December 10, 2019

Divining Rod Confirmed for May 16 Preakness Stakes Pletcher Quartet Under Preakness Consideration

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American Pharoah, Dortmund Walk Shedrow Firing Line Returns to Track for Morning Jog

BALTIMORE – Trainer Arnaud Delacour confirmed Wednesday that Lael Stable’s Divining Rod is on course to run in the 140th Preakness Stakes on May 16.

Delacour plans to send the son of Tapit out for his final work for the Preakness at 9 a.m. Saturday at Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md.

Divining Rod, winner of the Lexington Stakes (G3) at Keeneland on April 11, had 20 Kentucky Derby qualifying points and could have drawn into the field from the also-eligible list. However, Delacour and the colt’s owners-breeders, Gretchen and Roy Jackson, decided not to enter the Derby and pointed for the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown at Pimlico Race Course.

“We weren’t sure we had enough points,” Delacour said. “We were on the bubble, and it’s very hard to train a horse to a race like the Derby not knowing if you’re going to get in. That puts some pressure on. Also, we would have been coming back in three weeks after a good effort in the Lexington and shipping. We thought that maybe it was coming back a little bit too quick. And also, the Jackson saw statistics that showed horses that won the Lexington and came back in the Derby ran a little flat.

“They were the first ones to say that if we didn’t think that the horse was really going to be at his best that they would rather wait another two weeks. I was completely fine with that.”

Delacour watched favored American Pharoah catch and pass Firing Line and Dortmund to win the Derby by one length on Saturday. Divining Rod will be one of the so-called new shooters in the Preakness taking on Derby grads – led by the top three finishers – coming to Baltimore. American Pharoah prevailed in what was easily the most demanding test of his career.

“It’s a tough bunch of horses,” Delacour said. “Going into the Derby everyone was talking about how good of a crop it was. I still feel the same way. The only thing is: I think everybody ran pretty hard, so you never know how they are going to come back in two weeks. We’ll see, but they are definitely tough horses to take on.”

Meanwhile, Delacour feels that Divining Rod has flourished since returning to his home at Fair Hill.

“I think he came back well,” Delacour said. “We gave him two easy weeks where we trained him lightly and let him get his level of energy back. That worked out great. He’s had two breezes since – one easy breeze and last week was a more significant breeze. I was pleased with both, really.

“I think he’s really fit now and is ready to go. We just need to keep him doing well all the way to the Preakness.”

Pletcher Quartet Under Preakness Consideration

Trainer Todd Pletcher remained noncommittal about how many horses he might enter in the Preakness. Among those under consideration are Pat Day Mile winner Competitive Edge, Materiality, who was sixth in the Kentucky Derby, and Carpe Diem, who finished 10th at Churchill Downs. Stanford, most recently second in the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby, is also possible.

“They just arrived here at Belmont Park on Monday," said Pletcher. "To say anything at this point would be premature. All went to the track and jogged happily today.”

American Pharoah, Dortmund Walk Shedrow

Zayat Stables’ Kentucky Derby winner American Pharoah and Kaleem Shah’s third-place Derby finisher Dortmund walked the shedrow Wednesday morning in Barn 33 at Churchill Downs.

The Bob Baffert-trained Preakness candidates are scheduled to jog in the morning, said Jimmy Barnes, who is overseeing things for Baffert until the trainer returns to Louisville Sunday night.

Barnes has been with Baffert since the fall of 1998 and made his first trip to Pimlico in 2001 with Point Given, the third of Baffert’s five Preakness winners.

“I have been there for War Emblem and Lookin At Lucky,” Barnes said of the 2002 and 2010 Preakness winners. “And Dana (Barnes) was the exercise rider for Real Quiet in 1998.” Dana is Jimmy’s wife and has been with the Baffert stable since 1996. She has been the exercise rider for Dortmund.

Firing Line Returns to Track for Morning Jog

Arnold Zetcher’s Firing Line returned to the Churchill Downs track Wednesday morning for the first time since finishing a game second behind American Pharoah in the Derby. The son of Line of David jogged a mile alongside a pony shortly after 7 o’clock.

“He probably will jog again in the morning,” said Carlos Santamaria, assistant to trainer Simon Callaghan, who is back at his home base at Santa Anita.

Jose Castanon filled in for regular exercise rider Humberto Gomez, scheduled back from California later Wednesday. Castanon’s brother Jesus won the 2011 Preakness on Shackleford, who held off Kentucky Derby winner Animal Kingdom by a half-length.

“That was my top win,” said Jesus Castanon, a winner of nearly 2,300 races. “Every year about this time I start to get a flashback and it is good and bad. Good that you got to enjoy it and bad that he is not running anymore.”

Shackleford, trained by Dale Romans, had finished fourth in the Derby after the setting the pace and grudgingly giving way inside the final eighth of a mile.

“I felt very confident going into the Preakness,” Castanon said. “I was going to let him do his thing and I knew that the other speed in the race would kill themselves off. Did I see Animal Kingdom coming? Yes, I knew he was coming at me.”

Also returning to the track at Churchill Downs for the first time since the Derby were John Oxley’s Danzig Moon and Zayat Stables’ Mr. Z.

Danzig Moon galloped a mile before the morning renovation break with exercise rider William Cano up.

Norman Casse, assistant to his father, trainer Mark Casse, said the Preakness remains a possibility for the fifth-place Derby finisher, “but we need to see how he trains.”

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said no decision had been made on the Preakness status of Mr. Z, who finished 13th in the Derby. Mr. Z jogged a mile early Wednesday morning under exercise rider Edvin Vargas.

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