(Edited press release)
BIG BROWN – The unbeaten Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner owned by IEAH Stables and Paul Pompa Jr. is scheduled to ship from Churchill Downs to Pimlico the afternoon of May 14 on a flight with other Preakness Stakes (gr. I) runners Tres Borrachos and Racecar Rhapsody.
Preakness officials have been told the flight with Big Brown is scheduled to land at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport at 5:30 p.m. The van carrying the horses from BWI is expected to arrive at Pimlico approximately one hour later.
Trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. is expected to attend the Preakness post-position draw, to be held at 5 p.m. May 14 at the ESPN Zone in downtown Baltimore.
If Gayego and Big Brown both run May 17, it will be the sixth time since Kentucky Derby horses began running in the Preakness in 1918 that only two Derby starters moved on to Baltimore for the Preakness. The last time was in 1980 when Codex defeated the Derby-winning filly Genuine Risk in the Preakness.
BEHINDATTHEBAR - The Forest Wildcat colt trained by Todd Pletcher breezed five furlongs in 1:00.13 the morning of May 11 and walked the shedrow May 12.
Behindatthebar has mainly trained and competed on synthetic surfaces. The breeze Sunday at Belmont indicated he is comfortable on a dirt track similar to what he will run over in the Preakness.
“That was encouraging that he was able to work well on the dirt,” Pletcher said. “Now we’ll see if he can adapt to having some dirt in his face. We’re pleased with the way he’s doing.”
GAYEGO – Trainer Paulo Lobo reported May 12 that Gayego is a “go” for the Preakness. The son of Gilded Time is scheduled to arrive at Pimlico the afternoon of May 13 following a cross-country flight that he will share with Preakness hopeful Yankee Bravo.
“He’s an extremely good shipper,” said Lobo, whose colt shipped to Oaklawn Park in April for a victory in the Arkansas Derby (gr. II) and shipped again for the Derby May 3. Lobo has never started a horse at Pimlico.
Gayego finished a disappointing 17th in the Derby as the sixth betting choice in a field of 20, compromised by a sluggish start and early crowding. Lobo reported that the Kentucky-bred colt didn’t overexert himself in the Run for the Roses.
“He came back very well,” he said. “He’s been eating everything. He’s feeling happy.”
Mike Smith, who has ridden Gayego in each of his six lifetime starts, has the return mount for the Preakness. Smith rode Prairie Bayou to victory in 1993.
GIANT MOON - Under regular exercise rider Caesar Correa, Albert Fried Jr.’s homebred colt turned in a bullet half-mile work in :47.77 the morning of May 12 at Belmont Park.
“Actually it was a little quicker than we had anticipated,” said trainer Richard Schosberg. “I was looking at somewhere between :48 and :48 2/5, but he seemed to have done it in good order.
“He jumped on the bit right away at the beginning of the work, which for him is a bit unusual when he’s working by himself. But he’s pretty sharp right now, and he went the first quarter pretty quick. It was more like a good three-eighths blowout and he galloped out in :47 3/5 for the half.
“It looks like he’s fine,” Schsberg continued. “He cooled out in good order and he’s biting and playing and acting like himself after the work. So I’m not too worried about him.”
Schosberg said Giant Moon completed the first quarter in :22 4/5 and covered three furlongs in :35 4/5.
Giant Moon, a son of Giant's Causeway , was named the 2007 champion 2-year-old male at the New York Thoroughbred Breeders’ annual award dinner May 12 in Saratoga Springs.
Schosberg decided the track had dried out sufficiently from the rain that fell May 11 and 12, and sent the colt out for his final work May 13.
“The track was good and he handled it well,” Schosberg said. “If he was going a little bit quick, maybe it’s better that we had an extra day. Certainly, we’re in good order fitness-wise for the race. We don’t have to do a whole lot, just basically keep him happy and get him down there in good order.”
HEY BYRN – The Eddie Plesa-trained colt arrived by van at Pimlico shortly after 6 a.m. May 12, following an uneventful 20-hour journey that originated at Calder Race Course.
While Hey Byrn figures to be a long shot in the Preakness, veteran handicappers might give him a longer look, having learned from experience to respect Calder shippers.
“Maybe it’s that the horses appreciate getting out of the hot climate,” said Plesa, whose Preakness hopeful was accompanied in the van by Gottcha Gold, a contender for the May 16 Maryland Lottery Pimlico Special (gr. I).
“People may tend to overlook the quality of horses that are stabled at Calder. It’s probably a combination of both.”
ICABAD CRANE – Earl Mack’s son of Jump Start will remain at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland until he is vanned to Pimlico on Preakness morning. Trainer Graham Motion said he prefers to keep Icabad Crane in his daily routine.
“We’re not restricted by a racetrack environment and training hours. It’s a more relaxed environment here, and gives us more options,” Motion said.
The New York-bred Icabad Crane’s development has been a pleasant surprise.
“We thought he’d do well, but we didn’t expect him to perform at this level,” Motion said. “He’s matured physically and mentally. His development is probably due to his attitude. He’s got a wonderful temperament and is a pleasure to train.”
KENTUCKY BEAR – The third-place finisher in the Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I) galloped around the Pimlico racetrack twice under exercise rider Cassie Garcia on a picture-perfect May morning May 13 that followed more than a day of heavy rains.
“He gave me a workout,’’ said Garcia, who has been here with the colt for nearly a week along with assistant trainer Sherri Wickett. “He’s had a couple easy days, but the track’s a lot better. It’s a little bit nicer to ride him. Ever since the Blue Grass, he’s improved more and more. He’s matured; he’s put on weight; he’s put on muscle. He just looks great going into (the Preakness).’’
Trainer Reade Baker, who was present for Kentucky Bear’s final workout May 10, said the colt has “put on somewhere between 50 and 75 pounds’’ since the Blue Grass.
“It’s been a good environment for him,’’ Garcia said. “It’s given him time to settle in and that’s a bit of an advantage for this horse. I heard it gets pretty exciting down here.’’
MACHO AGAIN – Macho Again had been scheduled to arrive in Baltimore at 5:30 p.m. May 14 after sharing a flight with Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown.
However, trainer Dallas Stewart has arranged for an earlier flight that is slated to arrive at 1:15 p.m. at BWI airport. He will share that flight with the California Preakness contingent.
RACECAR RHAPSODY – Racecar Rhapsody is scheduled to be shipped from Kentucky to Baltimore May 13 on the same plane as Big Brown. Co-owner Jerry Carroll, who built and operates Kentucky Speedway, frequently gives his horses names connected to automobile racing.
Jockey Robby Albarado is scheduled to ride Racecar Rhapsody in the Preakness. Albarado has been board for all six of the colt’s races and is very familiar with his off-the-pace running style.
“He leaves himself a lot of work to do, and hopefully he will give himself a chance early in the race,” Albarado said. “It seems like he will be able to handle the tighter turns at Pimlico. He will be coming late.
“Hopefully, we will get some pace up front to run at, but at the same time, I don’t want to be too far out at the back that I can’t get to them.”
RILEY TUCKER – The heavy lifting was done in a workout over the Belmont Park training track May 12 for the bay son of Harlan's Holiday, who is expected to be vanned to Baltimore May 14 or 15, according to Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. He plans to school the colt in the Pimlico paddock May 15 or 16.
“Everything’s good here,’’ said Mott, who timed his colt in 1:04 for five furlongs May 12. “He hand-walked today; that was about it.’’
Riley Tucker wore blinkers in his last start for the first time since his 2-year-old campaign, and he will wear them again for the Preakness.
Mott has re-enlisted the services of Edgar Prado, the newest riding member of the Hall of Fame, for the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown. Prado rode Adriano in the Kentucky Derby, but trainer Graham Motion elected to bypass the Preakness after a 19th-place finish.
“It seems like the horse is maturing,’’ said Prado. “I don’t think Billy would put him in the race if he didn’t have a chance to win it. I know it’s going to be very tough competition, but we’re looking forward to give it a try.’’
Prado was Riley Tucker’s first jockey when Mott introduced the Zayat Stable’s $375,000 yearling purchase in a six-length romp in his debut at Belmont Park.
STEVIL – The roan son of Maria’s Mon left a solid impression in his final workout at Churchill Downs the morning of May 13, breezing four furlongs in :47.80 under exercise rider Megan Smillie over a fast surface. It was the sixth-fastest work of 61 runners at the distance.
“It was pretty nice, and he galloped out real nice,’’ said trainer Nick Zito, who will be saddling his 19th Preakness starter, a number that ties him for second all-time with the legendary Max Hirsch. Only D. Wayne Lukas (32) has run more horses in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
“He’s a very consistent horse, and hopefully he’ll run well Saturday,’’ said Zito, who collected fourth-place money in last year’s Preakness with C P West. Zito won the 1996 Preakness with Louis Quatorze, who shares the official record for the 1-3/16-mile stakes with Tank’s Prospect and last year’s winner, Curlin (1:53 2/5).
John Velazquez, the regular rider for trainer Todd Pletcher, has the mount for the first time on the Robert LaPenta-owned colt. Stevil was scheduled to arrive by van later May 13.
“We’re ready. He’s been running good all winter,” Zito said.
TRES BORRACHOS – California-based rider Tyler Baze flew in to ride the gelded son of Ecton Park for his final work at Churchill Downs the morning of May 13, a four-furlong breeze that clockers timed at :50.40 seconds, slightly slower than the 49 4/5 that Greely calculated.
“It went very well,’’ said trainer Beau Greely, who saddled Borrego for a seventh-place finish in the 2004 Preakness. “He went nicely, came home in 11 (seconds) and change, so that was good. Tyler seemed to be happy with it, and he seemed to come back ready.’’
The colt will arrive at BWI Airport along with Big Brown late afternoon May 14.
Baze, who will be riding in his first Preakness, was impressed with the May 13 exercise.
“It was so beautiful it was ridiculous,’’ said Baze, who flew back to California after the work. “He did it the right way and finished well. He is so impressive, the way he worked today and went over a dirt track like that and not be blowing. I’m hoping Saturday is my day. I know this is a good horse now that I’ve ridden him in Arkansas and I know him. I’m really looking forward to it.’’
YANKEE BRAVO – Yankee Bravo is expected to arrive at BWI Airport at 1:15 p.m. May 14.
“So far, he’s shipped well,” said trainer Paddy Gallagher, who will name Alex Solis to ride Yankee Bravo when entries are taken for the Preakness that morning.