CALIFORNIA CHROME ‘HEALTHY’ FOR SATURDAY’S PREAKNESS/ MINOR THROAT ISSUE ‘NO BIG DEAL’ FOR RUN IN MIDDLE JEWEL; RAIN FAILS TO DAMPEN PREAKNESS HOPES OF RIVAL CAMPS
CALIFORNIA CHROME – The connections of Kentucky Derby (G1) winner California Chrome said again Friday morning that their colt is healthy and ready to compete in Saturday’s $1.5 million Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico Race Course.
California Chrome coughed after training Thursday morning and he was examined by trainer Art Sherman’s veterinarian, who discovered that the colt had a small blister in his throat. The homebred colt owned by Steven Coburn and Perry Martin had a similar blister prior to his victory in the Derby.
Alexis Garske, a spokeswoman for Sherman Racing, said that when the blister – described as a common, minor irritation – was found in Kentucky after the Derby, blood tests were done and the colt’s airway was scoped. Those examinations showed that the colt was fine and able to continue training. Garske said Friday that California Chrome was not scoped and did not have his blood tested in Maryland this week.
California Chrome is being treated with a glycerin throat wash.
“California Chrome is fine. His throat is fine. He had a little tickle,” said Sherman’s son and assistant trainer, Alan Sherman. “He is not scratching from the Preakness. He is fine. I don’t know why it was blown out of proportion.”
Art Sherman said the blister is a routine matter and not a cause for concern.
“Sometimes they get a little scratchy,” Art Sherman said. “It’s not a big deal, as long as their blood comes back good and they eat up everything. It’s just something that horses do have. If you scope a lot of horses after a race you’re going to see all kind of little stuff going on. None of them are really perfect. Going a mile and a quarter, if you scope them afterward, you’ll see dirt down their throats. It’s just imperative when you race horses.”
California Chrome went to the track shortly after 6 a.m. Friday and galloped two miles in the rain under exercise rider Willie Delgado. The exercise was moved ahead by approximately 30 minutes because a heavy round of showers was expected to arrive later in the hour.
“I thought he looked good,” Art Sherman said.
The Shermans have enjoyed their time at Pimlico while meeting the connections of other Preakness runners.
“It’s been fun and we’re trying to be relaxed into this race,” Art Sherman said. “When you run a 3-5 shot, you’ve got a lot more pressure on you knowing you’re going to be the favorite, but I think we can handle it.”
Sherman said that it is up to jockey Victor Espinoza to decide what strategy to use in the Preakness.
“You’ve got to see how the race is going to play out,” Sherman said. “I wish I had a future book to look at and see how this is going to be, but I’ve been around for a long time and I just go one race at a time. I can’t give instructions to Victor; he’s been around there. Anyone that gives instructions to these kind of jocks are kidding themselves. That’s why they are earning the big bucks and they are very talented riders.”
BAYERN – Assistant trainer Jim Barnes sent Kaleem Shah’s Bayern out to the track for a 1 1/2 mile gallop in the rain Fridaymorning at Pimlico.
Barnes said the Offlee Wild colt was fine and ready for the Preakness.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert ran Bayern in the Derby Trial on April 26 at Churchill Downs rather than wait five days to see if he would have enough points to get into the field for the Kentucky Derby. Bayern finished first in the Trial but was disqualified and placed second for interference in the stretch. He worked twice at Churchill Downs before shipping to Pimlicoon Wednesday.
Rosie Napravnik, who rode Bayern in the Derby Trial, will be aboard in the Preakness.
DYNAMIC IMPACT – John Oxley’s Dynamic Impact galloped 1 ½ miles in a driving rain at Pimlico Friday morning, going to the track at 7:30 with exercise rider Wayne Brown up.
“We are not used to training in this kind of weather at Woodbine; we try to avoid it,” said trainer Mark Casse, who arrived from Ocala, Fla. Thursday night. “But it looked like he went well over it.”
Dynamic Impact, riding a two-race win streak that includes a victory in the Illinois Derby (G3), will break from post No. 1 and be ridden by Miguel Mena.
Casse, who is set to saddle his first Preakness starter, was asked what he would like to see unfold for Dynamic Impact on Saturday afternoon.
“I think there is a lot of speed in there,” said Casse, who reported that Dynamic Impact would not go to the track Saturdaymorning. “Of course, a lot of times you think that way and it does not materialize, but I think that will happen. I hope he is able to sit right behind the speed.
“Things have to go our way and he has to save ground and then move out at some point. We will be closely watching the earlier races, and there could be some last-minute changes in our strategy.”
GENERAL A ROD – Skychai Racing and Starlight Racing’s General a Rod was out on the Pimlico track shortly after 6 a.m. Friday for a 1 1/8-mile gallop under exercise rider Joel Barrientos.
Trainer Mike Maker said Friday’s rainy weather didn’t seem to have any effect on General a Rod, who had trained on wet tracks before, although all six of his starts have come on fast tracks.
“Everything’s good, we’re all set,” Maker said. “He’s got a great attitude. He never gets nervous about anything.”
General a Rod will be making his fifth start of the year, his lone victory coming in the ungraded Gulfstream Park Derby. He was second in the Fountain of Youth (G2) and third in the Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream before finishing a troubled 11th in the Kentucky Derby.
“His resume speaks for itself,” said Maker, who is saddling his first Preakness runner. “He’s run well with good horses in Florida. He’s a big, imposing horse. He just needs to run his race.”
Maker has plenty of respect for the Derby winner, but firmly believes his colt is in the upper echelon of his generation at this point. As for the Preakness, he’s optimistic.
“It’s just like every other race,” he said. “You need a good trip, a good set-up and to have everything go your way. Obviously, (California Chrome) is head and shoulders above everybody so far. He’s proved it, and every race, he’s continued to do so.”
Javier Castellano, who last was aboard General a Rod in his photo-finish defeat in the Fountain of Youth, returns to ride him in the Preakness.
KID CRUZ – Vina Del Mar Thoroughbreds and Black Swan Stable’s Kid Cruz, rated at 20-1 in the morning line for Saturday’s Preakness, went out to the track early Friday morning for a 1 1/8-mile gallop over a sloppy Pimlico strip with exercise rider Reul Munoz in the irons.
Trainer Linda Rice, bidding to become the first female trainer to win the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown, realizes that making his graded-stakes debut in the Preakness will be an uphill battle for the son of Lemon Drop Kid.
“I’ve been racing horses for quite a few years, but I typically don’t like to go places that I don’t have a chance,” the New York-based trainer said. “I’ve never been here for this. I know he won’t be short odds, but I still think he deserves a shot.”
Kid Cruz won the Federico Tesio Stakes over the Pimlico track on April 19 after scoring in the Private Terms Stakes at Laurel.
“I’m not so sure Pimlico is the same when they ran the Tesio as it will be on Preakness Day,” Rice said. “There’s the big crowd, a lot of noise. It’s much different, but he certainly ran well over the track. In some ways I think this is more of a speed-favoring track, but because they usually go hard and fast early, I’m hoping that’s the case.”
Kid Cruz, a $50,000 claim by Vina Del Mar Thoroughbreds after a November maiden win at Aqueduct, is a late runner whose speed figures may not stack up with some of the other Preakness contenders, particularly California Chrome, as Rice readily acknowledges.
“He looks slow (numbers-wise),” Rice said. “I think the Belmont (Stakes) is really his best option to beat these kinds of horses. I’m aware of that. We just need him to move forward here. We’re still going to try hard on Saturday.”
Julian Pimentel, who has been aboard for Kid Cruz’s two recent victories, has the return mount for the Preakness.
PABLO DEL MONTE – Blake Heap, the longtime assistant to trainer Wesley Ward, decided not to send Pablo Del Monteout to the track in the heavy rain Friday morning.
“We just tack-walked him around the shedrow in here and jogged a little bit in here,” Heap said. “He’s ready and I didn’t think that one day of jogging on the track was going to make a big difference. He’s ready and everything is perfect.”
Heap said the speedy Giant’s Causeway colt does not have to lead from gate to wire to be successful in the Preakness.
“He’s probably got to get a good break,” Heap said. “He’s got speed and he’s on the outside, but he can’t get into a real speed duel. If he could be in front that would be nice, but if he could just relax and be second or third on the outside, he might do that. Things just have to go that way and other people have got to have bad trips. Things have to go your way to win.”
RIA ANTONIA – Christopher Dunn and Loooch Racing Stable’s Ria Antonia galloped 1 ½ miles under exercise rider Maurice Sanchez at 6:30 Friday morning in a driving rain at Pimlico.
Trainer Tom Amoss watched the morning activity on a video while overseeing his main string at Churchill Downs.
“I liked the way she went. She looked good, but then she looked good before the Kentucky Oaks (G1), too,” Amoss said of the sixth-place Oaks finisher who joined his barn three days after the May 2 race.
Ria Antonia will be ridden Saturday by Calvin Borel, who was aboard her for the first time on Sunday for a half-mile work in :47 3/5 at Churchill Downs. She will break from post No. 6.
Amoss, who will arrive in Baltimore Friday afternoon, was asked how he would like to see the race unfold for last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) winner.
“I would like to see a lively pace, a contested pace, involving the contenders,” said Amoss, who saddled Mylute to a third-place finish behind Oxbow in last year’s Preakness. “She needs to be in a good striking position and we need to see her run her peak race.”
In addition to Mylute, Amoss has had one other Preakness starter, Hot Wells, who finished fourth behind Real Quiet in 1998.
RIDE ON CURLIN – Trainer “Bronco Billy” Gowan sent Ride On Curlin to the track for a mile gallop under exercise rider Bryan Beccia on Pimlico’s sloppy main track Friday morning.
“If he ran over this stuff tomorrow, he’d love it,” Gowan said of his first Preakness starter. “I think he’d run over anything – wet, grass, anything… I really do.”
Gowan insists that his horse has yet to show his real ability following a troubled trip in which he still managed to finish seventh in the Kentucky Derby under Calvin Borel.
“We just have to get a good trip,” Gowan said. “I think he’s a good horse. I think that’s all we need. And if (California) Chrome stubs his toe a little bit… well that would help. He’s (California Chrome) an awful good horse. I’d like to hook him at the top of the stretch and see what we’ve got, you know? I’d like to see them fast up front and me laying off them a little bit.”
Gowan’s son of Curlin, a $25,000 Keeneland purchase in 2012 by Daniel Dougherty, hasn’t visited the winner’s circle since taking an allowance race at Oaklawn five starts back. His second in the Arkansas Derby (G1) has been his most impressive outing and he’s one of only three horses returning from the Kentucky Derby for the Middle Jewel of racing’s Triple Crown.
“There’s only one chance to run in the Preakness,” Gowan said. “The Derby didn’t take much out of him. He’s given me all the signs he wants to run. I don’t think it’s that big a deal, coming back in two weeks. It seems like he’s getting stronger all the time. He hasn’t lost any weight and he’s getting stronger and tougher all the time. I was pretty confident in the last race. I feel the same here.”
Ride On Curlin is Dougherty’s only runner in training. He has a pair of 2-year-olds in training in Kentucky with Gowan.
“He was a little crooked-legged,” Gowan said when asked how he managed to find a son of Curlin out of a Storm Cat mare (Magical Ride) for such a bargain price. “He was a little off-set in his knees, but he had a serious pedigree. I bought him in September and we had him at my house for six weeks, then we sent him down to Florida and started (training) him. Hey, sometimes you see million-dollar horses that can’t get out of their own way.”
RING WEEKEND – St. Elias Stable and West Point Thoroughbreds’ Ring Weekend galloped a mile after visiting the starting gate at Pimlico Race Course Friday morning. It was the first activity on the Pimlico track for the Graham Motion-trained colt, who did the bulk of his training for the Preakness at Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md. before shipping on Thursday.
“Everything went well,” assistant trainer and exercise rider Alice Clapham said.
Alan Garcia has the mount on the gelded son of Tapit, who captured the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) before finishing second in the Calder Derby.
“I’m going to leave everything up to Alan, because I think I interfered with him for the Calder Derby,” said Motion, offering that he may have ‘over-instructed’ Garcia. “I’m going to leave it up to him and let him see how the race sets up and let the horse run his race.”
SOCIAL INCLUSION – Rontos Racing Stable Corp.’s Social Inclusion galloped 1 ½ miles under exercise rider Domingo Navarro at Pimlico Friday morning.
“He liked the rain. He trains in rain all the time in Florida,” said Ron Sanchez of Rontos Racing. “He looks great.”
Social Inclusion has shown brilliant speed in his three lifetime starts. The son of Pioneerof the Nile launched his career during the winter at Gulfstream Park with a pair of easy front-running triumphs, including a track-record performance at 1 1/16 miles in an open allowance. After breaking a step slowly from his outside post in the Wood Memorial, the Manny Azpurua-trained colt raced wide around the first turn before setting a strong pace into deep stretch and faltering to third late.
Although Social Inclusion is generally regarded as a speed horse, Sanchez expects the Kentucky-bred colt to be a late factor, as well, in the 1 3/16-mile Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
“I want him to have the lead at the three-quarters – breaking well, going to the turn first or second and at the three-quarters, there he goes,” Sanchez said. “He’s going to finish. In the Wood, the track didn’t help him. This time the track is going to help us.”
Luis Contreras, who has been aboard Social Inclusion in all three of his starts, has the return mount.