CALIFORNIA CHROME HEADS TO PIMLICO FOR 139TH PREAKNESS; RIDE ON CURLIN, GENERAL A ROD ACCOMPANY DERBY WINNER; SOCIAL INCLUSION BREEZES SHARP HALF-MILE AT PIMLICO; BAYERN WORKS AT CHURCHILL FOR ROSIE NAPRAVNIK
CALIFORNIA CHROME – Kentucky Derby (G1) winner California Chrome boarded a van at Churchill Downs at 10:17 a.m. Monday for the first leg of his journey to Pimlico Race Course to headline Saturday’s 139th Preakness Stakes (G1).
Accompanied by Preakness candidates Ride On Curlin and General a Rod, California Chrome rode by van from Louisville to Lexington, Ky., where he boarded a flight bound for Baltimore-Washington International Airport. Scheduled to arrive at BWI at1:45 p.m., the Derby winner and company are slated to receive a Baltimore City Police escort to Pimlico with an approximate arrival time of 3 p.m.
California Chrome completed the Churchill Downs portion of his training for the Preakness Stakes by galloping 1 ¼ miles with Willie Delgado aboard.
“Everything is perfect. I couldn’t ask for anything more,” said Alan Sherman, assistant trainer to his father Art Sherman, of the colt’s stay in Louisville following his victory in the Run for the Roses. “He lost a little weight after the race but put it all back on quickly.”
Victor Espinoza, winner of the 2002 Preakness on War Emblem, has the return mount.
BAYERN – Trainer Bob Baffert’s hope for a sixth Preakness victory, Bayern, worked five furlongs over a fast track at Churchill Downs early Monday morning in 1:02 3/5 in company.
Owned by Kaleem Shah, Bayern and jockey Rosie Napravnik stepped onto the track shortly after 6 o’clock. Starting about a length back on the outside of 5-year-old multiple graded-stakes winner Drill with Jorge Alvarez up, Bayern produced fractions of :13 3/5, :26 2/5, :38 4/5 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:15 1/5.
The five-furlong move was the ninth fastest of 17 at the distance.
“I love that horse,” Napravnik said of Bayern. “He always relaxes for me and does what you ask.”
Napravnik rode Bayern for the first time in a race in the Derby Trial (G3), finishing first but disqualified to second for interference in the stretch. She also has been aboard for three workouts at Churchill Downs and is ready to tackle Kentucky Derby (G1) winner California Chrome in the Preakness.
“California Chrome is very impressive,” said Napravnik, who finished third in last year’s Preakness on Mylute. “But he (Bayern) definitely will be a challenge for him.”
DYNAMIC IMPACT – John Oxley’s Dynamic Impact walked the shedrow at Barn 36 at Churchill Downs, a day after working five furlongs in 1:01 3/5 in preparation for the Preakness.
“He came out of the work fine and will go back to the track Tuesday,” said Norman Casse, assistant to his father Mark Casse.
Miguel Mena will have the mount Saturday in his first Preakness.
GENERAL A ROD – Gulfstream Park Derby winner General a Rod galloped Monday morning before departing Churchill Downs via van to Lexington for a flight to Baltimore.
“He’s doing good; everything’s fine,” said trainer Mike Maker, who is slated to arrive Monday evening.
Maker, who is scheduled to saddle his first Preakness starter Saturday, said there were two primary factors that led the connections to run back in two weeks after an 11th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.
“He came out of his race good and it’s the Preakness,” Maker said. “It’s the second leg of the Triple Crown. If you’ve got a good horse, you want to be in it.”
General a Rod started from post 8 in the Kentucky Derby but was unable to utilize his normal tactical speed and get position. Once he was shuffled back to 16th through the first turn, he was never able to mount a serious threat to California Chrome.
“The distance wasn’t a concern,” Maker said. “He’s run at a mile and an eighth (Florida Derby, G1), too.”
General a Rod’s last win came at a mile, but he was second in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream and a close-up third in the Florida Derby.
General A Rod will run in the silks of Jim Shircliff, the largest investor in Skychai Racing, as he did in the Derby.
KID CRUZ – Federico Tesio winner Kid Cruz galloped and was schooled at the gate for the second day in a row at Belmont Park in preparation for a van ride to Pimlico Race Course that would arrive between 6:30 and 7:30 p.m. Monday, according to trainer Linda Rice.
Owned by Vina Del Mar Thoroughbreds and Black Swan Stable, Kid Cruz will be one of seven non-Kentucky Derby starters in Saturday’s expected field of 10 for the 139th Preakness. At least four of the competitors have shown an affinity for early speed while Kid Cruz is a well documented closer.
“It certainly can’t hurt,” Rice said. “In his two previous races (Tesio and Private Terms), there’s been no pace at all and he’s managed to close into it. These are much faster horses, though. Hopefully he can catch them.”
Kid Cruz was especially impressive in winning the nine-furlong Private Terms at Laurel in his first stakes start on March 8. Sitting dead last in a field of 10 in the backstretch, the son of Lemon Drop Kid passed the entire field under jockey Julian Pimentel and won by four lengths. The margin was 3 ½ lengths in the Tesio at Pimlico on April 19.
Rice will attempt to become the first female trainer to win the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown and is already set to make history as part of the race’s first edition to include a female trainer, jockey (Rosie Napravnik) and horse (Ria Antonia). Unaware of that scenario, Rice said she’s more focused on the race itself.
Rice paused for a few seconds, then laughed. “I’m still rooting for Kid Cruz,” she said.
Pimentel, who rode in both stakes wins, will be aboard the former claimer for the third time on Saturday.
PABLO DEL MONTE – Trainer Wesley Ward returned to his original plan to ship Pablo Del Monte from Kentucky to Baltimore on Wednesday’s charter flight.
Ward said Sunday that he would ship the colt on Monday because the flight would originate from the Lexington, Ky. airport, which is just a couple miles from his barn at Keeneland. He reversed himself on Monday, though, and notified Tex Sutton officials that his homebred colt would not leave until Wednesday.
“I got thinking about it,” Ward said, “and my horse is just thriving right now at Keeneland. With the direct flight on WednesdayI just thought, ‘let me leave him right where he’s at.’ I generally like to ship in right on top of the races when I go to England and France and thought I would stick with the original plan and train him right there at Keeneland, where he has trained his whole life, then ship a couple of days out and run.”
Jockey Jeffrey Sanchez will ride the colt in the Preakness Stakes. Sanchez was aboard for Pablo Del Monte’s six-furlong breeze in 1:12 1/5 Saturday at Keeneland.
RIA ANTONIA – After a 7 o’clock phone call Monday morning with Ron Paolucci (Loooch Racing Stable), trainer Tom Amoss confirmed that Ria Antonia would run in Saturday’s Preakness and that Calvin Borel would ride.
“She had a nice work yesterday (:47 3/5 for a half-mile with Borel up) and looks good today,” Amoss said. “We have a healthy, sound horse and we are ready to roll the dice.”
Ria Antonia finished sixth in the Kentucky Oaks (G1) on May 2 and joined the Amoss barn three days later.
“The idea (to run in the Preakness) was Ron’s,” said Amoss, who has trained a string of horses for Loooch for two years. “She passed all the tests with us physically, mentally and how she trained.
“I got to see her before the Oaks and she prepared well and worked well before the race. I don’t know what happened in the Oaks, but I like the way she looks now.”
Ria Antonia is set to become the first filly to run in the Preakness since Rachel Alexandra won the race in 2009 under Borel. A total of 53 fillies have previously run in the Preakness.
“We wanted to get a rider that had the opportunity to work her and feel good about it,” Amoss said. “I know Calvin’s confidence is strong after the work.”
Borel has ridden in the Preakness two other times; 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense, who finished second to Curlin, and 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver, who finished eighth behind Lookin At Lucky.
Amoss knows it will be a challenge to knock off Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome on Saturday.
“We are looking forward to running,” said Amoss, whose Mylute finished third in last year’s Preakness behind Oxbow. “I see it as California Chrome versus the rest. If he runs his race, he’ll win. If it is not his day, it opens a number of possibilities and opportunities for the other runners, including us.”
Ria Antonia is scheduled to return to the track to jog Tuesday morning then gallop Wednesday morning before getting on an early afternoon flight to Baltimore from Louisville International Airport.
With the announcement Monday that Ria Antonia will be entered, the Preakness will make history Saturday with a filly, a female trainer and a female jockey all competing in the race for the first time. Trainer Linda Rice will make her Preakness debut with Kid Cruz and Bayern’s jockey, Rosie Napravnik, is set for her second ride in Maryland’s signature race.
Though it is a first for the Preakness, it will be the third time that at a Triple Crown race has had a filly, a female trainer and a female jockey. The 1984 Kentucky Derby was the first with Patricia Cooksey riding So Vague to an 11th place finish, one spot ahead of Biloxi Indian, trained by Diane Carpenter. There were two fillies in the 110th Derby, the D. Wayne Lukas-trained entry of Life’s Magic and Althea that was favored at 5-2. Life’s Magic finished eighth and Althea was 19th in the 20-horse field.
The Belmont Stakes triple came in 1996 when Hall of Fame jockey Julie Krone rode South Salem, who was eased; Cynthia Reese saddled the ninth-place finisher In Contention; and My Flag finished third.
RIDE ON CURLIN – Daniel Dougherty’s Ride On Curlin galloped an easy 1 1/8 miles shortly after the track opened at Churchill Downs with Bryan Beccia aboard.
Seventh in the Kentucky Derby (G1), Ride On Curlin left Churchill Downs by van shortly after 10 a.m. for the trip to Lexington and a flight to Baltimore along with Derby winner California Chrome and Preakness hopeful General a Rod.
Trainer Billy Gowan was pleased with the Kentucky-based preparation for the Preakness for Ride On Curlin, who will be riddenSaturday by Joel Rosario.
“Everything has been perfect; just like we drew it up,” Gowan said. “When he gets there, he may school in the paddock one day but won’t go to the gate. He’ll gallop tomorrow and maybe work a bit Wednesday.”
RING WEEKEND – St. Elias Stable and West Point Thoroughbreds’ Ring Weekend jogged five-eighths of a mile and galloped a mile under Alice Clapham Monday morning at Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md.
It was the gelded son of Tapit’s first trip to the racetrack following his six-furlong workout in 1:13 1/5 on Saturday. He jogged a half-mile behind trainer Graham Motion’s barn at Fair Hill Sunday morning.
Ring Weekend, who captured the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and finished second in the Calder Derby, is scheduled to ship to Pimlico after training hours Thursday morning and before the noon deadline set for Preakness entrants.
“If I had my preference, I wouldn’t be there until Saturday, but I understand that we need to be there Thursday, and that’s fair enough,” Motion said.
Motion confirmed that Alan Garcia is set to ride Ring Weekend Saturday.
SOCIAL INCLUSION – Rontos Racing Stable Corp’s Social Inclusion breezed a half-mile in 47 seconds at Pimlico Race Course Monday morning in preparation for a scheduled start in Saturday’s Preakness.
“This morning when we came to the track I told the owner I wanted 46-and-change,” said trainer Manny Azpurua, who watched the move from the porch of the Pimlico press box with Ron Sanchez of Rontos Racing. “So, I’m happy. The jockey didn’t move on him. It was just what I was looking for.”
Jockey Luis Contreras, who has ridden the Azpurua-trained colt in all three of his career races, traveled from Woodbine Race Course in suburban Toronto to Pimlico for the work.
“He did it very easy. Manny told me to give him a good work with a good finish. He did it easy and so strong,” Contreras said. “He’s such a good horse. When you watch him, he looks like he’s running on air.”
The son of Pioneerof the Nile cut out fractions of :12 1/5, :23 2/5 and :35 3/5 on his way to the recorded official clocking, before galloping out five furlongs in :59 3/5 and six furlongs in 1:13 3/5.
Contreras, who rode Social Inclusion to a pair of dominating victories at Gulfstream during the winter before finishing third in the Wood Memorial (G1) at Aqueduct on April 5, expressed his gratitude that Gulfstream Park-based Azpurua and Sanchez have opted to stick with him for the Preakness.
“When they told me they wanted me to ride him in the Preakness, I was so happy, because sometimes when you leave to go to ride at another track, you can lose mounts,” said the defending two-time Woodbine champion, who rode at Gulfstream during the winter before returning to Canada in April. “You know I’ve been riding for 10 years and this horse makes me so excited; he makes me feel so comfortable and so confident. When I sit on him, I feel the power.”
After a 7-1/2-length debut victory and a track record-breaking allowance win at Gulfstream, Social Inclusion suffered his first loss in the Wood, in which he broke a step slowly from his outside post position and was forced to race wide around the first turn before setting the pace into deep stretch and tiring to finish third. The loss, while disappointing, has provided Contreras with added confidence going into the Preakness.
“His first two races he did it easy. In his last race, he got beat, but he was fighting right to the end. He tried to fight back and lost second by a nose,” he said. “It’s great to feel the power underneath you and know that if something happens in the race, he’s still going to give you 110 percent. He showed me he could fight.”