Preakness Notes, Monday, May 16

Complete daily report on contenders for Saturday's Preakness Stakes (gr. I) at Pimlico Racecourse.

Edited from Maryland Jockey Club reports
GIACOMO – The Kentucky Derby (gr. I) champion is being given the rock star treatment at Churchill Downs.

"A lot of people are watching his every move--the backsiders and the news crews. He doesn't take a step without someone watching. Hopefully, they're all good steps," said trainer John Shirreffs from Churchill Downs Monday morning. "He doesn't care. He's fine with it."

Jerry and Ann Moss' Giacomo galloped two miles under exercise rider Frankie Herrarte Monday.

"The horse is looking good. His color's good," Shirreffs said. "He looks like he came out of the Derby pretty good."

Shirreffs said he might work the gray son of Holy Bull a half mile Tuesday morning. Giacomo is slated to arrive at Pimlico on Wednesday afternoon.

When the Derby winner goes to post Saturday, he will represent his trainer's first starter at Pimlico. Trainer Jack Van Berg, who saddled Alysheba for a Preakness victory in 1987, told Shirreffs that experience over the Pimlico racing surface is a key to success.

"My thinking was that he had just run a mile and a quarter and he needed to recover from the race. So I thought it was best to leave him at Churchill instead of uprooting him from his familiar surroundings," said Shirreffs, explaining why he went against the advice of Van Berg. "I thought it might be too stressful on him."

AFLEET ALEX – The third-place Kentucky Derby finisher once again had double duty Monday morning in preparation for Saturday's Preakness Stakes. Afleet Alex went to the racetrack for a two-mile jog at 6 a.m. and returned at 8:30 a.m.for a one-mile jog and a two-mile gallop to the complete satisfaction of trainer Tim Ritchey.

"If you observed him, he had his ears up and looked like he was enjoying himself the whole three miles of the second routine," said Ritchey, who trains the son of Northern Afleet  for Cash Is King. "I think he's a very happy horse; I think he's fit; and we just need to have a little more luck than we had in the Derby."

Ritchey, whose Preakness contender finished the gallop with good energy, also expressed his pleasure with the racing surface at Pimlico.

"It's the best I've ever seen it. I don't know what they've done to it, but it has more life to it, more bounce. It's a good safe racetrack," said Ritchey, whose horse was still the only contender for the middle jewel of the Triple Crown in the Preakness stakes barn.

Afleet Alex, who demonstrated a high level of athleticism during the running of the Kentucky Derby under jockey Jeremy Rose, has everything that his trainer looks for in a racehorse.

"He's not a big, bulky horse. He's a very athletic horse; he's got a great way of traveling. I think he has the ideal size and shape of a racehorse myself. He covers the ground in a very easy fashion," Ritchey said. "Every time you ask him, he's right there on the bit. A lot of that comes from the way we've trained him and schooled him to relax. He's a fit horse. A lot of horses you can't make two or three moves with to spurt through holes. It takes too much out of them."

Although Afleet Alex was the only highly regarded Derby contender to run well at Churchill Downs, Ritchey knows that horses have a history of rebounding in the Preakness.

"Every once in a while in a horse's career–like my horse in the Rebel–there are certain races you just have to kind of throw out. If you analyze a race, don't be afraid to throw out a particular race," he said. "A lot of the horses that faltered in the Derby will probably come back and run big races in the Preakness."

Ritchey said Afleet Alex would probably go to the track only once each morning leading up to the Preakness.

CLOSING ARGUMENT – The Successful Appeal colt, who came within a half-length of Kentucky Derby glory, had trainer Kiaran McLaughlin smiling Monday morning after he breezed a half-mile in :49 over the main track at Belmont Park.

"He went faster than I thought he would go," McLaughlin said. "Usually he won't work fast on his own, and I thought he'd go in :51 or :52 this morning. But he worked great and came out of it great. We're ready to go."

Closing Argument, a $100,000 purchase at an Ocala sale last year, has earned $986,984 for owners Philip and Marcia Cohen, and has never been worse than third in eight career starts.

"He's been just amazing," McLaughlin said. "He ran a huge race in the Derby, and since then he hasn't missed an oat. He's just a trier, and he always gives 100%."

The colt will be vanned down from New York on Wednesday morning, and will gallop up to the Preakness. Cornelio Velasquez will be aboard again Saturday.

GALLOPING GROCER – The New York-bred by A P Jet galloped at Belmont Park today, and trainer Dominick Schettino said he was happy with the way the colt is coming up to the race.

"He had a good, strong gallop today," Schettino said, "and looks like he's ready."

Galloping Grocer, owned by Robert Rosenthal and Bernice Waldbaum, had his final Preakness breeze last Friday, when he zipped five furlongs in :59.46. Joe Bravo, who rides him for the first time in the Preakness, was aboard in the drill.

"Joe said he was impressed by the way this horse went," Schettino said.

Galloping Grocer finished a close-up third in a New York-bred stakes event last out. Before that, he ran fourth behind a romping Bellamy Road in the Wood Memorial (gr. I).

"We tried to rate him that day," Schettino said. "Big mistake. He likes to be close up, not taken back. That's his style and we're not going to change it again."

Galloping Grocer is scheduled to van down from Belmont Park on Friday morning.

GOING WILD – The son of Golden Missile had his final Preakness tune-up at Churchill Downs Monday morning, drilling five furlongs in 1:01.40 for trainer D. Wayne Lukas. The work ranked 11th of 20 times at the distance.

"I thought we had a good morning," Lukas said. "We didn't try to do a lot. Like everybody, you're coming off a mile and a quarter and you don't have to do very much.

"But he had good energy, I thought, and was pretty focused."

Going Wild finished 18th in the Kentucky Derby last out.

Robert and Beverly Lewis, who own this dark bay or brown son of Golden Missile, have won the Preakness with Silver Charm (1997) and Charismatic (1999). Both horses also won the Derby–but tasted defeat in the Belmont with Triple Crown glory on the line.

Lukas has not yet named a rider for Going Wild, who will arrive at Pimlico Wednesday morning on the first flight from Churchill Downs.

GOLDEN MAN – Trainer Rick Dutrow appears to be on the outside looking in for the Preakness. Should Nick Zito enter all three of his horses--High Fly, Noble Causeway and Sun King--Golden Man will fall to 15th on the eligibility list. Only 14 horses may run in the Preakness Stakes.

Even if Golden Man made his way into the race through a last-minute defection, Dutrow would have to choose another rider. Rafael Bejarano has a prior commitment to ride Sun King.

GREELEY'S GALAXY – The Mr. Greeley colt, whose owner B. Wayne Hughes shelled out $200,000 to supplement him to the Triple Crown events, had a gallop around the Churchill Downs oval Monday morning.

"He's doing just fine," said trainer Warren Stute. "He'll gallop again tomorrow, and then ship to Pimlico on Wednesday."

The lightly raced Greeley's Galaxy, who won the Illinois Derby (gr. II) by nearly 10 lengths, finished 11th in the Kentucky Derby after getting off to a slow start.

He's scheduled to arrive Wednesday morning aboard the first flight of horses from Churchill Downs. Glen Stute, son of the 83-year-old trainer, will be at Pimlico when the colt arrives. Warren is slated to get in Friday from California.

David Flores picks up the mount for the first time in the Preakness.

HAL'S IMAGE – The Halo's Image colt, stabled at Calder with the rest of the Rose Family horses, will hit the road to Baltimore Tuesday morning, and is expected to arrive at the stakes barn before daylight on Wednesday.

"He had an easy gallop this morning," trainer Barry Rose said Monday morning, "and he looks like he's feeling good. Except some photographers came to take pictures of him after his gallop, and by then he just wanted to eat, not pose, so he was a little rambunctious."

Hal's Image, bred by the late Harold Rose, is a half-brother to Hal's Hope, who ran eighth in the 2000 Preakness. The colt won the Unbridled Stakes at Calder last out, and early in April shipped to Aqueduct to run second in an allowance.

"We flew him to New York and then vanned him back to Florida, and he handled the trip just fine," Rose said. "He'll get on the van at 7 a.m. Tuesday, and they're scheduled to get to Pimlico at 3 a.m. Wednesday."

Jose Santos, who rode Hal's Image in New York, will have the mount for the Preakness.

HIGH FLY/NOBLE CAUSEWAY/SUN KING – Although High Fly will have to wait until Tuesday morning to earn his way into the Preakness field during a scheduled half-mile workout at Churchill Downs, stablemates Noble Causeway and Sun King punched their tickets to Pimlico Race Course after pleasing trainer Nick Zito with their respective five-furlong workouts Monday morning.

"I'm very happy with both of them, so they're a go," said Zito from Churchill Downs.

Noble Causeway (14th in the Kentucky Derby) was clocked in 1:02.20 under exercise rider Maxine Correa.

"I told Maxine to come home quick and he went very nice. He went the last eighth in 11 (seconds) and change. He galloped out good. It was just right," Zito said.

Sun King (15th in the Kentucky Derby) was clocked in 1:01.20 with Correa aboard.

"I worked Sun King in company with another horse (Indy Storm), because sometimes psychologically it makes a difference. He went in 1:01 and change and he came home in 11 and change," Zito reported.

Gary Stevens will retain the mount on Noble Causeway, while Rafael Bejarano will pick up the riding assignment on Sun King. Jerry Bailey will ride High Fly, should the 10th-place Derby finisher turn in a solid workout Tuesday morning.

Although extremely disappointed with the off-the-board finishes of his five Derby starters, Zito knows as well as anyone that a horse can rebound with a winning performance in the Preakness. Louis Quatorze gave Zito his first Preakness winner in 1996 after finishing 16th in the Kentucky Derby.

"It can happen," Zito said. "The Derby is the Derby. I saluted the winner. He brought his race. Now, it's another race."

Zito's Preakness contenders are scheduled to arrive at Pimlico on Wednesday afternoon.

HIGH LIMIT – After finishing last in the Kentucky Derby, High Limit will wear blinkers for the first time in Saturday's Preakness Stakes–an equipment change that has worked "a million times" for trainer Bobby Frankel.

"I just won with a horse at Churchill the other day after putting blinkers on him. He's a horse named First Word, who ran a big race to break his maiden. I ran him three times without them and he was always goofing off in a race," Frankel said. "You want another one? How about Ghostzapper? I put blinkers on him for his third start. He wasn't training good at all, so I put blinkers on him."

A focused Ghostzapper was named 2004 Horse of the Year after capping an undefeated racing season with a victory in the Breeders' Cup Classic–Powered by Doge (gr. I).

Gary and Mary West's High Limit, who walked at Churchill Downs Monday morning after working five furlongs in 1:00.20 Sunday, will be ridden for the first time by Edgar Prado.

"He's a great rider. He's smart and he knows that track well," said Frankel. High Limit is scheduled to ship to Baltimore Wednesday morning.

MALIBU MOONSHINE – Maryland's home-town horse continues to progress forwardly under the care of trainer King Leatherbury. The son of Malibu Moon  has won two of four starts at Pimlico, an optional claimer and the $100,000 Federico Tesio Stakes.

Leatherbury enters the race fully accepting that he's not the top dog.

"We need to run our race–but we need some of the heavy hitters to not run theirs," he said.

"Cowboy" Steve Hamilton will be in the saddle on Saturday. The 31-year-old native of Baton Rouge, La., will be gunning for victory with his first-ever Preakness mount.

SCRAPPY T – The Withers Stakes (Gr. III) winner was scheduled to board a van at Delaware Park around noon on Monday. Trainer Robbie Bailes noted the horse would arrive at Pimlico by 2 p.m.

Bailes bought the son of Fit to Fight at the April 2004 Ocala sale. The gelding was brought along conservatively.

"I don't rev my babies up that early in the year," the trainer said. "Scrappy T was a big, gangly thing when we bought him (for $35,000). His under-tack workout wasn't that fast (:22 1/5)."

Ramon Dominguez, who finished last aboard High Limit in the Kentucky Derby, has been named to ride.

WILKO – The Awesome Again  colt galloped a mile and a quarter at Churchill Downs Monday morning, and is scheduled for a more meaningful exercise Tuesday.

"We'll give him a little breeze tomorrow," trainer Craig Dollase said. "Probably three-eighths and out a half. Just a maintenance work."

Wilko, who finished sixth in the Kentucky Derby after a wide trip and traffic in the stretch, is scheduled to arrive at Pimlico on Wednesday morning, aboard the first flight of Preakness horses from Churchill Downs. Corey Nakatani, who was aboard in the Derby, has the call again.

Wilko was up against a jinx in the Derby. He won the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) last year, and no winner of that event has ever done well in the Kentucky Derby.