BIG BROWN – With regular exercise rider Michelle Nevin aboard and dozens of still and video cameras recording every step, the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner galloped 1 1/2 miles May 15 at Pimlico.
“It went good,” trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. said. “I was very happy with it. He was comfortable, cool, relaxed, galloped good. We’re as happy as we can be right now.”
Dutrow said he is holding up well to the pressure of bringing the Derby winner to Baltimore to compete in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
“I’m cool,” he said. “I’m relaxed. The horse is good. He leads me where to go. I’m as cool as I can be.”
Dutrow grew up in Maryland, where his late father, Dick Dutrow, was a prominent trainer. He said he is enjoying returning to his home state with the 1-2 morning-line favorite for the Preakness.“It’s fun,” he said. “I’ve seen some of my family, my friends. But I’m more interested in the horse and the race. That’s why we came. I stay in touch with most of my friends down here. They’re all coming. It is fun.”
As a native Marylander, Dutrow knows all about the state’s biggest race.
“I went to a lot of Preaknesses here when I was young,” he said. “We went into the infield a lot of times. Dad always won a race here on Preakness Day. I can’t remember when he didn’t win a race that day. He always had 10 in so he was going to win something.
“The Preakness is a huge race and anybody would love to win it. It’s very exciting for us because we won the Derby. We’re looking to run big here in this race and hopefully carry it on to New York.”
On several occasions since the Derby victory, Dutrow has talked about how he dislikes running a horse back in 14 days. He covered that topic again Thursday in a press conference at the Preakness Stakes Barn.
“There is no way anybody can tell how their horse is going to run in two weeks” Dutrow said. “You don’t have time to train ‘em, breeze ‘em a few times, but since he’s come out of the Derby, up to this minute, I’m very, very happy with the horse. He’s just done everything that you would want a horse to do coming out of a race like that. He hasn’t missed an oat. He’s aggressive with his gallops. It’s all good.
“I don’t know how he’s going to run with the two weeks, but I’m certainly not going to dismiss him, I can tell you that.”
Dutrow prefers a quick turnaround or a long time between races for his horses.
“I don’t like two weeks,” he said. “I like running them back in three, four or five days or 30-40 days. But that’s just me and doesn’t mean that Big Brown won’t like it. He seems like he’s on his game, so I’m sure he’s going to show up the right way.
“He’s a lightly raced horse. He’s only got four starts. It’s not like he had five or six starts as a 2-year-old and this is his fifth or sixth start this year. This might work to his advantage. We’ll see.”
Big Brown drew post 7 in the 13-horse field. The colt won the Florida Derby and the Kentucky Derby from the farthest outside posts under jockey Kent Desormeaux, but Dutrow said that starting from the middle of the field should not pose any problems.
“It seems like it’s a long enough run to the first turn and our horse has got positional speed,” Dutrow said. “He can place himself there early, if need be, and he can set off if he needs to. I’m guessing that he’s going to be forwardly placed going into the first turn. I’m sure he and Kent will fall into a nice little spot where they’re comfortable, rather than being on the lead. It’s up to them when they come out of the gate, as far as that goes, but I see us getting a most comfortable trip.”BEHINDATTHEBAR – The Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) winner remained at trainer Todd Pletcher’s barn at Belmont Park May 15. Pletcher plans to ship Behindatthebar from New York May 16.
The son of Forest Wildcatwill be making his second start on dirt and first since finishing fifth, beaten 4½ lengths, in the El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) at Bay Meadows March 8. Co-owner Don Stanley of Henderson, Nev., said that the colt got himself in some trouble that day. Stanley said that Behindatthebar has shown a tendency to want to run closer to the rail, but that jockey David Flores is aware of that habit.
Behindatthebar has won two straight on synthetic surfaces for Pletcher. The colt turned in a strong five-furlong work on the dirt at Belmont Park May 11 and Pletcher said that performance made him think Behindatthebar would handle racing on dirt.
Stanley said that his partner, Michael Shustek, named the colt as a joke about being behind on a bar bill.
GAYEGO – The Arkansas Derby (gr. II) winner jogged once around the Pimlico oval May 15 after shipping cross-country from his Southern California base the previous day.
“It was just to let him stretch his legs a little bit and kind of see things,” reported Jody Pieper, who was aboard the Paulo Lobo-trained colt during his 6 a.m. exercise.
Pieper’s association with Gayego has been a short one.“(Jockey) Mike Smith and I have been friends for 25 years. I was in Hot Springs – I work there – and he called me and asked me if I could get on the horse when Gayego came to Hot Springs for the Arkansas Derby,” Pieper said. “They wanted someone who would get on him in Arkansas and go with him to Kentucky.”
After Gayego’s 17th-place finish in the Derby, Pieper, who has galloped horses for trainer Danny Pietz at Oaklawn Park for the last five years, returned to Hot Springs, where he has a home repair business.“A few days ago, they called and said, ‘Jody, we’re going to the Preakness. Do you want to go?’ I said, ‘Sure.’ Hopefully, we get to go to Belmont,” said Pieper, who served as a paddock judge at Prairie Meadows last year.
Pieper recalled the first time he galloped Gayego at Oaklawn.
“I just couldn’t believe as big a horse as he is and as thick as he is that he is as athletic as he is,” he said. “It surprised me how quick he is.”
Gayego will wear small blinkers in the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.“They’re just to get him to focus a little bit. Mikey told me in the Derby when he came down the stretch for the first time the crowd scared him. He started lugging in and then started running over horses’ heels,” Pieper said. “They’re just trying to get him to focus a little more.”
Lobo, who trains on the Southern California circuit, is scheduled to fly to Baltimore May 15 and will supervise Gayego’s morning exercise the following morning.
GIANT MOON – Trainer Richard Schosberg sent the New York-bred through what is a typical routine a couple of days before a race: a two-mile jog and a trip to the starting gate for schooling.
Schosberg said he received a phone call from the Pimlico starter to talk about preparing Giant Moon for the Preakness
“In big races like this, they just want to make sure that everything goes according to plan as best as possible,” Schosberg said.“I school horses before they run almost every time. It doesn’t matter how old they are. I think it just really gets their juices flowing. It lets them know that race time is coming soon. They get in there and relax and it’s like, `Hey man, I’m really, really close to a race.’ It gets them ready.” Giant Moon will start from post 11 in the field of 13. After the post-position draw May 14, Schosberg said he did not like the post. Today, he was more philosophical.
“It is what it is,” he said. “In a double-blind draw like that you get what you get. With all of the terrible things going on in the world, the monsoons and the earthquakes and the tornados here in the states, the post position I got in the Preakness, it seems a little ridiculous to get upset about. It is what it is. Maybe it will work out for us. We’ll see.”
Giant Moon will ship to Baltimore May 16 . He will be ridden by Ramon Dominguez, one of the top jockeys in Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic region.“There are probably three riders in this race that know this racetrack like the back of their hand. Ours is one of them, and (Kent) Desormeaux and (Edgar) Prado are the others. These guys cut their teeth on this racetrack. “Certainly Ramon knows his way around there and the best part of the track, and he knows my horse. I think we’ve got everything going as best we can. We’ll see what happens Saturday afternoon.”
HEY BYRN – The Holy Bull Stakes (gr. III) winner galloped 1 1/2 miles under exercise rider Peter Shelton May 15 at Pimlico in preparation for his foray into the Triple Crown campaign Saturday.
Hey Byrn’s owner, Beatrice Oxenberg, will celebrate her 87th birthday May 16 in Baltimore, where she will visit with nieces and nephews.“If you asked her, she’d probably say (racing her horses) is the most important part of her life right now,” said trainer Eddie Plesa Jr., who will saddle Hey Byrn for a start in the Preakness. “Every time she has a horse in, she’s at the races. She just drives her car and goes to the track.”
Plesa has trained for South Florida’s grand dame of thoroughbred racing and her late husband, Bernie, for 25 years.
“Trainers can look back, the older you get, and say, ‘I had this person for this much time, this person for this much time, this person for this much time. She’s been with me for all that time that I’ve had horses for a lot of different people,” Plesa said. “She’s a wonderful person. Her husband was the nicest, kindest person I’ve met in my life.”
Although Hey Byrn drew the No. 13 post, which has never produced a winner in the Preakness, Plesa is confident that his colt has the ability to get a good trip May 17.“He’s what you call a push-button horse. He’ll do what you want him to do. He’s not one-dimensional. He has the tactical speed to lay where you want him,” he said. “The jockey can direct him any way; he’s not going to run off with him. He’s a very versatile horse. He’s probably one of the most versatile horses I’ve ever trained.”
Hey Byrn, who finished fourth behind Big Brown in the Florida Derby after encountering bumping at the start, has won his three other races this year. Although his trainer has been impressed with the Florida and Kentucky Derby winner, he’s not ready to concede that he’s a great horse yet.“People are saying, ‘Is he a great horse?’ That remains to be seen,” Plesa said. “One of the signs that will tell us is when we look back at the horses that he ran against in the Derby and Preakness and some of these other races. What have they done after that? Are they just a bunch of ordinary horses and he’s just the best of the bunch? Or are they good horses and he’s a champion? Time will tell.”
ICABAD CRANE – The Federico Tesio Stakes winner galloped 1 1/2 miles under Xavier Aizpuru at Fair Hill Training Center May 15 for his return visit to Pimlico.
In the Tesio, the New York-bred colt worked his way through traffic to get up to narrowly prevail over Mint Lane in his first trip to Pimlico. Icabad Crane will need a better trip under jockey Jeremy Rose to earn a return visit to the winner’s circle Saturday. Trainer Graham Motion expects the No. 3 post position should help.“Jeremy would have chosen 1, 2 or 3 if he had his choice. Jeremy feels it’s important for him to save ground,” said Motion, whose colt will ship to Pimlico early Saturday morning.
KENTUCKY BEAR – Trainer Reade Baker, who arrived from Toronto, was with his lightly raced son of Mr. Greeley May 15 after another stamina-building gallop around the Pimlico oval.
“He galloped a mile and a half and then he went to the gate and backed out,’’ said the 61-year-old Canadian, admittedly an old-school trainer. “I like to do that with horses when they’re going to different places because there are a lot of different (gate) manufacturers and they look different to them. Sometimes they hesitate when they’ve never been in them before.’’This will be Kentucky Bear’s third different race track in four starts. He broke his maiden at Gulfstream before finishing a troubled seventh in the Fountain of Youth (gr. II) in only his second career start. Baker said bucked shins kept him from racing as a 2-year-old. Kentucky Bear was third in the Blue Grass (gr. I) at Keeneland, beaten only 1 1/2 lengths for all the money after having some problems changing leads the first time under jockey Jamie Theriot. “Maybe he’s just comfortable that way,” Baker said. “Forego was.”
Baker figures both Theriot and the colt learned something from that experience.
“I don’t give instructions,’’ Baker said. “He’s a smart kid; he’ll figure it out. I just think he thought he had enough horse that he could just go with those horses anytime he wanted. He didn’t want to do that because you’ve got the wolves (Pyro) right behind you coming to run down everybody. You don’t want to open up and then have him come and nail you.
“Well, Pyro never showed up. Those other guys in front (Monba and Cowboy Cal) were sitting on a little bit of horse. I don’t think he (Kentucky Bear) has got that. He’s got some wonderful attributes, but that explosion thing isn’t it. If you watch his maiden race, he’s going fast all the way. That’s what he does. He goes at that pace and he keeps going; that’s the difference between him and a regular horse.’’
This will be the first Preakness mount for Theriot, who has worked his way from the minor-league circuit to become a successful rider at tracks like Oaklawn, Keeneland and Churchill Downs.
MACHO AGAIN – The Derby Trial winner galloped 1 1/4 miles on the morning after arriving from his Churchill Downs base.
Impressed with the manner in which his colt overcame trouble and closed in the late yards to catch Kodiak Kowboy in the Trial, trainer Dallas Stewart is confident that Macho Again is ready for the challenge of running in the Preakness.“He showed a lot of fight in his last race. I really like the way he handled himself in the last race,” Stewart said. “He got bumped and squeezed. He showed fight and he finished off the race real nice. He was really running. He beat a nice horse that was no slouch.”
Stewart has saddled two Preakness starters: Dollar Bill (4th in 2001) and Kimberlite Pipe (8th in 1999). While serving as an assistant to Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, he was a frequent visitor to Pimlico with several Preakness runners.“Probably the one that stands out the most – she didn’t win – was Winning Colors, who finished third. I was quite attached to her,” said Stewart, referring to the 1988 Derby winner who finished third after being pressed by Forty Niner throughout the Preakness. “The other horses I was on the ground with, I wasn’t on their backs. I was on her back. “I think she was tired after the Derby. The Derby is a really tough race on a horse, a really tough race. The horses that come back and win here are special. Flipping it back the other way, we had other horses that didn’t run good in the Derby. We had Tabasco Cat; he got hit real hard leaving the gate, so he didn’t put out and run hard. He came back and won here. Timber Country, he was last at the quarter pole. He ran only a quarter of a mile (to finish third). He came here and won. Going back to Winning Colors, she ran her eyeballs out there and won. She came here and had some trouble, but she wasn’t as good here as she was in the Derby. That Derby will take something out of a horse.”
RACECAR RHAPSODY – Former jockey Jose Castanon, now an assistant to trainer Kenny McPeek, gave the Tale of the Cat colt his first trip around the Pimlico track Thursday morning. The bay was shipped from Louisville, Ky. to Maryland May 14.
“I took him out about 7:30 and I jogged him one mile and galloped him one mile,” Castanon said. “It feels like he can handle this track very well.”Castanon said Racecar Rhapsody had no problems adjusting to his new surroundings.
“This horse is kind of calm,” Castanon said. “He doesn’t get scared. He just goes for it. He doesn’t look around much.”
RILEY TUCKER – The last time Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott saddled a horse in the Preakness, Willie Shoemaker was his jockey. That was 24 years ago, and even the immortal “Shoe’’ couldn’t get Taylor’s Special home ahead of Gate Dancer. Mott’s colt finished fourth.
Mott may have an even tougher task May 17 when Riley Tucker tries to upset Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown in Preakness 133. The son of Harlan's Holiday is listed at 30-1 in the morning line.
“You have to try, don’t you?’’ said Mott assistant Leana Willaford, who put Riley Tucker through his first exercise on the Pimlico track since he arrived by van after a 4 ½-hour trip from Belmont Park on May 14. “It’s back quick for him (two weeks since Big Brown’s Derby). We’ve got a little fresher horse.’’Riley Tucker, who hasn’t run since finishing third in the Lexington April 19, seemed to enjoy his time on the track May 15.
“I just backed him up at the three-eighths pole and jogged him off the right way, galloped him around down past the wire and then galloped him another mile and a quarter,’’ Willaford said. “Then I rode him through the paddock. He’s good.’’
Edgar Prado, one of the great riders in Maryland history, will be aboard Riley Tucker for the Preakness.
STEVIL – Trainer Nick Zito seemed perfectly comfortable with the calm and quiet outside Stevil’s stall at the end of the Preakness Stakes Barn May 15 as the hordes of media stalked his celebrated opponent, Big Brown, directly across the shedrow.
“He just galloped today, an easy gallop,’’ said Zito, who has occupied Stall 40 before with his own Derby winners (Go for Ginand Strike the Gold). “He’s doing great. I was happy with the post (No. 9), so everything’s good.’’
Stevil figures to be one of the longest shots in the field at post time, and Pimlico oddsmaker Frank Carulli installed the roan son of Maria’s Mon at 30-1 for owner Robert LaPenta. Zito believes he can outrun those odds.
“He’s very consistent,’’ said the Hall of Fame conditioner, who has run 18 other 3-year-olds in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown. “He’s going to run a good race; he always runs a good race. I’d be surprised if he didn’t run a good race, knock on wood. He should be in the money.’’
None of the connections of any of the other 12 starters have Triple Crown race experience comparable to Zito, who has also won a Belmont (Birdstone ) and a Preakness (Louis Quatorze) to go with his Kentucky Derby winners.
“The story here is without question Big Brown,’’ Zito said. “I’m a fan of the game, too, and I just hope we run a good race and get close and then try to beat him in the next town. But to say anybody on paper is going to beat Big Brown is going to be a hard stretch. However, they don’t run on paper; they run on dirt. We have to run the race and see what happens.’’John Velazquez will be aboard Stevil for the first time May 17. He finished fifth on Circular Quay in last year’s Preakness, his first mount in the race.
TRES BORRACHOS – Trainer Beau Greely led the third-place finisher in the Arkansas Derby onto the track May 15 shortly after the renovation break for some light work two days after his final blowout at Churchill Downs.“He just jogged today,’’ said Greely of the field’s lone gelding. “He was on his toes and feeling fresh. He’d have done a lot more had we let him. He’ll gallop tomorrow and just walk into the race.’’ Tres Borrachos, a son of 1999 Kentucky Derby also-ran Ecton Park(12th), had his speed compromised in the Arkansas Derby by Gayego, but Greely is hoping he’ll get the right trip May 17.
“I think the track’s going to suit him,’’ Greely said. “He’s run his best races on dirt. There are a little tighter turns here or so they tell me. I think with the 2-hole, it came up good for him.’’
Greely, a Lexington native who was spoon-fed the glitz and glamour of the Kentucky Derby, said he appreciates the calmer atmosphere surrounding the Preakness.
“I’ve run in all the Triple Crown races, and coming here the hospitality is phenomenal,’’ he said. “The people here are nice and it’s a little more laid-back. It’s enjoyable.’’
Tres Borrachos has earned a check in his last three stakes starts, but seems to have stepped up his speed figures in his last two on traditional dirt surfaces. Greely believes he belongs.
“They’re all nice horses, and I think it’s going to be interesting to see Big Brown break out of the 7-hole instead of the outside,’’ he said. “He might get knocked around a little bit, who knows? He might not be used to that. He hasn’t had as much seasoning as some of the others, so we’ll see what happens.’’
YANKEE BRAVO – Trainer Paddy Gallagher reported that Yankee Bravo showed no ill effects from a May 14 cross-country flight during his first tour of the Pimlico racetrack May 15.
“He galloped around slow and looked around,” said Gallagher, who has never saddled a horse at Pimlico. “He’s the kind of horse that nothing bothers after he gets a chance to settle in.”
Yankee Bravo, who finished third in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) at Fair Grounds in his only start on a conventional dirt track, will be ridden by Alex Solis.