Prepping for the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico

Preparations for the 141st Preakness Stakes at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore have begun. The Preakness will be held on May 21, 2016 and is limited to 14 horses. Last year just eight horses ran in the 1 1/8 mile Preakness and American Pharoah blew them away in the slop in the second leg of his Triple Crown achievement. Eligibility for the Preakness is determined by earnings in previous races. That opens the door for horses who didn’t perform well enough in prep races to qualify for the Kentucky Derby, and other late bloomers who ran out of time to qualify.

The second jewel of the American Triple Crown, the Preakness attracts the Kentucky Derby winner along with other Derby participants. But with a two-week turnaround between the Triple Crown races, many Derby trainers elect to forego the Preakness citing a strain on their horses and a desire for more time between starts.

So while many horse racing fans focus on the lead up to the Kentucky Derby, there are plenty of promising horses to consider and watch for in the months leading up to the Preakness Stakes. Some potential value and under the radar horses who don’t compete in the Kentucky Derby can be found running in the Derby Trial and Illinois Derby in April.

Nearly half of the past 75 Preakness winners have spent the opening months of their three-year old campaigns racing in Florida. So watch for non-Derby qualifiers who run in the Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park January 30, and the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream on February 27.

The month of April will have some key races to watch leading up to the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes, so follow the ponies and their preparations and results at these stakes races below.

 

Florida Derby              April 2           Gulfstream Park – Hallandale Beach, FL

Wood Memorial          April 9           Aqueduct Racetrack – New York City, NY

Blue Grass                    April 9            Keeneland – Lexington, KY

Santa Anita Derby      April 9          Santa Anita Park – Arcadia, CA

Arkansas Derby          April 16         Oaklawn Park – Hot Springs, AR

Lexington                     April 16          Keeneland – Lexington, KY

Hampton Court to Stand at Spendthrift

Australian group I winner Hampton Court will be making a move stateside, as it was announced he will stand the 2016 breeding season at the Spendthrift Farm, which is located near Lexington.

Hampton Court will be the latest participant in the farm’s popular ‘Breed Secure’ and ‘Share The Upside’ programs.

“We are excited to be able to offer American breeders the opportunity to ‘Share The Upside’ or ‘Breed Secure’ on Hampton Court, a record-breaking grade I winner by one of the world’s very best stallions over the course of the last dozen years,” said Spendthrift Owner B. Wayne Hughes.

Hughes went on to say: “Redoute’s Choice is Danehill’s best son at stud, and Danehill was Danzig’s best son at stud. We believe Hampton Court can be an important and unique stallion for American breeders from a highly successful sire line, and we look forward to showing him off to those who want to stop by the farm and see him.”

Fees for ‘Breed Secure’ and ‘Share The Upside’ have been set at $7,500 for Hampton Court. Breeders who take part in the ‘Share The Upside’ program earn lifetime breeding rights that begin in 2017 after paying the stud fee and having access to just one live foal. For those uninterested in taking part in either program a one-time $6,000 stud fee is available on a typical stands-and-nurses contract.

Hampton Court’s biggest career victory came as a three-year-old at the $500,000 Spring Champions Stake (AUS-I), where he broke a 16-year-old course record, winning the race in a time of 2:00.19.

Runhappy Dusts Malibu Stakes Competition

Runhappy left no doubt at the 2015 Malibu Stakes as to who is the best sprinter in the country. In front of a huge crowd of 44,873  at Santa Anita Park, Runhappy claimed victory by 3 1/2 lengths in the 7 furlong sprint. The Malibu Stakes carried a purse of $300,000 as a GR1 stakes race this past Saturday.

“When we brought him to the receiving barn today, he looked like he had his game face on. I knew he’d run well,” commented Laura Wohlers who took over the reigns as Runhappy’s trainer prior to the race. Wohlers replaced Maria Borrell who has entered in to a lawsuit against Runhappy’s handlers over purse money distribution. It was Wohlers first victory as a trainer.

Gary Stevens remarked Runhappy’s immense performance at the Malibu Stakes. “That was only the second time I’ve sat on him and to get to feel that power coming into the stretch was awesome.” That’s high praise coming from a Hall of Fame jockey with more than his fair share of experience.

Runhappy stormed past the finish line with a strong time of 1:27.76. He paid out $3.00, $2.60 and $2.10.

Marking placed second after attempting to track down Runhappy out of the gates. He began to fall behind down the stretch and never matched what Runhappy brought to the track. Lord Nelson trailed in at third. El Kabeir, who was expected to be a more of an upstart, finished fourth while Watershed, Pain and Misery and Bad Read Sanchez rounded out the order.

The three-year old son of Super Saver claimed his sixth consecutive victory and performed exceptionally in his follow-up performance to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint where he bested Private Zone and Favorite Tale. Runhappy also won at the King’s Bishop and the Phoenix earlier in the season.

Fans of Runhappy can rejoice that he’ll be back next season.

Connections to the 2015 Malibu Stakes winner indicated that they’d like to challenge him at longer distances, suggesting that they’d give the one-mile Metropolitan Stakes a shot while gearing the 2016 season around a Breeders’ Cup Sprint title defence. “We’ll give the horse a couple of months off and bring him back in March and begin his training again,” Wohlers noted.

It’s a well deserved rest for one of the best performers of the 2015 season.

Leonard Lavin Wins Lifetime Achievement Award

Leonard Lavin, the 96-year-old legendary Florida owner/breeder, will be bestowed with the Eclipse Award of Merit, according to the National Thoroughbred Racing Association (NTRA), the National Turf Writers And Broadcasters (NTWAB), and the Daily Racing Form. lavin

The award is for a lifetime of outstanding achievement and will be presented to Lavin at the 45th Annual Eclipse Awards, which will be held at the Gulfstream Park on January 16.

“I am both surprised and deeply honored to receive the Eclipse Award of Merit,” said Lavin.

“It is truly my proudest moment in the horse business, a business that has been one of the great pleasures of my life. From the normal Thursday cards to racing in the Breeders’ Cup and everything in between I have found every moment to be a thrill and a reward. With that has come the wonderful relationships made with people throughout the industry, the camaraderie with our team at Glen Hill Farm, and of course the horses we’ve had the pleasure of breeding, owning and racing. And now this award provides a capstone that leaves me both humbled and grateful.”

Glen Hill Farm, which saw the reigns handed to Lavin’s grandson (Craig Bernick) in 2008, has produced over 80 stakes winners such as One Dreamer, who won the 1994 Breeders’ Cup Distaff (gr. I). Other notable stakes winners includes: Marketing Mix, Repriced, Top Rung, Relaunch, Rich in Spirit, and Concept.

When asked what his career highlight was Lavin mentioned a 1972 race win by Convenience over Typecast that brought in over 50,000 spectators to Hollywood Park.

Since the Award of Merit was introduced in 1976 it has been handed out 39 times. Lavin’s award will be the 40th.

Rock Me Baby Retired and Adopted

Multiple stakes winning Rock Me Baby is on the retirement track and has been adopted by a West Point Thoroughbred partner after finishing in fifth-place at the Walter R. Cluer Memorial Stakes.

Rock Me Baby will retire with a record of 7-6-2 in 24 starts, with a total career earnings of $494,454.

“He’s such a neat horse who was was a pleasure to have in the barn these past three years,” said West Point Thoroughbreds President Terry Finley. “He didn’t debut until the end of his 3-year-old year, but proved to be worth the wait. ‘Rocky’ took his partners on a fun ride and we owe it to him to retire sound with the ability to move on to a second career. He’s been adopted by one of his partners.”

“Rock Me Baby is one of the hardest-knocking horses I’ve been around, having hit the board in 15 of 24 starts,” trainer Craig Dollase said. “His biggest win came in the 2014 California Dreamin’ Handicap at Del Mar and he came really close to becoming a graded stakes winner in the Del Mar Mile that same year. In 2013, he was beaten only three lengths in the (2013) Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (gr. IT) at Santa Anita.”

In 2010, Rock Me Baby was purchased by Wavertree Stables for a fee of $40,000 at the Barretts October yearling sale. West Point came to own him through a consignment sale the following year for $210,000.

Bob Baffert Discusses the Futurity

The Los Alamitos Futurity, scheduled to run on December 19, has gone through numerous name changes over the years. The initial moniker for the final West Coast grade I race for two-year-olds was the Hollywood Futurity back in 1981. Once it became sponsored by CashCall Company its name changed to the CashCall Futurity. That lasted until the fall of Hollywood Park.

While the name may have changed over the years, the level of competition has not, as the event has been won by a wide range of notable trainers such as D. Wayne Lukas, Jerry Hollendorfer, and Ron McNally, to name a few. There is one man who has staked claimed to the Futurity more than any other, and that man happens to be Bob Baffert, who has been a part of seven Futurity winning teams.

Baffert has become accustomed to name changes when it comes to the Futurity, and another possible change could be in the works, with the Los Alamitos Futurity in danger of yet another relocation and rebranding.

Baffert, on the hunt for his eighth Futurity crown via Toews On Ice and Mor Spirit, believes “the timing of the race is important,” and he “would hate to lose it on the calendar.” According to Baffert, “Very good horses run in it and come out of it to do big things. This race starts you thinking about the Kentucky Derby (gr. I).”

The Futurity has become known as the race that showcases which horses can navigate two turns and those better suited to veer off the Triple Crown trail. “With a lot of horses, you don’t know if they want to go long,” said Baffert. “They can all go long if they go slow enough, but under pressure you don’t know how far they’ll go until they run in a race like this.”

Baffert will use the Futurity as a measure to determine which of his two horses has a legitimate shot at going the Derby trail distance.