There was little new activity Thursday morning, although Pioneerof the Nile did have his first feel of the Pimlico track. Rachel Alexandra went unseen, walking the shed at around 4:30, but did show up for all to see in the afternoon, schooling in the paddock before the fourth race.
The superstar filly made a grand appearance, her dark bay coat glistening as she circled the paddock before standing in a stall for several minutes. At first she seemed antsy, bullying her way out on several occasions, but settled down nicely after being moved to another stall.
Her Preakness saddle towel was then put on, identifying her to the fans in the paddock and in the grandstand as she walked back to the barn.
Another horse who is doing well since arriving is General Quarters, despite his fender bender near Pimlico on Wednesday. He is eating with relish (not what you put on hamburgers), galloping as well as I’ve seen him, and just seems like a happy horse. While the post position draw was being conducted, he was sprawled out in a stall snoring away.
He is stabled in the secondary stakes barn across from the main stakes barn, and it will be interesting when his one-day neighbor arrives on Saturday morning and takes up residence in the next stall. Yes, General Quarters’ old nemesis Musket Man will be eyeballing him from a few feet away starting Saturday at about 6 a.m. after the Tampa Bay (gr. III) and Illinois Derby (gr. II) winner arrives by van from Monmouth Park.
Gary Stute is planning on giving Papa Clem a little eighth of a mile blowout Friday just to sharpen him up after his slow five-furlong work in 1:05 Wednesday. Although the Arkansas Derby winner seems to lose focus easily in his works when he goes out there solo, he is all business in his gallops, and went particularly well this morning.
Despite Luv Gov’s 50-1 morning line odds, Wayne Lukas is looking for a big effort from the son of Ten Most Wanted, who is coming off an explosive maiden victory on Kentucky Derby day. He has a win and three seconds this year after an erratic year as a 2-year-old, in which he turned in a number of dismal performances, which Lukas attributes to an irregular heartbeat that has since been corrected.
With Rachel Alexandra drawing post 13 and Big Drama (who is a very classy horse) getting the rail, it looks as if the latter will have to test the waters first and see if anyone wants to run with him. Trainer David Fawkes would have preferred to see him come out of the 5 or 6 hole, but will have to make the best of it and try to turn this into a positive. Classy speed horses on the rail are always dangerous at Pimlico, so this could at least give him an opportunity to try to steal it.
Rachel Alexandra (some dislike her post and some love it) likely will have to outrun two pace horses – Take the Points and Tone it Down – directly inside her if she wants to be able to get a good stalking position without losing too much ground. The alternative is letting those two go and try to tuck in behind them.
Pioneerof the Nile, breaking from post 9, with Friesan Fire and Papa Clem inside him, has the perfect opportunity to finally take back well off the pace and make the kind of late run that won him the Robert Lewis Stakes. There is no reason this time for him to be close early and being forced to take the lead too early. This scenario appears to set up perfectly for him to use his best style of running.