Preakness Notes: Hendricks Weighs Chances

A daily compilation of notes on the candidates for the 2006 Preakness Stakes (gr. I) assembled by the publicity department at Pimlico Race Course.

BARBARO – Trainer Michael Matz sent his Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) winner to the dirt track at Fair Hill Training Center Thursday Morning for a little tune-up.

"He blew out a quarter-mile," said Matz. Barbaro's brief breeze -- following a mile gallop under exercise rider and assistant trainer Peter Brette -- was timed in :24 1/5.

Matz, who was not present at Thursday's traditional Alibi Breakfast at Pimlico, plans to board Barbaro onto a van bound for Pimlico at 1 p.m. Friday.

BROTHER DEREK – After his colt toured the track at Pimlico for the first time Thursday morning, trainer Dan Hendricks said he would like to see a Triple Crown sweep some day, but not this year.

"I think it would be great and I think we need to have one soon," he said. "That's what makes it so great, that it has taken nearly 30 years to have another one. But I'm in here to win the race and I want to win the Preakness more than anyone."

Barbaro won the Kentucky Derby in convincing fashion on May 6 and a victory in the Preakness on Saturday would make him the 32nd horse going to the Belmont Stakes with a chance to snag American racing's greatest prize.

"I hate to see him not win it this year because I think he is a deserving horse to win it, but we're out to win," Hendricks said. "That's all there is to it."

Hendricks noted that facing fresh horses in the Preakness and Belmont Stakes makes the road to a Triple Crown title so difficult to negotiate.

"That's what makes it special," he said. "You've got to knock off all the newcomers, everybody. The next guy that wins it, that's going to make it extra-special."

During his press conference at 8:30 a.m. on a temporary stage next to the Pimlico Stakes Barn, Hendricks made it clear he has respect for Barbaro.

"I'm hoping I'm good enough to beat him," Hendricks said. "(Barbaro's) done nothing wrong. He's proven himself out to be the top 3-year-old right now. I just hope I can step up and beat him now. If I can, I'm right on top again. That's all I can hope."

Brother Derek drew post No. 18 in the Kentucky Derby, had a wide trip and finished in a dead-heat for fourth with Jazil. Hendricks said the Derby is a race to draw a line through on Brother Derek's past performance chart.

"We have to just throw that out and go on because it's history now," he said. "We're just going to try to go out there and beat him. I think we're as good a horse and, hopefully, we're a better horse. But right now, he's No. 1, and we're trying to knock him off the top."

Hendricks liked the way Brother Derek looked Thursday. The colt was shipped from Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. to Pimlico Wednesday. He showed a lot of energy as he galloped around the Pimlico oval just before 8 a.m. Thursday.

"He bounced out of the Derby fine. We came in with a fresh horse, and it seems to be working," Hendricks said. "He's full of himself this morning, bouncing around real good. He handled the track and everything went real well."

Hendricks said Brother Derek never has trouble adapting to unfamiliar tracks.

"Francisco Alvarado galloped him and said he just handled it fine, like he has every other track he's been on," Hendricks said. "Track surface, I can't use that as an excuse. So tell me if I do after the race. It's not an excuse for this horse."

Hendricks said he really hasn't had much time to get to know Barbaro's trainer, Michael Matz, who is based at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md.

"I didn't get a chance to talk to him enough," Hendricks said. "I might go out to Fair Hill with him. He invited me out. I'm just not sure I want to see that nice a training facility and have to go home to Santa Anita. No offense to Santa Anita, but they have so many advantages.

Hendricks smiled when he said that if he did visit Fair Hill it would be before the Preakness is run.

"We might not want to talk to each other after," he said.

Hendricks said he isn't concerned with having to bring Brother Derek back to the races only two weeks after the Derby.

"No, like Michael Matz has done, we've got fresh horses," he said. "I watched his horse after the Derby, that night and the next day. Just like my horse, they took it in without a problem at all."

SWEETNORTHERNSAINT – "I think there's a lot of people in Baltimore rooting for this horse,'' said trainer Mike Trombetta, who drove over from Laurel for the Alibi Breakfast Thursday morning after schooling his colt at the gate before a 1 1/4-mile gallop.

The entire team of the Kentucky Derby favorite has roots in Baltimore, even jockey Kent Desormeaux, who launched his Hall of Fame career while riding on the Maryland circuit before he moved to California.

"I expect a huge effort,'' Desormeaux said. "I think he can win. Barbaro may be the best horse that ever looked through a bridle, but I would at least like to challenge him with an unaltered trip. I did not get to challenge any horse in the way I had hoped to challenge them as the Derby was run.''

Trombetta said the smaller field and lower expectations of the bettors in the second jewel are more appealing aspects than two weeks ago, when Sweetnorthernsaint was somewhat of a surprising post-time favorite.

"I didn't get the pressure of being the favorite until the last few minutes,'' Trombetta said. "And horses can't read the tote board. We're working real hard to win this race.''

BERNARDINI – Trainer Tom Albertrani reported that the Withers Stakes (gr. III) winner walked the shedrow Thursday morning, one day after breezing five furlongs in 1:01 1/5 at Belmont Park.

"He came out of the work in perfect shape," said Albertrani, whose trainee won the Withers Stakes in only his third lifetime start, his final prep for Saturday's Preakness Stakes.

The Darley Stable's homebred will break from the No. 8 post in the nine-horse Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

"We prefer to be on the outside," said Albertrani, whose colt is rated fourth at 8-1 in the morning line. "Maybe, he can tuck inside a bit behind the leaders."

Bernardini, a royally bred son of A.P. Indy who'll be ridden by Javier Castellano, is scheduled to van to Pimlico Race Course on Friday afternoon.

DIABOLICAL -– Trainer Steve Klesaris gave his colt a bit of wake-up call during his time on the track Thursday morning at the Fair Hill Training Center.

"He galloped a mile and three quarters with a little quarter-mile zip," Klesaris said.

The colt was asked to pick it up a bit as he came through the stretch, a training maneuver Klesaris uses with some horses.

"It just depends on their individual needs," he said. "That's what he was up for."

Klesaris said he is pleased with the way the colt is coming into the race.

"He's training great," Klesaris said.

With his colt drawing post No. 9, Klesaris said he would rely on jockey Ramon Dominguez to develop his approach on the fly.

"We've got the outside post, but it's not like it's a 14, 15, 18, 20-horse field," Klesaris said. "Coming from the nine-hole is probably a slight disadvantage, but that's where Ramon comes in. He'll negotiate a good trip for the colt.

"As far as strategy, that's in his hands. It's going to happen when they open the gates. I can tell you what I think, but I can't tell you what's going to happen."

GREELEY'S LEGACY – In his Triple Crown debut, trainer George Weaver had the first selection in the post position draw Wednesday evening. He chose No. 4, a spot he thinks will benefit his late-running colt.

"I was the first one to come up, so luckily I got the one I wanted," Weaver said by telephone from Saratoga Springs, N.Y. Thursday. "We're not going to be on the lead. We're hoping to track the pace, maybe be three, four, five, even six lengths off the pace, depending on how fast they go. Hopefully with the four-post we won't have to lose too much ground in the first turn, then going into the far turn, we'll be able to negotiate a trip where we can run when we want to run."

Greeley's Legacy galloped 1 1/2 miles at Belmont Park Thursday morning under exercise rider Barry Downs.

HEMINGWAY'S KEY -– Nick Zito said Thursday that he'll know in two days exactly what kind of horse he has in the 30-1 outsider who has perplexed him since winning his first two races. The son of Notebook will also try to become only the fourth horse in the last 24 years to win the Preakness without running in the Kentucky Derby.

"Let's put it this way," said Zito after mixing some feed at the stakes barn Thursday morning. "If he doesn't show something Saturday, then he might have to be gelded. Maybe he'd be better off. That's the last thing I want to do because I know he's got much more ability than he's showing.''

Owned by George Steinbrenner's Kinsman Stable, Hemingway's Key was purchased for $210,000 as a 2-year-old and proceeded to pay quick dividends. He broke his maiden at Churchill Downs last November, then won an entry-level allowance at Calder. Zito put him into a stake less than two months later, but he has yet to make the class climb look like a fit in four straight stakes defeats.

Zito said he won't be that surprised by a turnaround from Hemingway's Key, recalling the mountain of skepticism that colleague D. Wayne Lukas faced when he sent Commendable out in the 2000 Belmont Stakes before winning at nearly 19-1.

"He's got a lot of ability, but head-wise he needs to settle down and get into a good rhythm,'' said Zito, who sent him out for about a 1 1/4-mile gallop Thursday. "I'll find out Saturday, and what better way to find out. Maybe he knows what's going to happen to him if he doesn't run good.''

LIKE NOW – With his fast gelding starting from the rail in the Preakness, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has an idea how the post positions will affect the horses with speed.

"Being that we're inside, I think the draw looks excellent because Brother Derek is in the 5-hole and Diabolical is in the nine, so (Diabolical's) definitely going to be wide," McLaughlin said Thursday before the Alibi Breakfast. "Either he's going to go fast and clear us or he's going to get hung out. Brother Derek is similar; he's either going to go and clear us and we're going to sit second, or we're going. We're going to leave forward and see what happens. We're as fast as anybody else."

McLaughlin said there can be no real strategy to defeat Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro in the Preakness.

"We're going to run our race regardless," McLaughlin said. "We can't worry about beating him, he's got to beat himself. He's the best horse. The timing (two weeks between the Derby and Preakness) has to beat him. We're going to run our race and hope that it works. As far as beating him, he's a very good horse. We just have to hope the two weeks sets him back."

Like Now galloped 1 3/8 miles at Belmont Park Thursday morning. He will be shipped to Pimlico on Friday after training ends at Belmont Park.

PLATINUM COUPLE-– Outside observers may look at the 50-1 morning-line odds of the New York bred colt and raise their eyebrows as to his worthiness in the Preakness field. But they're a lot better than the odds trainer Joe Lostritto was given after a devastating aneurism a decade ago.

"It's like a dream come true,'' said Lostritto's son, Glenn, one of the family owners of the homebred son of Tale of the Cat . "For all my dad's been through, just for him to put the saddle on that horse on Saturday will be one of my happiest days."

Joe Lostritto suffered an aneurism in 1995 that doctors originally diagnosed as inoperable. About two years later with his condition deteriorating, two operations were performed.

"The first operation – they said he had a 3 percent chance of survival,'' Glenn Lostritto recalled. That still didn't solve the problem, but a valve replacement procedure at the world-renowned Michael E. DeBakey Medical Center in Texas was successful and gave Lostritto a new lease on life. "He's great now.''

Joe Lostritto spent most of his professional life in real estate and has been training horses a little more than 20 years now. Platinum Couple is the first of Team Tristar Stable's runners to make it into a classic race.

"We upgraded our stock about five years ago,'' said Glenn Lostritto, who watched his colt gallop 1 1/2 miles Thursday. "We went to Kentucky and we've bought about six or eight mares. One of them (Ingot's Dance Away) had him (Platinum Couple) in her belly.''

Ingot's Dance Away is a half-sister to superstar Skip Away, and Platinum Couple is a half-brother to multiple stakes winner Dance Away Capote.