(Justify, winner of the Kentucky Derby, trained before his win at Churchill Downs / Photo by Holly M. Smith)
Wet Track No Deterrent for Efficient-Striding Good Magic
Lukas-Trained Bravazo, Sporting Chance School in Paddock
BALTIMORE – Unbeaten Kentucky Derby (G1) winner Justify walked the shedrow at trainer Bob Baffert’s barn at Churchill Downs Wednesday before starting his journey to Baltimore and Pimlico Race Course, where he is slated to face seven rivals in Saturday’s 143rd running of the Preakness Stakes (G1).
Justify, accompanied by Preakness contenders Lone Sailor and Quip, was scheduled to fly from Louisville to Baltimore-Washington International Airport with a 1:30 p.m. estimated time of arrival. The van transporting the Derby winner will arrive at Pimlico with a Baltimore City Police Department escort.
Baffert made the scene at Pimlico Wednesday morning to oversee Justify’s arrival at the Preakness Stakes Barn.
Half of the Preakness field will be made up of horses that ran in the Derby. Good Magic was the closest to Justify, finishing 2 ½ lengths back in second place. Trainer Chad Brown observed Good Magic for a week before deciding to send him to the Preakness for a rematch with Justify.
“He ran a big race,” Baffert said of Good Magic. “I read where (Brown) doesn’t want to run him in the Belmont, a mile and a half. I can see that. The Belmont can be very tough on a horse.
“You want some good horses in there,” he added. “There is nothing wrong with taking another shot. He’s going to be tough. There are some nice horses in there. It’s not a gimmee.”
It will be the fourth consecutive year that the top two finishers in the Derby meet again in the Preakness. Triple Crown winner American Pharoah prevailed in 2015, while Derby runner-up Firing Line finished seventh. In 2016 Derby runner-up Exaggerator won the Preakness, while Derby winner Nyquist was third. Last year, Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee was fourth in the Preakness and Derby winner Always Dreaming was eighth.
Baffert is bidding for his record-tying seventh victory in the Preakness. All four of his previous Derby winners – Silver Charm (1997); Real Quiet (1998); War Emblem (2002) and American Pharoah (2015) – have added Preakness victories.
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith will ride the colt co-owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners and Starlight Racing.
Wet Track No Deterrent for Efficient-Striding Good Magic
Kentucky Derby runner-up Good Magic found himself galloping Wednesday morning over a muddy track for a second consecutive day at Pimlico as he continued preparations for Saturday’s Preakness.
With his regular exercise rider, Walter Malasquez, in the saddle, Good Magic trained at approximately 7:30 a.m. on a drizzly and humid morning in Baltimore. Storms hit the area on Tuesday evening and rendered the track muddy for training on Wednesday.
The Chad Brown-trained Good Magic had an energetic gallop of about 1 1/4 miles, coming by the stands twice, with his ears pricked and demonstrating a long and efficient stride.
The move prompted Brown’s traveling assistant Baldo Hernandez to remark that he was “very pleased” with the gallop and described it as “excellent.”
Owned by e Five Racing Thoroughbreds and Stonestreet Stables, Good Magic seeks to become the second Preakness winner for Brown, who notched his initial Classic win in last year’s Preakness with the 13-1 Cloud Computing.
Brown, who will arrive in Maryland from New York later in the week, is fine with Good Magic galloping on an off track, but he’s hoping the surface is fast on Saturday. Additional rain is expected throughout the week and there is rain in the forecast for Saturday morning, with a chance of showers in the afternoon.
Good Magic finished second, 2 1/2 lengths behind Justify in the Kentucky Derby over a sealed and sloppy racing strip.
“I would rather it be a dry track,” Brown said by phone Tuesday afternoon. “He’s proven he can handle the off track at Churchill fine, but I don’t know, I just feel like a drier track would be a fairer situation for everyone involved. It’s hard to say how the race will set up until they draw posts and such. It will be just fine if it’s an off track, but it would be my preference that the track be dry.
“[The off track] is just another little thing we could have changed about the Derby to maybe help us turn the tables,” he added. “You don’t want to run the same exact race where everyone runs the same exact way and on the same exact track. Obviously, we already have some changes here: We’re at a different track on two weeks’ rest, with different posts, and a slightly different distance. To run on a dry track would be nice as an additional something different.”
When asked about the importance of the post-position draw in what is expected to be an eight-horse field, Brown remarked, “It’s less important [in a smaller field], but it will still be a factor.”
Lukas-Trained Bravazo, Sporting Chance School in Paddock
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas’ two Preakness candidates, Bravazo and Sporting Chance schooled in the paddock Wednesday morning and exercised on the muddy track at Pimlico.
Calumet Farm’s Bravazo and Robert Baker and William Mack’s Sporting Chance, will add to Lukas’ record of Preakness starters, which stands at 41. This will be Lukas’ 28th Preakness, a race he has won six times. He is tied with Bob Baffert for second on the career wins list, one behind the 19th century standout Robert Wyndham Walden.
Lukas said he stepped away from the Preakness tradition of saddling the horses on the turf course in the 1980s. Bravazo, sixth in the Kentucky Derby (G1) and Sporting Chance, fourth in the Pat Day Mile (G3) in their most recent starts, paid a visit to Pimlico’s indoor paddock.
When he arrived from Kentucky with the horses Monday, Lukas said they would have light morning exercise because they were running back in two weeks. On Wednesday, they jogged one lap of the track and galloped clockwise – the reverse of the way races are run – a second lap.
“We didn’t do a lot with that track the way it was,” he said. “If we’re going to do something serious on that racetrack we’ve got to get paid for it.”
Sporting Chance, a son of Hall of Famer Tiznow, was purchased for $575,000 as a yearling and was a formidable runner as a 2-year-old, winning the Hopeful (G1) at Saratoga. Surgery to remove a knee chip ended his 2017 season. The Preakness will be his fifth race, all graded stakes, this season. In the Pat Day Mile on the Derby undercard, he had a troubled trip under Luis Contreras and was 12 lengths back midway through the race. Contreras moves to Bravazo, a Calumet homebred, while Luis Saez takes over on Sporting Chance.
“I think he’s going to have to show speed, like everybody,” Lukas said of Sporting Chance. “In an eight-horse field you’re just going to have to turn the jock loose and see. But he’s got tactical speed. Let’s see how he handles it. I think he likes the mud.”
Sporting Chance did win the Hopeful on a track rated “good” and was third in the mud in the Southwest (G3).
Lukas said again Wednesday that Justify stands over the Preakness field and that it is his race to lose. He said that Bravazo has been most effective when he uses his speed.
“His best race was the Risen Star (G2), where he went right on the pace. Not everybody can be just off the pace. Something has got to give. Everybody will tell you they’d like to be there, but the horses will have the facts,” Lukas said. “I think we’re probably as quick as most of the them, so we’ll have to use a little judgment on the rider part.”
Quip Pimlico-Bound after Morning Gallop at Keeneland
Tampa Bay Derby (G2) winner Quip galloped a mile at Keeneland Wednesday morning before being loaded onto a van bound for Louisville International Airport for a scheduled flight to Baltimore in the company of Kentucky Derby winner Justify and Lone Sailor, a Preakness contender who finished eighth in the Derby.
Trainer Rodolphe Brisset has yet to firm up Quip’s training schedule for his start in the Preakness.
“I have no idea. I have to take a good look at the track. It sounds like the weather hasn’t been nice over there,” said Brisset before boarding a plane Wednesday morning.
Florent Geroux has the return mount aboard the son of Distorted Humor, who is owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club and SF Racing.
Lone Sailor’s Name a Tribute to Late Owner Tom Benson
G M B Racing’s Lone Sailor, eighth in the Kentucky Derby, had a final gallop at Churchill Downs early Wednesday morning before his scheduled flight to Baltimore for the Preakness Stakes. Exercise rider Maurice Sanchez will accompany Lone Sailor on the Tex Sutton equine charter out of Louisville, with trainer Tom Amoss arriving Thursday.
Amoss said Lone Sailor will train Thursday morning, most likely going out shortly after the Pimlico track opens at 5:30 a.m., as is his routine at Churchill Downs.
Lone Sailor was named for New Orleans sports, business and philanthropic icon Tom Benson, a Navy and World War II veteran who in 2007 was awarded the United States Navy Memorial Foundation’s Lone Sailor Award. According to navymemorial.org the Lone Sailor is bestowed on veterans “who have distinguished themselves, drawing upon their Sea Service experience to become successful, in their subsequent careers and lives, while exemplifying the core values of Honor, Courage and Commitment.” Also so honored in 2007 were baseball great Stan Musial and Sen. John Warner Jr.
Gayle Benson, who races as G M B Racing, is the widow of Benson, the owner of the New Orleans Saints and NBA Pelicans who also last year bought Dixie Beer to bring back the popular beer to New Orleans after it relocated to Wisconsin following Hurricane Katrina. Tom Benson died March 15 at age 90.
Lone Sailor finished second by a neck in the Louisiana Derby (G2) the day after Tom Benson’s March 23 funeral.
“That was very special to me,” Amoss said. “I went to Mr. Benson’s funeral on Friday and was really moved by all the people there and all the well-wishers when we left the St. Louis Cathedral that day. It was a beautiful day in New Orleans, one of those spring days I’ll never forget. And that experience is one I’ll never forget. To go out the next day and almost win the Louisiana Derby, he was certainly on all our minds, as his wife was. Mrs. Benson sent me a very nice text that evening after the race, very gratifying, something I will always hold dear to my heart.”
Amoss’ dad, James Amoss, also is Navy veteran who served during World War II. So while Benson buying the Saints in 1985 to prevent a potential move to Jacksonville resonates with the trainer, the owner’s military service also hits an emotional chord.
“And look, Annapolis is not far from there,” Amoss said of Baltimore. “My dad was an ensign in the Navy during World War II, and the World War II museum is in New Orleans. Not only from my father telling me but [also] visiting that museum, the young men of that generation were cut from a different cloth. When the country needed them, to a man, they were ready to go. I’ll never forget my father telling me about being a senior at boarding school in South Carolina. A freshman came running out of the dorm and said that Pearl Harbor had been attacked. Not a one of them could have told you what Pearl Harbor even was, but they all went to sign up the very next day to fight for their country.”
Greg Bensel, the Saints and Pelicans senior vice president for communications and broadcasting, also manages G M B Racing’s racing and breeding operations. He said the G M B team tries to name their yearling purchases after something relating to Mr. or Mrs. Benson.
“The first year, 2014, we had a lot of Toms: Tom’s Ready, Mo Tom,” Bensel said, referring to the Bensons’ 2016 Kentucky Derby horses. “This one, we tried to focus on his military service. Lone Sailor got his name because he won that award. We thought that would be a cool name. It’s a collaborative effort. We’d throw out a bunch of names and we talk about them. And Mr. Benson typically would say, ‘I like that. I like that.’”
If there might be some naval karma going in Baltimore, all the better when taking on the likes of Justify and Good Magic.
“We’d love it,” Bensel said. “Look, in the Baltimore harbor they’ve got the big Navy ship. Hey, we’ll take anything we can get.”
Gayle Benson will fly up Saturday for the Preakness, Bensel said.
Tenfold Walks Shedrow on First Morning at Pimlico
Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Tenfold walked the shedrow Wednesday morning after arriving at Pimlico late Tuesday afternoon following a van ride from Churchill Downs. Scott Blasi, trainer Steve Asmussen’s chief assistant, said Tenfold will resume training Thursday, most likely going out for a gallop when or soon after the track opens at 5:30 a.m. Tenfold is scheduled to stand in the starting gate during Friday’s training session. Blasi said Asmussen is expected to arrive in Baltimore Thursday evening.
Tenfold is by the Asmussen-trained 2007 Preakness Stakes winner and two-time Horse of the Year Curlin and out of a mare sired by Tapit, the Gainesway Farm stallion who ranks among the best studs in the world and whom Winchell Thoroughbreds raced and retains a half-interest. In this case, there’s not too much of a good thing. So even though owner Ron Winchell has a veritable Tapit factory, with about 15 daughters of Tapit in his broodmare band – 11 of them homebreds – he and bloodstock manager David Fiske are always on the lookout for more. They bought Temptress, Tenfold’s mom, as a yearling for $190,000 in 2011.
“We were looking at a lot of Tapits at the time, trying to assess what they looked like and whatever,” Fiske said. “Every once in a while we’d stumble across one we liked and thought she might fit the bill. A lot of them are good looking and it’s just hard to walk away from one. You know a lot about the stallion, you look at a lot of his offspring. We probably look at more Tapits than foals by any other stallion. She compared pretty favorably with the ones we’d been looking at.”
Temptress won an off-the-turf allowance race in New Orleans in her last start and retired without racing in a stakes.
“She’s a great big mare,” Fiske said. “Some of those Tapit mares can get big. I think she had an ankle that bothered her. She looked like she had some talent, so we decided to breed her…. At one point we tried to buy part of Curlin. We thought he had a lot of upside. So we figured, shoot, if we were willing to buy part of him, I guess we’d be willing to breed to him. Temptress’ number came up.”
Ask about expectations for Tenfold, Fiske said cheerfully, “The same expectation as all of our foals: When they’re born, they’re all Derby winners until they prove that they’re not. He was always a nice foal, always correct, had a lot of substance. Of course, the mare has a lot of substance, and Curlin. He looked pretty much like he was supposed to.
“I don’t know if there is a 3-year-old around that is better bred for the Belmont than he is,” he added. “He’s by a horse that lost the Belmont by a nostril and is one of the top sires in the country. And he’s out of mare by arguably the best Belmont sire ever.” (Tapit has sired three of the past four Belmont Stakes winners in Tapwrit, the Asmussen-trained Creator and Tonalist.)
Tenfold did not race at 2 because of nagging baby issues, Fiske said. He won his first two starts, both at 1 1/16 miles at Oaklawn, then was fifth, beaten a total of 4 1/2 lengths under Hall of Famer Victor Espinoza, in the Arkansas Derby (G1).
“He was supposed to be much closer to the lead than he was,” Fiske said. “As it turned out, it was a pretty pedestrian pace. I don’t think it was beyond his scope to have been up on the lead. Then it was hard to make up any ground in the stretch. So that’s that.”
Ricardo Santana Jr., who rode Tenfold to his two victories, regains the mount for the Preakness.
The 1 3/16-mile Preakness is not a prep for the Belmont, Fiske said, laughing, “Actually I’ve told people that as a joke.”
He added more seriously of trying to defeat Kentucky Derby winner Justify: “It’s a tall order. I think Steve’s already said that we’ll get some read on where our guy fits in the universe of 3-year-old colts this year. Typically, you don’t run away from a race that has one standout. That’s not to pooh-pooh last year’s 2-year-old champion (Derby runner-up Good Magic). But it would be OK just to get some black type (by finishing in the top three) in a classic. It’s mostly the timing from the Arkansas Derby, and I think he’s blossomed a bit since the Arkansas Derby.”
Diamond King Servis’ Chance to Win 2nd Preakness in 2nd Try
Cash is King, LC Racing and D.J. Stable’s Preakness contender Diamond King jogged one mile over a muddy main track at Parx Racing in Bensalem, Pa. Wednesday morning, his last local exercise before shipping to Pimlico for Saturday’s Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown.
“We got a lot of rain and the track was a little hard, so I just jogged him,” trainer John Servis said. “He’s doing great. He’s ready to go.”
Diamond King was scheduled to depart Parx at 12:30 p.m. Wednesday for the approximately two-hour drive to Baltimore. Accompanying him on the van were Servis-trained Barbara Fritchie (G2) winner Ms Locust Point and stakes-placed colt, Forest Fire.
Ms Locust Point is the 7-5 program favorite for the $100,000 Skipat on Friday’s Black-Eyed Susan Day program, while Servis is pointing Forest Fire to the $100,000 LARC Sir Barton to benefit Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance on the Preakness undercard.
Servis, a winner of the 2004 Preakness with undefeated Kentucky Derby hero Smarty Jones, was planning to arrive sometime Wednesday evening. He doesn’t plan to give Diamond King any gate or paddock schooling, but will give him a look at the track Thursday morning.
“I’m not sure what I’m going to do with him yet,” Servis said. “I’ll probably gallop him, especially if the track is decent. But, he’s great. He doesn’t need much.”
Servis can become only the fourth trainer since 1909 to win the Preakness in his first two tries. The others are Thomas Healey (1922, 1923), Jimmy Jones (1947, 1948), Henry Forrest (1966, 1968) and Tom Bohannan (1992, 1993).
Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano is named to ride Diamond King in the Preakness, a race he won last year with Cloud Computing. Just six riders have won the Preakness in back-to-back years – Victor Espinoza (2014, 2015), Pat Day (1994, 1995, 1996), Eddie Arcaro (1950, 1951), Fred Taral (1894, 1895), Tom Costello (1881, 1882) and Lloyd Hughes (1879, 1880).