Thursday Morning Line at Pimlico
3:00 p.m.In the day's fifth race, Armed Brat, a 3-year-old running under an $8,000 tag, breaks his maiden in gritty fashion while between horses. The winning jockey is 18-year-old Kyle Kaenel. If the name sounds familiar, it should. Kyle is the son of "Cowboy" Jack Kaenel, who won the Preakness back in 1982 aboard Aloma's Ruler when he was 16 years old.Kyle Kaenel's win is his first of the meet and breaks a oh-for-31 skid that included nine seconds. This winter he had a better stand at Aqueduct.Kaenel talks to his Preakness-winning dad fairly often. At the moment Jack is in Nebraska."He'll watch and say 'this will help you' and 'that will help you,'" Kyle says on his way back to the jocks' room. "If he sees you doing something wrong, he'll correct you, if not, he'll let you do your own thing."Kaenel has three mounts on Preakness day. "It should be cool," he says of riding in front of 100,000-plus people. "I'm excited about it. The biggest crowd I've ridden in front of so far was opening day of Santa Anita.""He's a great guy; he's in my corner and we share the same valet," said fellow jockey Ryan Fogelsonger. "He's had a lot of seconds and he works hard. He finally got it done. It seems like he loves what he does."
Alibi Breakfast Wrap
NoonThe Alibi Breakfast, a Preakness week staple, has also been referred to as the "Alibi Brunch" because of its length. This year's version clocked in at one hour, 40 minutes. It wrapped up by 11:10.The Alibi Breakfast's roots go back to the '30s when horsemen would gather in the mornings leading up to the race and offer up their "alibis" for the race.These days, it's a media show. After a feasting on a breakfast spread in the clubhouse and listening to local dignitaries welcoming them to Maryland, trainers aren't asked to offer up their alibis, they're asked to assess their chances.Here were some of the highlights from this morning's interviews:Trainer Michael Trombetta, who will send out third-choice Sweetnorthernsaint, said he was "shocked" two weeks ago when his horse went to the post in the Kentucky Derby as the 5-1 favorite. "There were so many things going on, and when he was knocked down to the favorite, it was unbelievable. To this day, I still haven't figured it out."Darley, who sends out Bernardini, was represented by Jimmy Bell, who is president of their U.S. operations. The son of A.P. Indy will be making just his fourth career start Saturday."We recognize he's short on experience, but we hope he's long on talent," Bell said. "He's given every indication in the morning that he wants to compete on. We'll see how it plays out. If it's not this Saturday, then we hope this horse can compete at this level somewhere down the road. We're excited to stand up and take a shot."Kiaran McLaughlin sent two horses after Barbaro in the Derby (Jazil and Flashy Bull) and will send out Like Now in the Preakness. Like Now won the Gotham Stakes (gr .III) and then ran second in the Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) April 22.Discussing the 20-horse cavalry charge in the Derby, McLaughlin said the Preakness is "not an easier field, but it's less of them, anyway."When asked about Barbaro, McLaughlin said, "Along with all of us wise-guys, we hope he bounces. We're coming off four weeks, and he's coming off two."Nick Zito's assistant, Tim Poole, was on hand to talk about Hemingway's Key. Poole actually offers up an "alibi.""This horse has had an 'alibi' in his last two races. He was bumped, and he was bothered coming out of the gate," he said. "The horse has some talent and, hopefully, he'll show it Saturday."
Give Her a Break, Fast
11:30 a.m.Lucy Acton, editor of the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred, wasn't on hand at the Alibi Breakfast to accept her Old Hilltop award, but she has a special excuse. She is in the hospital recovering from ovarian cancer surgery.Accepting the award on her behalf was Cricket Goodall, executive director of the Maryland Horse Breeders Association. "She's been battling cancer for over a year now," Goodall says. "The surgery was a week ago Tuesday. She's still in the hospital but, hopefully, she'll get out this weekend. All the reports look good. "She's just been very, very strong through the whole thing," Goodall reports. "She's an inspiration. She's been through chemo and all the worst of it, and she's held up well. She's hardly missed work, and she's just really strong. "This magazine, and the business, has been a real rock for her. She came into work around chemotherapy treatments, when most people would not be doing that."
It's Good to be the KingNobody has won more races in Maryland than King Leatherbury - nobody. He's one of just three trainers who have ever sent out more than 6,000 winners.He hasn't won the Preakness, however, and he won't win it this year.He is the trainer of Ah Day, winner of the Tesio Stakes, Maryland's Triple Crown prep back in April. Ah Day was under consideration for the Preakness, but he was not nominated to the Triple Crown, so it would have cost $100,000 to enter the $1-million race. Leatherbury instead entered Ah Day in the Sir Barton Stakes on the Preakness undercard.Leatherbury is an excellent handicapper. After the Alibi Breakfast, he figures he could have been "possibily second or third" in the Preakness. Now that he's not running, how does he see the race?"Brother Derek is the horse I'm going to wager on," he says. "The favorite, who is a tremendous horse, just ran the race of his life and he's coming back in two weeks. That might be too much for him. Horses that run up win streaks, as everybody knows, they don't keep on winning. They get beat sooner or later. "Probably (trainer Mike) Trombetta's horse (Sweetnorthernsaint). He didn't run his race in the Derby. That's who I bet on in the Derby, so I'll follow him back up and box them."
Dashing with De Francis
8:30 a.m."The press conference with Dan Hendricks will start in about five minutes," barks out J.J. Graci, trainer turned media front man. Hendricks trains Brother Derek, who just galloped one and a half times around the track and has now been settled back into the stakes barn.The media crowds around an elevated tent that has been set up to accommodate video cameras.Near the back is Joe De Francis, chief executive officer of the Maryland Jockey Club. His family owned Pimlico and Laurel before it was purchased by Magna Entertainment Corp. Planning for the Preakness is a year-round job for him.Is he ready?"By now, pretty much all of the planning is done and most of the stuff is under control," he says. "Making sure everyone has a table and a box seat to watch the race is probably the most important thing right now."There might be more jockeying going on there than on the track later this afternoon."It gets pretty tough, especially at the last minute," De Francis says. "People call now and want to expand their party...we try our best to take as good care as possible for all of our horsemen. They put on the show. We only have so many holes, and we have a lot of pegs to put in them. It's kind of like doing a Rubik's Cube every now and then."
That's Mister Preakness to You
8:25 a.m.We get our first sighting of Chick Lang in the barn area at Pimlico; it definitely won't be our last. "Mr. Preakness" is wearing a bright yellow polo shirt and is behind the wheel of a bright yellow Ford Escape--the official colors of the Preakness Stakes. "This is a great car if you're out late at night and have something to drink. I can always find it in a parking lot," he says.He ponders exactly what number Preakness this will be for him. It's either 65 or 67.What about this year?"A lot of people are afraid to say it, but I think a lot of people are going to see a super horse. I think he Barbaro) is going to be the 12th Triple Crown winner. Everything he does, he does impressively."I value my conversations with Edgar Prado," he continues. "He's a very conservative guy. He told me in January--January--he says, 'this is the best horse I ever rode. If he stays sound, and things go right, he'll win the Triple Crown.' Jocks don't say that, especially him."
Singin' With Blues
7:45 a.m.The Nick Zito-trained Hemingway's Key has been the only Preakness horse to go out on the track. There are only three of the nine entrants on the grounds. Brother Derek is scheduled to go out later.Cameras click. Video cameras whirl. The local news crews need some footage.With Zito is former trainer Leon Blusewicz. The Maryland mainstay has seen a few Preaknesses. "I don't want to count that high," he says when pressed. "I never had a horse in there, but I won a lot of races on Preakness day. I won the Sir Barton a couple of times."How about a favorite Preakness moment?"Sunday Silence and Easy Goer," he says of the 1989 renewal. "It was one of the most thrilling races I've ever seen. It was one great race. It was the most exciting Preakness ever."Blusewicz, retired from training, is here doing some advance work for Zito for the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale that starts next week at Timonium. While he is with Zito, he concedes: "Barbaro is the horse to beat, the way he won the Derby."
Sunrise at Old Hilltop
7:10 a.m.On the front side at Pimlico, about 200 people gather on the apron around the sixteenth pole. They're taking part in "Sunrise at Old Hilltop." Squinting into the morning sun, they get a peak at some Thoroughbreds going through their morning paces on the track.They won't glimpse many Preakness starters, though, as only three are on the grounds so far. That will change this afternoon.
Draw, Pard-nah!Trainer Michael Matz let Roy Jackson handle the press immediately after Wednesday's night's "made for TV" post position draw. With his wife, Gretchen, Jackson bred and owns Preakness favorite Barbaro, whose arrival at Pimlico on Friday is much anticipated by Baltimore-based media who have been making the 60-mile trek to Fair Hill Training Center the last two weeks.
Matz went straight to the buffet line at the ESPN zone when the one-hour draw show ended (for those counting, ESPN had 51 minutes to fill with commercials and interviews if each of the nine connections took their allotted 60 seconds to choose a post position).
Jackson patiently answered question after question about his horse, the post position chosen, and Barbaro's Derby performance. He didn't want to talk about any long-term plans after the Triple Crown, though he said he's received "a lot" of calls from people who are interested in standing the son of Dynaformer at stud -- both before and after Barbaro won the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
"The phone started ringing after the Holy Bull," Jackson said, referring to the grade III race Feb. 4 that was Barbaro's first win on dirt after running up a three-for-three record on grass. The number of calls (and stud value) obviously picked up after Barbaro's impressive 6 ½-length tour-de-force in the Derby.
Jackson said he and his wife want to enjoy the moment and deal with business later. "We're saying, 'Thank you, I'll take your name down,' he said. "We're just not ready to do anything now because we really think it would detract from the enjoyment of this whole thing. We've never been through it, and it's more complicated I think than we realized. So we just haven't done anything. We'll wait until the Triple Crown is over. None of us would have the time to deal with it, really.
"I think the interest is that he's an outcross...the Roberto line, and there haven't been many from that line," Jackson continued. "That creates quite a bit of interest. He can be bred to the Northern Dancer line. Dynaformer is getting pretty old, and there aren't many Dynaformers out there."
Jackson then joined his trainer, who was digging into a plate of chicken wings in an adjacent room.
Sheikh Mohammed's family may own the major international carrier Emirates Airline--and he and his brothers fly into Kentucky on their personal jumbo jet--but Jimmy Bell, president of U.S. operations for Sheikh Mohammed's Darley, arrived in Baltimore a few hours before the Preakness draw on the airline best known for having peanuts cheerfully dispensed to its passengers.
Bell was at the Barretts May sale of 2-year-olds in training on Tuesday, signing the ticket for Darley on the $2.5-million sale topper, a colt by Red Bullet. He took a Delta airlines "red-eye" flight overnight from Los Angeles en route to Cincinnati, where he was scheduled to catch a connecting flight to Baltimore. "After circling Cincinnati for about 45 minutes, they told us the fog isn't lifting and so we're off to Louisville," Bell said.
After landing in Louisville (where the runway was lined with Delta jets diverted from Cincinnati), Bell was able to hop on a Southwest Airlines flight to Baltimore and complete his journey, enjoying a breakfast of peanuts from his middle seat."Hey, exciting 2-year-old prospects will make you take a red eye and go through this," Bell said.
On that same flight was Mike Akers, the owner of Dapple Bloodstock who sold the sale-topping colt through Ciaran Dunne's Wavertree Stables, achieving a Barretts May sale record in the process. It was the second sale record Akers and Dunne set, coming on the heels of a $1.8-million Belong to Me colt sold in March by the Ocala Breeders' Sales Company. It was the highest-priced horse of any age ever sold by OBS.
Akers was in a rush to get to the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale grounds at nearby Timonium, where he has three horses catalogued to the May 22-23 sale.
Read Friday Morning Line at Pimlico
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