Don Robinson has been in the Thoroughbred racing business his entire life, a fourth-generation horseman who owns Winter Quarter Farm in Lexington, Ky.
He's better known as a breeder than a racehorse owner. But the 69-year-old Robinson will be at legendary Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Md., on Saturday with his owner's cap on for Cambodia in the $150,000 Stella Artois Gallorette (G3) at 1 1/16 miles on the turf, one of eight stakes races, four graded, worth $2.55 million on the 143rd Preakness Stakes (G1) program.
“This is the best horse I've had in my lifetime,” said Robinson, who figures he's had about three dozen starters since 2000. “She's been training great at Fair Hill. I know there will be some good ones in this field, but she's ready to show up and hopefully win this race again.”
Cambodia, a 6-year-old homebred by War Front, out of the Smart Strike mare Sassifaction, won the Gallorette last year by two lengths. The victory launched a stellar 2017 campaign that saw her win a pair of Grade 2 races – the Yellow Ribbon Handicap and the John C. Mabee Stakes, both at Del Mar – followed by a third place finish in the Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Turf (G1). For the year, Cambodia earned $572,500 from three wins and five thirds in nine starts.
“She had an incredible year,” said Robinson of his mare trained by Tom Proctor. “We're hopeful for this year.”
Cambodia opened this season running sixth in the Jenny Wiley (G1) at Keeneland on April 14 following a five-month layoff. “I thought she ran a beautiful race,” said Robinson. “I was very happy with her after coming off the rest.”
Back to challenge Cambodia is Elysea's World, who ran third in the 2017 Gallorette for trainer Chad Brown. The 5-year-old mare owned by Sheep Pond Partners & All Pro Racing LLC, comes into the race after a victory in the Suwannee River (G3) Feb. 10 at Gulfstream Park. Elysea's World has earned $423,383 with a record of 4-5-2 in 17 lifetime starts.
“She's coming off a graded stakes win which she very much deserved. She had been knocking on the door for a quite a while,” said Brown. “We just freshened her up after that race and we've been pointing to this race. This looks like the right type of race for her. Hopefully she can build off her breakthrough win last time and get on a good roll of winning several graded stakes for us.”
Alex G. Campbell Jr.'s Ultra Brat ran 10th in the Jenny Wiley after finishing third behind Elysea's World in the Suwannee River. Trainer Graham Motion says the 5-year-old mare by Uncle Mo, out of Prof. McGonagall, is “consistent and competitive.”
“I threw her in the deep end a little bit last time in the Grade 1,” he added. “She didn't have a great trip. She was quite wide that day. She has done well since and this seems like a logical spot for her. Hopefully we can get her back on track on Saturday.”
Emory Hamilton's Special Event comes into the race off an allowance win at Laurel, and trainer Shug McGaughey says his 4-year-old filly is ready to step up.
“She's been working well at Fair Hill. We know she'll be a long shot, but with her speed she should have a chance,” said McGaughey.
Also entered are Millennium Farms' Brooks House, joining stakes company off an allowance win at Keeneland April 11; Stallionaire Enterprises LLC's Stallion Heiress, stepping up to her first graded stakes; Arthur K. Star and Bradley Thoroughbreds' Blessed Silence, making her second start in the U.S. having raced in France with a record of 3-2-2 in 15 starts; and Ernest M. Haynes' 6-year-old Lake Ponchatrain, making her 34th career start.
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