The William Donald Schaefer Stakes (gr. III) at Pimlico on the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) undercard is shaping up to be quite an impressive race. With a nicely matched field of nine older males, including grade I winner Bullsbay , 2009 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) finisher Flying Private, and several other graded stakes winners, it's sure to be one of the most highly anticipated events May 15.
The 1 1/16-mile William Donald Schaefer, which often serves as a prep race for the Stephen Foster Handicap (gr. I) at Churchill June 12, is the eighth race on the card and is slated for 2:57 p.m.
Bullsbay, an earner of nearly $900,000, scored his big victory in the 2009 Whitney Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga, but seems to have been off his form since. The son of Tiznow , who has won or placed in five other stakes contests, including last year’s Alysheba (gr. III), has turned in uncharacteristically unplaced efforts in his last three starts. The most recent was a dull ninth in this year’s running of the Alysheba (gr. III) at Churchill Downs April 3.
“I was very puzzled by his race at Churchill,” said trainer Graham Motion, adding that the horse had suffered no injuries from that run. “He appeared to be doing very well, and I thought he had done plenty to prepare him for the Alysheba. But (jockey) Jeremy (Rose) said he knew he was in trouble when they turned down the backside, so for whatever reason, he didn’t run his race at all that day.”
Perhaps a change of jockey from Jeremy Rose to Julian Leparoux will make a difference in the next performance of Bullsbay, who owns a record of 7-5-2 from 22 starts and has morning line odds of 10-1 in the William D. Schaefer. The 6-year-old horse, who is owned by Mitchell Ranch, Frank Lewkowitz, and Joe Rice, will break from the inside post. Bred in Kentucky by Brad Anderson, Bullsbay was a $130,000 purchase at the 2005 Keeneland September yearling sale.
Bullsbay’s biggest threat in the William Donald Schaefer appears to be the Al Stall-trained Blame , who has never been off the board in eight lifetime starts. Owned by the Hancock family’s Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider, Blame is the 8-5 morning line favorite in the race, but is coming off nearly a six-month layoff.
“The horse just had a freshening over the winter…no injuries or surgeries, we were just letting him try and develop between 3 and 4,” said Stall. “He’s definitely ready to run…the comeback races are usually hard to win, but he looks great, and he acts like he’s going to run a very good race.”
Working to his advantage is the fact he will enter off two straight victories. Capturing the Oct. 31 Fayette (gr. II) over Keeneland’s Polytrack, he closed his 2009 campaign with an exciting next victory over Misremembered in the Clark Handicap (gr. II) in November. Bullsbay finished a dull seventh in the latter race.
“I could tell by mid- to late February that (Blame) was back in the mental frame of mind he needed to be in (training-wise),” said Stall. “He was very willing. So we’re fine…definitely thinking about the Stephen Foster (next). That’s the goal we set last year, so this is the prep race.”
Looking for his first graded stakes is Flying Private, who finished unplaced in all three of last year’s Triple Crown races, but has been runner up in four black-type events, including last year’s Lanes End (gr. II) and this year’s Alysheba.
The son of Fusaichi Pegasus holds a record of 2-6-0 from 16 starts, for earnings of $334,153. Trained by D. Wayne Lukas for Robert Baker and Bill Mack, he was a $700,000 Keeneland September yearling sale purchase in 2007.
William Donald Schaefer S. (Grade III), $100,000, 1 1/16 miles, 3-year-olds and up, race 8, post 2:57 p.m. EDT.
Post, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Odds
1. Bullsbay, J. Leparoux, 118, 10-1
2. No Advantage, M. Chaves, 118, 15-1
3. Understatement, J. Velazquez, 124, 3-1
4. I Know Why, E. Rodriguez, 118, 20-1
5. Edgewater, T. Dunkelberger, 118, 20-1
6. Timber Reserve, J. Castellano, 118, J. Kimmel, 21-1
7. Blame, G. Gomez, 118, 8-5
8. Indian Dance, L. Garcia, 124, 8-1
9. Flying Private, T. Thompson, 118, 4-1