and a half at Churchill Downs Sunday morning in preparation for a start in the Preakness Stakes. Stablemate First Dude walked on the morning after turning in a sharp five-furlong work in 1:00.60 at Churchill Downs. The third-place finisher in the Blue Grass, though, is in jeopardy of being bumped from the Preakness field that is limited to 14 starters, pending the Preakness decisions for Mission Impazible and Yawanna Twist.
In the event that the 15 horses currently under consideration for the Preakness are entered Wednesday, First Dude would be the horse excluded from the field.
The starters will be determined in a three-tier process. The first seven horses with the highest lifetime earnings in graded stakes will be given preference. The next four starters will be determined by the highest lifetime earnings in all “non-restricted stakes,” which means those stakes whose conditions contain no restrictions other than age or sex. The remaining three starters will be determined by the highest lifetime earnings in all races.
Super Saver ($1,789,032), Lookin At Lucky ($1,480,000), Mission Impazible ($485,934), Paddy O’Prado ($450,950), Dublin ($373,208) Aikenite ($267,806) and Jackson Bend ($230,000) qualify in the graded-earnings category. Only A Little Warm and Hurricane Ike have earnings in the non-restricted category, so the final five starters would come from the lifetime earnings tier: Caracortado ($262,200), Pleasant Prince ($224,398), Yawanna Twist ($195,600), Schoolyard Dreams ($179,060) and Northern Giant ($169,808) would earn starts in the Preakness, leaving First Dude ($152,160) on the outside.
PLEASANT PRINCE – The son of Indy King worked five furlongs in a brisk 59 seconds Sunday morning over Keeneland’s synthetic main track, after which owner/breeder Ken Ramsey declared him ready to go in Saturday’s Preakness.
“He galloped out six furlongs in 1:13 3/5,” Ramsey said. “He worked with two stablemates in front of him. He went past both of them before he got to the wire. Julien Leparoux came from Churchill Downs to work him and pronounced him fit for the Preakness.”
The work was the second-best of seven over a fast track, the scene of a disappointing seventh-place finish in the Blue Grass on April 10. Trainer Wesley Ward then sent him to the Derby Trial, in which he needed to finish at least second to amass enough graded-stakes earnings to qualify for the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field. Unfortunately, he could only manage a third-place finish over a muddy track.
Pleasant Prince became an instant Kentucky Derby candidate while finishing second in the Florida Derby, a nose behind eventual Kentucky Derby runner-up Ice Box. Ramsey said Ward told him that but for “a doggone eyelash” he was beaten by Ice Box at Gulfstream Park, Pleasant Prince could well have turned out to be his long-awaited Kentucky Derby winner.
“It changed the path that we took, and it certainly changed the path that Ice Box took,” Ramsey said. “After Ice Box ran as well as he did (in the Kentucky Derby), and according to the chart he was checked three separate times, he may have well been the best horse had he gotten a clear trip. I think that kind of flatters our horse, because he was in a virtual dead heat in the Florida Derby.”
SCHOOLYARD DREAMS – Trainer Derek Ryan will try the same tactic he utilized a year ago with Preakness third-place finisher Musket Man, opting to van Schoolyard Dreams from Monmouth Park on the morning of the race. The son of Stephen Got Even, who finished ahead of Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver while finishing second in the Tampa Bay Derby before being left in Eskendereya’s wake in the Wood Memorial, galloped a mile and three-quarters at Monmouth Sunday.
“He’s doing great,” Ryan said. “Everything is good to go. We decided to come down the morning of the race last year, and that seemed to work out well. “It’s only a two and a half-hour drive.”
Schoolyard Dreams ran fourth in the Wood Memorial behind a victorious Eskendereya, falling short of making the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field that is decided by graded-stakes earnings. The way he’s been working lately, that may have been a blessing in disguise.
“He probably should have been second, but the rider went for a hole that really wasn’t there,” Ryan said. “Our plan was just to win the Tampa Derby and go right to Churchill, but we got that tough beat (a nose loss to Odysseus) and that sort of threw a splinter in the works and we had to re-route to the Wood.”
YAWANNA TWIST – The Illinois Derby runner-up is scheduled to work at Churchill Downs Monday morning in preparation for a possible start in the Preakness Stakes.
“If all is well, we’ll probably be there,’’ said James Riccio, managing partner of Steel Your Face Stables. “If he likes the track and gets the trip, he’ll be in the hunt.”
Yawanna Twist, who finished nearly three lengths behind American Lion in the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne, had previously finished second behind Awesome Act in the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct.
Trainer Richard Dutrow was victorious in the 2008 Preakness with his Kentucky Derby winner, Big Brown.