Flying First Class is to run in the $1 million Preakness Stakes (gr. I) in one week at Pimlico Race Course, trainer D. Wayne Lukas confirmed Saturday morning to Maryland officials.
An impressive winner of the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs on April 28, Ellwood W. Johnston's California homebred Flying First Class, a son of Perfect Mandate, finished off the board previously in the Arkansas Derby (gr. II) and Rebel Stakes (gr. III) at Oaklawn Park. Mark Guidry, who was aboard for the Churchill score, retains the mount.
“We think he is coming up to the race in good order, and he’s been doing what we’ve asked of him,” said Lukas, who has started a record 31 horses in the middle jewel of the Triple Crown and has lifted the Woodlawn Vase five times. “I think he merits the chance. He’s earned it.”
Another potential Lukas starter for the Preakness, Starbase, has been removed from consideration, but could start in the Barbaro Stakes on the Preakness undercard. The Maryland Jockey Club changed the name of the former Sir Barton Stakes to the Barbaro to honor last year’s Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner who was injured in the 2006 Preakness.
Ramon Dominguez will ride in his sixth Preakness but the former Maryland star does not know what 3-year-old he will be aboard just yet. Agent Steve Rushing informed the Pimlico media relations staff that his rider has secured the mount on Chelokee if trainer Michael Matz decides to run his colt in the Preakness. If not the 30-year-old Dominguez, who won his 3,000th race earlier this week, will ride Xchanger. The pair teamed up to win the Tesio Stakes at Pimlico three weeks ago.
Dominguez will work Chelokee Sunday morning at the Fair Hill Training Center. Matz has indicated he’ll decide whether to run the son of Cherokee Run in the Preakness, Barbaro Stakes or wait for the Ohio Derby (gr. II) after the breeze. Dominguez would also have the mount if Matz opts for the Barbaro.
Xchanger worked five-furlongs in :59 2/5 with exercise Anissa Butler over the Fair Hill Training Center’s all weather surface. Trainer Mark Shuman remains confident the Tesio winner is sitting on a big race.
“He did it as easy as a horse could do it,” said Shuman. “He cooled out great, scoped good. We are 100 percent ready for next week. We are just waiting for a confirmation on Dominguez which I am expecting tomorrow. Then we are good to go.”
Todd Pletcher moved up King of the Roxy’s final work one day and the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) runner-up breezed six furlongs in 1:14 4/5 at Belmont Park Saturday morning. King of the Roxy will ship into Pimlico Thursday.
Matz’s decision to ride Dominguez opened the door for Nick Zito to name Edgar Prado as the rider on C P West. A final decision on whether or not the son of Came Home will start is expected Monday morning after the Withers (gr. III) runner-up breezes but Zito is expecting to have a Preakness starter for the 14th time in the last 17 years.
“It is good karma to secure a jock in advance,” Zito said. “And Edgar certainly knows his way around Pimlico.” Prado won 14 riding titles at Old Hilltop in the 1990’s.
The Preakness will include the top three finishers from last week’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands and is shaping up to be the deepest field since 2004. Many Pimlico historians are comparing Street Sense, Hard Spun and Curlin to Silver Charm, Free House and Captain Bodgit, who in 1997 duplicated the trifecta in Louisville two weeks later in Baltimore. This year’s 1-2-3 finishers will arrive at Pimlico Wednesday.
Saturday morning at Churchill Downs, Street Sense galloped 1 1/4 miles under the watchful eye of trainer Carl Nafzger, who said, “He went great.”
Meanwhile at Delaware Park, trainer Larry Jones reported Hard Spun galloped 1 1/2 miles.
“He went pretty strong,” Jones said. “Everything is good in our camp. We could not be happier.”
The first two Preakness starters are expected to arrive at the Pimlico stakes barn Sunday. Mint Slewlep is to be vanned from the Bowie Training Center and be on the track at 6:30 a.m., while Teuflesberg will leave Louisville after training hours and arrive in Baltimore after dark.
SportsCenter at Preakness Draw will take place live on Wednesday at the ESPN Zone in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and will be broadcast on ESPN 2 from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. ET, 30 minutes earlier than usual.