Friday Preakness Notes: Rain Limits Last Day Prep Action

BALTIMORE, Md. ­Greeley's Galaxy blew out for the Preakness Friday morning, getting a handy three furlongs over a sloppy track in :34.80. Giacomo, the Kentucky Derby winner, just walked the shedrow under tack Friday morning, avoiding the wet weather outside. Afleet Alex jogged.

NOTE: The last time there was a field of 14 in the Preakness was in 1992, when Pine Bluff won from Post 4 over a track rated "good." Five of the first six finishers, including the winner, came out of the Kentucky Derby. Alydeed, who finished second starting from Post 12, also made his previous start at Churchill Downs, but in the Derby Trial, not the Derby. Dance Floor, who had Post 14, finished fourth. Speakerphone, who had Post 13, was last.

GIACOMO ­ The Kentucky Derby winner has been rated as fourth in the morning line for Saturday's Preakness Stakes, but trainer John Shirreffs doesn't see any lack of respect for the gray colt who pulled off a 50-1 upset at Churchill Downs.

"I think a lot of people like Giacomo. I think he is getting respect," said Shirreffs, noting that issue has primarily concerned the media. "I think the people who have actually seen the horse and watched the race and saw what he had to overcome ­ weaving through traffic, getting to the outside and finishing well ­ really appreciate Giacomo's effort in the Kentucky Derby."

Although there will be a change of venue for the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, Shirreffs isn't so sure that conditions will be much different at Pimlico Race Course as they were at Churchill Downs two weeks ago.

"I think it'll set up pretty much like the Kentucky Derby, because a lot of the Kentucky Derby runners are in there. There's still a lot of horses with speed. How they choose to use it, I don't know," said Shirreffs, whose late-running colt would benefit from the lively early pace. "But in this type of race, I think somebody will want to make a little bit of a pace."

While each track has its own characteristics, Shirreffs is encouraged by the similarities between Pimlico and Churchill.

"I think Pimlico is very similar to Churchill Downs from what I can see. The wire is at the end of the stretch, similar to Churchill Downs. It might not be quite as long, but it's pretty long," he said. "The surface is similar, being a sandy track"

Jerry and Ann Moss' Giacomo, who prepped for the Triple Crown on the speed-favoring California tracks, may be more suited to the racetracks in the east, Shirreffs said.

"That's what we thought, because he's not a real fast horse. He has a nice way of going," he said. "He has tactical speed if you want to use it, but he's not a blazing fast horse."

Giacomo, whose daily exercise was restricted to walking under tack around the shedrow Friday morning due to the windy, rainy conditions, will break from Post 13 under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith.

"I'd like to see the horses spread out a little bit like they were in the Kentucky Derby," said Shirreffs, knowing that a spread-out field would make it easy for Giacomo to come from off the pace.

From his vantage point under the shedrow of the Preakness Stakes barn, Shirreffs has been impressed by the physical appearance of Giacomo's rivals.

"They're still developing and they're growing. From what I've seen of everybody walking around the barn, I don't see anybody who's tailed off too much. They all look good, and so does Giacomo,'' said Shirreffs.

AFLEET ALEX ­ While many highly regarded Preakness contenders only walked under their shedrows Friday morning due to the windy and rainy weather at Pimlico, Afleet Alex was sent to the racetrack as planned.

"We walked early and went out and jogged around the racetrack," trainer Tim Ritchey said. "They're athletes. My feeling is they have to go out and do something, not just sit in the stall all day. He went out and trained this morning, nothing rigorous, just an easy jog. That was the plan all along, whether it would have been sunshine or rain."

Afleet Alex will break from Post 12 Saturday, but Ritchey is hopeful that the abundance of speed in the 14-horse field will help jockey Jeremy Rose get good position before the first turn.

"There are probably about six horses that should show some sort of speed. Hopefully, we'll break sharp enough that the speed will clear and we can drop over and be only two or three off the rail going into the first turn, probably laying seventh, eighth, ninth, even," Ritchey said. "If he's within nine or 10 lengths down the backstretch and starts to pick up horses and is in contention at the three-eighths pole and within a length or two at the quarter-pole, I'll be happy."

Afleet Alex, who finished a solid third for Cash is King LLC in the Kentucky Derby, may find the pace scenario more to his liking in the Preakness, Ritchey said.

"The way the race sets up, it sets up for a deep closer. Hopefully, it won't set up that way for a deep closer in the Preakness. It usually doesn't, but who knows," Ritchey said. "I'm hoping the pace is a little slower and the stalking style is what you need to have, which is normally true in the Preakness. If that's the way it plays out, I think we have a very good chance."

Although Ritchey expects that Giacomo may not get the same pace scenario that proved so beneficial in the Derby, the Delaware-based trainer hardly takes trainer John Shirreff's colt lightly.

"He's the Derby winner ­ you have to have respect for him," Ritchey said. "If we were the Derby winner, I would hope somebody would have respect for us."

CLOSING ARGUMENT ­ The Kentucky Derby runner-up jogged twice around the sloppy oval Friday morning.

"Just a little light exercise," trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. "We let him lope along for a while. But mostly he just jogged. There was a lot of standing water on the track."

McLaughlin is still pleased with the way the son of Successful Appeal  is coming up to the race.

"Everything is good with him," the trainer said. "He ran a winning race in the Derby, except he didn't win, but he came out of it fine. If he runs the same kind of race, and Cornelio (jockey Cornelio Velasquez) can work out a good trip, he'll be fine Saturday."

Closing Argument, owned by Philip and Marcia Cohen, has never been worse than third in eight career starts. The $100,000 sales purchase has earned $986,984 with a 3-3-2 record in 8 starts.

"This horse always tries hard," McLaughlin said. "He always gives 100 percent."

GALLOPING GROCER ­ The New York-bred began his commute from Belmont Park to Baltimore at 10:15 Friday morning.

Trainer Dominick Schettino said the A.P. Jet gelding was expected to arrive at Pimlico around 3 p.m.

Before leaving New York, Galloping Grocer galloped a mile and a quarter.

This will be the first Triple Crown appearance for Schettino. Galloping Grocer won his first three starts last year against New York-bred company, and then ran a strong second to Rockport Harbor in the Remsen on Nov. 27.

This year, he is winless in four starts, but is coming to the Preakness after running third, beaten a half-length, in the one-mile Times Square at Aqueduct on April 24.

"The Preakness is a very competitive race, a tough race, but he's doing very good," Schettino said. "He looks good, his coat is good, his temperature is good, he's training good. We've gone over everything."

Schettino said he will arrive in Baltimore Friday night.

Joe Bravo is scheduled to ride Galloping Grocer, who is owned by Robert Rosenthal and Bernice Waldbaum.

GOING WILD ­ The colt did not have his morning affected by the rain or the wind that produced raw conditions for mid-May. While other Preakness horses walked the shedrow, the D. Wayne Lukas-trainee went to the track for a gallop.

"We did what we always do," Lukas said. "We feel that if we don't go ahead and give them a little exercise that they sometimes get a little sharp. We want them to get into a routine. They're creatures of habit and they do better if you keep the routine constant."

Lukas said the colt owned by Bob and Beverly Lewis did not have any problem with the footing.

"The track condition was surprisingly good," he said. "I think this track handles moisture very well, but I was a little bit surprised. I think they had it very smooth. If we had to run over it today it wouldn't be too bad."

Since 50-1 long shot Giacomo won the Kentucky Derby on May 7, Lukas has said that the Preakness will be a difficult test for handicappers. He stayed with that theme Friday morning.

"Well, you've got 10 of the Derby horses here, so you've got a little bit of a line on them," Lukas said. "Granted, we didn't find out much in the Derby of the ability of various horses, but we've got 10 of them coming back in two weeks, so some form and some semblance of sanity should show up. It may not, but we think it might.

"I think that you're going to find that there is going to be a reversal of form in many of those horses that ran in the Derby because of some the things we pointed out, a 20-horse field, a shorter race, little bit tighter turns, a little bit different configuration of the racetrack. But we do have 10 of those. The four unknowns that we're going to throw into the mix and make up the 14-horse field are going to be a little bit tough to handicap.

"Having said all that, I think it's still going to be an impossible race to pick."

Going Wild drew the outside post position, No. 14, and will be ridden for the first time by Robby Albarado.

GREELEY'S GALAXY ­ The Mr.Greeley colt turned in the final work for the Preakness Friday morning and it was a scorcher -- three furlongs in :34.80, handily, the best of 12 works at the distance.

Assistant trainer Glen Stute grinned as he described the work turned in under exercise rider Jon Lloyd over the sloppy track

"It was very fast," Stute said. "I told the boy to go in :36."

But Stute, who is handling the colt until his father, Warren, arrives Friday evening, wasn't complaining.

"The time wasn't as important as how he came out of it," Glen Stute said. "He went that fast, came back and wasn't blowing a puff. And he's feeling his oats, boy. He's jumping all over the place. He really thinks he's something.

"I'm very happy with the work. The boy just had a tight hold on him, never asked him, not even a cluck."

Greeley's Galaxy, owned by B. Wayne Hughes, has shown a fondness for wet tracks. The son of Mr. Greeley broke his maiden in the slop at Santa Anita on Feb. 19 and turned in a bullet five-furlong work in sloppy conditions at Churchill Downs on May 14.

Stute said Greeley's Galaxy breezed the morning before the race because it was his scheduled day to train. The distances are adjusted, he said, by the proximity of the work to the race. It is an old-school technique used by the 83-year-old Warren Stute.

"It's worked for how long my dad's been a trainer, what, 60 some-odd years?" Glen Stute said. "When it works, you don't fix it."

HAL'S IMAGE ­ The Rose Family's homebred colt just walked under the shedrow Friday morning, oblivious to the wretched weather.

"I didn't want to take a chance and take him out into the cold and wet," said trainer Barry Rose. "He's got his short Florida coat, and he might get cold out there. His temperature was perfect this morning, and I want to keep it that way."

Hal's Image, a son of Halo's Image who was bred by the late Harold Rose, father of the trainer, shipped by van from Florida last Tuesday. He's still acclimating to the cooler temperatures in Baltimore.

The threat of an off track for the Preakness didn't bother the trainer.

"I don't think a wet track would hurt him," Rose said. "He's run okay in the slop before."

Hal's Image, who will have Jose Santos aboard Saturday, has two third-place finishes in two tries over a sloppy track at Calder.

HIGH FLY/NOBLE CAUSEWAY/SUN KING ­ As disappointed as trainer Nick Zito felt after his five Kentucky Derby starters finished off the board, the Brooklyn native isn't about to shy away from another challenge. Zito will saddle three horses for Saturday's Preakness Stakes, knowing that winning Triple Crown races never comes easy.

"Sometimes enduring is winning," said Zito, who saddled Louis Quatorze for a 1996 Preakness victory after a 16th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.

Zito has enough confidence in the training methods that have produced two Kentucky Derby victories, as well as one success in both the Preakness and Belmont, that he felt comfortable to keep High Fly, Noble Causeway and Sun King under the shedrow of the Preakness Stakes barn Friday morning due to the rainy conditions.

"(The track) gets uneven ­ this track's not too bad; it holds the water good ­ so why take a chance?" said Zito, whose horses jogged under tack. "These horses worked on Monday. They've had a lot of training. I'm not worried about it."

Jockey Jerry Bailey, who will ride High Fly in the Preakness, expects he may have an edge in physical preparedness for the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.

"I think one of the biggest positives for him here is his third race in seven weeks, where for a lot of horses, it's their third in six or five (weeks)," said Bailey, who has won the Preakness with Red Bullet (2001) and Hansel (1991). "A two-week turnaround for him, I think, is a better than a two-week turnaround for some of the others."

HIGH LIMIT ­ High Limit jogged once around the racetrack under assistant trainer Jose Cuervas Friday morning in preparation for Saturday's Preakness.

The Bobby Frankel-trained colt, who finished last of 20 in the Kentucky Derby, would achieve the most dramatic turnaround in Triple Crown history with a victory in the Preakness. Louis Quatorze, who won in 1996 after finishing 16th in the Derby, currently holds that record of reversal.

High Limit, who will be ridden by Edgar Prado for the first time, will be equipped with blinkers also for the first time.

MALIBU MOONSHINE ­ The local hero had a typical morning at Laurel Park, galloping a mile and a half.

"That's his normal thing," said trainer King Leatherbury, who is making his first Preakness appearance in 20 years.

Leatherbury said everything is fine with the Malibu Moon  colt owned by Woodrow Marriott.

Malibu Moonshine is scheduled to be shipped to Pimlico Saturday morning and will be the last Preakness starter to reach the grounds.

"Because of the lateness of the race, we're not going to leave Laurel until around noon," Leatherbury said. "We want to get him here in time to get treated and then he can get as much rest as possible in his own stall."

That opportunity for a siesta will take place in the receiving barn, not the stakes barn.

"We don't want him to get a complex over there with the super horses," Leatherbury said with a chuckle.

SCRAPPY T ­ The Triple Crown newcomer made a tour of the Pimlico main track Friday, jogging a mile.

"Everything went great," said trainer W. Robert Bailes. "We wished the rain could have stopped for us but he came back fine."

Bailes said he does not care whether there is any extra moisture in the track when the Preakness is run at 6:15 p.m. Saturday.

"I don't think it's going to make any difference to us," he said. "He's run on pretty much every kind of surface that you can run on and he's handled it all. What I root for is a fast track for everybody."

Ramon Dominguez picks up the mount on the Fit to Fight gelding owned by Marshall Dowell. Bailes said he expects the speed horses to emerge quickly to dictate the pace and will give Dominguez the license to react to the scenario that develops.

"I think you have two horses in High Limit and Going Wild who are going to be gone leaving there," Bailes said. "I'm still leaving the ride up to Ramon as to where we should be at."

Bailes, 40, has spent several years training in the Mid-Atlantic region, but Scrappy T is his first Preakness runner. He said he expects to feel nervous before Maryland's biggest race.

"Probably when they go into the gate my pulse will start jumping a little bit," he said.

WILKO­ The diminutive (about 15 hands) colt who will be making his 16th career start in the Preakness, just jogged once around the Pimlico oval through the rain Friday morning.

"He's coming along fine," said trainer Craig Dollase. "He came out of the Derby in good shape, and he's been looking good since."

Wilko, owned by J. Paul Reddam and Susan Roy, has not won since he beat Afleet Alex in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) last October. Last out, he had a wide trip from Post 14 throughout the Kentucky Derby and finished sixth, but less than seven lengths behind Giacomo.

Corey Nakatani has the mount again as Wilko breaks from Post 7.