Preakness Notes: Abiding Star, Awesome Speed Breeze

by | 05.17.2016 | 3:05pm
Awesome Speed wins the Mucho Macho Man Stakes at Gulfstream Park

ABIDING STAR – Stonehedge Farms' Abiding Star breezed four furlongs in 50.16 seconds Tuesday morning at Parx Racing in anticipation that a quarantine at the Philadelphia-area track would be lifted later in the day.

“Abiding Star just ran two weeks ago, so all I needed to do was blow him out a little bit,” trainer Ned Allard said.

Plans call for Abiding Star to be shipped to Pimlico early Thursday morning.

Maryland Jockey Club is prepared to take special precautions for Parx-based horses shipping to Pimlico, should the quarantine be lifted. Parx horses would train at 5 a.m. before regular training hours and would be housed in isolation stalls on the Pimlico backstretch, far from the Preakness Stakes Barns.

AWESOME SPEED – Colts Neck Stables LLC's Awesome Speed put in his final timed workout for the Preakness Tuesday morning at owner Richard Santulli's training facility in New Jersey,  breezing a half-mile in 47 and 2/5 seconds over a fast track, according to trainer Alan Goldberg.

“It's fine,” Goldberg said of his colt's third official work since his victory via disqualification in the April 9 Federico Tesio at Laurel Park.  “It's all good, nice half.”

Goldberg said the son of Awesome Again would walk the shedrow Wednesday, then gallop Thursday morning at Colts Neck before being shipped to Pimlico to join the rest of the Preakness cast. Assistant trainer Jorge Duarte will supervise his program at Pimlico leading up to Saturday's Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

“We'll put him on a van at about 8 o'clock,” Goldberg said.  “It's about a three-hour trip if everything goes OK.”

Awesome Speed won three of his first four career starts, including the James F. Lewis III Stakes at Laurel to end his 2-year-old campaign and the Mucho Macho Man at Gulfstream to begin his sophomore season.

That's when Goldberg decided it was time to try the upper echelon of the 3-year-old division in the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream in late February. The colt had a troubled trip and finished fourth of six under jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. behind Kentucky Derby contender Mohaymen.

“It just went awry because he got bumped so hard,” Goldberg said. “He went into that race as good as a horse can go into a race. I was somewhat confident.  I didn't know if he would beat Mohaymen, but I thought he would beat all the others.  I think getting bounced around early just took all the run out of him.”

Goldberg and Santulli decided to not to pursue the Kentucky Derby and picked out the 1 1/8-mile Federico Tesio for his next start.  Awesome Speed was knocked around again, but this time it was during the stretch run.

Sent off the favorite at odds of 7-10 under new rider Jevian Toledo, he was beaten by a nose by Governor Malibu. The stewards called an inquiry and reversed the decision, giving Awesome Speed the winner's share of the $100,000 purse and an automatic entry into the Preakness.

CHERRY WINE – With a break from the rain that had drenched Churchill Downs Tuesday morning, Cherry Wine was on the track at 9:25 to gallop 1 ½ miles over a track labeled  “sloppy” by the clockers.

Owned by William Pacella, Frank Jones Jr. and Frank Shoop, Cherry Wine is trained by Dale Romans, who will be seeking a second Preakness victory Saturday.

Five years ago, Romans brought Shackleford to Pimlico with a record similar to that of Cherry Wine. Making the trip with Shackleford was exercise rider Faustino Aguilar, who will be performing the same duties with Cherry Wine starting Thursday at Pimlico.

“Shackleford and Cherry Wine are a lot alike as they are easy to gallop,” Aguilar said. “Shackleford, he was a special horse.”

Before his Preakness victory, Shackleford had won two races and been graded-stakes placed. Shackleford completed his career by adding two more Grade 1 victories and posting earnings of more than $3 million.

Cherry Wine has won two races and finished third in the Blue Grass Stakes (G1) in his most recent start.

“Cherry Wine has a good chance to be a special horse, too,” Aguilar said, adding with a nod to the saturated track. “He loves the slop.”

Cherry Wine broke his maiden in his fifth start on a sloppy track by nine lengths in November at Churchill Downs.

Romans is scheduled to arrive in Baltimore tonight with Cherry Wine shipping in Wednesday after training in the morning at Churchill Downs.

COLLECTED – After galloping a mile at Churchill Downs Tuesday morning, Speedway Stable LLC's Collected shipped to Baltimore for the 141st Preakness.

The Lexington Stakes (G3) winner will be Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert's 18th starter in the Preakness and this is the eighth consecutive year that Baffert will have at least one runner in the field. Last year, Baffert earned his sixth Preakness win when American Pharoah won the race en route to his sweep of the Triple Crown.

Collected has trained at Churchill Downs since his win in the Lexington at Keeneland on April 16. He breezed seven furlongs in 1:24.80 on Friday. Three-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Javier Castellano was aboard for the Lexington and has been named to ride in the Preakness.

A son of sprinter City Zip, Collected has been prominently placed early in five of his six starts, winning four times. Baffert said the colt is likely to be at or near the front in the Preakness.

“There is a lot of pace in there, but he's not going to change his style. I think the break is going to be important for all those speed horses. I think post position, break, everything is important,” Baffert said. “They have to run their race. They have to bring their 'A' game. If you don't bring your 'A' game you're going to get beat.”

Speedway Stable is the racing partnership of longtime friends and business associates K.C. Weiner and Peter Fluor. They named the stable after the street, Buffalo Speedway, where their business Texas Crude Energy, is located in Houston.

K.C. Weiner is the President of Texas Crude Energy. Peter Fluor graduated from USC after growing up in Arcadia, Calif. He joined Texas Crude Energy in 1972, and was President from 1980-1990, CEO from 1990-2001, and Chairman of the Board since 2001.

Taken to Santa Anita by his grandfather as a kid, Peter Fluor had put his racing interest on hold for decades until he and Weiner went to Saratoga in 2014 and decided to own horses together. Their fathers had owned horses in partnership long before. They bought two older females, Leigh Court and Hard Not to Like, in November 2014 and campaigned them in 2015. Leigh Court is still in training. They bought Hard Not to Like for $1.5 million. She earned $540,000 and sold her for $2.2 million.

DAZZLING GEM – Trainer Brad Cox said Tuesday morning that Dazzling Gem would be entered Wednesday in Saturday's $100,000 Sir Barton and not the Preakness.

“The mile and a sixteenth is better for him,” Cox said for opting for the Sir Barton over the 1 3/16-mile Preakness, “and the competition.”

FELLOWSHIP – Jacks or Better Farm's Fellowship was settled into Barn D Tuesday morning after arriving from Churchill Downs at 4:45 a.m. The son of Awesome of Course was accompanied on a van by 10 other Mark Casse-trained horses slated to run in stakes Friday and Saturday.

“Everybody looks good. Everybody is happy,” said Casse's son and assistant, Norm Casse, said. “They'll all go to the track tomorrow.”

Fellowship, who finished third behind Nyquist in the Florida Derby (G1), was transferred to Casse's stable in mid-April.

“When we first got him, I didn't have any expectations. I wanted to just assess him as a horse, not thinking Derby or whatever. He really overwhelmed me. I really think he's a super talented horse,” Norm Casse said. “He has a tremendous stride. I think he has a high cruising speed. He doesn't get tired. I judge horses on the horses I've trained and the horses I have now and he works like all of our good horses do.”

Fellowship, who has earned nearly $575,000, didn't qualify for the Kentucky Derby and ran in the Pat Day Mile (G3) on the undercard, finishing fourth behind Sharp Azteca in the one-turn mile.

“I thought he ran really well. He was wide throughout. I think you can make a case that he should have been second that day,” Casse said. “He beat some highly regarded horses that day. He wasn't going to catch the winner that day, nobody was.”

GUN RUNNER – Trainer Steve Asmussen officially took Gun Runner, the Louisiana Derby (G2) winner who finished third in the Kentucky Derby, out of Preakness consideration.

“We're going to pass on the Preakness,” the newly elected Hall of Famer said by phone. “We're going to continue to train at Churchill and plan on a serious summer of 3-year-old races with him…. He's been in tremendous physical condition going into the Derby and coming out of it, and we expect for him to continue to physically develop.”

LANI – Koji Maeda's Lani returned to his normal routine at Belmont Park Tuesday morning, spending 45 minutes on the track for roughly six miles of exercise.

Maeda's agent Keita Tanaka, who has been with the colt for two months since he left Japan to run in the U.A.E. Derby, said Lani walked once around the track, galloped/cantered two laps and walked another before returning to trainer Barclay Tagg's barn. Lani had a half-mile breeze Sunday morning and was given a day of rest on Monday.

“After he had the day off he was fresh and was very active, nice and bright,” Tanaka said.

Lani was moved to Belmont Park on May 9, two days after he closed well to finish ninth in the Kentucky Derby. The original plan was to have the Tapit colt run in the Derby and the Belmont Stakes (G1), but his connections thought enough of his Derby performance to add the Preakness to his schedule. During his time at Churchill Downs, Lani earned a reputation as a horse with some behavioral issues. Tanaka said Lani's conduct has improved at Belmont Park.

“The surroundings in New York are much quieter than at Churchill Downs,” Tanaka said. “The track is quieter, it's wider with few horses, so he's behaving much better than what he sometimes showed at Churchill Downs. I'm very satisfied with that. It's not a big deal here.”

Tanaka said that Lani will have his final work for the Preakness at 6:30 a.m. Wednesday at Belmont Park. Trainer Mikio Matsunaga was scheduled to arrive in New York from Japan on Tuesday and would finalize the plans for the breeze that is expected to be at least five furlongs.

Lani is scheduled to leave Belmont Park at 4:30 a.m. Thursday on a van headed to Pimlico Race Course and is slated to be on the grounds before the noon deadline.

Tanaka, 33, is in his 10th year in the business of managing Japanese horses traveling abroad to race. Since the Derby, Tanaka, an assistant trainer and a groom have tended to Lani. The team will grow to 11 for the Preakness with the arrival of Matsunaga and others, including a veterinarian from the owner's breeding farm and a blacksmith.

“We are working on different parts of the horse's operation,” Tanaka said. “The assistant trainer is employed by the trainer and the groom is employed by the owner and the others are employed by the owner. My team is a mixture of people.

“I specialize in the international travel of Japanese horses. I work for a lot of different owners on individual contracts. Koiji Maeda has been my biggest client for five years.”

LAOBAN – McCormick Racing LLC and Southern Equine Stable's Laoban was vanned from Keeneland to Louisville and departed on a 9 a.m. flight for Baltimore, according to trainer Eric Guillot, who was scheduled to fly out of Cincinnati later in the day

Rain was falling Tuesday morning and a chance for even more on Saturday is suddenly becoming a possible backdrop for Preakness 141.

“My partner (Mike Moreno)  called me and said there's supposed to be a half-inch of rain on Saturday –  80 percent chance for a half-inch on Saturday,” Guillot said.  “That's going to be a whole different scenario. I've seen a whole lot of horses who don't want to be out there when it's pouring down rain.”

Laoban is one of those unknown commodities on an “off” track, having run all five of his career starts on fast tracks. Guillot said, however, that he's been on a wet track before.

“He's trained good and he worked in the mud Sunday over here (at Keeneland),” said Guillot, whose trainee worked without blinkers in a six-furlong move timed in 1:14.40. “The blinkers off – that helps because the blinkers catch a lot of mud when it's muddy. The horses don't like mud in their eyes. It's going to be a lot of unknowns.  I'm just going to be happy to be there.”

Laoban, who is slated for a tough task of breaking his maiden in a Triple Crown event, is scheduled to be ridden for the first time by Ricardo Santana Jr. while racing without blinkers for the first time since his off-the-board debut effort five races back.

“The trick is to take the blinkers off and try to get him to relax and not drag the jock all the way around there,” said Guillot, whose most accomplished runner to date has been 2014 Whitney (G1) and Charles Town Classic (G2) winner Moreno.

STRADIVARI – Of trainer Todd Pletcher's 7 starters in the Preakness Stakes, every one had at least been second or third in a prior graded stakes. So Stradivari is notable not only because Pletcher is running a horse in the Preakness for the first time since 2011, but because the colt never has contested any kind of stakes before making his fourth lifetime start in Saturday's Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.

Stradivari, a son of Medaglia d'Oro owned by breeder John Gunther and Coolmore associates Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith and Mrs. John Magnier, was fourth in his Nov. 8 debut at Aqueduct. He then won an off-the-turf maiden race as a main-track-only entrant by 11 lengths at Gulfstream before winning a 1 1/8-mile Keeneland allowance by 14 1/2.

“Someone said something about picking this as a good spot,” Pletcher said. “I said, 'This isn't a good spot.' It's not like I found this little, cozy allowance race. It's a classic race, running against an undefeated 2-year-old champion (Nyquist), most impressive winner of the Kentucky Derby. Exaggerator ran very impressive in the Santa Anita Derby, ran a race good enough to win a lot of Derbys…. This is not a cupcake spot by any means.

“We think he's a very good horse. It's ambitious, but we think he deserves a chance. It might be that with only three lifetime starts he's not quite ready for this big a jump, but we think it's worth a try, as long as he shows up and runs well, comes out of it well and continues to move forward. Whether he wins or not wouldn't be the end of the world. That would be fantastic if he were able to win, but if he runs well, comes back well and meets his full potential, it will have been the right thing to do.”

Pletcher said that Derby aspirations surfaced after Stradivari's first victory “and we were thinking about preps.” But a minor issue “forced us to back off with him a little,” he said without elaboration. Stradivari did not have a timed workout after the Dec. 5 maiden race until Feb. 28.

“My only hesitation was that we were behind schedule a little bit,” he said of the April 17 allowance race. “He'd missed some time, and I was a little bit concerned about the mile-and-an-eighth distance. I actually kicked around the idea of taking him to Oaklawn to run in the Northern Spur (at 1 1/16 miles on the April 16 on the Arkansas Derby undercard) but decided to stay at Keeneland, try the mile and an eighth. I expected him to run well, but I don't think you can ever expect a horse to win the way he did. That was, I thought, very, very impressive.”

“The Preakness was actually in the back of my mind before the race. He'd trained impressively enough that, while I knew we weren't going to get to the Derby, I thought this horse could be good enough that something like the Preakness wouldn't be crazy to think about. So naturally when he won the way he did and ran as fast as he did, then the Preakness becomes even more of a consideration.”

Asked if the Belmont Stakes could be on the agenda depending how Stradivari runs, or did the Preakness just make the most sense of the Triple Crown spots, Pletcher said: “If we were thinking about the Belmont as his only chance at a classic, then I think (last week's) Peter Pan (G2) would have been the race to go in and develop into the Belmont. The Preakness was a race that might fit him, and it could still eventually lead to the Belmont, depending on how he runs and how he comes out of it.

“He's impressed us and I think anyone who watched the Keeneland race had to be impressed. But there were no Nyquists in the allowance race, that's for sure.”

Stradivari galloped 1 3/8 miles on the Belmont Park training track Tuesday morning.

UNCLE LINO – Veteran trainer Gary Sherlock, 70, said he is taking his first start in a Triple Crown race with Uncle Lino in stride and maintains he is not getting excited.

“I'm just going to go and have fun,” he said. “I've been in too many wars.”

In 2014, Sherlock purchased the yearling colt from the first-crop sire Uncle Mo for $52,000 with longtime friend and partner Tom Mansor. They subsequently sold a third to fellow Californian Jim Galvin, who operates as Purple Shamrock Racing. Twenty-one months later, their 3-year-old named for Mansor's favorite uncle is a stakes winner, has a 2-2-2 record from seven starts and is ready to run in the Preakness. He was shipped from California to Baltimore on Tuesday. Mansor will attend the Preakness, but Galvin is staying home.

Uncle Lino will be Sherlock's first starter in Maryland. He said he did not need a scouting report for his jockey Fernando Hernandez Perez on the second-oldest track in the country.

“I know how it plays,” he said. “It's a speed-biased track more than anything. I watch them run. I'm hoping that Fernando gets to ride his race. I told him to turn left, turn left, turn left.”

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