Classic Empire Returns to Racetrack for Preakness Date

Classic Empire, last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) looks to turn the tables on Always Dreaming in the Preakness Stakes (G1).
(Photo by Casey Phillips/Eclipse Sportswire/Breeders Cup)

John Oxley’s Classic Empire returned to the track for a jog for the first time since finishing fourth in the Kentucky Derby while encountering severe bumping and traffic literally from the start. Norman Casse, who oversees the Kentucky operation for his dad, trainer Mark Casse, said last year’s 2-year-old champion will resume galloping Thursday and will van to Pimlico Sunday.

“I think he looked really good,” Norman Casse said. “His energy level was great. Looks like he’s keeping his weight. All the good signs are there, so we’re excited where he’s at right now.

“It’s the Derby. You know things aren’t going to go your way all the time. He kind of had a bad trip. It started at the very beginning, and that’s just how it goes. But we think we can be competitive against Always Dreaming. We think our best race would put us right there with his best race. We’re excited about the opportunity to face him again.”

The colt is the second choice in early Preakness Stakes odds at US Racing at 3-1.

The Casse barn should be well-represented in the other stakes, including World Approval in the Longines Dixie (G2); Summer Luck (excluded from the Kentucky Oaks on the points system) in the Black Eyed Susan (G2); Corporate Queen most likely in the Hilltop but possibly the Black Eyed Susan; 2016 Pimlico Special (G3) winner Noble Bird likely to defend his title; Pretty City Dancer in the Miss Preakness (G3); and Victory to Victory in the Hilltop.

Peacock Racing Stables’ Gunnevera, seventh in the Derby, went out to train for the second day after getting Sunday and Monday off, going out shortly before 9 a.m. at Churchill Downs. Gulfstream Park’s Fountain of Youth (G2) winner jogged a little over a mile with a pony, then had a controlled mile gallop by himself. Regular exercise rider Victor O’Farrell was board.

“Since he was a baby, a 2-year-old, he always goes to the track with a pony,” said Alessandro Sano, who is overseeing Gunnevera’s training while his father, trainer Antonio Sano, is back in Florida. “We stick with it, because it’s good for the horse.

“I liked what I saw today. The decision we made (to run instead of waiting for the Belmont) was the right decision, and hopefully we can get a win in the Preakness.”

Fern Circle Stables’ Senior Investment, winner of Keeneland’s Lexington Stakes on April 15, had a routine 1 1/2-mile gallop at Keeneland. He is scheduled to work Sunday and fly to Baltimore Tuesday, said trainer Kenny McPeek.

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Royal Mo Gets Acquainted with Pimlico Racing Surface

Jerry and Ann Moss’ Royal Mo made his first visit to the Pimlico track Wednesday morning for some light exercise under exercise rider Taylor Leatherman. They went to the track at 9:30 a.m., jogged three-quarters of a mile clockwise then turned around and galloped about a mile to the wire.

Leatherman, 17, picked up the assignment through the recommendation of a mutual friend of trainer John Shirreffs. She said she followed Shirreffs’ instructions.

“He just wanted me to give him a good first day to get him used to everything, just try to keep him collected and make him use himself,” she said. “It was a good first day for us to get used to each other.”

The son of Uncle Mo was on the also-eligible list for the Kentucky Derby, but did not draw into the field for the first race of the Triple Crown series. He flew from Louisville, Ky. to Baltimore Tuesday on the flight carrying Derby winner Always Dreaming to the Preakness.

Leatherman, a resident of Union Bridge, Md. is an exercise rider for her mother, Faith Leatherman, and other local trainers. She said her goal is to become a jockey.

Royal Mo opened 2017 with a 1 ¼-length victory in the Robert B. Lewis (G3) on Feb. 4. He was ninth in the Rebel (G2) at Oaklawn, but rebounded from that performance to finish third, beaten one length, in the Santa Anita Derby (G1) on April 8.

Leatherman was all smiles after her first opportunity to get on a Preakness horse. “I loved it,” she said. “It’s definitely an amazing opportunity. I’m thankful for it.”

Conquest Mo Money Supplemented, Ready to Hit the Road

Judge Lanier Racing’s Preakness candidate Conquest Mo Money is scheduled to arrive at Pimlico Race Course on Sunday, May 14.

Owner Tom McKenna, 81, said the New York-bred colt will be shipped by van from Prairie Meadows racetrack in Altoona, Iowa to Maryland. He said the trip will likely take two days, with an overnight stop at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky. The son of Uncle Mo is handled by McKenna’s private trainer, Miguel Hernandez. His regular rider, Jorge Carreno will spend the week at Pimlico and be aboard for the Preakness.

Although Conquest Money Mo earned enough points to start in the Kentucky Derby, McKenna opted not to run him in a 20-horse field. The colt was not nominated to the Triple Crown series, but McKenna has paid $150,000 to supplement him to the Preakness.

Conquest Mo Money – purchased for $8,500 at the Conquest Stables dispersal in November – will be the first Triple Crown series starter for McKenna and his wife Sandy. They are the leading owners in New Mexico.

“It’s a dream come true. I never thought I would be here,” McKenna said. “Everybody dreams about it that gets in the horse business, whether you have one horse, two horses or three horses. If you ask anyone what their dream is, they would say, ‘I hope to get to the Kentucky Derby.’ Everybody tells you that. Did I ever think I would get there? I hoped so. Lo and behold, I’m there.”

Joel Rosario Awarded Preakness Mount on Multiplier

Joel Rosario will ride Illinois Derby winner Multiplier in the Preakness, said trainer Brendan Walsh. The son of The Factor won the 1 1/8-mile Illinois Derby (G3) by a head over Hedge Fund in his stakes debut after winning a two-turn maiden race at the Fair Grounds and finishing in the money in his first two starts.

James Graham was aboard for the Grade 3 victory April 22 at Hawthorne Race Course. Walsh said the switch was no reflection on Graham but rather the opportunity presenting itself to get a jockey who is well-versed in the sport’s biggest events. Rosario finished fifth in the Kentucky Derby on Practical Joke, who is not running in the Preakness.

The New York-based Rosario won the 2013 Kentucky Derby with Orb, the 2014 Belmont with Tonalist and six Breeders’ Cup races. He was second in the Preakness with a pair of long shots in Ride On Curlin in 2014 and Tale of Verve in 2015.

“He’s an experienced rider and a fantastic rider,” Walsh said.

Multiplier had a routine gallop at Keeneland Wednesday under exercise rider Asael Gonzalez. “He’s doing great,” Walsh said.

Asked if he’d had time to study the field, Walsh said, “Yes, but I know all the horses pretty much. I mean, my horse, I worry about him right now. He’s doing well and on his last run, I think he fits. We’ll have a better look at it closer to the time and see how the race is going to pan out and adapt to that. If the pace is slow, he’ll be closer. If not, he’ll be a little ways farther back. He’ll come running at the end, I know that for sure.”

O’Neill-Trained Term of Art Confirmed for Preakness Run

Trainer Doug O’Neill notified Pimlico officials of his intention to run Term of Art in the Preakness. The Calumet Farm-owned son of Tiznow, who is winless in four starts this year, concluded his 2-year-old season with a maiden-breaking triumph in the Cecil B. DeMille (G3) at Del Mar.

“We think he’s a talented colt who deserves a chance in this big race,” O’Neill said. “We think he has classic-type ability and we’re going to roll the dice.”

Jose Ortiz will ride.

O’Neill, who captured the Preakness with Kentucky Derby winner I’ll Have Another in 2012, saddled Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist for a distant third-place finish as the 3-5 favorite last year.  O’Neill’s other Preakness starter, Goldencents, finished fifth in 2013.

Back to the Track for Lookin At Lee and Hence

Kentucky Derby runner-up Lookin At Lee and 11th-place Hence resumed training Wednesday, both having routine gallops at Churchill Downs. On Thursday, they’ll get their usual weekly session standing in the starting gate, both working an easy half-mile on Monday and flying to Baltimore Tuesday from Louisville.

“I’ve been very pleased with how they came out of the race,” trainer Steve Asmussen said. “Very impressed with their energy level and how they’re traveling.”

Asmussen said repeatedly after the Kentucky Derby’s post-position draw that, as unproductive as the No. 1 post has been in the race the past 25 years, that Lookin At Lee was the sort of horse that could handle it.

“You know the statistics from the 1 hole, and you’ve watched the race and how troubling the crowding can be or whatever.  But Lookin At Lee was the perfect horse for it,” Asmussen said. “He hung out there, waited his turn and was ready to go when they called upon him.

Asmussen is likely to have the following horses in other Pimlico stakes: Terra Promessa, Allaire Dupont Distaff (G3); Chanteline, Skipat; Holy Boss, Maryland Sprint Stakes (G3); Resiliency, Sir Barton; Vertical Oak, Miss Preakness (G3); Grand Candy; Jim McKay Turf Sprint; and Total Tap, James Murphy. The horses running Friday most likely will van Monday with others vanning or flying on Tuesday.

 

Michael Dempsey’s Preakness Day Report

Michael’s Report includes his selections, analysis, fair odds line, and wagering recommendations for the entire Preakness Day card from historic Pimlico. Michael is a Maryland bred and raced horses at Pimlico and knows the circuit from the backstretch to the finish line.

The second jewel of the Triple Crown will be run on Saturday May 21 at Pimlico. The big day of racing has seven supporting stakes including the Sir Barton Stakes, Miss Preakness Stakes (G3), Dixie Stakes (G2), Gallorette Handicap (G3), James W. Murphy Stakes, The Very One Stakes and the Maryland Sprint Stakes (G3).