Steve Haskin's Preakness Report: Baffert, Zito Hit the Work Tab

Enjoy today's action while you can. There won't be much more happening from a training standpoint from now on, as trainers will spend the remainder of the week using words like "maintain" and "preparation."

With Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos sticking to a galloping program, today's works by Point Given and Congaree at Churchill Downs and A P Valentine at Pimlico were to be very revealing, as an indicator how these horses bounced out of the Derby. Monarchos we already know has been a bear in the mornings during his vigorous sub-two-minute licks. He's been so on the muscle, trainer John Ward decided to let him air out his lungs for a quarter mile. In today's gallop, timed by Ward in 1:52 4/5 for a mile, Monarchos was given his head by exercise rider Bryan Beccia, and he zipped from the eighth pole to the wire in :12 3/5, then galloped out the next eighth in :13 4/5, for a solid :26 2/5 quarter, finishing on the clubhouse turn.

As usual, the big gray hugged the rail, and was moving very well over the deep track, which has been praised so far by Preakness trainers. Ward doesn't believe, after running 1 1/4 miles in under 2:00, Monarchos needs a work between races. As he said, "I don't need to train him. I need to prepare him. He's happy, relaxed, and fit, and he's going into this race as good as I could want him. The other horses have to work, get on a plane, come here, then take a couple of days to settle in."

Watching The Baffert pair work, it certainly didn't look as if the Derby took too much out of them. Point Given actually looked more impressive working five furlongs in :59 4/5, than he did in his two pre-Derby works. We loved the way exercise rider Dana Barnes just sat on him, and when she gave him his head inside the eighth pole he just bolted clear of his workmate under no encouragement at all.

Congaree, as usual, settled early and relaxed, then turned it on in the stretch, working his five furlongs in 1:00 2/5. The son of Arazi worked without blinkers, and Baffert said he'll take them off for the Preakness. "They were just tiny blinkers anyway," he said. "They did very little. We put them on to try to keep him from looking around too much. We just let him finish today. We're trying to get him to relax. The only instructions I'll give (Jerry) Bailey is to keep him covered, because once he sees daylight he's gone. Point Given went very well. We went a little slower with him today. In the Derby, he probably was just too close to the pace. That was the plan Gary (Stevens) had mapped out. He just didn't realize the pace would be so fast."

The one work today that we felt was the most revealing was the five-furlong move by A P Valentine. We felt this work, timed in 1:00 3/5, was much more impressive than his works at Churchill. Unlike those works, when exercise rider Jamie Sanders had to ask him for his best, this was done very easily, with Sanders keeping a loose rein and barely moving her hands. To show how deep the track was, Zito a short time earlier, sent out Sir Barton Stakes contender It's So Simple for a five-furlong work in 1:03 2/5. Zito was happy with that work, and was expecting something around 1:02 and change for a P Valentine. We also liked the fact that after a short run to the pole, A P Valentine leveled off in a flash and got right into the work. After getting stopped cold twice in the Derby, this could be the big danger to the favorites at an attractive price. That's right, we're still not deserting him.

Zito hasn't named a jockey for A P Valentine, but to provide a hint who they might be considering, he said, "Let's just say this jock is so hungry, he'll be eating two Big Macs." That would rule out any of the big-name riders, and suggests they might be considering Eibar Coa, who won aboard A P Valentine at Hialeah.

Another horse without a rider is Griffinite, who lost Joe Santos to an injury this weekend. Owner Ernie Paragallo has been looking to line up either Edgar Prado or John Velazquez, but as of now, both look to be tied up in Saturday's Shuvee (gr. I) at Belmont. Because Griffinite worked so slowly this past week (6 furlongs in 1:15 1/5) after getting distracted by a photographer on the inside rail, trainer Jennifer Leigh-Pedersen may blow him out at the end of the week.

The only other worker this morning was Dollar Bill, who went five furlongs in 1:00 2/5 in company. It was a strong work by the son of Peaks and Valleys, who drew clear late to finish in front of his workmate. As for coming back in the Preakness after finishing a troubled 15th, beaten over 30 lengths, in the Derby, trainer Dallas Stewart said, "He threw in the towel, and we kinda picked it up a little. One way to beat bad luck is not to give up. We want to give the horse the opportunity to show what he can do."

Dollar Bill, Congaree, Point Given, and Mr. John will all be on a Wednesday flight from Louisville to Baltimore. Others pointing for the Preakness are Richly Blended, Percy Hope, Marciano, and Bay Eagle. The last two are stabled at Delaware Park and not expected to arrive in Baltimire until race day.

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