The Morning After: Trainers Reflect on Preakness Stakes

Edited from Pimlico notes
BERNARDINI – Trainer Tom Albertrani's first success in a Triple Crown race was overshadowed by the tragic injury suffered by Derby winner Barbaro shortly after the start of Saturday's 131st running of the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) at Pimlico Race Course. Yet, the 48-year-old trainer couldn't help but feel proud of Bernardini, who captured the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown by 5 1/4 lengths under Javier Castellano.

"I was still very excited because of the way Bernardini won the race, but I know how it feels to go through an ordeal like that," said Albertrani, who reported Bernardini to be doing "very good" on the morning after his stellar triumph. "I feel bad for the connections of Barbaro. That's something you never want to see."

The Preakness was only the Darley Stable's homebred colt's fourth lifetime start, but he performed like a seasoned veteran Saturday.

"I knew he had it in him. I was confident in him. I didn't think he'd win so easily. If Barbaro was in the race, I don't know how close it would have been," said Albertrani, who loaded Bernardini onto a Belmont Park-bound van at 7 a.m. "He does things in such a professional manner; I didn't think it was necessary to give him a race or two (before stepping up into classic company). He won the Withers so easily, I had a lot of confidence that he would run well here."

The tragic circumstances surrounding Bernardini's triumph due to Barbaro incurring fractures above and below his right hind ankle made it difficult for Albertrani to fully grasp the significance of his colt's performance until 2 a.m.

"The phone was ringing is our room and woke me up. It was room service. We had ordered an early breakfast, and they called up to make sure they got the order right," he said with a chuckle. "I didn't get back to sleep right away. That's when it hit me: 'Hey, we won the Preakness!'"

Albertrani said he had enough difficulty trying to spot his horse during the run up the front stretch that he never saw Barbaro's tragic incident from his vantage point

"I couldn't see the racetrack hardly at all where I was standing. I was half-watching on the TV screen near me and half watching the track," he said. "I couldn't see Barbaro being eased up, but I saw Michael run through the aisle. When you see that, you know something terrible happened."

Albertrani reported that it would likely be a few days before Darley Stable's principle Sheikh Mohammed would decide whether to run Bernardini in the Belmont Stakes on June 10. The 1 1/2-mile distance of the Belmont (gr. I) certainly won't be a deterrent in the decision making.

"After the (one-turn) Withers, Javier Castellano said he had just got going, and he galloped out so strong. With the two turns, I knew he'd relish (running longer distances) that much more," said Albertrani, who confirmed that Joseph LaCombe's Deputy Glitters, the 8th-place finisher in the 20-horse Kentucky Derby, is scheduled to run in the Belmont.

The uncommon seasoning of such a lightly raced colt is a testament to his trainer's horsemanship,

"When he came down from the training center in Saratoga, Bob and Dave Scanlon, who work with our 2-year-olds, told me that he was a nice colt. They always told me that he had talent." Albertrani recalled. "When we first got him he was a little immature and weak, really."

Bernardini debuted at Gulfstream Park on Jan. 7, when he never got the chance to do much running during a six-furlong debut. The son of A.P. Indy returned to break his maiden by nearly eight lengths on March 4, before scoring by almost four lengths in the Withers last month at Aqueduct.

"In his first race, he ran green, but after that he was more focused on what he's doing," Albertrani said.

BARBARO – The winner of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), who suffered tragic injuries to his right hind leg shortly after the start of the 131st Preakness Stakes Saturday, was scheduled to undergo surgery Sunday afternoon at the University of Pennsylvania's New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, PA.

Dr. Dean Richardson, Chief of Surgery at New Bolton Center, met with the media at 12.20 p.m. to report that Barbaro had suffered three fractures, one in the cannon bone above the ankle joint, a second in the long pastern bone located below the ankle joint and the third within the ankle joint. It was also determined Barbaro also suffered a dislocation in the affected ankle joint.

"He'll be placed under general anesthesia and additional radiographs will be taken. He'll be under anesthesia for several hours, and it's a very complicated procedure," Richardson said. "We'll be attempting to fuse the entire joint. I don't want to give any prognosis for success until further review during the surgery."

The one positive note is that none of the injuries had broken through the skin, which would have exposed the injuries to bacterial infection.

Dr. Richardson said he doesn't usually see injuries so severe, because, typically, the horse would be humanely euthanized at the track.

"It is very unusual to have three catastrophic injuries all together," Dr. Richardson said. "I've never seen this exact fracture and I never tackled one before."

He praised the racetrack, jockey Edgar Prado and the veterinary staff for their exemplary care of the stricken Kentucky Derby winner.

Richardson said despite a serious prognosis, he hasn't given up hope.

"I think horses can do a lot of things if given a chance," he said.

The Michael Matz-trained Barbaro was vanned to the New Bolton Center with a police escort after being vanned off the racetrack. Maryland Jockey Club's Glen Kozak, Jamie Richardson and Joe Miller accompanied Barbaro in the equine ambulance.

"Michael Matz called me this morning to say 'thank you' for our efforts. To take time during this difficult period showed a lot of class," said Maryland Jockey Club's President and Chief Operating Officer Lou Raffetto.

Maryland Jockey Club's Chief Executive Officer Joe De Francis praised everyone involved for their quick response to such a horrific incident.

"I would like to extend special 'thank you's' to Sharon Greenberg, the outrider, who did a phenomenal job with Barbaro and track superintendent Jamie Richardson, who did a fantastic job of getting the horse loaded into the ambulance as quickly as possible," De Francis said. "Lastly, I want to thank both the Baltimore City and Maryland State Police for escorting Barbaro through the traffic and up to New Bolton as fast as possible."

De Francis extended his deepest concerns to Barbaro's owners, Roy and Gretchen Jackson, Matz and jockey Edgar Prado.

"Accidents like this are part of the game, part of the physics of the sport. When you have a 1,400-pound animal running 40 miles an hour as hard as he or she possibly can on bones as small as they are, whenever they take the slightest misstep there is a potential for tragedy," De Francis said. "At this time all we can do is let the Jacksons, Mike Matz and Edgar Prado know our thoughts and prayers are with them and our fingers are crossed that Barbaro pulls through."

Attending staff at the New Bolton Center reported that Barbaro was stabilized throughout the evening and that his caregivers noted his bravery and exceptional behavior throughout a bad situation. Barbaro reportedly ate his hay at 11 p.m. Saturday night

BROTHER DEREK – The Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner, who had experienced an extremely wide trip during a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby two weeks earlier, didn't get the best of trips in Saturday's Preakness either.

"All I wanted was a clean race. He banged his head pretty good when he broke from the gate and he got off bad," Trainer Dan Hendricks said. "When (Alex Solis) had to grab him (to avoid Barbaro), he got on the muscle and was never able to run his race. It could have been worse. We could have run into him."

Hendricks said that Barbaro's tragic injury put everything into a perspective that made Brother Derek's tough racing luck seem insignificant. "The horse getting hurt made it anticlimactic how we ran," Hendricks said "It's a game of highs and lows. You never know what you're going to get," Hendricks said. "All you can do is enjoy it when it's good and you've got to make it through when it's not."

Brother Derek was scheduled to return to California Sunday and would not run in the Belmont Stakes, Hendricks reported.

"He's fine. He didn't get nicked up or cut up," said Hendricks, who stated that Brother Derek did have a little cut on his nose from banging into the gate. "We'll go back to California and regroup."

DIABOLICAL – Trainer Steve Klesaris said the colt he co-owns with Puglisi Stable was drained after finishing last in the nine-horse Preakness field.

"Fortunately, we can report that he came out of the race very well," Klesaris said Sunday morning. "The distance was just a little bit beyond his scope. You could see that it was too far for him. We had suspected that and decided to take a shot at it anyway to find out. We found out."

Diabolical, a son of the top sprinter Artax, is headed back to distances more suited to his skills.

"We'll shorten up. I think his best gig is going to be about seven-eighths," Klesaris said.

Klesaris said he wasn't surprised by Bernardini's performance.

"Bernardini was the one horse in the race that I thought could run a race like that," Klesaris said. "He'd run three good races, running in behind Exclusive Quality in his maiden race and then come back with two nice victories. He's bred like a champ. He looks like a champ. And he had run a very fast figure the last time.

"The way the horse looked, physically, and the couple of days I was able to watch him, he looked tremendous. I just saw a confidence in Tom Albertrani's face. Tom is a low-key kind of guy and I noticed he was very confident around the barn area. I said, `This horse has to be reckoned with.' He's a good horse and he ran a great race.

"On the flip side, is the tragic situation with Barbaro. It's a shame. Hopefully he can be saved for stallion duty. That's racing. These things happen and it's unfortunate, especially on a big day like Preakness Day. Nobody likes to see that."

GREELEY'S LEGACY – After his colt was put on a van for the return trip to Belmont Park Sunday morning, trainer George Weaver said he was satisfied with his decision to run the colt in the Preakness.

Greeley's Legacy emerged as one of the new shooters in the field when he turned in a bullet five-furlong work on Sunday, May 14. Under jockey Richard Migliore, he closed from off the pace to edge Platinum Couple by a neck to earn the fifth-place check of $30,000.

"We took a shot," Weaver said. "I was hoping that he could do better and I still think he is capable of better than that. It was a great experience for us as a trainer, our team and our owners.

"This horse is going to come up to a big race. It's just a matter of getting him to it. (Saturday) wasn't his day. I don't think he appreciated the track. He had to steady behind Barbaro when he broke down. That wasn't his A-game, but we'll regroup and try again."

Greeley's Legacy came out of the race in good shape, Weaver said.

Weaver understands what Barbaro's connections are going through. He lost the best horse of his young career last summer when Saratoga County became sick and had to be euthanized.

"It's just sad anytime that a great horse like that has something like that happen to him. I'm not sure of his status, but I know that his life is in danger for quite a while.

"Anybody who saw Go for Wand was very upset. And Ruffian. Luckily, it's rare that it happens to a great horse like that. It's very sad for everybody."

Weaver was impressed with the way Bernardini ran away with the 131st victory.

"He ran a big race. The horse is obviously very talented," Weaver said. " Tom Albertrani, from what I know of him, wouldn't go out of his way to tout a horse or speak as highly of one unless he really believes it. He's been around some very nice horses and therefore would have the ability to know when he had a good one. Obviously, his suspicions were justified."

HEMINGWAY'S KEY – Trainer Nick Zito and his wife, Kim, were packing up their car and getting ready to load the third-place finisher in Preakness 131 on a van for Saratoga Springs at around 8:30 a.m. on Sunday morning, still shaken by the events of the day before.

"I guess I'm a 100-percent fan of racing. I love the game, and but for racing, I don't know where I'd be. It's a sad day for racing," said Zito, recalling other tragic on-track victims of injury, including Ruffian, Go for Wand and Charismatic. "Once again, it casts a shadow on the game again. That's the last thing racing needs. The whole story, unfortunately, was what happened, and it's part of our business. Let's hope he lives. You need this horse to have some kind of miracle. Hopefully, God can pull him through. He needs to live."

Zito is well aware of the pall cast by Barbaro's breakdown, and its potential effect on racing fans – especially the casual ones who only pay attention during big days like Saturday.

"The healing part starts now,'' Zito said. "This horse has to live, and if he lives, then you can rebound. You can't wait until he gets back (from surgery), and that's a positive.''

As for his own horse, Zito felt vindicated by the colt's first in-the-money finish in a stakes race in five tries this season. He expects to move on to the Belmont Stakes in three weeks.

"If everything is good, yes,'' said Zito, whose Birdstone stopped Smarty Jones' Triple Crown bid on the native New Yorker's home track two years ago. "If he has a couple good weeks, why not? He had a lot of energy, that horse; he's wild. He rebounded nicely yesterday. That was exactly what I wanted to see."

LIKE NOW – Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said Sunday morning that his very fast gelding's performance in the Preakness was compromised by too much speed early in the race.

Starting from the rail, Like Now cruised to the lead, as expected, but never was able to get a breather. After carrying the field through six furlongs in 1:10.24, he tired and finished seventh.

"We were pressured a lot earlier than I thought we would be," McLaughlin said. "Sweetnorthernsaint pressured us early and obviously it cost us. We weren't sure we wanted to go that far, but at that pace we sure didn't want to go that far."

McLaughlin said the gelding appeared to be fine Sunday morning before he was shipped back to Belmont Park.

"He came out of it in good shape and we'll find an easier spot back," McLaughlin said.

However, McLaughlin said Like Now's finish does not necessarily mean he has limited range.

"He could probably get the distance with a little less company," McLaughlin said. "This was as tough as they come. Maybe if it was a little easier competition, I think he would get the distance."

McLaughlin said Barbaro's injury was a sad moment in the sport.

"I feel terrible about Barbaro; they're great people," he said. "The highs and lows of this game are extreme. I guess they don't get any more extreme than winning the Derby and then having something like that happen. We just pray that he gets through surgery and is OK."

Before the Preakness, McLaughlin was one of the trainers who considered Bernardini a top contender. McLaughlin spent several years as a private trainer for Dubai's royal family, the Maktoums, including Bernardini's owner, Sheikh Mohammed. McLaughlin's public stable includes horses owned by Sheikh Mohammed's brother, Sheikh Hamdan.

"He's a very, very nice horse. Obviously a nice horse," McLaughlin said. "It's great for those owners and people, Tom (Albertrani) and Sheikh Mohammed. It's great for them to win. I'm happy for them."

PLATINUM COUPLE – Assistant trainer and managing partner Glenn Lostritto said the colt would likely get some time off and bypass the Belmont Stakes following a sixth-place finish in their first Triple Crown appearance.

"He came out fine,'' said the son of 68-year-old trainer Joe Lostritto. "We were happy. He ran all right, but with Barbaro breaking down it was so sad. It really put a damper on everything. Obviously, we hoped he'd run a little better than he did, but it was
a great experience. The people from Maryland and Pimlico couldn't do enough for us. It was unbelievable for the family."

The Preakness was the fourth open company stakes appearance for the son of Tale of the Cat , a homebred in the Lostritto family's Team Tristar Stable.

"I think we're going to take a good look at things,'' Glenn Lostritto said. "He's a New York-bred, so we're probably going to point him to a couple of New York-bred races to get his confidence back. We'll see what happens in the summer."

Platinum Couple stayed behind and got a peaceful night's rest before being vanned back to his home base at Belmont Park around 10:30 a.m. on Sunday morning.

SWEETNORTHERNSAINT – Mike Trombetta was at his home base with his Preakness runner-up Sunday morning at Laurel Park, where he said it appeared that a minor hoof injury would probably not cost his stable star any training time.

Somewhere early in the race, Sweetnorthernsaint grabbed a quarter, yet he was still able to hold on for second after taking the lead past the quarter-pole.

"I don't think it's too bad,'' said the Maryland-based trainer, who admitted he was physically under the weather on Saturday. "The vet was going to trim it off this morning. We left him there last night. My assistant and the groom went over this morning to take him back to Laurel. I only took a brief look at it, but I don't think he'll lose but a day or two over it."

Trombetta said he wanted to take some time before deciding where to resume his colt's racing schedule.

"I'm going to wait 10 days or so before I really start giving it (the Belmont Stakes) a hard thought,'' he said. "The runner-up finish in his first Preakness, plus a pair of wins on the undercard was nearly lost in the specter of the Barbaro tragedy. "I was tickled to death to do well, but it was lost in the events of the day. Let's just hope it turns out OK."