The owners of Ring Weekend are hoping his distant second-place finish in the Calder Derby isn't a true indication of his chances in the $1.5 million Preakness Stakes (gr. I) May 17 at Pimlico Race Course.
Ring Weekend, owned by St. Elias Stable and West Point Thoroughbreds, raced well in his lone Calder outing April 5 despite some trouble. He finished 9 3/4 lengths behind Our Caravan but was 3 3/4 lengths ahead of third-place finisher Cleburne.
(Our Caravan, in his next start, finished sixth in the grade II Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont Park.)
"He's just not a very rapid horse," West Point Thoroughbreds president Terry Finley said of Ring Weekend May 16. "He's not a horse that can get into his mouth (after the start). He needs time to get into his rhythm."
Ring Weekend, trained by Graham Motion, won the March 8 Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) in wire-to-wire fashion to qualify for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). An abscess under his tongue led to a fever, and the Tapit colt was removed from consideration.
Finley said California Chrome is adept at changing leads, whereas it has been more difficult for Ring Weekend. The colt, however, has talent and needs to produce an effort like the one in the Tampa Bay Derby, he said.
"(California Chrome) is really going to be tough to beat," Finley said. "But I don't think anybody is going to be shocked if he gets to the half-mile pole and the whole complexion of the race changes."
West Point Thoroughbreds partner Rob Masiello, on hand at Pimlico, said during the May 15 Alibi Breakfast the owners have some confidence Ring Weekend will run well. Outside of a fifth-place finish at Saratoga Race Course in his debut last year, the gelding hasn't finished worse than third, with two wins and two seconds.
"He has gotten a little better in each race," Masiello said. "He seems to be more professional."
Ring Weekend, 20-1 on the morning line for the Preakness, will break from post 4 with Alan Garcia aboard, just outside of California Chrome. Ring Weekend has shown consistent ability to stay close early and make a bid in his two-turn races.