Archive for May, 2011

2011 Preakness Wrap + Early Belmont Stakes Preview

The Triple Crown trail upsets continued as the 2011 Preakness went to Kentucky Derby 4th place finisher Shackleford. You can read the entire story at Horse Racing Nation.


Will Shackleford run in the Belmont Stakes? - photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Shackleford pressed solid fractions and was waiting for someone to go by but there were no takers so he happily took down top honors. Animal Kingdom rallied to land the place and Astrology finished a respectable 3rd. Dialed In clunked up for 4th and disappointing 6th place finisher Mucho Macho Man had early trouble, raced wide, and reportedly threw a shoe again.

As of now, it appears as though 14-horses are under consideration for the2011 Belmont Stakes. This evenly matched group of 3-year-olds take turns beating each other and we will probably see another upset in the Test of Champions.

Pedigree means everything in the Belmont Stakes and a horse like Shackleford could be in deep water because he does his best work on or near a fast pace and that strategy won’t work at twelve furlongs.

Likely Belmont starter Santiva has the right grinding style for Big Sandy and Stay Thirsty is bred to run all day.

Master of Hounds and Nehro are logical Belmont Stakes contenders. The former has the pedigree power but has been in Dubai, Ireland, the United States and back this year and could have serious jet lag if he returns to the US. The latter remains eligible for an entry level spot and has a case of seconditis.

Animal Kingdom will probably get the trip and has a strong kick when the pace is slow. How much energy does he have in reserve following back-to-back strong efforts in Kentucky and Maryland?

I will be posting profiles of all Belmont Stakes contenders in the coming weeks…stay tuned!

2011 Preakness Profile: Astrology

The Kentucky Derby pace was surprisingly soft and if they try to go that slow again look for Astrology and jockey Mike Smith to make their presence felt throughout from the cozy rail.

Steve Asmussen

Trainer Steve Asmussen has saddled two Preakness winners - photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Astrology showed ability right out of the box as a juvenile at Saratoga with a debut show finish and an extended sprint maiden win over To Honor And Serve. He was the beaten favorite in the Garden State Stakes at Monmouth in his third outing and rebounded to win Churchill’s Iroquois in October. He ended his juvenile season with a place finish behind Santiva in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes under the Twin Spires.

He got a late start on the 2011 Kentucky Derby trail and was forced to miss the first Saturday in May after a pair of runner-up efforts in the March 27 Sunland Derby and April 23 Jerome.

The son of A.P. Indy is no longer behind schedule for Steve Asmussen and he has the talent to make a longshot run for Preakness glory on Saturday.  He figures to save all of the ground on or near the lead and should have every chance if good enough.

2011 Preakness Profile: Concealed Identity

The Preakness would not be the same without a local hope and this year’s Maryland-bred entrant is Concealed Identity. He landed lucky post position thirteen and is listed at 30-1 on the morning line.

Concealed Identity is conditioned by longtime Maryland trainer Edmond Gaudet, and the octogenarian is saddling his first Preakness starter. The son of ’04 Preakness winner Smarty Jones has captured four of his eight lifetime starts and has really improved this spring.

The key to his recent success appears to be routing at Pimlico and he deserves a shot against the big boys especially in a wide open year like this. He is back in two weeks after winning the local Tesio Stakes and he beat a couple of decent horses that day.

It is obviously asking alot to step up and face grade one company in a race of this magnitude but a minor award is not totally out of the question for the improving sort.

2011 Preakness Profile: Isn’t He Perfect

At 30-1 on the morning line and breaking from post position twelve, Isn’t He Perfect is the longest of the longshots in the 2011 Preakness.

The experienced son of Pleasantly Perfect has faced the starter twelve times with a pair of wins to his credit. He has worked his way up from the maiden claiming ranks to compete in stakes races but he has yet to make a dent versus tougher competition.

Isn’t He Perfect is a decent allowance type with tactical speed and his new rider Edgar Prado knows Pimlico like the back of his hand. He would have to improve several lengths to make a dent in the Preakness and if his other three graded races are any indication he figures to be competitive until the real running begins around the far turn.

2011 Preakness Profile: Flashpoint

Flashpoint could have a big say in the final outcome of the 2011 Preakness. The speedy colt is the likely pacesetter but might have a hard time lasting the distance.


Flashpoint is the Preakness target - photo by Eclipse Sportswire

Owned by Peachtree Stable and formerly conditioned by Rick Dutrow, Flashpoint cruised in his inner track debut at Aqueduct and promptly shipped to Florida for the Hutcheson Stakes. He was sent off at almost 7-1 in the latter race and dusted heavy favorite Travelin Man. His connections caught Derby fever and he faded after chasing a fast pace in the nine furlong Florida Derby. In his defense, he did break from the outside post and chased wide in his first two turn try that day.

He moved to the Wesley Ward barn shortly after the Florida Derby and has drilled a pair of Keeneland bullets. He is bred to sprint and looks best around one turn, and his lack of experience and seasoning will probably catch up with him in Baltimore.

2011 Preakness Profile: King Congie

King Congie has done all of his damage on synthetic/turf and might struggle on conventional dirt in the 2011 Preakness. Yes, we heard the same thing about Animal Kingdom in the Kentucky Derby and that did not turn out as expected.

The difference with King Congie is that he tried dirt earlier in his career and did not handle it very well. Granted, those races were sprints and he is much better now.

After flopping in a pair of dirt sprints in New York, King Congie switched surfaces and crossed the line first in three straight turf routes. He rallied to finish a close-up 3rd when last seen in the Blue Grass Stakes but it should be noted that late runners fared well in that Polytrack affair.

Owned by West Point Thoroughbreds and trained by Tom Albertrani, the 3-year-old son of Badge of Silver can complete in the Preakness if he handles the footing and it would be fitting if his new pilot Robby Albarado, who was removed from Animal Kingdom just prior to the run for the roses, got sweet revenge on another 20-1 surface switcher.

2011 Preakness Profile: Norman Asbjornson

Norman Asbjornson drew post two and is a 30-1 outsider in the 2011 Preakness. Can the 3-year-old son of former Preakness hero Real Quiet upset the applecart? Probably not, but a minor award is not out of the question.

The Christopher Grove charge failed to get involved in a trio of Pennsylvania maiden sprint starts to begin his career but has been a new horse since stretching out in distance.

He graduated at a flat mile at Penn National in December and sailed through the entry level ranks to begin his 3-year-old campaign. A runner-up effort in the Gotham Stakes followed and he was last seen finishing a respectable 4th in the Wood Memorial.

The Preakness is a tough test but he shows two works at Pimlico including a solid one-mile move on May 6. He is not nearly as fast as some of his more fancied rivals but his numbers are slowly improving and he could spice up the exotics in Baltimore on Saturday.

2011 Preakness Profile: Mr. Commons

John Shirreffs will always be best known as the trainer of Zenyatta but he has also captured the Kentucky Derby with Giacomo and has conditioned numerous other stakes winners including Bertrando, Harmonious, Life Is Sweet, and Tiago. This year, he will attempt to win the Preakness Stakes with late bloomer Mr. Commons.

John Shirreffs

Don't underestimate sharp trainer John Shirreffs in Preakness - photo by Eclipse sportswire

The Artie Schiller colt owns a solid grass pedigree and after a schooling run in his synthetic sprint bow he dusted promising Julio Canani trainee Akkadian in a downhill turf event at Santa Anita on January 15.

Mr. Commons moved to the Santa Anita main track in his first start versus winners and a victory in that flat mile affair was enough to earn him a shot in the Santa Anita Derby. He rallied from 6th to land the show in the latter event and was briefly considered for the Kentucky Derby but did not have the graded earnings to make the gate on the first Saturday in May.

All of his workouts have occurred at his Hollywood Park home base and his last three seven furlong moves have been geared toward building his stamina. His future probably lies on turf and the 2011 Santa Anita Derby was not the strongest renewal but John Shirreffs is a patient trainer and realistically spots  his horses so it might be wise to use Mr. Commons on your Preakness tickets.

2011 Preakness Profile: Dance City

Todd Pletcher has a new shooter for the 2011 Preakness and his name is Dance City.

The 3-year-old son of City Zip probably gets much of his stamina from dam sire Pleasant Colony. He landed the place behind subsequent Wood Memorial runner-up Arthur’s Tale in his December bow at Aqueduct and proceeded to win two straight at Gulfstream Park over the winter, beating the likes of stablemate Cal Nation and Bowman’s Causeway.

Dance City shipped to Oaklawn Park for the Arkansas Derby and gamely finished 3rd after attending the pace throughout. He showed the ability to come again when passed by Cal Nation and Sway Away in his last pair and that tenacity should serve him well in Baltimore.

The Arkansas Derby has already produced Kentucky Derby runner-up Nehro and Peter Pan winner Alternation and Dance City will try to add to the legacy of the Oaklawn Park showcase at Pimlico on Saturday.

2011 Preakness Profile: Sway Away

Sway Away was 21st on the Kentucky Derby graded earnings list and just missed qualifying for that event. He will have no such problem in Baltimore and looms an interesting Preakness longshot.

The Jeff Bonde trainee has a long winded pedigree but sports the look of a late running sprinter. His short juvenile campaign consisted of a five furlong maiden win at Pleasanton and a place finish behind J P’s Gusto in the Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar last summer.

2011 Preakness logo

He almost ran down The Factor in his San Vicente return and The Factor and Premier Pegasus both came out of that race to capture graded routes. Unfortunately for Sway Away, he lost a tooth in the Rebel Stakes and failed to get involved.

Sway Away fared better in the Arkansas Derby but he raced wide and moved too soon in a better than appears 4th place finish.

He turned in one of the fastest Derby week works with a six furlong bullet in 1:111.60 on the first Saturday in May and breezed the same distance in 1:13.60 on May 14.  He projects a mid-pack type trip under Garrett Gomez in the Preakness and is an interesting player if he can handle the added real estate.