Friday Morning Line: The Day Before

Airport Hysterics

The Friday Morning Line actually begins late Thursday night at the Baltimore/Washington airport. There were cameras and cheering when the last Southwest flight arrived from Louisville, Ky. And, not just because a flight was on time. No, this plane carried the world’s latest star, jockey Calvin Borel.

“First they announced on the plane that Calvin was on the flight,” a trainer who was also onboard said. “Then when we got to the bottom of the escalator toward baggage claim, there were cameras and fans. It was unbelievable. It was 10:30 at night.”

Borel was scheduled to meet the press at Pimlico near the stakes barn Friday morning.

For those who don't know, Borel rode Street Sense to victory in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and will be back aboard in Saturday's Preakness. Street Sense, by Street Cry, is owned by Jim Tafel and trained by Carl Nafzger.—Dan Liebman

Bath time for Street Sense

Imagine waking up in the morning, jumping into the tub, and then looking up to see 50 or 60 people standing around staring at you. That's what Street Sense experiences during his morning bath the day before the Preakness.

Most of the spectators have cameras, which click constantly as the suds slide down the colt's body and steam rises from his back. At one point, Street Sense's face is covered with soap, which seems to especially excite the photographers, who crowd closer.

Street Sense hardly seems to notice.

Looking on is the colt's proud exercise rider Mark Cutler,

"This is why we do this crazy job, in the hopes one day that something like him will come walking into the barn," Cutler says.

Street Sense, who was visiting Pimlico's main track for the first time, galloped 1 1/4 miles.

"He had a good time," says trainer Carl Nafzger. "Everything's good. I'm ready (for the Preakness). I'd like to run today. Can we move it up?"

—Deirdre B. Biles

Lukas on losing

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas has won the Preakness (gr. I) five times, but this morning he's talking about losing. Losing he says, can be a good thing.

"Losing is not all bad," he explains. "When you lose, you self evaluate. I learned that from my coaching career. You absolutely self evaluate every time you lose. When you win, you guys all come by, we brag on ourselves, we bring the horse out on the lawn, and we puff up and we think we’re really something. But when you lose, you go home and stare at the ceiling and say what the hell could I have done different? Where did I go wrong with this one? Should I have done this? Should I have done that? Should I have worked him more?"

For Lukas, running Flying First Class in the Rebel Stakes (gr. III) was a learning experience. The colt finished sixth, beaten by nearly 13 lengths.

"I was embarrassed," Lukas says. "I turned to the owner and I said, 'Ewwww, don't fire me, I can correct this. This is terrible job of training right here.' I flat told him, 'That horse was so short.' "

First Class went on to win the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs. It's a good bet he won't be a short horse Saturday.—Deirdre B. Biles

Thinking of stallions

Every year on the Friday morning before the Preakness (gr. I), Pennsylvania horseman Russell Jones shows up at Pimlico to see all the competitors in the Triple Crown's second leg.

He's planning ahead.

"One day I'm going to be breeding to all these big boys," says Russell, who wants to get a look at the future stallion prospects in the field.

As Hard Spun walks by under the shedrow, Jones ducks down under the Pimlico stakes barn's green awning to check out the muscular colt.

"I've never been to the Preakness once, but I come here this day every for only one reason," Jones says. "You can get closer to the horses here than you can get to them anywhere else. It's just like being at a sale. They walk them for you. They stand them for you. They gallop them for you. You see everything."

Jones is like a kid in a candy store.

"It's fun," he says, before heading off to take a peek at another Preakness contender.—Deirdre B. Biles 

Preakness Tip From Zito

When you make your Preakness bets, don't leave Withers (gr. III) runner-up C P West off your tickets. That's trainer Nick Zito's advice Friday morning.

"He's definitely going to run good, definitely," Zito promises. :I'll be surprised if he's not in the money. Honestly."


"He's talented, and I think he was behind the eight ball when he ran in the (Bessemer Trust) Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I)," Zito says. "He was a lightly raced horse, and Street Sense, no one was going to beat him that day. This is a tough assignment for him, too, but he should run a good race. We just want to see how far we've come with him, and I think he is going to run really big. If he doesn't run big, we'll just start all over again."—Deirdre B. Biles

Work for Free

When Corey York was attending Fairdale High School in Louisville, Ky., he said, “It really wasn’t fair.”

The reason? He wanted to be at the racetrack.

“My Mom and Dad were always around the racetrack; it is all I can remember,” York, now 21, said from the Pimlico stakes barn. York is the groom for Hard Spun, who finished second in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and runs in Saturday’s Preakness (gr. I).

His father, Joe, is a valet, currently at Churchill working for jockeys Julien Leparoux, Alonso Quinonez, and Billy Troilo. His mother, Sandy, works for trainer Dennis Manning, spending the summers at the track and the winters in Ocala, Fla.

York has been with trainer Larry Jones for three years, and took over grooming Hard Spun last December.

When Hard Spun was at Keeneland prior to the Derby, York said it was such a thrill to have a Derby horse he would, “work for free.”

“He should have told me that,” Jones joked at the Preakness barn.

“There is nothing like it, to have your hands on such a good horse,” York said. “I’m just grateful for the opportunity.

“Being from Louisville made it so special. Friends were calling all the time, and during the walkover, people were yelling my name. It doesn’t get any better than that.

“Well, maybe it does. When he opened up at the top of the lane, if he had gone on and won, of course that would have been better.”—Dan Liebman

All Religions

After Cardinal William Keeler gave the invocation at the annual Alibi Breakfast at Pimlico Thursday morning, and then note was made to the Little Sister of the Poor, someone quipped, “When is the Jewish part of the program?”

In fact there was one.

When presenting the Old Hilltop Award to Don Clippinger, Maryland Jockey Club president and chief operating officer Lou Raffetto noted how Clippinger is married to Rabbi Audrey Korotkin.

“In case the Cardinal isn’t enough to get the weather right on Saturday, we wanted some help on the other side of the table,” Raffetto joked.—Dan Liebman

Race makes 'A-List,' but weather a question

When the time rolls around for a big race, the focus often turns to the weather. With cloudy skies Friday morning, it looked like it could rain at any time, but as of 11:30, no water had fallen from the sky at Old Hilltop.

Saturday’s forecast is iffy as well, but the big event of the day--the Preakness--got a big plug on national cable television via The Weather Channel. The Preakness made the network’s “A-List,” which looks at the top weekend entertainment events around the country.

Meteorologist Alexandra Steele noted the track at Pimlico could be muddy, but the operative word was “could.” The forecast still calls for only a chance of showers Saturday afternoon along with warming temperatures.

The Weather Channel regularly notes major horse racing events each year. A few years back, meteorologist Stephanie Abrams did segments live from the stakes barn at Pimlico.--Tom LaMarra