05/14/2008 10:05PM

Preakness: First Peek


--The past performances for Preakness day are up, and here's the lineup:

Personally, I am delighted at the way the pick-4's landed, with both the $250k-guaranteed early one and the $1 million-guaranteed late one ducking the Old Mutual Turf Sprint Stakes, given my ineptitude at handicapping five-furlong grass races.

There are tris, supers and rolling doubles on all races and the minimum bet for everything -- including both supers and the pick-6 -- is $1.

--Preakness picks for Saturday newspaper were due at 7 p.m. I went: Big Brown, Kentucky Bear, Gayego, Macho Again.

--Commenter george_quinn asked why Calder's Saturday feature, the $36k Champali Stakes, is named for the racehorse Champali, who won 11 of 22 starts and $1.07 million from 2002-2004. I couldn't figure out his connection to Calder either until I called up his past performances:

Download Champali.pdf

Champali made 17 of his 22 starts in Kentucky. His longest road trip was for his one race at Calder, where he won the $500k G3 Smile Sprint Handicap on July 10, 2004.

Extra Credit: Champali won a four-horse photo in the Smile over Clock Stopper, Built Up and....a horse who made his 58th career start 13 days ago at Belmont. Can you name the 9-year-old, who was claimed out of his third-place finish in the May 1 race for $50k? (Answer below.)

--Here's a long press note distributed by the Maryland Jockey Club Wednesday afternoon that probably won't get too much exposure in its entirety amid all the coverage of the Preakness entries and draw:

Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito drove into Pimlico Wednesday morning
around 9 a.m., several hours before the scheduled van arrival of his 19th
Preakness starter, Stevil. He brought with him a message about the
burgeoning issue of synthetic surfaces vs. the traditional dirt tracks, like
those at Pimlico and Churchill Downs.

“I made some statements about the synthetic tracks, and the one thing I
needed to address and get across is that our family and our owners daily
basically rescue horses,’’ Zito said. “The Hancocks have a horse shelter
that they put together. Kim, my wife, was involved along with a lot of other
great people. What we do in our stable, all my owners from John Hettinger
down, is we’re rescuing horses and saving horses’ lives, supposedly doing
the right things for horses. Because I speak out on the synthetic surfaces,
it’s not because we never want to protect horses.’’

Zito said he still believes that dirt tracks, with a little research and
development, remain a preferable alternative to synthetics, which have been
widely implemented nationally and also are under consideration for study by
other groups like the New York Racing Association (Belmont, Aqueduct and
Saratoga Race Course).

“As you know, I’m a dirt-track guy,’’ he told a group of media members
outside the Preakness Stakes Barn. “The issue with Eight Belles (who broke
down after finishing second in the Kentucky Derby and was euthanized) is
going to come up over and over this week. You know just as well as I do, or
better, it’s more than the tracks. My thing right now is to try to protect
the dirt surfaces as good as we can.’’

Zito said he did some personal research on the recent Oaklawn Park meeting,
where from some 4,600 starters, there were only five breakdowns (one a
7-year-old, one a 9-year-old) during the meeting that went from Jan. 18 to
April 11 – a 30 percent drop from last season.

“They resurfaced the track this winter,’’ Zito said. “They also installed an
on-site soil analysis lab. They lost just three days of racing (that were
weather related). Zito said the entire cost of the resurface and lab
operation was roughly $100,000 – a significantly lower number than the $50
million NYRA officials had given a local publication when estimating the
cost of going synthetic on its three tracks.

“We have a big issue protecting these horses,’’ said Zito, who said he and
several colleagues were concerned that the synthetic surfaces might tend to
produce future generations of thoroughbreds with turf proclivities and
reduced dirt-track abilities. “If (Oaklawn) can do something like that with
that least (amount of ) money, there should be more research into dirt. I’m
here to protect the game. We’re in American racing, not in English racing or
French racing. If you go to all synthetics, there’s a good possibility
you’ll be racing in England and France.’’

Zito also said there’s not enough research regarding soundness as it
pertains to synthetics vs. dirt at this time. He also said that famed
acupuncturist Dr. Marvin Cain has detected some physical issues
(particularly in the hind quarters) with certain horses he’s treated for
Zito after they have performed on synthetic tracks, referring to it as
Polytrack Syndrome.

Cain examined both Cool Coal Man and Stevil after the Blue Grass on
Keeneland’s Polytrack and found the former had a physical reaction after
the race, while Stevil did not. Stevil finished fourth, Cool Coal Man was

“It’s not an exact science, but one horse (Cool Coal Man) didn’t like the
Polytrack and had some issues in behind,’’ Zito said. “The other horse
cleared perfectly. The horse is the main thing. We want to preserve the

--Answer to extra-credit question: The fourth-place finisher was My Cousin Matt, best known for finishing third at 60-1 to Speightstown and Kela in the 2004 Breeders' Cup Sprint four starts later -- a race in which Champali ran 7th. My Cousin Matt was claimed May 1 from longtime owner Richard Englander and trainer Bruce Levine by owner-trainer David Jacobson.

Unitas More than 1 year ago
I'm kinda bummed seeing that Pletcher has declared Behindatthebar from the Preakness(foot bruise), he probably would have been no worse than 3rd or 4th choice and I deemed him a total throwout...
Arazi More than 1 year ago
In recent years, and this year also in the form of Big B., we've seen not-so-blue-blood horses winning the Kentucky Derby which suddenly uplifted their values by leaps and bounds for stud career. How does a win in Kentucky Derby and other classic races overturns the previously pessimistic and not-so-exciting bloodlines into something really exciting and marketable commodity? I'd say Big B. will command at least $75k in his first year at stud but should be not won the KD, he would've probably been a $10k sire. Does racing accomplishment overshadows the bloodlines to such an extent that breeders will forget about BB's actual bloodlines and pay extraordinary sums to breed their mares?
kevroc More than 1 year ago
Below is a link to a newstory about the sad fate of losing racehorses in Puerto Rico. Ship PETA over there. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20080516/ap_on_re_la_am_ca/puerto_rico_killing_racehorses;_ylt=At653jVuYtvDx84juyRsgKqs0NUE
george quinn More than 1 year ago
Steve, Thanks for the answer and totally off the subject of Champali, did anyone else notice the constant bungling of the Preakness draw telecast? It all started when Miss Preakness had a deer in the headlights look when someone handed her Macho Again to put in the one hole. It spiraled downward from their when The big cheese from the Maryland Racing Commission totally missed three jockeys names with pronunciations that were not even close. I mean how on Gods green earth can you not know how to pronounce Alex Solis? Then the 3 and the 9 both fell off that board they have been using forever. I know the Maryland racing circuit is struggling but a new board could not be out of the budget could it? With the entire telecast in a state of chaos, the icing on the cake. Hammerin Hank Goldberg who was totally out of breath from riding the mechanical horse in the ESPN zone, cannot even find the right red light on the camera! Always staring into the wrong one. I kept waiting for him to change leads but to no avail. His glasses were crooked and he could not get one thing out that anyone could understand. This telecast was without a doubt the worst one hour of horse racing programming that I have ever seen. With todays technical advances should we not expect more? Jump in on this one Steve! Its your blog sponsored by NYRA sound off! George in Lexington Ky.
RFB0318 More than 1 year ago
With all of the entries and AE's for Friday, does anyone know of a link to get early Pimlico scratches for the weekend? Two selections in the big races: Black-Eyed Susan win bet on Seattle Smooth at 10-1 ML Preakness: Big Brown with Kentucky Bear (agree with Steve C.), Hey Byrn and Giant Moon for exacta and tri keys.
Stewart More than 1 year ago
Hi Steve: Given the increasing number of turf sprints being carded at Belmont and Saratoga, which usually have full, bettable fields, its time for you to stop being so stubborn, overcome your "ineptitude" and disdain for something that has not been a traditional part of NYRA racing until recent years, and take the time to learn how to handicap these races so you can take advantage of the big fields. In my humble opinion, there are several basic keys to handicapping turf sprints on the NYRA circuit, especially the many 5.5F races which will likely be carded at the upcoming Spa meet. First and foremost, sprint form, sprint tactical speed and sprint pedigree are more important than traditional turf pedigree and/or prior success at turf routes, especially in NY bred races. A common mistake made by the handicapping public is to upgrade or key on horses who showed speed at one mile or 1 1/16M at Belmont and are now turning back to 5.5F at the Spa. Unless these horses have previously shown you an ability to stalk or close in sprints (dirt or turf), they are terrible plays because they are usually unable to cope with the much faster early fractions of the turf sprints and cannot finish strongly. While closing routers turning back can be played in the 6f and 7f turf sprints at Belmont, given the kinder configuration of the track and distance, they are poor win plays at the Spa. Because turf sprinting is a specialty, give extra credit to horses shipping in to NY who have shown you something in these types of races in the past, even if the recent form is poor. Treat turf sprints like you would, for example, look at a one-turn mile dirt race where, when faced with a field of sprinters stretching out and two turn routers, you give extra credit to horses who have shown you past success at this specific type of one turn route race. Upon a review of these races in NY, you will see the same group of trainers (ie. Linda Rice) winning a disproportionate number of these races. My personal theory is that trainers like Rice, Tagg, Ritvo and others win more of these races, especially the conditioned claimers and NYB races, because they started out or came from circuits where these races have been run for awhile. Remember Steve, turf sprints can be your friend, especially when a 10 or 12 horse field is placed in the middle of a carryover Pick 6. Thanks again for the blog. Stewart
bjchapin More than 1 year ago
For all the talk of the safety of synthetic vs turf, can someone enlighten me on the safety of turf? My home course is Arlington and in 2006 we had numerous horrific breakdowns that lead to poly being installed in 2007, however I don't remember a breakdown on the turf. Is it considered safer than dirt?
george quinn More than 1 year ago
If anyone out there really weighs beyer speed figures heavily, there are some very slow horses in this years Preakness. I would give anything to see the show prices with Big Brown out of the money. I think alot of people are going to bet disposible cash hoping that it happens. tri and super without Big Brown would be like LOTTO. Also about the same chance. George in Lexington Ky.
John Strongosky More than 1 year ago
George, really can't comment on the telecastt as my eyes were glued to Miss Maryland or whoever the girl who was putting the #'s up. She had outstanding hind Quarters. I did catch the Hammerin Hank ending, ran in to him at the Point Given Triple Crown Try, he actually is a nice guy.
Arazi More than 1 year ago
Now that Mr. Big B. is burried right in the middle for the Preakness, how do we feel about his chances? He has to clear the field...right? Or take the risk of tasting dirt or getting traffic problems for the first time in his carrier? I had hoped that it would happen in the Belmont but now I have the strong urge to go against him once again and make him work to eat my money. Although not exactly the type of field that could offer a serious challenge under ideal circumstances but this is not an ideal situation for Big B. So here we go again....digging for some longshot. Gamble time folks!