Preakness Notes: 9 Set, Ah Day Will Run in Sir Barton
Date Posted: 5/18/2006 5:07:43 AM
Last Updated: 5/20/2006 12:34:55 PM

Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro will face 8 in Saturday's Preakness.
Photo: Jeffrey Snyder
A daily compilation of notes on the candidates for the 2006 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) assembled by the publicity department at Pimlico Race Course.

The field is set for Saturday's 131st running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Racecourse, with the post position draw scheduled at 5 p.m. (ET) Wednesday afternoon.

BARBARO – The Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner was schooled in the starting gate at Fair Hill Training Center Wednesday morning before galloping 1 1/4 miles over the dirt track to trainer Michael Matz's approval.

The presence of a Kentucky Derby champion at Fair Hill has drawn increased crowds of media and racing fans to the Northeast Maryland training center, but Matz apparently isn't concerned that it will spoil the usually tranquil setting.

"I think it's good for the sport. It's good for the horse. It's good for Fair Hill. It's good for everybody. We're lucky enough to have a horse here at Fair Hill that has the quality to run in the Triple Crown races," he said.

Barbaro dominated a field of 20 by 6 1/2 lengths in the Kentucky Derby, but Matz doesn't envision the nine-horse field for the 131st running of the Preakness Stakes posing any less of a challenge on Saturday.

"It'll probably be a cleaner-run race, but nothing changes for me. We still have to beat the same horses we beat last time," said Matz, referring to Brother Derek and Sweetnorthernsaint. "I just hope it's a cleanly run race and the best horse wins."

Barbaro, who is undefeated in six lifetime races, is scheduled to be vanned from Fair Hill to Pimlico on Friday afternoon.

BROTHER DEREK – Prior to leaving Churchill Downs for the plane flight to Baltimore-Washington International Airport Wednesday morning, the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner was given a strong 1 1/8 miles gallop by assistant trainer Francisco Alvarado. Trainer Dan Hendricks was scheduled to fly to Baltimore from California to attend the post position draw at the ESPN Zone.

SWEETNORTHERNSAINT – The son of Sweetsouthernsaint "jogged a mile and galloped a mile'' at Laurel, according to trainer Michael Trombetta, who said he will van his gelding the 30 miles to Pimlico "early" on Saturday. The trainer said he would be at Wednesday's post-position selection.

"(In the Preakness) position is just as important as it is in the Derby,'' Trombetta said. "I think it's going to be a forwardly run race. I don't think anybody's going to go to sleep on the front end and just wait to see what happens. I'm going to give favoritism to the horses who went a mile-and-a-quarter and are shortening up.''

A victory Saturday would have special significance to Trombetta and owners Ted Theos and Joseph Balsamo. Trombetta was born in Baltimore, Theos is a semi-retired restaurateur in the Charm City, and Balsamo is in the real estate business locally.

"It would mean a lot for me to do well here on this day," Trombetta said. "I've gotten to watch (the Preakness) every year, and all of us guys get an opportunity to see the Grade I winners come to town. You just step back and watch; it's not something we get to do everyday.''

Trombetta has plenty of respect for the Preakness favorite, who beat his runner by nearly 14 lengths in Louisville. "I got to spend a week in the barn with him (in Kentucky), and he does everything right,'' Trombetta said. "He's passed all the tests. He's got one more coming this week. He benefited from an excellent trip in the Derby. All credit goes to Edgar. That's one of the keys to winning the Derby. Everybody knows the target.''

BERNARDINI – Trainer Tom Albertrani "finally" got the chance to send Bernardini to the track for a five-furlong workout at Belmont Park Wednesday morning. The New York area got a long overdue break in the rainy weather, allowing the Withers Stakes (gr. III) winner to stretch his legs in 1:01:28, breezing, in preparation for Saturday's Preakness Stakes.

"It was a very good work; he galloped out in 13.4 (seconds)," reported Albertrani at Belmont before heading for the airport to fly to Baltimore in time for Wednesday evening's post position selection at ESPN Zone.

Although the track was official rated as "muddy," Albertrani was satisfied with the conditions for his colt's morning exercise. "It was in good shape," he said. "There was some moisture in it, but it wasn't heavy. It was just a little heavy."

Bernardini, who is scheduled to be shipped to Pimlico on Friday, will go to post Saturday with only three races on his resume, although his trainer is hopeful after his run-away victories in his last two starts after finishing a troubled fourth in his debut. Albertrani is well aware that the Preakness is an ambitious spot, but the exciting recent performances of the Darley Stable's homebred colt prompted him to bypass Saturday's Peter Pan (gr. II) at Belmont Park in favor of the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

"The Peter Pan was probably going to be our next start, but there's only one opportunity to try to win the Preakness or the Kentucky Derby," he said.

Although Barbaro so thoroughly dominated the Kentucky Derby two weeks ago, Albertrani said the Preakness may be the right time to face the undefeated Preakness favorite. "We're really hoping that Barbaro might be a little vulnerable with just two weeks rest. If you're going to beat him, this might be the time to try it," Albertrani said.

DIABOLICAL – Trainer Steve Klesaris, who reported that Diabolical galloped 1 1/2 miles at Fair Hill Training Center Wednesday morning, has seen a positive change in the son of Artax since early in his 2-year-old season.

"We had some difficulty with Diabolical where he was very aggressive. If he wasn't in front, if he was in a pocket, he'd run over the top of somebody to get to the front," said Klesaris, who purchased Diabolical in an Ocala 2-year-olds-in-training sale last year in partnership with the Puglisi Stables. "A lot of young horses, 2-year-olds coming from training sales, have been basically taught to run as fast as they can. Now, you have to reverse that. A horse will never reach his potential unless he comes off the bridle and learns to relax."

After Diabolical pulled Ramon Dominguez to the lead before tiring to third in the Nashua Stakes at Aqueduct last October, Klesaris went to work on getting his $300,000 purchase to rate behind horses. Beginning with a second-place finish behind Barbaro in the Laurel Futurity last November, his trainer has seen a positive change in his colt, particularly in his recent mile allowance score at Delaware in his last start.

"In his last test, going around two turns, I really wanted to see this colt relax. Ramon said he was push-button," Klesaris said. "When he wanted him, he was there. When he wanted to shut him down, he did it perfectly. That was our main focus to relax that way."

Diabolical is slated to van to Pimlico on Preakness morning.

GREELEY'S LEGACY – This will be his first Triple Crown starter of his career and trainer George Weaver is well aware of the assignment his colt faces in the 131st Preakness Saturday.

"I don't think you can get any harder test," Weaver said Wednesday. "I have the utmost respect for Barbaro and Bernardini and Brother Derek. We're asking our horse to step up to the plate and run the race of his life. We want to find out how he fits with these guys, I don't think you could ask more out of a horse than to try to run against those bears in there. The purse is $1 million and that's the way it shapes up in those races."

Weaver and owner Donald Flanagan decided to enter Greeley's Legacy in the Preakness after he turned in a bullet workout at Belmont Park on Sunday morning. Despite disappointing performances in the Wood Memorial and the Lexington, Weaver hasn't lost any confidence in the colt's ability.

"In general, (while) managing horses, you don't want to get over-ambitious; you want to try to place your horses where you can win. But occasionally you come across a horse that you have to go with your faith and your belief in what you see and what you think about your horse," Weaver said.

"I've always thought that he could be right there. If he doesn't do it on Saturday, maybe he will later on in the summer. He's an April 29th foal. He's really developed nicely for me. I hope that he just justifies my suspicions."

Greeley's Legacy galloped 1 ½ miles at Belmont Park Wednesday. He is scheduled to be shipped to Pimlico on Friday.

HEMINGWAY'S KEY – The son of Notebook was scheduled to arrive with trainer Nick Zito at around 4 p.m. Wednesday on a van from Saratoga and will gallop over the Pimlico strip on Thursday morning. Zito said he would head directly to the hotel, freshen up and go on to the selection for Preakness post positions at the ESPN Zone.

At this point, Hemingway's Key is likely to be one of the longest shots in the field at post time, but Zito isn't deterred.

"All you need is a little change here or there,'' he said. "Let's see if he can work his way back in. This isn't a war or a battle. To me it's horse racing."

Zito said the prospect of a larger field than originally anticipated wasn't unappealing to him. "I wouldn't care if it was 19,'' he said. "Sometimes a bigger field has a way of helping you out. Barbaro's a great horse with great connections, but you need a little luck. I know a lot of people will be rooting for him to win, and justifiably so. We've got to try.''

LIKE NOW – Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said Wednesday he is satisfied with his decision to skip the Kentucky Derby to go directly from a second-place finish in the Lexington at Keeneland on April 22 to the Preakness.

"I think it definitely was the right plan for this horse, although I thought the Preakness might have come up an easier spot," McLaughlin said by phone from New York. "I don't think it's any easier, it's just less of them. I have a lot of respect for Barbaro, Brother Derek, and Bernardini, but we have a top rider, the horse is doing very well, and he deserves a chance. We're going to be there trying our best."

Veteran jockey Garrett Gomez will replace 18-year-old Fernando Jara on the Jules gelding bred and owned by John J. Dillon. "The owner wanted a more experienced rider," McLaughlin said. "If we could get a top rider, he wanted him.

"There was no real reason to switch. The kid hadn't done anything wrong, in my opinion, but the owner wanted us to try and get a more experienced and better-known rider. He pays the bills so I said, `Yes, sir, we will get the best available.'"

Like Now galloped 1 3/8 miles on the main track at Belmont Wednesday morning. He is scheduled to ship to Pimlico on Friday.

PLATINUM COUPLE – The New York-bred hoping to duplicate Funny Cide's feat here in 2003 arrived by van at about 11 p.m. Tuesday from Belmont Park after a five-and-a-half hour ride and settled in nicely, according to trainer Joe Lostritto.

"Everything went fine,'' said Lostritto, a 20-year veteran in New York who will be making his Triple Crown debut in the Preakness. "The horse is feeling good. We have a large family, and we sat down and took a vote. They said, `Dad, we're going.' I said, 'OK – as long as you pay me overtime.' No, not really. The horse is owned by the children basically, and I train for them."

The big roan colt walked onto the Pimlico strip around 8:30 Wednesday morning and took a slow tour of the track with some light jogging included. He managed to get off the track moments before a loose horse came flying the wrong way through the stretch after dumping his rider during a workout.

"We just wanted to show him the track and let him gallop lightly,'' Lostritto said. "He had a long trip.''

Jose Espinoza, who has ridden Platinum Couple in five of his nine career starts (9-2-1-2), gets his first mount in a Triple Crown race. Jose Santos rode him in the Wood Memorial, his last start.

AH DAY – Rather than run in the Preakness, the Federico Tesio winner will be sent to the Sir Barton on the Preakness Day program.

"We're going to go in the easier spot," trainer King Leatherbury said Wednesday morning. Leatherbury said the decision was made not to pay the supplemental entry fee of $100,000. Since Ah Day was not nominated to the Triple Crown races, the extra fee was required for the gelding to run in the Preakness.

"Basically, the money fell through," Leatherbury said. The owners of Ah Day's sire, Malibu Moon  , considered paying the fee as a way to promote the stallion, Leatherbury said, but chose not to make the payment. "They said they weren't going to do it," Leatherbury said. "That decision was made for me because I certainly wasn't going to put up $100,000."

PIMLICO NOTES – Don Amos, Magna Entertainment Corp.'s Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, and jockey John Velazquez will meet with the media at 9 a.m. Thursday outside the Pimlico Stakes Barn to announce the formation of the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund....The post time for Saturday's 131st running of the Preakness has been set for 6:15 p.m.

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