Strike the Gold, who defied the Dosage system in the Kentucky Derby, bucked another time-worn racing tradition just minutes after his arrival at Pimlico Race Course yesterday morning.
fter the van transporting Strike the Gold and five other horses pulled into the Pimlico barn area at 10:20 a.m. -- well past its scheduled 8 a.m. arrival and nearly 14 1/2 hours after leaving Louisville, Ky. -- the colt's trainer, Nick Zito, had his employees and Pimlico officials scrambling to move Strike the Gold into Stall 33 in the Preakness barn. That's one stall removed from Stall 40, the traditional home for Derby winners at Pimlico.
not that I don't want 40," Zito said, as Strike the Gold grazed just outside the barn with Zito holding his shank. "It's just that he's very comfortable alongside Senator To Be and Thirty Six Red, and I couldn't get three in a row the way I wanted."
Stall 40, which has housed 11 Derby-Preakness winners since 1961, is oddly out of sequence, situated between stalls 33 and 34. It is second to the end stall in the long shed row on the Preakness barn's north side.
AWhen the van arrived, Stall 33 was filled with bales of straw, so the straw was moved into No. 34, the end stall. Senator To Be moved into No. 40, Strike the Gold into No. 33 and Thirty Six Red into No. 32.
Zito, who made the trip in the van, positioning himself just in front of Strike the Gold in the rear of the trailer, said the colt traveled "great. It worked out good. Flying is good, but only if you make the connection [quickly]."
The journey took so long "because the van driver likes to stop and eat," said Zito. It apparently took more out of the trainer than out of his horse.
Two hours after arriving, Zito was sprawled on a yellow bench outside the Preakness barn. The trainer of the Kentucky Derby winner was soaking up sun with his shoes off, unshaven, his mouth agape -- and fast asleep.
AStrike the Gold joins the barn full of other horses preparing for the May 18 Preakness and Saturday's Pimlico Special.
the $750,000 Special, Summer Squall will be racing at Pimlico for the first time since he won last year's Preakness. The colt has raced once since finishing eighth in the Meadowlands Cup in October, setting a track record at Keeneland for 6 1/2 furlongs (1 minute, 15 2/5 seconds).
Trainer Neil Howard said he has "no problem" with Summer Squall's having just one sprint before the 1 3/16-mile Special, in which he will face Unbridled, Jolie's Halo, Festin, Farma Way, Silver Survivor and Reputed Testamony. Post positions will be drawn today at 10 a.m.
feel it's the way to go with this particular horse," said Howard, dTC 42. "He's had a lot of two-minute licks [one-mile gallops in about 2 minutes]. He breezed probably five or sixtimes before he ran in Kentucky, and he'll have had four or five more since.
could have run him again, but I wanted to conserve him for a campaign this spring, pointing for this race in particular, and for a fall campaign ending with the Breeders' Cup. I don't want to mismanage him."
Victory in the Special, with its small field, could go to a front-runner such as Jolie's Halo if the early pace is relaxed enough. Howard said jockey Pat Day will allow Summer Squall to run at his own pace in the race's early stages. That probably would leave Jolie's Halo with the early lead, followed by Farma Way, then Summer Squall.
This is a very regimented horse," Howard said. "He knows what's going on. He knows what to do."
three meetings, Summer Squall has beaten Unbridled twice -- including by 2 1/4 lengths in last year's Preakness -- but Unbridled has racing's two biggest feathers in his cap -- a Kentucky Derby victory, in which Summer Squall was second, and a win in the Breeders' Cup Classic, which Summer Squall missed.
Day rode Unbridled in the Breeders' Cup and could have ridden either colt in the Special. He choseSummer Squall.
Although they are the two top-weights in the Special and will be the two favorites, neither Unbridled nor Summer Squall has a point in the American Championship Racing Series, which offers $8.25 million in purses and bonuses for the leading performers.
AThe Special, fourth of the 10-race series, will be the first ACRS attempt for Summer Squall and second for Unbridled. In the series' third race, the April 13 Oaklawn Handicap, Festin won on a sloppy track.
Throw out the Oaklawn Handicap," said Howard. "None of those horses really had a chance to run their race. The weather, the conditions -- it's just me talking, but you can throw it out."
NOTES: Reputed Testamony, the only Maryland-based horse ithe Special, worked three furlongs in 37 3/5 seconds at his Laurel Race Course home base yesterday. "It was a good, steady breeze," said trainer Richard Hemmings. Andrea Seefeldt, who will ride the 4-year-old colt, was aboard for the work. . . . Near the Limit has been declared out of the Preakness by trainer Mert Bailes and will run instead in the $500,000 Illinois Derby on Saturday. That leaves seven "definite" Preakness starters: Strike the Gold, Best Pal, Mane Minister, Corporate Report, Olympio, Honor Grades and Whadjathink. Several others still are in contention to be entered.