Preakness preview bucket No. 2

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Less than a week to go until the 140th Preakness Stakes and the field continues to take shape for the second jewel of the Triple Crown. Danzig Moon was confirmed Saturday and Todd Pletcher continues to evaluate his group of 3-year-olds that may or may not contest Kentucky Derby winner American Pharoah in Baltimore.

Dave Joseph and the press-office staff at Pimlico continue to churn out the updates and features and TIHR is happy to provide the latest sampling in the second edition of our Preakness preview bucket. Check out the first edition here.

Danzig Moon confirmed for start

Assistant trainer Norman Casse confirmed Saturday morning that John Oxley’s Danzig Moon will ship from Churchill Downs to Pimlico Race Course to compete in the 140th Preakness Stakes.

“We are going,” said Casse, assistant to his father Mark Casse. “He came out of the Derby really well and deserves another chance.”

Danzig Moon finished fifth in last Saturday’s Kentucky Derby after getting caught up in the middle of a tightly packed bunch in the run to the first turn of the Run for the Roses but continued on to finish 6 1/2 lengths behind victorious American Pharoah.

“He has been getting better every time,” Casse said. “How do we make up the 6 1/2 lengths? He just needs to keep improving.”

Julien Leparoux, who has ridden Danzig Moon in all four of his starts in 2015, retains the mount for the Preakness.

Danzig Moon will give Oxley and Casse a second Preakness starter in two years. Last year, Dynamic Impact finished seventh behind winner California Chrome.

“We made the decision last night, but we wanted to give him another day to train before making the announcement,” Casse said. “He trained great this morning going a mile and a half in the first set.”

Casse said Danzig Moon would have the day off Sunday and then gallop the next three mornings before shipping to Baltimore Wednesday after training hours.


Divining Rod breezes half at Fair Hill

Lael Stables’ Divining Rod worked an easy half-mile in 51.60 at Fair Hill Training Center Saturday morning in preparation for a scheduled start in the Preakness.

Trainer Arnaud Delacour said the four-furlong work at the Elkton, Md., facility went according to plan.

“He just stretched his legs out there, and that’s kind of what we wanted. He had a good breeze last week,” Delacour said. “Everything has been going well with him. He’s happy and came back in good shape.”

Gretchen and Roy Jackson, who bred and own the Tapit colt, watched the work during their weekly visit to Fair Hill.

Delacour said the winner of the Grade 3 Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland in his most recent start on April 11 is ready for the Preakness. (Divining Road winning Coolmore Lexington at right, Keeneland Photo)

“I am happy with him,” Delacour said. “It’s been a pretty uncomplicated preparation. We’ve had no setbacks, no major issues, so I feel good about it. Of course, it’s a big race. It’s a step up. It’s not an easy race, but as far as the preparations and the way he looks I’m very happy with everything.”

Delacour said he is looking forward to his first Preakness.

“It’s fun to be able to be a part of it,” he said. “We’re going to enjoy the day, try to give our best shot and hopefully have a good outcome.”

The Jacksons and Delacour were in the process of securing a jockey for Divining Rod, who was ridden in the Lexington by Julien Leparoux, who has the mount aboard Danzig Moon.


American Pharoah, Dortmund, Firing Line gallop at Churchill

Kentucky Derby winner American Pharoah and third-place finisher Dortmund galloped 1 3/8 miles Saturday at Churchill Downs after the renovation break.

American Pharoah, owned by Zayat Stables, had regular morning partner Jorge Alvarez aboard while Dortmund, owned by Kaleem Shah, had Dana Barnes in the saddle.

Both colts are trained by five-time Preakness winner Bob Baffert. The duo will enter next Saturday’s Preakness with a combined record of 11 victories in 13 starts. American Pharoah brings a five-race winning streak to Baltimore, where he will be ridden by Victor Espinoza.

Espinoza, who rode California Chrome to victory last year, is seeking to become the first rider since Pat Day in 1994-’96 to ride consecutive winners of the Preakness. Espinoza also won the 2002 running on War Emblem for Baffert.

Going to the track shortly after the Baffert twosome was Arnold Zetcher’s Kentucky Derby runner-up Firing Line. With exercise rider Humberto Gomez aboard, Firing Line galloped 1 1/2 miles.

Carlos Santamaria, assistant to trainer Simon Callaghan, said he and Callaghan would talk later Saturday about the possibility of a work for Firing Line in the coming days.


Status of Mr. Z Still Undetermined

Zayat Stables’ Mr. Z was on the Churchill track at 6:15 Saturday to gallop a little more than a mile under exercise rider Edvin Vargas. Trained by D. Wayne Lukas, Mr. Z finished 13th in the Kentucky Derby.

“We talk every day,” Lukas said of owner Ahmed Zayat, who also owns American Pharoah. “But he has a lot on his mind right now. I would say we would probably go up to entry time (Wednesday to make a decision).”

Lukas said Mr. Z would not work before the Preakness. The Lukas-trained Preakness weekend contingent that could number up to seven horses is slated to leave by van early Tuesday morning.

Charles Fipke’s Tale of Verve galloped 1 5/8 miles under Kortez Walker for trainer Dallas Stewart.

“We’re looking good,” said Stewart of the recent maiden winner. “I talked with the owner again last night. I may do something with Tale of Verve tomorrow or Monday.”

Trainer Todd Pletcher has made no decisions concerning the Preakness statuses of Materiality, Carpe Diem, Stanford and Competitive Edge. Materiality and Carpe Diem, who finished sixth and 10th, respectively, in the Derby; Stanford, who was scratched from the Derby; and Competitive Edge, the undefeated winner of the Grade 3 Pat Day Mile on the Derby undercard; are training at Belmont Park.

Federico Tesio winner Bodhisattva is scheduled for a breeze Sunday morning at Laurel Park.


Jacksons look forward to new Preakness chapter

Nine years after the Barbaro heartbreak, Gretchen and Roy Jackson are returning to Pimlico for the 140th Preakness Stakes May 16 with another homebred colt – Divining Rod – who will run in the colors of their Lael Stables.

 Divining Rod, winner of the Grade 3 Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland, will be the 27th Lael starter at Pimlico Race Course and first Preakness contender since Barbaro suffered catastrophic leg injuries early in the running of the middle jewel of the Triple Crown on May 20, 2006.

Barbaro, the decisive winner of the Kentucky Derby, was rushed from Pimlico to the University of Pennsylvania’s New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, Pa., where Dr. Dean Richardson and his team repaired the fractures in his right hind leg. However, the colt developed the hoof disease laminitis during his recovery and was euthanized Jan. 29, 2007 after veterinarians determined that he could not be saved.

 The Jacksons said Thursday they have no misgivings about running Divining Rod in the Preakness.

“We’ve moved on from Barbaro,” Gretchen Jackson said. “Barbaro was deeply loved. I’ll never go through a day probably when I don’t think about him, but this is a new horse, new chapter, new everything. So, I don’t approach it with worry.”

Roy Jackson agreed that he and his wife could not be prisoners to history.

“From my standpoint, and I think Gretchen feels the same way, we were very lucky to have him,” he said. “There were two roads you take. You could sort of sit there and dwell on it and go over and over the thing, or you could go on with life, to better things and happier days. I think we chose to look at the positive and go on with our lives and really haven’t spent a whole lot of time dwelling on the subject.”

Two weeks after Barbaro provided the Jacksons with their greatest success in racing, they were central figures in what became an international story about the valiant effort to save the colt.

“It was incredibly stressful because you second-guessed yourself every morning when you got up or when you saw him,” Gretchen Jackson said. “One day, he was great, and two weeks later, you were considering putting him down. It was a real roller-coaster ride. It was very stressful, being in constant contact with press and people you didn’t know and being asked to deal with facts and deal with emotions all the time. It was hard.”

The Jacksons had nothing but kind words for everyone involved with Barbaro, from those who rushed to his aid at the track to the staff at New Bolton.

“They were fantastic. We wouldn’t do anything different than what was done,” Roy Jackson said.

Due to their many years as breeders and owners, the Jacksons understood that racing’s highs and lows can come in quick succession and were better equipped to face the tragedy.

“We’ve been in it so long, thank God, and we’ve lived with horses on the farm so long that we were somehow baptized into dealing with it,” Gretchen Jackson said. “Not dealing with all the amount of press and attention it got – that was really new for us. But dealing with horses and tragedies, we had some experience with that.”

Roy Jackson said they have fond memories of the public support that flowed to them for Barbaro.

“Going through it, there was so much positive,” he said. “The number of people we heard from – I think we heard from people in every state in the country and 14 foreign countries, and the amount of kids who sent us things was unbelievable. An awful lot of positives came out of the whole thing.”

While Barbaro had a regal air about him, Divining Rod is a character.

“He’s a high-energy horse. If he was a person, you would say he is boisterous,” Gretchen Jackson said. “He puts a lot into everything he does. And he’s very, very high on himself. He likes himself a lot. When he comes out of the gate he just wants to zoom and do everything.”

That need-the-lead running style did not serve him well at Tampa Bay Downs, where he tired to finish second in the Grade 3 Sam F. Davis and third in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby for trainer Arnaud Delacour. Without warning, a different more tractable Divining Rod showed up at Keeneland and beat favored Donworth by 3 lengths.

“The transition that was made in the Lexington was that he didn’t come out of the gate and have to be on the front end, streaking around the racetrack,” she said.  “He was able to be brought back and kept close to the pace, but then he ran on and he showed tactical speed. He showed relaxation and a certain maturity. He stunned us all.”

As it turned out, Divining Rod did have enough qualifying points to make the Derby field from the also-eligible list. However, the Jacksons and Delacour had already decided not to run the colt back three weeks after the Lexington triumph and pointed him to the Preakness. The son of Tapit, out of multiple Grade 1 winner Precious Kitten, has been getting ready for the Preakness at the pastoral Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md.

Rachel Alexandra in 2009 is the most recent new shooter to win the Preakness after bypassing the Derby. Gretchen Jackson acknowledged that her colt faces a difficult assignment, but noted that American Pharoah had to work hard to defeat Firing Line and Dortmund in the Derby.

“It’s a good group. It’s tough,” Roy Jackson concurred, “but I think Divining Rod deserves a chance to see if he can compete or not.”


Entries for Black-Eyed Susan Day taken Sunday

The Maryland Jockey Club reminds horsemen that entries for Friday, May 15 – Black-Eyed Susan Stakes Day at Pimlico Race Course – will be taken Sunday.

The Black-Eyed Susan Day program includes eight stakes, four of them graded, including the Grade 2 Black-Eyed Susan, Grade 3 Sagamore Racing Pimlico Special, Grade 3 Adena Springs’ Miss Preakness Stakes, and Grade 3 Allaire DuPont Stakes.