An energetic Alwaysmining returned to the work tab on a foggy and cool Friday morning at the Fair Hill Training Center with a half-mile breeze for the 144th Preakness Stakes (G1) that trainer Kelly Rubley called “perfect.”
Regular exercise rider Felix Astudillo was aboard as Runnymede Racing's multiple stakes winner was timed in 49.00 seconds over Fair Hill's all-weather surface, second-fastest of eight horses at the distance.
It was the first work for the Maryland-bred 3-year-old since running his win streak to six races with an 11 ½-length romp in the 1 1/8-mile Federico Tesio Stakes April 20 at Laurel Park, which earned Alwaysmining an automatic berth in the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown Saturday, May 18 at legendary Pimlico Race Course.
Rubley watched the work from the clocker's tower at Fair Hill alongside owners Greg and Caroline Bentley of Unionville, Pa., whose Runnymede Farm is about a 40-minute drive north of the training center.
“I actually thought it was a perfect work – out in 12 and change and finished up in 11. He went a nice 49 and out in 1:01. We're very happy,” Rubley said. “I'd say his confidence level continues to improve. My rider thought he was a bit aggressive today, which is great to hear.”
In addition to its turf course, Fair Hill offers both a seven-furlong Tapeta surface inside the traditional one-mile dirt track. Alwaysmining also went a half in 49 seconds in his final work prior to the Tesio.
“I'm actually very happy with that. He could easily go in 46 if we allowed it, so this was a nice, relaxed, comfortable work for him,” Rubley said. “He's worked on the Tapeta all winter, so we've opted to not change anything at this point.
“The Tapeta seems to be a very consistent track and that's kind of what our goal is at this point right now,” she added. “The rain and the precipitation doesn't affect it as much as the dirt, so we're feeling confident using that.”
Prior to the Tesio, Alwaysmining had been a front-running winner of five straight races including the Heft Stakes over Kentucky Derby (G1) contender Win Win Win to close his 2-year-old season, and the Miracle Wood and Private Terms to begin 2019. In the Tesio, he rated off the early leaders before assuming command and drawing off impressively.
“I think that was probably my favorite race so far in the fact that we did answer that question – does he need the lead,” Rubley said. “We always thought that he did not, that he would settle, so it's finally proven to us. So we're very happy about that.”
Alwaysmining will remain at Fair Hill for his major Preakness preparations, including a final work next weekend, before joining the rest of the contenders at Pimlico. The last Tesio winner to repeat in the Preakness came in 1983 with Deputed Testamony, who was also the last Maryland-based horse to take its most famous race.
“He will work one more time, but everything will stay normal and continue in his usual routine,” Rubley said. “He needs to be on the grounds by noon on Thursday before the Preakness so our goal is to just keep everything normal in his routine and ship at the last possible minute.”
Pending the outcome of Saturday's Derby, other horses being considered for the Preakness include two-time Grade 3-placed Anothertwistafate, an automatic qualifier by virtue of his victory in the El Camino Real Derby Feb. 16 at Golden Gate Fields; Fountain of Youth (G3) runner up Bourbon War, fourth in the Florida Derby (G1); 2018 Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) winner Signalman and Sueno, second or third in four straight graded-stakes.
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