Icabad Crane’s connections had faith in him at least hitting the board in the May 17 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) at Pimlico, and their intuitions were proved right when the son of Jump Start finished a game 5 3/4 lengths in third behind Big Brown.
Aaron Cohen, racing manager for owner Earle I. Mack, and trainer Graham Motion knew Icabad Crane might have trouble outlasting the Rick Dutrow-trained superstar, but they still felt that their colt could provide a challenge, and he did. This effort, of course, raised questions as to whether he would be entered in the Belmont for yet another meeting with Big Brown.
In the weeks following the Preakness, Motion said the third jewel of the Triple Crown was in the cards for Icabad Crane, and went on to say that with a slightly cleaner trip in the Preakness, the colt would have probably finished second.
Although Icabad Crane has never before traveled 1 1/2 miles in a race, jockey Jeremy Rose didn’t think the distance would be an issue, which led Motion to officially pursue a start in the Belmont for the Frederico Tesio Stakes winner.
“One of the reasons I don’t mind running him in (the Belmont) is because he’s got such a great disposition — he’s a really kind horse, a lovely horse to be around,” said Motion. “And he’s really tough. (In the Tesio), he had a rough trip, and he just seems to overcome whatever happens. He didn’t have a great trip in the Preakness either…I think the pair of he and Jeremy are both pretty tough.”
Icabad Crane’s Tesio victory was what originally sealed the deal for him to take a shot at the Preakness. The colt posted a head victory over pacesetter Mint Lane in the April 19 race at Pimlico, rallying from sixth to clear 1 1/8-miles in 1:50.83.
Bred by Marlene Brody’s Gallagher Stud, Icabad Crane was named for the police officer who is the focal point of the "Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” an eerie story by Washington Irving set in the colt’s native New York. The colt was purchased by Cohen’s ARC Bloodstock for $110,000 at the 2007 Ocala Breeders’ Sale Co. March selected sale of 2-year-olds in training.
“He was very athletic-looking individual, and he was a New-York bred, and he came to us at a number within our budget,” said Cohen, who manages around 60 horses in training worldwide for Mack. “He’s not a real big horse. He’s like a puppy dog. He’s really easy to get along with and has always been cooperative. He’s never done anything wrong to get here. He’s a really nice horse to be around.”
Motion, who also trains Kentucky Derby contender Adriano, stables many of his horses at the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland, where Icabad Crane worked an easy five furlongs in 1:02.60 May 9.
Icabad Crane has won three of five starts. His only other loss came in a third-place finish in the Rushaway Stakes over Turfway Park’s synthetic racing surface. Breaking his maiden at 2 at Aqueduct, Icabad Crane launched his 2008 campaign with an allowance victory at the New York track Jan. 20. He will enter the Belmont with earnings of $235,400.
Motion said he is tentatively planning on breezing Icabad Crane on June 2.
“I think somehow Big Brown has to stub his toe for any of us to beat him (in the Belmont), but there is a chance of that happening,” said Motion. “Obviously, we’re all looking to beat him, and we all realize that’s going to be a tall order, and it would be great to get a piece of it if we can’t beat him.”