Norman Asbjornson working towards The Preakness Stakes.

Norman Asbjornson working towards The Preakness Stakes.

Jim McCue, Maryland Jockey Club

Nine New Shooters Could Join Fray at Pimlico

Three of the top four and Dialed In could run in second leg of Triple Crown.

Pimlico officials said on May 8 that as many as four starters from the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) could gather in Baltimore on May 21 for the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) and that the interests of nine other horses who did not compete in the Derby have expressed interest in contesting the Preakness.

Trainer Graham Motion informed Pimlico officials, including track president Tom Chuckas, that he is “excited” about the chances of Derby winner Animal Kingdom  in the middle leg of the Triple Crown. Chuckas called Motion shortly after his appearance on NBC’s “Today” show to congratulate the Maryland-based conditioner on his Derby victory with the Team Valor International homebred and to personally invite him to the Preakness.

“We certainly plan to be there,” Motion said. “It is going to be exciting. I feel really good because we are coming to the next leg with a fresh horse, which is going to be in our favor.”

Motion said the plan is to ship Animal Kingdom from Louisville, Ky. to the Fair Hill Training Center on Tuesday, May 10.  The colt is scheduled to return to the track at Fair Hill, located about 60 miles from Pimlico, on Wednesday morning. Motion, 46, has not decided when his star will ship to Pimlico but said it will be “fairly last minute”.

A native of England, who moved to the U.S. with his family at the age of 16, Motion has been involved in Maryland racing for 26 years. He worked for Jonathan Sheppard and Bernie Bond before going out on his own in 1993. He was among the top 10 trainers in Maryland from 1995-2001 and was based at Laurel Park for the first 10 years of his career before moving his stable to the Fair Hill Training Center in 2002.

Animal Kingdom will be Motion’s fourth Preakness starter. He finished third in 2008 with Icabad Craneand also saddled Bay Eagle (2001, 8th) and Equality (2002, 13th) in Maryland’s signature race.

The Preakness is expected to feature three of the top four finishers from Saturday’s Run For The Roses, as well as betting favorite Dialed In , trained by Hall of Famer Nick Zito. Trainers Kathy Ritvo of third-place finisher Mucho Macho Man  and Dale Romans, conditioner of Shackleford , who finished fourth, said they are planning to run in the Preakness.

Trainer Steve Asmussen, who has lifted the Woodlawn Vase twice in the last four years with Curlin  (2007) and Rachel Alexandra (2009), told Pimlico racing officials that no decision has been made on the Derby runner-up, Nehro. However, Asmussen confirmed Preakness plans for Astrology , who finished second in the Jerome Stakes in his last start and has never been out of the money in seven career outings.

Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, who has saddled five Preakness winners, indicated the status of Midnight Interlude(16th, Kentucky Derby) and Grade II Rebel Stakes winner The Factor  would not be made until next weekend. 

Connections from nine other runners, who did not compete in the Derby, have also expressed interest in the Preakness. The potential new shooters, in alphabetical order, are Concealed Identity, Dance City, Flashpoint, King Congie, Mr. Commons, Norman Asbjornson, Prime Cut, Saratoga Red, and Sway Away.

The Preakness is limited to 14 starters.