Baffert Joins Preakness Contenders at Churchill Pletcher Decision on Preakness Due Tuesday Morning
BALTIMORE â€“ Five-time Preakness-winning trainer Bob Baffert was back at Churchill Downs Monday morning to get his first live look in a week at Zayat Stablesâ€™ Kentucky Derby (G1) winner American Pharoah and Kaleem Shahâ€™s third-place finisher Dortmund.
â€œI was happy with both of them. It looks like they have kept the same energy level (as before the Kentucky Derby),â€ Baffert said after the colts galloped 1 Â½ miles following the morning track renovation break. â€œAmerican Pharoah floated over the ground and picked up his gallop the last half-mile. He wanted to do more. Dortmund got aggressive with (exercise rider) Dana (Barnes) and galloped well.â€
Baffert, who had returned to his Southern California base the day after the Derby, has traditionally kept his Preakness starters at Churchill Downs until the middle of Preakness Week, a pattern he is following again this year with a Wednesday ship date to Baltimore.
â€œComing out of a big race like the Derby, you donâ€™t have to do too much. It is just a matter of keeping them at the same level,â€ Baffert said. â€œThe good horses are easier to train. These two are used to running a lot and coming back in two weeks is not a big concern with them.â€
American Pharoah was partnered Monday morning as usual by Jorge Alvarez.
Both colts are scheduled to gallop Tuesday morning and will train Wednesday before loading for the short van ride to Louisville International Airport and a Tex Sutton charter to Baltimore, one of two such flights scheduled that day.
American Pharoah is set to join his half-brother, Xixixi, on the Pimlico Race Course backstretch Wednesday. The 4-year-old son of Maimonides was claimed from Zayat Stables for $5,000 by trainer Charlie DeMario at Pimlico on April 3.
The Kentucky Derby winner and Xixixi are out of Littleprincessemma.
â€œMy owner actually recognized the mare, where most people didnâ€™t,â€ said DeMario, who trains Xixixi for Kirk Sheehan. â€œI thought for sure we would have to shake for him. I asked everyone else if they knew who he was and they said, â€˜No.â€™ Nobody knew who he was.â€
DeMario admits that there are few similarities between American Pharoah and his recent claim.
â€œOurs stops; American Pharoah keeps on going,â€ he said.
After being claimed out of a second-place finish, Xixixi has finished off the board in allowance and starter-allowance company in his first two starts for his new connections.
DeMario said he expects Xixixi will take to grass racing after winning two of his 15 starts on dirt.
â€œI think he likes the grass. We just have to find the right distance,â€ he said.
Pletcher Decision on Preakness Due Tuesday Morning
Trainer Todd Pletcher reported Monday that heâ€™ll be prepared to make a decision on the respective Preakness statuses of Florida Derby (G1) winner Materiality and stablemates Carpe Diem, Competitive Edge and Stanford on Tuesday.
â€œEverybody galloped today. Iâ€™ll make a final decision tomorrow after I see them train,â€ the seven-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer said.
Materiality (sixth) and Carpe Diem (10th) ran in the Kentucky Derby, while Competitive Edge won the Pat Day Mile (G3) impressively on the Derby undercard. Stanford was entered in the Derby but was scratched two days before the Run for the Roses to consider other options. Materiality, who entered the Derby undefeated in three starts, got away last from the starting gate and was forced to race wide before closing strongly in the Derby. Blue Grass Stakes winner Carpe Diem was well-positioned in fourth along the backstretch but failed to fire in the stretch run of the Derby. Competitive Edge is undefeated in four lifetime races, including victories in the Hopeful (G1) and the Pat Day Mile, which he won going away by 4 Â½ lengths. Stanford finished second behind Materiality in the Islamorada Stakes at Gulfstream Park and was the runner-up in the Louisiana Derby (G2) in his last two starts.
Firing Line Open Gallops a Second Day
Arnold Zetcherâ€™s Firing Line, the Kentucky Derby runner-up, joined the Baffert-trained Preakness contenders on the Churchill track Monday morning.
Trained by Simon Callaghan, Firing Line stood at the six-furlong gap for a few minutes before backtracking to the front side. Under exercise rider Humberto Gomez, Firing Line galloped 1 Â½ miles with the final half of the exercise being an open gallop similar to Sundayâ€™s exercise.
â€œIt was the same thing as yesterday; maybe a little slower,â€ Gomez said.
Carlos Santamaria, who is overseeing the coltâ€™s preparations in Louisville while Callaghan is at his Santa Anita base, continued to give off good vibes about the colt who has compiled a 6-2-4-0 record in his career.
â€œHe has been galloping good and eating well and very happy with the last two days,â€ Santamaria said. â€œI know he has a lot of heart and will give his best to the end (like he did in the Derby).â€
Santamaria said Firing Line is scheduled to have a regular gallop Tuesday but likely would not train Wednesday morning before shipping to Baltimore where he will be trying to reverse a negative trend regarding Derby runners-up in the Preakness.
Since 1960, only three horses that ran second in the Run for the Roses took the Preakness. They were Bally Ache (1960), Summer Squall (1990) and Prairie Bayou (1993).
Bodhisattva a True Success Story for Owner/Trainer
When California Chrome won last yearâ€™s Preakness Stakes, it ended a 28-year drought in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown for horses bred in California. Despite anticipated long odds on Saturday, Bodhisattva hopes to make it two in a row for sons of the Golden State.
â€œWe know weâ€™re running with very tough competition,â€ said trainer/owner Jose Corrales, a 55-year-old former jockey from Panama. â€œYouâ€™re running with the best horses.â€
And unlike predecessors California Chrome and Snow Chief (1986), Bodhisattva has never set foot on a West Coast racetrack. All 11 of his career starts have been at East Coast venues, including his most recent victory in the familiar Preakness prep, the Federico Tesio.
He was brought to Kentucky as a yearling by breeder Andy Stronach and given to Corrales, who trains a number of horses for Stronach and his father, Frank.
â€œI broke him at Laurel and I just kept him all the way through,â€ said Corrales, who saw something intriguing in the Student Council colt. â€œAndyâ€™s my friend and I asked him if he would sell me the horse, not knowing what he could be or whatever. He just said that since I had done so many things for him and his father, â€˜Iâ€™ll just give it to youâ€™ and he signed a bill of sale.â€™â€
Bodhisattva, a Buddhist term meaning â€œenlightened one,â€ needed four starts to break his maiden in 2014. After winning an optional claiming race last October, itâ€™s been nothing but stakes competition. The progression culminated by a win in the Tesio at Pimlico on April 18 after he had finished second in Laurelâ€™s Private Terms less than three weeks earlier.
â€œHeâ€™s been with me since he was a baby,â€ Corrales said. â€œBabies got to be taught, just like my kids. You donâ€™t grow and know everything since when you were born. You have to be learning as you grow.â€
Bodhisattva walked the shedrow at Laurel on Monday, a day after his leisurely five-furlong work in 1:04 on Motherâ€™s Day. Corrales said he plans to van the colt to Pimlico on Thursday. Trevor McCarthy is scheduled to ride in the Preakness.
Danzig Moon, Tale of Verve Continue Preakness Preparation at Churchill
One of the first horses on a fast main track Monday morning at Churchill Downs was John Oxleyâ€™s Danzig Moon.
With regular exercise rider William Cano aboard, Danzig Moon galloped 1 Â½ miles.
With a start Saturday, Danzig Moon would give Oxley and trainer Mark Casse Preakness starters in back-to-back years. Dynamic Impact, who won the Illinois Derby (G3) last year and skipped the Kentucky Derby, finished seventh last year behind California Chrome.
â€œWe have a better gauge since he has faced these horses already,â€ said Norman Casse, assistant to his father. â€œThey were better than he was on Derby Day, but we feel that he is getting better all the time.â€
Danzig Moon is scheduled to gallop the next two mornings and ship to Baltimore Wednesday.
Charles Fipkeâ€™s Tale of Verve walked the shedrow a day after working five furlongs in company in 1:00.40.
â€œThis fits right into our schedule,â€ trainer Dallas Stewart said of the walk day. â€œHeâ€™ll train Tuesday and Wednesday and fly Wednesday and wonâ€™t miss a beat.â€
Tale of Verve will represent the fourth Preakness starter for Stewart, whose best finish was second with Macho Again in 2008.
â€œHe had won the Derby Trial and we thought that he fit well in there among the other horses after Big Brown,â€ Stewart said. â€œWe felt he could hit the board. We had always been high on the horse and he was doing well, so we thought weâ€™d give it a try.â€
Following the Preakness, Macho Again went on to capture a Grade 1 and two Grade 2 races and retired with earnings of more than $1.8 million.
Meanwhile, at Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md., Lexington Stakes (G3) winner Divining Rod galloped in preparation for the Preakness.
â€œHeâ€™s doing very well. I think he came back in good shape from his breeze. He galloped this morning and looked very good,â€ said trainer Arnaud Delacour, whose colt breezed four furlongs in 51.60 seconds Saturday.