Thursday Preakness Notes: Giacomo Gets First Look at Track; Alex Jogs, Gallops

BALTIMORE, Md - Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo, who drew Post 13 for the Preakness, got his first look at the Pimlico course in an easy gallop Thursday, the morning after he shipped in from Churchill Downs. Afleet Alex, the 5-2 morning line favorite who will go from Post 12, jogged and galloped Thursday morning.

NOTE: Post position 12 has produced two winners (Kalitan in 1917 and Pleasant Colony in 1981) and three seconds in 21 runnings with at least a dozen starters. There have been five starters from Post 13, with the best finish a 7th by the 48-1 Escambia Bay in 1981. The shortest mutuel price of the five was 17-1 on Speakerphone, who finished 14th in 1992. In the modern era (since 1909), there have been only two Preakness starters from Post 14. In 1992, Dance Floor finished 4th at odds of 9-1, and in 1970, Robin's Bug ran 11th at 58-1.

GIACOMO ­ The Kentucky Derby winner made a positive impression on his trainer Thursday morning during his first trip to the track at Pimlico Race Course since arriving from Churchill Downs on Wednesday.

"He was comfortable on the racetrack. He wasn't looking at all the tents in the infield. When he jogged on the backside and got into his gallop, he got into a nice easy, long gallop, a nice stride. He wasn't going short. He looked like his normal self, pretty comfortable out there," said trainer John Shirreffs, whose colt scored a 50-1 upset in the Derby.

Shirreff's hopes for Giacomo to repeat in Saturday's Preakness Stakes were further boosted by exercise rider Frankie Herrarte's evaluation of the Derby winner's mile and a half gallop.

"Frankie said he likes the surface a lot. That was one of the comments he made when he first went to Churchill Downs ­ that he liked the track. I think that's very encouraging," Shirreffs said.

The every move of Jerry and Ann Moss' 3-year-old was closely followed by fans and media.

"I was proud of Giacomo this morning," Shirreffs said. "He'd never been on this racetrack and he walked all the way down (the frontstretch). There were some fans on the rail clapping and wishing him well. I was really proud of the horse."

Shirreffs, as well as those in attendance at Pimlico Thursday morning, liked what they saw in Giacomo.

"I like that he came out of the Kentucky Derby in very good shape. His coat's still good. He's carrying good flesh," he said. "He looks good on the track. He's not nervous. It's the way he's been in the past. Nothing's changed that way."

Shirreffs, whose colt may be at a disadvantage breaking from Post 13 in Saturday's 14-horse field, didn't take issue with the Preakness morning line, in which third-place finisher Afleet Alex is rated as the 5-2 favorite and Giacomo is pegged as the fourth choice at 6-1.

"I think those are good odds. Afleet Alex is a really nice horse, a great horse. He's got a tremendous record in Grade 1s and stakes," said Shirreffs, who expressed confidence that jockey Mike Smith's experience would help his colt overcome the outside post. "I totally agree with them."

AFLEET ALEX ­ Tim Ritchey is not the type of trainer to look beyond Saturday's Preakness Stakes, but Afleet Alex's trainer has already made plans for next Monday and Tuesday. Ritchey, who purchased Afleet Alex at the Timonium sales for $75,000 a year ago, will definitely return to the auction for 2-year-olds in training.

"We're trying to look for another, but I don't know if lightning will strike twice in the same place," Ritchey said. "But we're going there to look."

When Ritchey placed the winning bid on behalf of Cash is King LLC, he never imagined the son of Northern Afleet  would be the 5-2 morning-line favorite for the Preakness Stakes.

"I thought we were getting a nice, athletic 2-year-old. He looked like he could go on to be a very nice racehorse, but we certainly didn't have any hopes of looking there and finding a Derby horse," Ritchey said. "If it were that easy, everybody would be doing it."

It wasn't long after he purchased Afleet Alex that he discovered the Florida-bred colt might be a horse of a lifetime.

"He is a horse like I've never had before, because he's done things as a 2-year-old and 3-year-old that I've never seen a horse do," said Ritchey, whose colt won the Grade 1 Hopeful and finished second in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) last year. "As a 2-year-old, he outworked a lot of older stakes horses I had. He is a special horse."

Ritchey has resigned himself to Afleet Alex's No. 12 post but feels good about his colt's ability to overcome it.

"Every time he runs, he tries as hard as he possibly can," he said. "That's all you can ask of any athlete in any sport ­ try as best you can and if you win, you win."

Ritchey was looking for "controlled exercise" when he sent Afleet Alex to the track with a pony to jog a mile and a half and gallop a mile and a half.

"That way he's not going to go faster than we wanted him to. It's like a little bit of a taper down in order to get a bigger performance on Saturday."

Afleet Alex, who'll be ridden by Jeremy Rose, will be the second Preakness starter for Ritchey, who saddled Marciano for a seventh-place finish in 2001.

CLOSING ARGUMENT ­ The Kentucky Derby second was out for a gallop around the Pimlico oval Thursday morning under the watchful eye of trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.

The Successful Appeal  colt, who will leave from Post 7 Saturday, looks like he came out of the Derby in top shape, and McLaughlin is confident he'll run big again in the Preakness.

He's doing very well," the trainer said. "He's held his flesh, and he's eating up every day."

Closing Argument, owned by Philip and Marcia Cohen, drove to the lead in deep stretch in the Derby as a 71-1 chance. He was passed by Afleet Alex on the inside, and actually rebroke when he saw Giacomo coming by on the outside, getting second money, just a half-length behind Giacomo.

"He ran a winning race in the Derby," McLaughlin said. "If he runs that same race back, it's good enough to win the Preakness."

McLaughlin had first selection at the post position draw and seemed a little taken aback at leading off.

"I went over my strategy the night before, figuring where the speed would be, and where I would want to be. I thought I'd get to pick after five or six others. Then they called us first, and I just picked a spot in the middle."

It will be up to jockey Cornelio Velasquez to work out a good trip from the 7 hole.

McLaughlin was in the Pimlico stands Thursday watching Closing Argument's exercise. As the colt was finishing up his gallop, Giacomo came onto the track, and the two horses passed going in opposite directions.

"Let's go," McLaughlin said to his team. "I've seen enough of Giacomo."

GALLOPING GROCER ­ Robert Rosenthal and Bernice Waldbaum's gelding galloped a mile and a half Thursday morning at Belmont Park

Trainer Dominick Schettino said that the New York-bred will gallop a mile and a quarter Friday morning and leave by van for Pimlico between 10 and 10:30 a.m.

Galloping Grocer, to be ridden by jockey Joe Bravo, will be making his first start since finishing third in the Times Square for New York-breds on April 24.

"He looks good. He's acting right," Schettino said.

Schettino said he was satisfied with drawing Post 8 for the Preakness. It was his fourth on his preference list behind seven, six and five.

"There is some speed on the inside and some speed on the outside," Schettino said. "We'll leave it up to Bravo. We'll see how how things are after the break."

GOING WILD ­ Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas sent Going Wild out to the track Thursday morning for a mile and five-eighths gallop.

Going Wild, owned by Bob and Beverly Lewis, will be ridden for the first time Saturday by jockey Robby Albarado. He is 30-1 on the morning line breaking from the extreme outside in the Preakness field.

Lukas was not happy that Going Wild, a speedy son of Golden Missile, landed in the outside post.

"It killed us when they drew us the 14-hole Wednesday night," Lukas said. "That's probably the worst thing that has happened to me all week. I like my horse and everything, but I don't like that situation. It took all my options away of what I'd like to do with this horse. That was not a good deal. I think I've got very few options."

Going Wild has had success in his career running on the lead, but after the colt finished 18th after pressing the pace in the Derby, Lukas said he was hoping to change tactics in the Preakness. Drawing the outside will make it difficult to execute that plan.

"He gets into his races, but with that much daylight, and going into that turn and everything it's probably going to be hard to relax him a little bit," Lukas said. "That will have to be what we're going to do in order to be successful. If we don't do that we're not going to be successful."

GREELEY'S GALAXY ­ The colt, supplemented to the Triple Crown for $200,000 by owner B. Wayne Hughes following the victory in the Illinois Derby, went to the track at Pimlico shortly after 7 a.m. Thursday morning. He visited the gate and galloped once around the one-mile oval. Greeley's Galaxy finished 11th in the Kentucky Derby.

Glen Stute, who is handling the horse until his father, trainer Warren Stute, arrives from California Friday evening, said Greeley's Galaxy will breeze three furlongs Friday morning. Glen, 43, is his father's assistant and also trains a few horses in his own name.

This the first Preakness for Warren and Glen Stute, but Glen pointed out the family's link to the race.

"I'm trying to follow the footsteps of my uncle, Mel Stute. I think he ran 11th with Snow Chief in the Derby and then came here and won the Preakness."

Greeley's Galaxy goes from Post 4 Saturday with David Flores aboard for the first time.

HAL'S IMAGE ­ The Halo's Image colt, who races in the colors of the Rose Family Stable, galloped a mile and a half around the Pimlico oval Thursday morning, his first outing since arriving by van from Florida in the wee hours of Wednesday morning.

"We let him jog around first," said trainer Harold Rose. "He got to do a little sightseeing, and then he stopped to pose for pictures. He's doing fine."

The Preakness is a true family affair for the colt's connections. He was one of the last horses bred by owner-trainer Harold Rose, who passed away in September of 2003 at the age of 92. Barry Rose is the son of the late trainer, who took over the family's racing operations.

Hal's Image is out of the mare Mia's Hope, also bred by Harold Rose, and thus a half-brother to Hal's Hope (named for Mr. Rose), who upset the Florida Derby in 2000.

"We've left the mare in dad's name," Barry Rose said, "so he's listed as the breeder of her foals."

The Rose Family has a 2-year-old full sister to Hal's Image, named Mia's Reflection, who will make it to the races in the near future.

Barry Rose, who chose second at the draw, picked Post 6 for Hal's Image. That post has produced 15 Preakness winners.

Jose Santos, who won the 2003 Preakness aboard Funny Cide, will have the mount for the first time Saturday.

HIGH FLY/NOBLE CAUSEWAY/SUN KING ­ Trainer Nick Zito's three Preakness hopefuls visited the Pimlico racetrack Thursday morning for the first time, one by one.

In succession, Live Oak Plantation's High Fly, Tracy Farmer's Sun King and My Meadowview Farm's Noble Causeway all galloped a little bit more than a mile and a quarter.

"They all had a good day," said Zito, whose horses arrived from Churchill Downs late Wednesday afternoon. "They all looked comfortable, happy. They did everything right. They did a good job. It looked like they all shipped well."

Although his three Preakness starters finished off the board in the Kentucky Derby, as did stablemates Bellamy Road and Andromeda's Hero, Zito said he didn't view the Preakness as a way of seeking redemption.

"Redemption's a very strong word. We'd like to turn it around, that's obvious. I'd like these horses to run much, much better. That would be a plus for me," Zito said.

The two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer registered his only Preakness success in 1996, when Louis Quatorze rebounded from a 16th place finish at Churchill Downs to win the middle jewel of the Triple Crown by more than three lengths.

"Louis Quatorze, we thought he'd run much better in the Kentucky Derby. He was a quality horse who ran his race every time, but we couldn't find him in the Derby. He had an incredible Preakness. It was unique," said the Brooklyn, N.Y., native. "Everyone mentions Louis Quatorze because he did it. He was the last horse to run that bad and come back with such a tremendous race."

Zito's horses all drew inside the likely favorites at Wednesday's post position drawing. High Fly will break from the No. 2 post under Jerry Bailey, directly inside Noble Causeway and jockey Gary Stevens. Sun King will break from the No. 10 post under Rafael Bejarano.

HIGH LIMIT ­ The last-place Kentucky Derby finisher galloped a mile and a quarter under assistant trainer Jose Cuevas Thursday morning after arriving from Churchill Downs on Wednesday.

Trainer Bobby Frankel is looking for improvement from High Limit, who will race with blinkers for the first time and will be ridden by Edgar Prado for the first time. High Limit will break from the No. 11 post, directly inside morning-line favorite Afleet Alex.

MALIBU MOONSHINE ­ Had a routine morning Thursday, galloping a mile and a half at Laurel Park.

Trainer King Leatherbury said the colt owned by Woodrow Marriott will do the same thing Friday. Malibu Moonshine will ship to Pimlico Saturday morning.

Leatherbury selected the rail for Malibu Moonshine at the post position draw Wednesday evening because he said he was concerned about saving ground. At the Alibi Breakfast Thursday morning, Leatherbury, 72, noted that two of the highest-profile horses, morning-line favorite Afleet Alex and Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo, both landed far from the rail.

"The favorite is going to be a little bit handicapped by the outside post," Leatherbury said. "Of course, the Derby winner is even more so. They have to overcome that and I don't. The worst thing about me is I could be trapped down on the inside. On the other hand, I'm not going to lose any ground. Not on the first turn anyway. The second turn is a different story."

Steve Hamilton is the regular rider for the colt.

SCRAPPY T ­ The winner of the Withers in his last start, walked the shedrow Thursday morning, a day after breezing three furlongs in :37.60.

"I usually give him a day off after a workout. A planned day off," said trainer W. Robert Bailes.

Bailes said he liked the way the gelding looked the day after the workout.

Scrappy T, a son of Fit to Fight owned by Marshall E. Dowell, spent part of the morning in a stall having a new set of shoes put on by a farrier.

"He's getting better and better, as far as his numbers go," Bailes said. "His Beyer numbers seem like they match up with these horses in here. I just feel that he's really doing good and hopefully he'll put forth a good effort come Saturday."

Bailes is a third-generation horseman with his first Preakness starter. His grandfather, Bob, trained on the Virginia farm of the Chenery family's Meadow Stable, which bred and raced the legendary Secretariat. Bailes' father, Meredith, was trainer for many years in Maryland. Meredith "Mert" Bailes had one Preakness starter, J.R.'s Horizon, who finished last in the field of nine in 1990 at odds of 74-1.

Bailes said having longshots finish in the first two spots in the Kentucky Derby isn't an indictment of this year's crop of Triple Crown runners.

"I just believe we have a bunch of really nice 3-year-olds this year," Bailes said. "The outstanding 3-year-old hasn't stood out yet. One that ran in the Derby might be one of them. I just think you have a lot of horses that are all on that same level right now. I just don't think the horses that finished 1-2-3 are getting the credit they deserve. They ran nice races."

Bailes did not single out a horse he fears in the Preakness.

"You have to worry about all of them, but I feel like my horse is at the top of his game and that's all I'm concerned with right now," he said.

Scrappy T, who leaves from Post 5, will have a new rider in Ramon Dominguez for the Preakness.

WILKO ­ The Awesome Again  colt got his first look at the Pimlico course Thursday morning, taking in the sights while leisurely jogging a mile and a half.

Wilko arrived from Kentucky Wednesday afternoon. On Tuesday, he breezed a half-mile in :50.60 at Churchill Downs.

"This is the first time he's been out since the work Tuesday," said trainer Craig Dollase. "He looks like he's coming into this race really well."

Wilko, owned by J. Paul Reddam and Susan Roy, will be making his 16th career start in the Preakness. The colt raced in England at 2, making 10 starts there before coming to the U.S. to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last October. Since then, his two best efforts were thirds in the Hollywood Futurity and Santa Anita Derby.

In the Derby last out, he finished sixth from Post 14, less than seven lengths behind Giacomo, after a very wide trip the entire way.

He's drawn Post 9 for the Preakness, which should help his cause.

"He came out of the Derby in good shape," Dollase said. "He's healthy, he's competitive, and we're here to win."

Corey Nakatani, who rode in the Derby, has the mount again Saturday.