By mid-morning Monday, the Mark Casse-trained contingent of stakes horses – led by Preakness Stakes (G1) contender Classic Empire – had settled into Barn D at historic Pimlico Race Course following a 4 a.m. arrival at Old Hilltop.
The Casse crew consists of horses running in six of the 15 stakes to be contested on Preakness weekend, five of them as part of Friday’s Black-Eyed Susan Day program including Summer Luck and Corporate Queen entered in the featured event for 3-year-old fillies.
Also entered Friday are defending champion Noble Bird in the $300,000 Xpressbet Pimlico Special (G3) and Grade 1 winners Pretty City Dancer in the Miss Preakness and Victory to Victory in the $100,000 Hilltop. Joining Classic Empire on Saturday’s Preakness undercard will be World Approval and possibly Conquest Typhoon in the $250,000 Longines Dixie (G2).
Classic Empire is the second choice in early Preakness wagering at US Racing at 3-1.
“Today they’ll just settle. They’ve already walked this morning, just like you would if you were traveling. You want to move around,” Norm Casse, his father’s top assistant, said. “Then we’ll come back and we’ll get them out at feed time again and walk them. It’s perfect. It’s a nice little travel day where they settle in.
“Basically right now you want to look and see how they’re acclimating,” he added. “All the horses seem to be really happy and they’re in their feed tubs already, so obviously the ship didn’t take anything out of them.”
Casse said it will be an easy week for his group as they put the final touches on their weekend preparations, having finished the serious groundwork before leaving Churchill Downs for Pimlico.
“They’ll just have routine gallops, nothing fancy. All the hard work’s done now up to the races,” he said. “Probably the one I’m most excited about is Victory to Victory for the Hilltop. She’s coming out of an allowance race but she’s already a Grade 1 winner. We’re putting her back in stakes company and she’s been training really well. That’s probably the most exciting prospect.”
Three Rules En Route to Baltimore for $200,000 Chick Lang
Shade Tree Thoroughbreds, Inc., Tom Fitzgerald and Geoff Roy’s multiple stakes winner Three Rules was expected to arrive Monday afternoon at Pimlico for his next engagement in Saturday’s $200,000 Chick Lang for 3-year-olds.
Gulfstream Park-based trainer Jose Pinchin said Three Rules left South Florida early Monday morning for the 15 ½-hour van ride to Baltimore. It is only the second time the Florida-bred colt has left his home state, after running sixth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) following a cross-country ship last fall.
“That was having to go all the way to California, so this will be a lot easier on him,” Pinchin said. “He will be there this afternoon.”
Pinchin will join his stable star on Wednesday. He said Three Rules will walk after his arrival Monday and go to the track in the days leading up to the Chick Lang.
“He’ll jog tomorrow morning and probably gallop Wednesday, Thursday and Friday and that’ll be it,” Pinchin said.
The six-furlong Chick Lang will mark a return to sprinting for Three Rules after running third in the 1 1/16-mile Fountain of Youth (G2) March 4 and fifth to subsequent Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming in the 1 1/8-mile Florida Derby (G1) April 1, his most recent start, both at Gulfstream.
Motion Optimistic About Dancing Rags in Black-Eyed Susan (G2)
Chadds Ford Stable’s Dancing Rags has trainer Graham Motion feeling optimistic about the Grade 1-winning filly’s chances in Friday’s $250,000 Black-Eyed Susan (G2).
A member Union Rags’ lauded first crop, which also includes beaten Kentucky Oaks (GI) favorite Paradise Woods, the bay charge returns to the state in which she broke her maiden last fall when she takes on 10 others and breaks from Post 3 under topweight of 122 pounds in the nine-furlong 3-year-old filly main track event.
Last out, Dancing Rags returned from a five-month layoff to finish a perplexingly dull sixth of seven in the Adena Springs Beaumont (G2) at Keeneland, the same track over which she annexed the Alcibiades (G1) last October at third asking. In her 2-year-old finale, she was a lackluster eighth of 12 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) Nov. 5 at Santa Anita.
“I was disappointed with the Beaumont, of course, and I was hoping she would run well,” Motion said. “If she did that, we were going to hopefully go to the [Kentucky] Oaks with her. Obviously that didn’t materialize and it’s unfortunate. Looking at the PPs, you might say she lost a step and maybe the Breeders’ Cup was one race too many for her. She was flat and disappointing.
“Perhaps I blame myself for her Beaumont, as seven-eighths maybe wasn’t her thing and I thought I could get away with it first (race) back with her,” Motion continued. “If I would have had a couple more works, I would have run her in the [G1] Ashland. I hadn’t always had the Black-Eyed Susan in mind, but I don’t see why I shouldn’t run her. She’s a Grade 1 winner and a two-turn horse. The only thing I don’t like is the weight she has to carry, but she’s had a really great couple of weeks. It’s obviously a concern that she really hasn’t been about to duplicate her [win in the Alcibiades, GI, last fall], but my feeling is that she’s better than those last couple of races. I feel very good about running her.”
In the Black-Eyed Susan, Maryland’s premier 3-year-old filly event, Dancing Rags — the highest-earning horse in the race with $296,860 — stretches out to nine furlongs and two turns for the first time since her Breeders’ Cup effort. If victorious, she would become the first Maryland-bred winner of the Black-Eyed Susan since speedy Bud Delp trainee Calipha in 1994.
Motion also touched on another talented sophomore in his barn who may compete this weekend, No Mo Dough. Highly regarded by the conditioner, the Alex G. Campbell, Jr. homebred son of Uncle Mo is considered possible for the $100,000 LARC Sir Barton Stakes. If entered, it would mark a two-week turnaround off an impressive allowance score over well-intended Bret Calhoun trainee Awesome Saturday at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Derby Day, May 6. Such was his third career effort following a maiden win at Laurel in March and a fourth-place effort in a Keeneland allowance in April.
“We might run him,” Motion said. “I always thought he was my best 2-year-old early on last year and I had him close to a race and then he had some minor issues. I always thought he was very good and his run at Churchill wasn’t really a surprise. He’s not a really burly strapping horse and is a little lighter-framed, but he’s done very well since the race and I may bring him back, even though it’s a little quick. He’s been galloping a mile and a half since the race and looks great.”
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).