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Preakness Stakes News and Notes

Preakness Stakes News and Notes

Early Look at 2009 Preakness Stakes
by T.O. Whenham

The Preakness field is setting up pretty much like you would expect it to be a few days after the Kentucky Derby. Or at least it was until some big news threatened to throw a giant wrench into the whole thing, but we'll get to that in a bit. First, we'll look at the horses that are confirmed entrants.

As of Thursday morning there are nine confirmed starters for the middle jewel in the Triple Crown, to be held May 16 at Pimlico in Baltimore. The first on any list has to be the Kentucky Derby winner, and Mine That Bird will be there. Coming off perhaps the most unexpected result in Derby history, the horse will be looking to prove that his remarkable performance wasn't a fluke. Derby winners are regularly Preakness favorites, but it is more than likely that Mine That Bird won't be here.

Mine That Bird's closest Derby contender that is entered is third place finisher Musket Man. That horse has never been off the board in seven career starts, including five wins, so it would be far from surprising to see him wind up in the top three in Baltimore. He'll be joined in the Preakness by Papa Clem, the horse that he edged out at the finish line. Papa Clem won the Arkansas Derby. So did Curlin, the Preakness winner two years ago.

There are two more Kentucky Derby starters that are confirmed Preakness entrants. General Quarters, who finished 10th, will try to add another chapter to the fairytale story that has gotten him this far - he's a former claimer that is trained by a former high school principal who has just one horse. Also making the trip is Flying Private, the last place finisher in Kentucky. He didn't look comfortable at any point in the Derby, and he quit after being forced five wide on the first turn. Legendary trainer D. Wayne Lukas obviously sees something in this horse that isn't immediately obvious given that he has won just once in 11 starts.

Those five Derby starters have four confirmed outsiders ready to give a challenge. The biggest name is Big Drama. He was a highly-touted two year old late last year, but an injury sidelined him, and he didn't return to action until the end of March. He was second in the Swale, and was deemed unready for the Derby. This is his first start since then. He's an obviously talented horse, but it remains to be seen if that talent can make up for his lack of experience.

The most intriguing of the entrants is Hull. He's a son of Holy Bull that has been unbeaten and impressive in three starts this year. He's won those races - one of which was against stakes company - by a combined 16 lengths. Trainer Dale Romans could have a star on his hands, but he'll have to prove it here.

The last two entrants are less impressive. Take The Points is a Todd Pletcher horse that was considered for the Derby before being held out. He struggled to break his maiden as a two year old, and struggled to distinguish himself in two stakes races this year. It's telling that Pletcher chose to enter three horses in the Derby but not this one, even though he was eligible. Terrain is another runner that has failed to distinguish himself against stakes company. He was third in the Louisiana Derby and fourth in the Blue Grass. He'll need to take a massive step forward here. I'm not optimistic.

There are several other potential entrants. Chief among those is Pioneerof The Nile, the second place finisher in the Kentucky Derby. Trainer Bob Baffert has been surprisingly silent on the issue, but the horse has been working like he is heading to Baltimore, and he would have a good shot at being the Preakness favorite if he was entered. Other horses under consideration include Derby favorite Friesan Fire, who would have to bounce back from a dismal 18th-place finish in that race, Conservative, who was second in the Lexington in his stakes debut in April, European invader Sky Gate, and Maryland-based Tone It Down, who would be making a major jump up in class.

And now for that news that could change everything. Rachel Alexandra is the filly that was indescribably stunning in winning the Kentucky Oaks by more than 20 lengths the day before the Derby. It was the best performance of the year, and left little doubt that she is the best three year old in the country right now. Her owners held firm that she would not face the boys on the Triple Crown trail. That all changes now that she has been sold. Jess Jackson, the wine magnate that owns Curlin, bought the horse on Wednesday and transferred him from trainer Hal Wiggins to Steve Asmussen, one of the top trainers in the country and the guy who trained Curlin. Though nothing has been confirmed, Jackson has been in contact with the Maryland Jockey Club, and the speed of the sale makes it seem likely that the Preakness is a target. The filly isn't nominated to the Triple Crown races, so she could only run if fewer than 14 horses entered the Preakness and if her owners paid $100,000 to enter her. If she were to enter she would become the overwhelming favorite, and she would likely scare off an entrant or two. She would also create a serious headache for one jockey. Her rider, Calvin Borel, also rides Derby winner Mine That Bird. He'd have to choose between the two. That would likely lead to the first time ever that a horse won the Derby and lost a jockey.

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Preakness Stakes Betting Tips
by T.O. Whenham

The Triple Crown is captivating and seductive for so many reasons. One of those is the distinct and unique challenge presented by each race. Each race presents a different challenge - different distance, field size, track layout, and so on. The characteristics of the field for each race are also very different. That means that handicappers cannot be successful in the three races by treating them all the same. To succeed with betting on the Preakness you either need to be lucky or you need to have a strategy. As you try to establish one that will work for you, here are three points you will want to consider:

Give the Derby winner respect - It's pretty easy this year to dismiss Mine That Bird as a total fluke of a Kentucky Derby winner that stands little chance of winning the Preakness. That's not a good idea. I'm not saying that he is going to win, or even that I will necessarily bet on him. It's certainly possible, though. He ran one heck of a race on Derby day, and his last half mile was impressive not just for the move he had but for the time he ran it in after already having run six furlongs.

On a more general level, the Derby winner has proven to be tough to beat in recent years in the Preakness - seven of the last 12 Derby winners have won in Baltimore two weeks later. To win the Derby a horse has to be in top physical form. That form can easily hold for two more weeks. The form that was good enough to beat 20 horses in Kentucky can reasonably be assumed to often be good enough to beat 14 or fewer the next time.

Consider fresh horses with caution -
In recent years about half of the Preakness field has previously run in the Derby, and the other half hasn't. Of the new horses, the large majority have had a longer rest than the two weeks that the Derby horses have had. On the surface it can seem logical to assume that those fresh horses will have an advantage over the horses that have already had to endure the toughest challenge there is for three year olds. That doesn't hold up in practice, though.

In the last 25 years, only two Preakness winners have not first run in the Derby. Both those winners were impressive horses as well. 2000 Preakness winner Red Bullet was a very good horse with three wins and a second to Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus as a three year old. In 2006, Bernardini was a super horse that unfortunately benefited from the breakdown of Barbaro. It stands to reason, then, that you would have to have a very good reason to consider a fresh invader unless that horse was very impressive in their own right. With the possible exception of Rachel Alexandra if she is entered, that's not the case with any of this year's invaders.

Try to explain a bad Derby performance - It's not uncommon for a very good horse to have a very bad day in the Derby. This year's Derby favorite, Friesan Fire, for example, finished 18th in the Derby. A bad performance in Louisville certainly doesn't mean that the horse has no chance in the Preakness. Point Given was a very disappointing fifth as the favorite in the 2001 Derby, but he went on to win the Preakness handily then run the fastest Belmont in history. It was obvious that he was a better horse than he appeared in the Derby, and he proved it. Afleet Alex was well regarded heading into the 2005 Derby after an eight-length win in the Arkansas Derby. Jockey Jeremy Rose gave him a truly terrible ride in the Derby and he wound up third. He bounced back to win the Preakness and the Belmont.

There are many more examples as well - Louis Quatorze was 16th in the 1996 Derby before winning the Preakness, Pine Bluff won the Preakness after finishing fifth in the 1992 Derby, Hansel went from 10th in the 1991 Derby to first in the Preakness, and so on. In each of those cases there were several reasons to account for the uncharacteristically poor performances in the Derby. You need to look at every horse entered in the Preakness following the Derby to determine if they ran as well as you expected them to in the Derby. If they didn't then you need to look at the Derby to see if you can figure why he didn't have a good day. If the reason is clear and the excuse solid then you can essentially throw out the Derby in your handicapping.

If Friesan Fire is entered in the Preakness this year then he would be a very good example. He had a very bad start out of the gate and was obviously uncomfortable from the start. His performance in the Derby has nothing to do with his real ability, and it would give no indication of his ability to compete and win in the Preakness.

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Rachel Alexandra headed to Preakness
May 8, 2009

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -Rachel Alexandra looks ready to take on the boys, with a familiar face in the saddle.
Stonestreet Stables owner Jess Jackson said Friday he's pointing the superstar 3-year-old filly to next weekend's Preakness - and Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Calvin Borel will be along for the ride.

Borel guided Rachel Alexandra to a 20 1/4-length victory in the Kentucky Oaks last Friday, then pulled a stunning upset aboard 50-1 longshot Mine That Bird in the Derby. Yet he didn't hesitate when asked by Jackson to switch mounts for next Saturday's race at Pimlico.

She's a once-in-a-lifetime horse,'' Borel said.

Rachel Alexandra is undefeated in five starts since Borel took over as her jockey last fall. She dazzled during the Oaks, roaring down the stretch with little urging to post one of the more remarkable racing performances in recent memory.

It came down to the facts that he knows and loves this horse, that he knows how to get the most from her and he knows how to win,'' Jackson said. ``They were an amazing team at the Kentucky Oaks.''

Borel was pretty good in the Derby too, leading Mine That Bird on a last-to-first dash in the final half-mile to pull off the second-biggest upset in the race's 135-year history.

Yet he couldn't pass up the chance to ride Rachel Alexandra in the Preakness, a decision Mine That Bird trainer Bennie Woolley Jr. understood.

We hate losing Calvin, he's the reason we're here,'' Woolley said. ``But these things happen and we'll move on.''

Woolley has already spoken to several jockeys about replacing Borel, but still plans to name the 42-year-old Cajun his rider at next Wednesday's Preakness draw. Woolley will go to Plan B only if Jackson pays the $100,000 supplemental fee to enter his filly in the race.

The field is capped at 14, with preference given to horses already nominated to the Triple Crown.

Three times the Derby winner has switched jockeys before the Preakness. Only Bold Venture in 1936 was able to capture the second jewel in the Triple Crown.

Borel would be the first jockey to ride the Derby winner, then hop on another horse for the Preakness. It's an opportunity he knows he couldn't pass up.

I had no choice,'' Borel said Thursday. ``She's something else.''

Jackson and partner Harold McCormick purchased Rachel Alexandra on Wednesday and promptly moved her into the barn of trainer Steve Asmussen, who guided Curlin to victory in the 2007 Preakness as part of a career that made the horse racing's all-time money winner.

Rachel Alexandra will likely put together her first workout since her Oaks win over the weekend and Jackson said he'll enter her in the 1 3/16-mile race ``if she continues to be in perfect condition.''

Nellie Morse is the last filly to win the Preakness, capturing the race in 1924. Only three fillies have made the field in the last 70 years, the last being Excellent Meeting in 1999.

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Coast looks clear for Rachel

Thirteen just might prove to be a lucky number. Led by Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird and Kentucky Oaks-winning filly Rachel Alexandra, a field of 13 was expected to be entered Wednesday in the 134th Preakness Stakes, to be run Saturday at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. If that number holds, or goes no higher than 14, it will avoid one of the more embarrassing scenarios in the history of the Triple Crown.

A maximum of 14 horses - which can fit in one starting gate - can run in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness, owing to the width of the track. If more than 14 were to enter the $1 million race, there is the potential that Rachel Alexandra, who has to be supplemented to the Preakness for $100,000, would be excluded.

Unlike the Derby, where the race conditions clearly say that supplemental entries cannot supersede the entry of an original nominee, there is no language in the published Preakness race conditions stating that supplements are to be treated differently than original nominees.
"That was unfortunately omitted," Georganne Hale, racing secretary at Pimlico, said Monday morning.

Pimlico's decision to treat Preakness supplements like those of the Derby led to a wild day Sunday, when the owners of Mine That Bird and Pioneerof the Nile, the Derby runner-up, said on HRTV that they would enter lesser horses in the Preakness to try to keep Rachel Alexandra from running. Both owners - Mark Allen and Ahmed Zayat - later Sunday reconsidered and said they would not enter other runners.

"My decision to enter Indy Express in the Preakness was strictly business," Allen, who owns Mine That Bird with Dr. Leonard Blach, said in a statement, "but after consulting with my dad and Doc Blach, I have decided to withdraw Indy Express to prevent any further misunderstandings. Their advice to me was just to do what's right, because arrogance and greed isn't right.

"So we'll meet everyone in Baltimore, ready to run."

Hale said she was relying on the opinion of Martin Jacobs, counsel for the Maryland Jockey Club, which runs Pimlico. She said Jacobs rendered his ruling on supplemental nominees late last week.

When asked Monday why Pimlico chose to treat Preakness supplements in such a manner, Jacobs said: "There's no reason to think that's going to happen."

Jacobs declined to explain further.

Assuming 15 or more do not enter the Preakness, Frank Carulli, the track's linemaker, said the highly popular Rachel Alexandra would be the morning-line favorite.

The likelihood that Rachel Alexandra will not be put in a precarious position was welcome news for Jess Jackson, who purchased the majority interest in Rachel Alexandra last week.

"He is extremely pleased that Rachel Alexandra will be able to compete as the fans deserve to have the best horses compete," Caroline Shaw, a spokeswoman for Jackson, said in an e-mail. "Sportsmanship has prevailed here."

Regardless, the inconsistencies in how supplements are treated in Triple Crown races are being re-examined.

"The Derby is the only race where it is spelled out," said Ed Seigenfeld of Triple Crown Productions, which coordinates nominations for the three Triple Crown races each year. "There's nothing specifically listed in the Preakness or Belmont conditions. I guarantee it will be spelled out next year."

Seigenfeld said there is a clause on the common nomination form for the Triple Crown races that gives tracks latitude in deciding how to treat their races.

The Derby rules were instituted more than two decades ago. The initial impetus to have iron-clad rules came in 1981, when the owners of both Flying Nashua and Mythical Ruler successfully challenged the ambiguous language at the time and were granted spots in the field. Twenty-two entered that Derby and, following a scratch, 21 ran.

The Breeders' Cup treats supplements equal to original nominees. In oversubscribed fields, half the starters are determined by points earned in graded stakes during the year, the rest by a committee of racing officials.

To be sure, if the Preakness field holds at 13, it will be full of quality. In addition to Rachel Alexandra, the first four finishers from the Derby

- Mine That Bird, Pioneerof the Nile, Musket Man, and Papa Clem - are in the field as well as Friesan Fire, the beaten favorite in the Derby, and the highly regarded Big Drama. Others expected to enter are Flying Private, General Quarters, Luv Gov, Take the Points, Terrain, and Tone it Down.

Hull, the Derby Trial winner, was withdrawn from consideration Monday.

Big Drama was the first Preakness runner to arrive at Pimlico, and he completed his serious training for the Preakness with a half-mile work in 50 seconds Monday morning.

At Churchill Downs on Monday, Mine That Bird (49.20 seconds), Pioneerof the Nile (47.60 seconds), Flying Private (48.20 seconds), and General Quarters (50.20 seconds) all worked a half-mile.

"He's as ready as he can be and he's going to run as well as he can," said Chip Woolley, trainer of Mine That Bird, who was scheduled to be sent by van from Churchill Downs to Pimlico on Tuesday.

Rachel Alexandra worked a half-mile Sunday at Churchill Downs in 48.40 seconds. She is scheduled to fly to Maryland on Wednesday. Luv Gov went the same distance in 48.20 seconds. Terrain worked five furlongs in 1:02.60. His trainer, Al Stall Jr., on Monday said Jeremy Rose would ride Terrain in the Preakness.

At Belmont Park on Sunday, Take the Points worked five furlongs in 1:00.13.

Calvin Borel, who rode both Mine That Bird and Rachel Alexandra in their last start, has chosen to stick with Rachel Alexandra. If she is kept out of the Preakness, Borel will get the mount on Mine That Bird. Otherwise, Mike Smith will ride Mine That Bird, Allen said.

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Filly Rachel Alexandra instills dread in rivals

BALTIMORE (AP) -Larry Jones knows something about running a filly against the boys in a Triple Crown race, and he's not looking forward to the threat posed by Rachel Alexandra.

The trainer saddled Eight Belles to a gallant second-place finish in last year's Kentucky Derby before she broke her front ankles past the finish line and had to be destroyed on the track.

Now Jones is preparing to send this year's beaten Derby favorite Friesan Fire in Saturday's Preakness Stakes against stellar filly Rachel Alexandra, who has won five consecutive races by a combined 43 1/2 lengths.

''Anytime the horse is as fast as her, you wish you didn't have to run against them,'' Jones said Tuesday. ''I've chased her twice with fillies. If I've got any shot of beating her, it's going to have to be with a boy. I ain't got a filly that can try her.''

Perhaps because she's beaten her fellow females so soundly, Rachel Alexandra is gearing up to test herself against new rivals.

Coming off a smashing 20 1/4-length victory in the Derby eve Kentucky Oaks, Rachel Alexandra is expected to be among at least 13 horses entered Wednesday for the 1 3-16-mile Preakness. That's when the filly's owner, Jess Jackson, has to pony up a $100,000 supplemental fee because she wasn't nominated to the Triple Crown races.

''She may never know there's any colts in here. She just may go in the front and think there's a bunch of girls chasing her around there,'' Jones said.

Pimlico oddsmaker Frank Carulli has already said he would make Rachel Alexandra the morning-line favorite. No filly has won the Preakness since Nellie Morse in 1924.

Gary Stute, who trains Papa Clem, isn't thrilled by the prospect of taking on Rachel Alexandra.

''Personally, it's a little disappointing, but for racing I think it's great,'' he said. ''I figure it should bring 20-30,000 extra fans here on Saturday. And when the husbands are watching the race at home, the wives will be watching, too. Racing is in kind of a downward spiral right now, and this can only help it in the long run.''

Jones may not welcome the extra competition, but he has no qualms about a filly going against the boys a year after the Eight Belles tragedy thrust horse racing into a heated debate on such issues as safety and treatment of the animals.

''If they run her in the Preakness, it shows me they have confidence that we didn't mess up running Eight Belles in the Derby,'' he said. ''It wasn't the fact that there was boys in there that made her do what she did. That wasn't why Eight Belles had her problem.''

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert was sanguine about Rachel Alexandra. He saddled Excellent Meeting, the last filly to run in the Preakness in 1999. She was pulled up in the race.

''There is going to be a lot of excitement with that filly in there,'' Baffert said from Louisville, Ky. ''She's an incredible athlete. She's going to be forwardly placed, so she'll be out of the way. She's got a beautiful fluid stride and a great turn of foot. She's dangerous.''

The imposing presence of Rachel Alexandra steals much of the spotlight from Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, who hasn't scared away the competition as he tries to back up his 50-1 upset by winning the second leg of the Triple Crown.

Among his other challengers will be Derby runner-up Pioneerof the Nile, who lost by 6 3/4 lengths; third-place finisher Musket Man; fourth-place Papa Clem; and 10th-place General Quarters.

Count Jones among the skeptics questioning whether Mine That Bird can return to the winner's circle two weeks after a Derby victory that still has people buzzing.

''He has to do it twice in a row to make me a believer,'' Jones said.

Mine That Bird arrived in Baltimore on Tuesday evening via the same humble way he traveled to the Derby from New Mexico - in a trailer hitched to trainer Bennie Woolley Jr.'s pickup truck.

The trip took about 10 hours, with Woolley driving despite a broken right leg. His only stops were for the restroom and food.

Mine That Bird came off the trailer, got washed off and then posed for photos with the police officers who escorted him on the last part of the trip into Pimlico.

''He's a good shipper,'' Woolley said. ''Nothing bothers him.''

Most of the other the Preakness runners were flying into Baltimore.

Mine That Bird likely won't even have the same jockey on his back Saturday. Calvin Borel, whose rail-hugging ride in the Derby was credited for the victory, has committed to being aboard Rachel Alexandra, whom he rides regularly.

If she becomes just the fourth filly to run since 1939, Woolley will go with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith on Mine That Bird. Smith won the 1993 Preakness with Prairie Bayou.

''It's getting exciting. Things are starting to build and I am eager to run again,'' Woolley said before leaving Churchill Downs. ''I came here as the underdog with no pressure. Things have changed slightly.''

Jones figures the betting public will make Rachel Alexandra the heavy favorite, followed by Pioneerof the Nile, Mine That Bird and possibly Friesan Fire, who staggered home next-to-last in the Derby after a rough trip in the mud.

''This filly is something that we haven't seen in horse racing in a while,'' he said. ''It's not that there hasn't been great fillies - Zenyatta is very nice - but this filly might go down in the record books as one of the nicest to ever wear a tack.''

Jones decided to enter Louisiana Derby winner Friesan Fire after a five-furlong workout Tuesday. He's convinced the colt has healed from cuts to his left front hoof and all four legs sustained when he was bumped after the start of the Derby.

''All is well,'' he said. ''We're ready to go.''

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Preakness Preview - Part I
By Anthony Stabile

Mine That Bird’s shocking upset of the G1 Kentucky Derby has done little to keep them from coming to Pimlico as it looks like a bakers’ dozen will line up for the 134th running of the G1 Preakness, the second jewel of the Triple Crown.

In most years, fellow Derby winners usually take one off and await the G1 Belmont Stakes, run three weeks after the Preakness and some five weeks after the Derby. This year, six other Derby participants are scheduled to tackle the Derby victor once again and will be joined by a half dozen new shooters who will speak about in this space.

Being the gentleman that I am, what better place to start then with the fabulous filly Rachel Alexandra. The hit soap opera “Days of Our Lives” has nothing on the events that have taken place in the past week or so, on the Triple Crown trail and Rachel Alexandra has been at the center of it all.
Late last week, owner Jess Jackson of Curlin fame purchased the G1 Kentucky Oaks winner for a reported $10 million and promptly turned her training over to Steve Asmussen. Just as quickly, he announced that the Preakness and a shot at the boys was the likely next spot for his stables newest acquisition, a notion that wasn’t even open for discussion with her previous connections. Jackson supplemented the filly for $100,000. Multiple controversies ensued.

The first thing that came to most peoples minds was the Eight Belle’s tragedy of last years Derby but those thoughts were quickly dismissed when everyone realized that jockey Calvin Borel would now have to chose between Rachel Alexandra and Mine That Bird. Borel decided to stay with the star filly.

Then, over the weekend, a plan was hatched between one of Mine That Bird’s owners and Zayat Stable, owner of Derby runner-up Pioneerof the Nile, to each enter an additional horse in the Preakness to keep Rachel Alexandra out of the race as first preference is given to original Triple Crown nominees. Quick to join in was trainer D. Wayne Lukas who announced that he would enter Luv Gov, who broke his maiden in his tenth try on Derby Day, as well. It made for an interesting Mother’s Day in the horse racing world to say the least.

As the sun set on Sunday, however, everything settled down quite a bit. Zayat Stable pulled out of the plan immediately, as did Mine That Bird’s connections while Marylou Whitney, owner of Luv Gov (who’ll be ridden by Jamie Theriot), stated that she wouldn’t enter her horse if it meant keeping Rachel Alexandra out of the Preakness. Order was restored and Rachel Alexandra was in.

As for the filly, her resume speaks for itself. After winning just twice in her first five starts, all going one turn, Rachel Alexandra is a perfect five for five around two turns, including three G2s, the Golden Rod, the Fair Grounds Oaks and the Fantasy. She’ll look to become the first filly to win the Preakness since Nellie Morse did so in 1924. The last filly to start in the Preakness was Excellent Meeting in 1999. She was eased.

Big Drama will make his Triple Crown debut in the Preakness for trainer David Fawkes, perhaps the only trainer to ever successfully battle Derby Fever as he manages to turn back the temptation of taking a shot at the roses though his colt had plenty of credentials and earnings to do so.

After finishing third in his debut, Big Drama won five in a row to close out 2008, including three restricted Florida bred stakes and the G3 Delta Jackpot. Nagging injuries kept him out of action until late winter and instead of rushing the colt, Fawkes took a more conservative approach and used the G2 Swale on the Florida Derby undercard as Big Drama’s seasonal debut.

Sent immediately to the front in his first start in almost four months, Big Drama went wire to wire in course record time before being disqualified and placed second for bumping the second place finisher twice in the stretch. Still, the Swale proved to be a useful springboard and John Velazquez will ride for the first time on Saturday.

After taking three shots in the Derby, Take the Points will be the lone entrant from the Todd Pletcher stable in the Preakness. Another who could have run in the Derby, Pletcher decided to keep this colt on the bench as Join in the Dance, Dunkirk and Advice finished 7th, 11th and 13th respectively in the Run for the Roses.

Twice a winner from six starts, Take the Points finished second in the G3 Sham two back before a fourth place finish in the G1 Santa Anita Derby last out. Edgar Prado, who’s two for two aboard Take the Points, returns to the saddle for the Preakness.

Terrain is another new shooter whose Derby aspirations were squashed by a pair of sub-par performances to start his sophomore season. A third in the G2 Louisiana Derby and fourth in the G1 Blue Grass weren’t enough to convince trainer Al Stall to run Terrain in the Derby as he opted for this far more reasonable spot. Last season, Terrain won his first three starts and was second in the G1 Breeders’ Futurity. Jeremy Rose will ride.

Finally, Tone It Down will carry the local banner for trainer Bill Komlo. Third in the Federico Tesio over the Pimlico strip last out, Kent Desormeaux will replace Mario Pino in the saddle for the Preakness.

Preakness Preview - Part II

As expected, thirteen three-year-olds were entered for the 134th running of the G1 Preakness on Wednesday, led by the fantastic filly Rachel Alexandra who was installed as the 8-5 morning line favorite. While she is one of six new shooters, today we’ll focus on the seven who contested the G! Kentucky Derby a little less than two weeks ago. And what better place to start than with the upset winner, Mine That Bird.

We all know his somewhat crazy story by now. Trainer Chip Woolley was hobbling around Churchill Downs on crutches, the result of a motorcycle accident that occurred earlier this year; Woolley drove Mine That Bird by van from New Mexico to Kentucky, a 21 hour drive; a co-owner was involved in a political mess up in Alaska; the connections gave the roses from the winning Derby blanket out in front of the Derby museum the day after the race. And, of course, Calvin Borel’s amazing rail-skimming ride that has somewhat overshadowed the horse himself.

Like Rachel Alexandra, the human aspect of the story seems to have taken away from what this horse accomplished. HE WON THE DERBY!!! Only 134 others have been able to say that and it’s something you can never take away from him. Not bad for a horse who was winless on dirt prior to the Derby, in races at Sunland Park that weren’t even graded. What was taken away from him was his jockey, who decided to stay with Rachel Alexandra. Hall of Famer Mike Smith will replace Borel in the saddle on Saturday.
Almost seven lengths behind the winner, Pioneerof the Nile, Musket Man and Papa Clem, in order, finished in a three horse blanket finish for second. As if the Trail needed more controversy, many feel that Pioneerof the Nile should have been disqualified from second, but it’s the Kentucky Derby and short of bloodshed, no horse is getting DQed. It may not be right but it’s just how it is.

A bit closer than most expected, Pioneerof the Nile actually grabbed the lead turning for home and appeared to be handing his trainer Bob Baffert Derby win number four before the winner flew in from out of the clouds. In spite of drifting through the stretch and brushing with his photo finish partners, Pioneerof the Nile fought bravely through the lane to hold the place in what was his conventional dirt debut. Earlier this year, Pioneerof the Nile won a pair of G2s and the G1 Santa Anita Derby in his final prep for the Derby. Regular rider Garrett Gomez returns.

Musket Man put in his usual solid showing in the Derby with his third place finish. He’s now won 5 of 7 career starts, including the G3 Tampa Bay Derby and G2 Illinois Derby, finished third in his other two starts at five different racetracks. Jockey Eibar Coa stays here over Big Drama for trainer Derek Ryan.

G2 Arkansas Derby winner Papa Clem is another who’s given good accounts of himself since switching from the synthetic surfaces of Southern California. In fact, the Arkansas Derby was his only race over a dry track as his second place finish in the G2 Louisiana Derby and fourth place finish in Kentucky both came over sloppy courses. Rafael Bejarano rides for trainer Gary Stute.

General Quarters is one of those horses that got lost in the shuffle once the gate opened for the Derby, something that happens to several horses every year. After steadying twice, General Quarters never really got involved and wound up finishing tenth for the Cinderella story going into the Derby, trainer Tom McCarthy, a Louisville native. McCarthy reported after the race that his colts’ eyes and nostrils were full of mud and that it probably affected his performance greatly. Julien Leparoux, who rode him for the first time in Kentucky, will be back aboard.

The Larry Jones trained Louisiana Derby winner Friesan Fire returns for the Preakness after running off of a 7 week layoff in the Derby. Combine that with a terrible start and horrendous trip overall that resulted in a minor foot injury and it’s easy to see why people are willing to draw a line through his Derby performance in which he beat just one horse Jockey Gabriel Saez smartly wrapped up on him through the stretch when he was hopelessly beaten and it was obvious he wasn’t going to be in the money.

Finally, last place Derby finisher Flying Private will join stablemate Luv Gov in the starting gate for trainer d. Wayne Lukas. Just 1 for 11 in his career, Flying Private broke from the outside post 19 in the Derby and raced wide throughout before stopping. Alan Garcia rides.

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Re: Preakness Stakes News and Notes

Rachel Alexandra is 8-5 Preakness favorite

BALTIMORE (AP) -Rachel Alexandra was made the early 8-5 favorite Wednesday for the Preakness Stakes, the first filly accorded that status since 1988.

She brings a five-race winning streak into Saturday's 1 3-16-mile race at Pimlico.

Trained by Steve Asmussen and ridden by Calvin Borel, Rachel Alexandra drew the No. 13 post on the far outside.

''It's beautiful. She's going to be able to get position,'' said Scott Blasi, Asmussen's assistant.

Borel chose to stay on as Rachel Alexandra's regular rider, switching off Kentucky Derby winner Mine That Bird, who gets Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith.

''Calvin knows this filly so well, I don't think we have to tell him anything about where he wants to be with her,'' Blasi said. ''He's very comfortable with her and we're very comfortable with him.''

No filly since Nellie Morse in 1924 has won the Preakness. The last filly to go off as the wagering favorite was Winning Colors at 2-1 odds in 1988. She finished third.

Rachel Alexandra has a front-running style, and hasn't been farther back than second while running her last five races.

''It's a good spot for her,'' said Bob Baffert, who trains rival Pioneerof the Nile. ''She's out there in the clear. If you're in the middle and you don't break well, they can jam you up. She's going to be (running) one, two or three; that's a good spot for her.''

Pioneerof the Nile, the Kentucky Derby runner-up, was made the 5-1 second choice in the 13-horse field by Pimlico oddsmaker Frank Carulli. The colt drew the No. 9 post.

Mine That Bird and Friesan Fire were the co-third choices at 6-1. Mine That Bird will break from the No. 2 post; Friesan Fire is in the No. 5 spot.

Bennie Woolley Jr., who trains Mine That Bird, was happy with his colt's post, pointing out that speedster Big Drama is in the No. 1 hole and Musket Man will start from No. 3.

''They should clear away from us, put us in a nice spot to coast down the front side,'' he said. ''I like the fact that Big Drama is inside of me. He will move on. It should leave me a little bit of a spot there.''

Musket Man, third in the Derby, was 8-1.

The draw was done in a tent near the stakes barn at Pimlico after being held downtown Baltimore in recent years. It was a traditional ''pill pull'' where the horses' entry blanks were drawn simultaneously with a numbered pill to determine their position in the starting gate.

The field, from the rail out, is Big Drama (10-1), Mine That Bird (6-1), Musket Man (8-1), Luv Gov (50-1), Friesan Fire (6-1), Terrain (30-1), Papa Clem (12-1), General Quarters (20-1), Pioneerof the Nile (5-1), Flying Private (50-1), Take the Points (30-1), Tone It Down (50-1) and Rachel Alexandra (8-5).

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Re: Preakness Stakes News and Notes

Post Positions and Potential Impact
by T.O. Whenham

The horses are entered, the posts are drawn, and the morning line odds are set. The only thing that stands between us and the crowning of a Preakness winner is time. Here's how the starting gate will be loaded up on Saturday at 6:15 p.m. EST for the 134th running of the Preakness Stakes.

1. Big Drama - John Velazquez - 10/1
2. Mine That Bird - Mike Smith - 6/1
3. Musket Man - Eibar Coa - 8/1
4. Luv Gov - Jamie Theriot - 50/1
5. Friesan Fire - Gabriel Saez - 6/1
6. Terrain - Jeremy Rose - 30/1
7. Papa Clem - Rafael Bejarano - 12/1
8. General Quarters - Julien Leparoux - 20/1
9. Pioneerof The Nile - Garrett Gomez - 5/1
10. Flying Private - Alan Garcia - 50/1
11. Take The Points - Edgar Prado - 30/1
12. Tone It Down - Kent Desormeaux - 50/1
13. Rachel Alexandra - Calvin Borel - 8/5

The first thing that jumps out when you look at the post positions is where Rachel Alexandra will be starting from. She's a horse that likes to get to the lead early on and stay there, but it's a long way from the 13th spot in the gate to the lead. There's always a chance that a horse can burn itself out making a move like that if she isn't in the right headspace. She has only started further out than the fifth spot once in her 10 career starts, and that was only out in the ninth spot. It's another unknown for a horse that already has a few of those to overcome. She'd have been far more attractive at her price if she was starting closer to the rail.

Second choice Pioneerof The Nile is more familiar with the spot he drew. He has twice started out of the No. 9 spot, and he won once from there. He also managed to finish second from the No. 15 spot in the Derby.

There is no sense in spending any time at all considering the positioning of Mine That Bird. He'll be looking to drop to the back of the field as soon as he can, and you can get there from any spot in the gate.

The middle of gate is generally a prime position in any race. That is good news for both co-third choice Friesan Fire and intriguing longshot and Blue Grass Stakes winner General Quarters. General Quarters won the Blue Grass out of the same eight spot he is in this time. Friesan Fire was fourth his only time out of the No. 5 spot, but he twice won from the sixth position. Of course, he also started in the No. 6 when he wound up 18th in the Derby.

In 2006, Bernardini won out of the eight spot, and Sweetnorthernsaint finished second out of post No. 7. The next year, Curlin, No. 4, finished ahead of Street Sense, No. 8. No. 7 Hard Spun finished third. Big Brown started out of the No. 7 spot last year. Macho Again was second starting in the far inside gate.

In terms of the prices, a few things jump out. Rachel Alexandra was set at a bit of a higher price than I expected her to be, but the post position probably contributed to that. I full expect that price to fall between now and post time. Pioneerof The Nile at 5/1 seems to be a fair price, and I would see it as a bargain if he was still there by post time. I'm not a big believer in Friesan Fire, but a lot of people obviously are. 6/1 in a 13-horse field is far more attractive than 7/2 in a 19-horse field, so this will be attractive for people willing to give the horse a mulligan. I was a little surprised to see Mine That Bird at 6/1. He deserves to be the third or fourth choice as he is, but this price just seems so hard to believe compared to the 51/1 price he faced just two weeks ago. It's not often you see a horse that is any harder than this to get a sense of, so it's hard to determine whether this price is fair or if it's ridiculous. That's a question for you to figure out for yourself.

As for the rest, Musket Man seems a little underpriced at 8/1, Papa Clem at 12/1 and General Quarters at 20/1 seem reasonably priced, Big Drama doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me at 10/1 (I expected him to be more in the 20/1 range), and for better or for worse I'm not going to worry about anyone beyond that.

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Re: Preakness Stakes News and Notes

Preakness Stakes Predictions
by T.O. Whenham

Horse racing is such a compelling and challenging sport because you are constantly faced with unique and difficult situations. Every major race provides a different puzzle to consider, and just when you think you have it all figured out the sport rises up and shows you who is boss. There is no better reminder of this than this year's Kentucky Derby. I sat in the grandstand at Churchill that day. Before and during the race it was so loud you couldn't hear yourself think. Once people realized who had won, though, a stunned silence spread across the massive complex. No one had honestly believed that that result was even remotely possible.

On the heels of that Derby we have a Preakness that really has me scratching my head. Handicapping this race requires me to address at least six different big questions:

1. Rachel Alexandra - The entry of this filly has made this race very difficult. She has been incredibly impressive this year, and her win in the Oaks was one of the most remarkable efforts I have ever seen. Based on that performance it's tempting to think that she could run away with this race. That's certainly what the public will think. There is evidence to support that position, too - horses that have posted Beyer figures over 100 in two career races tend to excel in the Preakness, and she is the only one with that distinction. Before you get too excited, though, there are some real strikes against her. She has never run against the boys, and she has faced a generally underwhelming group of fillies, so we can't be sure if she is up to the jump in competition she will face. She also has a few trends working against her - no filly has won the race since 1924, only three fillies have run in the race since World War II, 23 of the last 25 Preakness winners have previously run in the Derby, and front-end speed like hers has only held up to win in three of the last 23 races.

2. Mine That Bird - The move that this horse made in the Derby was incredible at the time, and has grown to be more and more impressive each of the six million times I have watched the replay. It was a truly world-class effort. Nothing that the horse did before that race gave us a clue that the effort was even remotely possible. That's what I thought before the Derby, and that's still what I think after studying the past performances again and again. It would be easy to assume that the effort was a fluke that can't possibly be repeated. On the other hand, he's fit and tuned up and he looks great. The Derby winner has won nine of the last 23 runnings of the Preakness, so he is in good company. It might be a bad decision, but I can't help but thinking that this horse stands a chance.

3. Pioneerof The Nile - The puzzle here is less difficult to dissect. He's a good horse that is well ridden and that ran a good race on Derby day. He'll likely be the second choice, and he deserves to be. He runs a style that suits the track, and his trainer knows as well as anyone how to win this race. The only big question is whether he is good enough to beat the filly.

4. Friesan Fire - The Derby favorite had an absolutely disastrous race. I wasn't particularly high on the horse coming into Kentucky because of the seven-week layoff he'd had, so now I have to figure out what I think about him coming into this race. It's far from unprecedented for a Derby favorite to tank it in the Derby and then bounce back in the Preakness - Snow Chief, Hansel and Point Given all did it. Louis Quatorze wasn't the Derby favorite in 1996, but he bounced back from a dismal 16th-place finish in the Derby to not only win the Preakness but also set a track record in the process. On the other hand, this horse visibly quit coming into the second turn in that race, and I'm not convinced that he has the heart it takes to bounce back.

5. Musket Man - I was high on this horse coming into the Derby and I still am. He had a very good race that day. The challenge is figuring out what kind of horse this is. He reminds me of Bluegrass Cat. He was a brilliant horse that was second in the Derby, Belmont and Travers in 2006. He was as reliable as a horse could be, and you knew he was going to hit the board, but you never got the feeling that he was quite good enough to win against the top competition. Is Musket Man like that, too, or is he good enough to win?

6. The rest of the field - I respect Papa Clem, but I'm not convinced he's a top contender. He'll be in the bottom of my exotics, but not on top. Beyond that, there isn't a horse in the field that I give much credit. General Quarters isn't a top-level horse on the dirt, and Todd Pletcher and D. Wayne Lukas have brought also-rans to the table. Tone It Down doesn't belong here, and Big Drama and Terrain are outmatched.

So, what does that all boil down to? Do I believe that Rachel Alexandra can win? Yes. But she certainly won't provide any value at the price she will be at. I can't keep her out of the top of my exotics, but I will look for value by looking elsewhere to win. The nice thing about her inclusion in the race is that every other horse will have a decidedly inflated price. I probably won't decide what I am going to do for sure until almost post time, but if I were to construct a superfecta ticket now it would have Rachel Alexandra, Mine That Bird and Pioneerof The Nile on top, those three plus Musket Man and Friesan Fire for second, Papa Clem added in for third, and General Quarters in for fourth. That ticket would cost $192 and would have a decent chance at a nice payoff. Depending on the prices, win tickets will be on Mine That Bird, Pioneerof The Nile and/or Musket Man. No matter what happens, though, this is going to be one fantastic race.

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