Everyone is awaiting tomorrow's arrival of Point Given, Congaree, Mr. John, and Dollar Bill from Kentucky. Then things will begin to pick up big-time.
It was one of those bits and pieces kind of day on the Preakness front. With the leading contenders only walking the shed this morning, at Pimlico and Churchill Downs, most of the focus was on the two open riding assignments. As of 1 p.m., one (Griffinite) has been filled, and the other (A P Valentine) was due to be announced later this afternoon. Jennifer Leigh-Pedersen, trainer of Paraneck Stable's Griffinite, said earlier that New York-based Shaun Bridgmohan will be aboard the son of Unbridled's Song for the second leg of the Triple Crown."I've been in contact with his agent, who had to get him released from four mounts Saturday," Leigh-Pedersen said. "Shaun has ridden a lot of for Ernie (owner Paragallo). We've always liked and respected him. He's a classy rider. He's been making a comeback and riding really well, and I think we got him at the right time."Griffinite was out for a gallop this morning and moved over the ground beautifully. With his long-stride and straight-legged action, in which he hardly gets his feet off the ground, he reminded us so much of his sire. Griffinite galloped aggressively and appeared to be loving the surface, and came bouncing back in a high canter. His coat is dappling out nicely, which is always a good sign. It's just a question whether he's good enough to compete with these horses at this stage of his career. Whatever he does on Saturday, Leigh-Pedersen has him in an excellent condition and looking for some big-time action. Watching her handling the colt, and seeing the physical and mental regimen she has him on, there is no doubt she is an first-rate horseman. Unlike many female trainers, she loves being recognized as a woman, and is proud of what she has accomplished – as a trainer and as a female trainer. And she wears her scars and numerous broken bones as a badge of honor. Leigh-Pedersen, a native of Queens, N.Y., has just been training for the past couple of months, having run Paragallo's farm in Climax, N.Y. She is a realist, and knows this part of her career can end at any time. She accepts that, but until it happens, she's loving every minute of itAs for A P Valentine, trainer Nick Zito now is hinting that he may be ridden by a fairly well-known jockey. "You won't be disappointed," he said. An announcement is expected to be made during feeding time, at around 3:30 p.m.The only worker this morning was Mr. John, who went a half in :48 2/5 for Elliott Walden, who caught the son of Golden Gear going his final eighth in :11 and change. Mr. John, like the last two Walden-trained Preakness starters, will be stabled in Mary Eppler's barn across the track, on the backside.Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos and Lone Star Derby winner Percy Hope both schooled on the turf course at about 10:30 to get used to where they'll be saddled. Both walked calmly in circles, occasionally stopping to pose for photographers. Monarchos has held his flesh well, and acts and looks as if the Derby didn't take much out of his. While walking the shed yesterday afternoon, he refused to pass by the opening of the barn, staring out at the grazing area, as if to say, "If I'm going to take another step it's going to be out there." The star, of course, got his way, and was led out to graze.Earlier this morning, Gotham and Withers winner Richly Blended went out for a gallop in full battle gear, consisting of blinkers and a shadow roll. "He likes to look around," said bloodstock agent and adviser Buzz Chace, who has been overseeing the colt's training until trainer Ben Perkins Jr.'s arrival tomorrow. Richly Blended looked at everything there was to look at, and he was particularly fascinated by the tents in the infield during his gallop. One of the reasons this colt has been able to do the things he has, is his easy-going disposition. He really knows how to conserve energy and take care of himself. He lays down in his stall and sleeps quite a bit, and when he gallops, his feet barely leave the ground. One of the interesting aspects of the Preakness is how far Richly Blended will take the field. Although Congaree took care of him early in the Wood Memorial, Richly Blended's saddle slipped down the backstretch.