Bright and early (at 7am) on Thursday morning, with my Press Pass proudly hanging around my neck, I made my maiden voyage through the Press Gate at Old Hilltop. After nearly 45 years of following horse racing, I finally got to experience walking through the stable area, talking to trainers, grooms and exercise riders, and seeing these magnificent animals at arms length. I felt like a kid in a candy store. I walked along the Stakes Barn with my head held high like I owned the place.
Just a day earlier, the Stakes Barn only housed two of the Preakness starters… Hey Byrn and Kentucky Bear. But late yesterday the place was invaded by at least half dozen or more Preakness starters, including the star of the show, Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown. Hence, the media blitz was underway. While the majority of the media types swarmed around the Big Brown camp, I elected to engage in conversation with Kentucky Bear’s exercise rider, Cassie Garcia. The Canadian native has been in town with the Preakness hopeful since last week and shared with me how she just recently switched from show horse rider to thoroughbreds. She was even nice enough to let me pet her… horse.
Some other observations include seeing what I thought was an impressive looking filly, Pious Ashley. She’s entered in Black Eyed-Susan Stakes after just breaking her maiden on Derby Day in her second career start. I normally avoid fillies running back in two weeks time, but since she only ran 6 furlongs and she is bred to “go long” (out of Broad Brush), she might surprise a few folks.
Equipped with my digital camera, I got up close photos of more than half the Preakness field… Kentucky Bear (of course), Yankee Bravo, Hey Byrn, Stevil, Riley Tucker, Macho Again, Tres Borrachos and plenty of Big Brown before and after his gallop… he looked smooth during the gallop. I got trainers Nick Zito and Eddie Plesa. Personally, my most interesting photo was one with Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey, ESPN Racing Analyst Randy Moss and NBC Racing Analyst Bob Neumeier shooting the breeze.
Unfortunately, my fun had to end (aka leave for work) around 9am, just before Rick Dutrow’s post Big Brown’s gallop news conference. I wanted to stay in order to ask him an intelligent question. It’s pretty bad when Fox 45 Sports reporter, Amy Fadool, appears to be the most knowledgeable one about horse racing among the local media present.
I cannot believe I passed on going to the Alibi Breakfast (at 10am), but I only have so many vacation days with my “real job” which pays the bills and allows my daughter to dance six (6) days per week. Alas, on Friday I sacrificed one of those precious vacation days to enjoy Black-Eyed Susan’s Day. Then on Saturday I’ll be back at Pimlico by 7am.
I lived the dream… for at least 2 hours this morning. Thanks Nestor!
Recapping Day 17 (May 15th)…
Unbelievable! Even though the actions taken by track management today (races taken off the turf) makes perfect sense to me, it left us with no action on today’s card. Both Best Bet and Longshot picks were in turf races and both were scratched. The reason why not running on the turf today makes sense, is that on both Friday and Saturday, there are a number of quality races scheduled on the turf. Considering the amount of rain this region has received recently, the turf course must be awfully soft.
In addition to the turf being soft, I noticed during the morning workout session that the main track looked very deep. So as long as we don’t get an inch or more of rain between now and Saturday at 6:09pm, the track shouldn’t favor early speed or those who come from off the pace.
Best Bet, Doots (# 7; 7th race OFF the turf; 3-1 M/L) as mentioned above was scratched.
Longshot, Speedy Freddie (# 6; 5th race OFF the turf; 8-1 M/L) was scratched.
For Friday, better known around Old Hilltop as Black-Eyed Susan’s Day, I wanted to provide my opinion on the two feature races versus the Best Bet and Longshot selections typically seen here. So without further adieu, here’s who I like on official Racing Day 18 (May 16th) of the Pimlico Spring Meet…
Pimlico Special (10th): Student Council (# 3; 10-1)
A. P. Arrow (# 4; 5-2)
Grasshopper (# 7; 3-1)
On paper, Student Council shows that he’s not quite up to this level, but I’m looking beyond the PP’s with this selection. Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan is in town for this race only. After 3 turf and synthetic surface races, he’s back on the natural dirt where he’s won or been second in 8 of 17 starts. He fits the turf-to-dirt angle. He’s been working great at CD (dirt oval) and has already run beyond today’s distance (1 3/16 mile) at least 3 times in his career. A. P. Arrow will have a hot pace up front to assist his stretch running style. Grasshopper is a solid runner who has been no worse than second in his last 5 races… all Graded Stakes events.
Black Eyed-Susan (12th): Pious Ashley (# 9; 8-1)
Highest Class (# 4; 7-2)
Shes All Eltish (# 8; 5-2)
As mentioned earlier in this blog, I was visually impressed with Pious Ashley. Though she just ran two weeks ago, maybe the 6 furlongs didn’t take much out of her. She’s taking a huge step up in class, but will have no problem going the distance (1 1/8 mile). Highest Class got her act together last Fall, being a two time winner and three third place finishes as she entered Graded Stakes company. Her troubled trip in her last race resulted in coming up 7 lengths short of the winner, Shes All Eltish. But today Highest Class gets a 6 lb. swing in weight assignments versus Shes All Eltish. I’m throwing out Morning Line and local favorite, Bsharpsonata, because historically fillies that run in the Oaks rarely come back with a strong effort in the “Susan”.
Good Luck with your selections today!