Tesio will tell tale for `Malibu'

Preakness entry possible if he shows well today in $150,000 Pimlico stakes

Horse Racing

April 23, 2005|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

The Federico Tesio Stakes traditionally has been a springboard for talented local runners aiming for a chance to enter the Preakness.

Since the $150,000 stakes for 3-year-olds began 24 years ago, 13 Tesio champions - and three others who finished in the money - have advanced to the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, including 1983 Preakness winner Deputed Testamony and two notable Preakness runners-up, Oliver's Twist (1995) and Magic Weisner (2002).

Today, when Pimlico Race Course offers five six-figure stakes on the first weekend card of the new meeting, Malibu Moonshine moves onto the same proving ground.

"He's a really good horse, but the Tesio is going to tell us whether we dare step up into the Preakness," said King Leatherbury, third all time on the trainers' winning list. "If we don't go, our spot will be the other 3-year-old race on Preakness Day [the $100,000 Sir Barton]."

Listed as the 5-2 second choice to New York-shipper Byanosejoe in the overnight odds, Malibu Moonshine has captured five of nine starts, including three of his last four (all stakes). He is by the highly successful sire Malibu Moon who "has been sensational. No question Malibu Moons are runners. We're lucky to have this horse," Leatherbury said.

Jose Santos of Funny Cide fame is coming from New York to ride 7-5 choice Byanosejoe for trainer Richard Dutrow. Named for New York Yankees manager Joe Torre, who co-owns him, Byanosejoe sold for $190,000 at Keeneland. A gelding, he was fifth, beaten by only 1 1/2 lengths, in the Grade III Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct in his latest race.

Also in the six-horse lineup are Legal Control, who won the Maryland Juvenile Championship last winter but since has been beaten twice by Malibu Moonshine, and the speedy Hello Jerry, a loser by a neck to Malibu Moonshine in the Private Terms on March 26.

Leatherbury is confident Malibu Moonshine can handle the 1 1/8 miles of the Tesio, but wonders about a sloppy track, since the forecast is for rain.

"He's never been on an off track, and I'm not sure he's bred for mud," said the trainer. "I'd rather see it be fast."

Owned by Woodrow Marriott, a 91-year-old member of the hotel family who has been in the hospital weakened by pneumonia, Malibu Moonshine will be ridden by Steve Hamilton, who was red hot during the final weeks of the Laurel Park meeting.

"We'll see how the [Kentucky] Derby shapes up and how many come out of it to run in the Preakness," Leatherbury said. "There are a lot of superstars in the Derby. And we'll see how things come out in the Tesio. If we have a shot to be in the money in the Preakness, we'll take it."

Marylanders will have to take a back seat in the other feature, the $200,000 Jim McKay Breeders' Cup Handicap for older horses at 1 1/8 miles.

Every starter is an out-of-towner, with the Dutrow-trained Classic Endeavor a lukewarm, 9-5 favorite overnight. A winner of more than $835,000, he will also be ridden by Santos.

Competition is expected from Presidential Affair, who has been idle since winning the Maryland Million Classic in October; Cherokee Rap, who is on a three-race victory streak, and Hydrogen, coming off a triumph in the Stymie Handicap.

Three of the state's top breeding farms - Country Life, Northview Stallion Station and Maryland Stallion Station - are sponsoring $100,000 races that feature Maryland Million nominees or Maryland-bred horses. The farms have donated seasons to two stallions each, to be given to the breeders of the first and second finishers in their respective races.

Among the more recognizable horses in those races are Hear Us Roar, undefeated in three starts under trainer Frannie Campitelli; He Loves Me, a five-time stakes winner for Richard Small before being sold, and Mojodajo, a three-time victor at Laurel last winter.

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