Preakness Doings: Stickball King
Photo: Tom Cooley Photography
Schoolyard Dreams (#5, left) came up a little short in the Tampa Bay Derby.

Sorry for yet another “Honeymooners” reference, but we’re devoting this column to hitting one out of the park…or should we say over the fence.

If you haven’t made the Schoolyard Dreams connection yet, we’ll end the metaphors and get right to the Preakness Stakes (gr. I).

You can certainly make a good case for Super Saver  , Lookin at Lucky  , Paddy O'Prado  , and a number of other Preakness starters, in what looks to be another fairly wide-open race.

But if you’re looking for a price horse who could be live, there are several factors that point to Schoolyard Dreams.

First off, we really have no idea how good he is. He definitely is a lot better than his record, and could be much better than people think.

Of all the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) preps this year, his dramatic move around horses on the turn of the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) was as impressive a turn of foot as we’ve seen all year. In Jan., Feb., and March, he was a horse who simply needed to grow up and develop a killer instinct. He seemed to have Rule at his mercy in the Sam F. Davis (gr. III), but let him come back and beat him. He appeared to have Super Saver   and Odysseus beaten after his big move in the Tampa Bay Derby and couldn’t put either one away. Although he narrowly held on for second over Super Saver, who was making his 3-year-old debut, he let Odysseus get back in the race and stick his nose in front of him right on the wire.

His fourth-place finish in the Wood Memorial (gr. I) was too dull an effort to be true. It was later learned he had been battling a slight illness and wasn’t quite 100% for the race.

Remember, the Stephen Got Evens as a whole are late developers, and you can bet Schoolyard Dreams has done a lot of growing up since his Tampa races, especially being a May 8 foal.

But here is the real reason to give him a big shot in the Preakness. His brilliance in the morning has not been fleeting, as is the case with most horses. When a horse is as consistently brilliant as he has been it usually indicates he or she is extremely talented, period.

Of Schoolyard Dreams’ last 12 works, dating back to Dec. 12, nine of them were bullet works. That is remarkable in itself, but to make it even more impressive, every one of those nine bullet works was listed as “breezing.” And these weren’t bullet works when only four or five horses worked at the distance that same day. The average number of horses who worked the same distance on the day he bullet-worked was 40, and that includes days when there were 47, 59, 66, and 78 workers. The lowest number of workers was 12 and 19. So, all in all, in those nine bullet works, he outworked a total of 358 horses.

And he did it at three tracks – Tampa Bay, Philadelphia Park, and Monmouth Park – that have three totally different types of surfaces – from hard and fast (Monmouth) to deep and slow (Tampa Bay).

Even early on as a 2-year-old, prior to his career debut, he worked a half-mile in a bullet :47 4/5 on Oct. 6 at Monmouth Park, the fastest of 42 works at the distance.

When he was being trained on the farm, he always worked between horses and loved the company. In fact, he only grabbed hold of the bit and worked fast if he had company, and it’s no different now. So, a big field should not bother him and he’s not going to get intimidated if he’s in traffic. Put him in a herd and he’ll be right in the middle of it.

It seems as if Schoolyard Dreams can adapt to anything. He was ridden by six different jockeys in his first six starts, never finishing worse than fourth. And he ran big in races in which they went the first three-quarters in a solid 1:11 3/5 and a snail-like 1:15.

He seems to thrive with four-to-six weeks between races, and considering the circumstances, he obviously wasn’t crazy about the three weeks leading up to the Wood Memorial. He now gets six weeks to the Preakness and is sharp and fresh.

So, the bottlom line is that if you want to take a shot with a horse who should be a fairly decent price, Schoolyard Dreams has the kind of untapped ability that could very well burst forth in the Preakness.

It’s still early, but as you must have deduced by now, this is going to be our price pick.

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