While connections of Three Rules count on a return to sprints translating to a return to the winner's circle, those of Recruiting Ready will look to keep momentum going in the $200,000 Maker's Mark Chick Lang Stakes May 20 at historic Pimlico Race Course.
The six-furlong Chick Lang is one of two stakes for 3-year-olds on the undercard of the 142nd Preakness Stakes (G1), middle jewel of the Triple Crown. The $100,000 LARC Sir Barton Stakes to benefit the TAA is contested at 1 1/16 miles later in the day.
Shade Tree Thoroughbreds, Tim Fitzgerald, and Geoff Roy's Three Rules won multiple stakes at 2, opening his career with five consecutive victories at Gulfstream Park. The streak earned him entry in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1), where he chased for a half-mile before finishing sixth behind eventual juvenile champion Classic Empire.
Three Rules was on the Triple Crown trail at the start of 2017, with a second in the Feb. 4 Swale Stakes (G2) and a third in the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2). He set the pace in the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby (G1) April 1, but tired to finish fifth behind Derby winner Always Dreaming.
"He ran good in the Fountain of Youth, and the Florida Derby was a great race," trainer Jose Pinchin said. "He's doing great. He's had two real nice works since the race. He'll probably be the favorite for the race. It should be the right spot for him."
The son of multiple graded stakes winner Gone Astray has four wins and a second from five career sprint races, including a win in the Florida Sire Dr. Fager by seven lengths—his only try at six furlongs.
"The owners wanted to cut back with him, stop sending him long and get him back to sprinting," Pinchin said. "I think he'll handle it. It's a cutback, but it's a good cutback in his favor. I think he's a better sprinter or miler than he is a route horse."
Sagamore Farm's Recruiting Ready takes a two-race win streak into the Chick Lang, both at six furlongs. The bay Algorithms colt, trained by Horacio DePaz, captured an entry-level allowance March 10 at Laurel Park before earning a stakes victory in the Bachelor Stakes April 13 at Oaklawn Park.
"He's definitely in good form right now. He had that confidence booster in the allowance race at Laurel and he was able to step it up again and go to Oaklawn on a track that he had never been on. Just being able to run consistent again and a very fast time as well was good," DePaz said. "The confidence booster really helped him out. He's really happy with himself. I really think that race at Pimlico will be right up his alley. He's been there before, he likes it, and he won there. It's a track that suits his style of running, too."
Recruiting Ready was a 10 1/4-length winner during his unveiling last May at Pimlico. Stepping into graded stakes company, he finished second to Classic Empire in the Bashford Manor Stakes (G3). He went on to a second-place finish in the Saratoga Special Stakes (G2) but was disqualified to fourth behind Gunnevera. Then he placed third to Not This Time in the Iroquois Stakes (G3), and third and 10th in the Buffalo Man and Mucho Macho Man stakes at Gulfstream, the latter at one mile Jan. 7.
In the Iroquois, Recruiting Ready finished just a head behind runner-up Lookin At Lee, who went on to place in three grade 1 stakes including an impressive second in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1).
"He ran against some very tough horses and has had some tough beats," DePaz said. "Hopefully we can continue to build some confidence and get some momentum with him. We may give him a break after this race and just try to keep him together and then maybe go back to Saratoga. Right now we're taking it one race at a time."
Also entered in the Chick Lang are 2016 Futurity Stakes (G3) winner Theory; stakes winner Proforma; stakes-placed Always a Suspect, Liar's Dice, and Bobby Abu Dhabi; Even Thunder, runner-up in the Bay Shore Stakes (G3) last time out; and recent maiden winner Aquamarine.
WinStar Farm and China Horse Club International et.al.'s Hedge Fund, narrowly beaten in the Illinois Derby (G3) last time out, cuts back in class and distance in the Sir Barton.
From the barn of Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Todd Pletcher, Hedge Fund took command of the 1 1/8-mile Illinois Derby at the quarter pole and held grimly to the lead until being passed late by Preakness contender Multiplier, losing by a head.
It was the second straight graded stakes start for the sophomore son of 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver , who tired to third behind Preakness contenders Hence and Conquest Mo Money after setting the pace in the Sunland Derby (G3) March 26.
"He put in a good effort last time. It was a tough beat in the Illinois Derby so this hopefully will work out for him," Pletcher said. "We got a beautiful trip and got everything we wanted—he just kind of missed the bob. Jose Valdivia rode him that day and he said he didn't really think he saw the horse coming on his outside and just got nailed."
Pletcher initially had Hedge Fund among his early Triple Crown race candidates. The chestnut didn't debut until mid-December running fifth in a six-furlong maiden special weight, but was impressive winning by four in his subsequent start Feb. 4 on the Fountain of Youth undercard at Gulfstream.
"We felt like he was behind schedule a little bit to make the Triple Crown races," Pletcher said. "He ran credibly at Sunland and we kind of felt like hopefully he can step up into that top tier sometime down the road."
Calumet Farm's True Timber, another late starter who didn't race until mid-November, finished third in the Jerome Stakes (G3). The Mineshaft colt placed second in the Withers Stakes (G3) in his 3-year-old debut at Aqueduct behind highly regarded El Areeb.
True Timber prompted the pace before weakening to fifth in the Gotham Stakes (G3) and then finished fourth in the 1 1/8-mile Wood Memorial Stakes presented by NYRA Bets (G2) April 8, giving his connections reason to forego the classic races.
"He ran very well that day. We were happy with his race. He's had a couple of nice races and he's doing well," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. "[The Sir Barton] is a restricted stake so we like that, non-winners of an open sweepstakes.
"We always liked him and we thought distance might help him as he started going further," he added. "He's a really nice horse but he just wasn't quite up to the top horses at that time. But he continues to train well so we're going to continue to be hopeful. He's a stakes horse, for sure."
Rounding out the Sir Barton field are Honor the Fleet, a winner of two straight; Time to Travel and Resiliency, fourth and 10th, respectively, in the Lexington Stakes (G3) April 15; Greek Prince, Society Beau, No Mo Dough, and Watch Me Whip.
Pimlico Race Course, Saturday, May 20, 2017, Race 7
- 3 yo
- 2:07 PM (local)
|1||1Three Rules (FL)||Luis Saez||122||Jose Pinchin||3/1|
|2||2Always a Suspect (KY)||Joel Rosario||116||Kiaran P. McLaughlin||6/1|
|3||3Even Thunder (KY)||Rajiv Maragh||120||John C. Servis||12/1|
|4||4Liar's Dice (MD)||Victor R. Carrasco||116||Damon R. Dilodovico||12/1|
|5||5Proforma (KY)||Florent Geroux||116||Michael Stidham||10/1|
|6||6Aquamarine (FL)||Javier Castellano||116||D. Wayne Lukas||15/1|
|7||7Recruiting Ready (KY)||Horacio Karamanos||120||Horacio DePaz||8/5|
|8||8Theory (KY)||John R. Velazquez||120||Todd A. Pletcher||10/1|
|9||9Bobby Abu Dhabi (KY)||Corey J. Lanerie||116||Peter Miller||15/1|
Pimlico Race Course, Saturday, May 20, 2017, Race 11
- 1 1/16m
- 3 yo
- 4:43 PM (local)
|1||1Honor the Fleet (KY)||Steve D. Hamilton||116||Louis Albertrani||5/1|
|2||2Hedge Fund (KY)||Javier Castellano||116||Todd A. Pletcher||9/5|
|3||3Greek Prince (FL)||Katie Davis||116||Georgia D. Andreadakis||30/1|
|4||4Society Beau (KY)||Corey J. Lanerie||116||Neil J. Howard||12/1|
|5||5No Mo Dough (KY)||Jose L. Ortiz||116||H. Graham Motion||12/1|
|6||6Watch Me Whip (KY)||Luis Saez||116||Dale L. Romans||12/1|
|7||7True Timber (KY)||Joel Rosario||116||Kiaran P. McLaughlin||8/1|
|8||8Liar's Dice (MD)||Horacio Karamanos||116||Damon R. Dilodovico||15/1|
|9||9Time to Travel (ON)||John R. Velazquez||116||Michael R. Matz||7/2|
|10||10Resiliency (KY)||Florent Geroux||116||Steven M. Asmussen||15/1|