The list of prospects for the upcoming Preakness Stakes (gr. I) at Pimlico Race Course grew to 10 when Jack Wolf of Starlight Racing confirmed May 9 that General a Rod will compete in the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.
General a Rod, trained by Mike Maker, finished 11th in the May 3 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) but showed so much energy in the days following the race that Maker recommended that he go on to the Maryland event.
"The bottom line is that Mike thinks the horse is in good order after the Derby and he thinks the race will suit him," Wolf said of the May 17 Preakness.
"He was full of himself, carrying good flesh, and he didn't get a chance to show his true colors in the Derby," Maker said, "so it's the Preakness and we figured we'd give it a shot."
Javier Castellano, the leading jockey in North America, has the mount in the $1.5 million Preakness. Castellano, who rode Bernardini to a Preakness victory in 2006, will be making his third appearance in Maryland's historic race.
General a Rod is scheduled to be flown from Kentucky to Baltimore May 12 with two other horses that ran in the Derby—winner California Chrome and Ride On Curlin, who finished seventh in the field of 19. Their Tex Sutton charter flight is due to arrive at Baltimore-Washington International Airport at 1:45 p.m. EDT. Maker, who is making his Preakness debut, said the colt will gallop up to the race.
Starlight and Skychai Racing partnered to purchase General a Rod from his original owner, J. Armando Rodriguez, on April 28.
The Roman Ruler colt had a strong campaign in Florida during the winter, winning the Gulfstream Park Derby Jan. 1, finishing second by a head in the Besilu Stables Fountain of Youth (gr. II), and third by 1 1/2 lengths in the Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I).
Effective running near the pace prior to the Derby, General a Rod never was able to get into a contending position at Churchill Downs. He was steadied twice by jockey Joel Rosario, ultimately finishing three-quarters of a length in front of his Starlight Racing stablemate Intense Holiday. It was the first time in his six career starts that General a Rod did not hit the top three.
"He came running at the end a little bit. I like seeing that," Wolf said. "In hindsight, if we had known that the pace would have been like it was, it would have been better if General a Rod had been where Intense Holiday was (near the front). If they had switched places we may hit the board with both of them. I thought he would have done better. We'll tee it up again and see what happens."
Until his rivals start arriving May 12, Social Inclusion will remain the lone Preakness candidate on the grounds.
Rontos Racing Stable's 3-year-old Pioneerof the Nile colt, who arrived at Pimlico the morning of May 8 following a nearly 19-hour van ride from Florida, got acquainted with the Pimlico racing surface Friday morning. He jogged the length of the front stretch to the seven-eighths pole before galloping a mile under exercise rider Domingo Navarro.
"He looked like he loved the track," trainer Manny Azpurua said. "The way he handled the track was nice."
Social Inclusion is scheduled to gallop 1 1/2 miles on May 10.
"We're not sure whether he'll work on Monday, but what I have in mind is a half-mile," Azpurua said. "He'll gallop tomorrow and Sunday and then we'll decide."
In other Preakness news, California Chrome galloped 1 1/2 miles over a fast track at Churchill on a warm morning May 9 with exercise rider Willie Delgado aboard.
"He was strong this morning," said Alan Sherman, assistant to his father, trainer Art Sherman. "The track was a little cuppy this morning."
Rain began falling after training hours and sporadic showers were expected to continue through the day and night and into training hours May 10. Prior to the Derby, California Chrome trained on a sealed track the first two days after his arrival.
"We'll play it by ear tomorrow," Alan Sherman said. "If the track is in good shape, I don't mind training on it."
California Chrome stood quietly for seven minutes at the five-furlong gap before his morning activity and calmly walked back to the barn with Delgado all smiles.
"He is much stronger now than he was after the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I)," Delgado said. "I used to give Alan a thumbs-up when I came off the track, but now I just smile. He can tell how he (California Chrome) is doing by how much I sweat."
Upon his arrival at Pimlico, California Chrome will be bedded down in Stall 40 in the Preakness Stakes Barn, which is traditionally reserved for the Kentucky Derby winner.
Also at Churchill, Kaleem Shah's Bayern visited the starting gate and then galloped 1 1/2 miles under exercise rider Jorge Alvarez. Never off the board in four starts for trainer Bob Baffert, Bayern is scheduled to work Monday and will ship to Baltimore May 14.
John Oxley's Illinois Derby (gr. III) winner Dynamic Impact galloped 1 1/2 miles at Churchill before the morning renovation break with exercise rider Marco Cano aboard. Now riding a two-race win streak, Dynamic Impact is scheduled to work Saturday with jockey Miguel Mena up.
"He will be in the 6 o'clock set," said Norman Casse, assistant to father, trainer Mark Casse. "I don't like to work on a wet track, so we will see how it is. We may wait (until Sunday to work)."
Christopher Dunn and Loooch Racing Stable's Ria Antonia, sixth in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) in her most recent start, was another galloping 1 1/2 miles at Churchill; she had Maurice Sanchez aboard for her new trainer, Tom Amoss.
Ria Antonia arrived in the Amoss barn on May 5.
"She has a beautiful way of going," said Sanchez, who was the exercise rider for Mylute, the third-place finisher in last year's Preakness. "All I have to do is keep her safe."
Daniel Dougherty's Ride On Curlin galloped 1 1/8 miles under exercise rider Bryan Beccia for trainer Billy Gowan after the morning renovation break at Churchill, having returned to the track May 7. He has followed a similar exercise routine for three consecutive mornings.
"He just ran a mile and a quarter and he is coming back in two weeks," Gowan said. "He doesn't need to do much."
Gowan has Ride On Curlin scheduled for a two-mile exercise May 10 and the prospect of an "off" track is not a deterrent.
"He is going to go slow anyhow, so the track doesn't matter," Gowan said of the Curlin colt who was purchased for $25,000 at the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale.
Kid Cruz is scheduled to be shipped from New York to Baltimore Monday. The son of Lemon Drop Kid galloped over the muddy training track at Belmont Park Friday morning. Julian Pimentel, who has ridden Kid Cruz to a pair of stakes wins in Maryland, will be back aboard in the Preakness.
St. Elias Stable and West Point Thoroughbreds' Ring Weekend is scheduled to breeze at Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md., Saturday, the result of which will be a key factor in determining if he runs in the Preakness for trainer Graham Motion.