(edited press release)
Trainer Nick Zito said it’s “all systems go” for Saturday’s Preakness Stakes (gr. I) after C P West worked a half-mile at Belmont Park May 14. The colt and his team will arrive at Pimlico on Wednesday prior to the post-position draw.
“Everything went well,” said Zito, who will be saddling his 18th Preakness starter. “He went in :47 1/5 and finished up in :59 and change (for five furlongs). It was pretty much what we wanted.”
C P West hasn’t won since his maiden debut at Saratoga last August, but second-place finishes in his two starts as a 3-year-old have given Zito enough encouragement to take on Street Sense again. The winner of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands distanced C P West in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) last fall, in which the Nick Zito-trainee finished a troubled sixth.
“Street Sense impressed me in the Juvenile and the Derby, but they still have to run around the track,” said Zito, who won the 1996 Preakness with Louis Quatorze. “He (C P West) ran in the Breeders’ Cup and he was second in the Futurity at Belmont. He acted like a promising 2-year-old, and we’re hoping he continues to improve as a 3-year-old.’’
Edgar Prado will ride C P West Saturday.
Meanwhile, Hard Spun galloped one and a half miles and jogged three-eighths of a mile at Delaware Park May 14. The Kentucky Derby runner-up had trainer Larry Jones in the saddle, although Jones had pondered using an exercise rider in order to get a ground-level view of his colt’s morning exercise.
“The guy I was going to put up on him – I had a horse that needed him more than Hard Spun needed him,” said Jones, who will saddle his first Preakness starter May 19.
Hard Spun, who set the pace before finishing a clear second behind Street Sense at Churchill Downs two weeks ago, was Jones’ first Derby starter. The son of Danzig’s impressive performance was achieved with only two prep races this year and with six weeks between his final prep, a strong triumph in the Lane’s End Stakes (gr. II) at Turfway Park.
“I’ve always been one of those guys who marches to the beat of his own drummer. My teachers always complained about that, which is not to say that I was rebellious,” said Jones, when asked about his untraditional pre-Derby training program for Hard Spun. “I always fly by the seat of my pants. You just do what you think it right.”
Jones said that exercising his horses gives him the confidence to do things his way.
“I’ve been riding horses for the better part of 46 years on a very constant basis,” said the Kentucky native. “I was lucky to come from a family who has always been involved with horses. Horses are just a way of life.”
Hard Spun’s jockey Mario Pino, the winningest jockey in the history of Maryland racing, rode a winner at Delaware Park May 13 that moved him ahead of Hall of Fame rider Jerry Bailey to rank 15th on the all-time list in North America with 5,894 victories.
At Belmont Park, trainer Todd Pletcher also sent his Preakness starter for a leisurely one and a half mile gallop. King of the Roxy, runner-up in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), finished the morning well and will ship from New York Thursday.
“Everything looks good; he’s in good form,” said Pletcher, who will come to Baltimore on Wednesday for the post position draw. “He’s a good-looking, well-balanced horse that’s pretty efficient with his action. I think that’s what allows him to do well.”
Pletcher, who saddled five three-year-olds for the Kentucky Derby, said King of the Roxy’s campaign included the Preakness since his second-place finish behind Tiago in the April 7 Santa Anita Derby.
“Barry Irwin (Team Valor’s managing partner) and I spoke right after the Santa Anita Derby and we felt like – with the time he had missed at the beginning of the year being sick and having only the mile-and-an-eighth race – that was the right plan,” Pletcher said. “Pedigree-wise, by Littleexpectations, a son of Valid Appeal, it’s not really a pedigree that suggests a mile and three-sixteenths. He’s out of a Bold Forbes mare, and (Bold Forbes) won the Belmont at a mile and a half and the Derby, so perhaps he gets some of his stamina from there.”
King of the Roxy was purchased by Team Valor for $350,000 after breaking his maiden at Hollywood Park last July in his second start. He had originally sold for only $8,000 at the 2005 Keeneland September Sale.
Also out for an easy gallop under exercise rider Anissa Butler at Fair Hill Training Center was the Mark Shuman-trained Xchanger, who will attempt to win his second race in a row over the Pimlico racetrack in Saturday’s Preakness after capturing the $100,000 Federico Tesio Stakes April 21.
“It’s nice to know that he’s won at Pimlico, but I really don’t think Pimlico is a track you need to run one over. Not too many horses have trouble handling the track,” Shuman said. “If you say your horse didn’t like the track, you’re probably just making up excuses. The Maryland tracks are safe surfaces and fair surfaces.”
Xchanger was considered a potential Kentucky Derby starter, contingent on a possible sale of the Circle Z Stables’ star. When a sale wasn’t consummated, the son of Exchange Rate was pointed toward the Preakness.
“The timing wasn’t there. It wouldn’t have been fair to the horse to run him back in the Derby in two weeks against that caliber of horses,” Shuman said. “And if he ran good (in the Derby), to run him back in two weeks in the Preakness wouldn’t have been fair to him.”
Ramon Dominguez, whose services became available when trainer Michael Matz withdrew Chelokee from Preakness consideration Sunday, will have the return mount on Xchanger.
In preparation for a start in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes, Mint Slewlep worked five furlongs in :59 4/5 seconds at Pimlico. Exercise rider Christy Knorr was aboard the son of Slew City Slew for his 6:30 a.m. visit to the track.
“I thought he was walking. In fact, (Christy) said she thought he was going in 1:04. That’s what’s so deceiving about him. He’s does things so easy,” trainer Robbie Bailes said. “That’s the reason I didn’t want to put a jockey who didn’t really know him on him, because the next thing I know he’s going down there in :57 (seconds). I got what I wanted from him.”
On a clear, crisp morning, Mint Slewlep had the Preakness Stakes Barn to himself. Although Bailes is stabled at the Bowie Training Center, he was anxious to bring his colt to Pimlico.
“When they start feeding in, he’ll already be used to everything. That’s one advantage of getting here real early,” he said. “I really wanted to get a work over the track. You got the tents; you got the seats; everything’s new to him.”
Mint Slewlep will be the second Preakness starter for his trainer, who saddled Scrappy T. for an eventful second-place finish behind Afleet Alex in the 2005 running of the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.
“It’s a little bit different. With Scrappy, I really thought we had the horse to win the race. With him, I’m not really sure,” Bailes said. “I don’t mean to say he doesn’t have the talent. I believe the colt’s got the talent, if he’s got enough racing experience under him.”
Mint Slewlep was purchased for $200,000 last year at the Ocala Breeders’ Sale for Marshall Dowell, a retired Harley-Davidson dealer who lives in Virginia.
“This colt doesn’t have much breeding under him. The only horse his father ever threw was Lava Man. But when I go to the sales looking for horses, I don’t really look at the pedigree first. I look at the horse,” Bailes said. “This colt really caught him eye. There was something about him, and it all worked out."
Alan Garcia will ride Mint Slewlep Saturday.
CONFIRMED PREAKNESS STARTERS:
C P West
Flying First Class
King of the Roxy