05/11/2017 2:00PM

Preakness Doings: Bohannan's time at the top

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Barbara D. Livingston
Tom Bohannan and Prairie Bayou after winning the 1993 Preakness.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – On any given morning, Tom Bohannan can be spotted on the Churchill Downs backstretch, quietly going about the business of moving horses from point A to point B for Brook Ledge Horse Transportation.

A quarter-century ago, the racetrack chores were quite different for Bohannan. That’s when he was ascending – if ever so briefly – to the top of his profession as a Thoroughbred trainer.

“It was a pretty exciting time,” recalled Bohannan, now white-haired at age 61.

Tuesday will mark the 25-year anniversary of Bohannan winning the Preakness on May 16, 1992, with Pine Bluff at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. It was the first of back-to-back Preakness victories for Bohannan and his private client, John Ed Anthony of Loblolly Stables, as they repeated in 1993 with Prairie Bayou.

Remarkably, the 1993 Preakness was the last of 19 graded stakes Bohannan won during a mercurial career. For a four-year period from 1990-93, with Loblolly as his sole client, his stable earnings averaged nearly $2.6 million, as he won major stakes with other top horses such as Lost Mountain and Aztec Hill.

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But after Anthony disbanded his stable in 1994, Bohannan soon fell on hard times. He stopped training in 1998, and after taking time off to address some personal matters, he went to work for a younger brother in golf-course construction.

In 2006, he and Anthony reunited at the track, but they weren’t nearly as successful together. Bohannan won only nine races before he quit training altogether in 2009 to work for Sallee Horse Vans as an agent handling the logistics of equine transport. In late 2014, he switched over to Brook Ledge and now spends most of the year in Louisville, near his condominium in Prospect, Ky. He spends his winters working the Gulfstream Park meet in south Florida.

Like a trainer, his job is basically seven days a week with long and odd hours, although he said more vacation time is built in.

“I consult with trainers, schedule with dispatchers, meet with drivers, load and unload horses,” he said. “I’m very happy doing what I’m doing. I do miss training horses – but I only miss training good horses. Racing has changed a whole lot over the years. I’d be afraid to get back in the game with just a handful of horses the way some of the bigger outfits can make it so tough on the smaller guys.”

The off-the-pace Preakness victory by Pine Bluff, ridden by Chris McCarron, remains a joyful memory for Bohannan. The homebred Danzig colt had been fifth behind Lil E. Tee in the Kentucky Derby after defeating Lil E. Tee by a neck in winning the Arkansas Derby.

Through the years, Bohannan maintained contact with the trainer of Lil E. Tee, Lynn Whiting, who died last month at age 77. A memorial service for Whiting is set for Monday at Churchill.

“When I was working for Sallee one summer at Delaware Park, Lynn was stabled there [in 2011], and we’d cook out or go eat once or twice a week,” said Bohannan. “We never had a cross word. We had what you’d call a friendly rivalry with those two horses. It was a pretty neat thing.”

Pine Bluff went on to a modest career at stud before his death in 2014. Prairie Bayou, a gelding, suffered a far worse fate when he was euthanized due to injuries suffered during the Belmont Stakes in his only start after the Preakness. Prairie Bayou was posthumously voted the champion 3-year-old male of 1993.

Anthony, a lumber tycoon in his native Arkansas, remains active in racing at age 78 while competing under the Shortleaf Stable banner.

Quiet morning for all

Kentucky Derby winner Always Dreaming was out very early Thursday at Pimlico for a second straight morning. Always Dreaming was sent through a one-mile gallop as he continues to get familiar with the surface and his new surroundings after being flown Tuesday from Louisville to Baltimore.

Trainer Todd Pletcher, in Wednesday night from New York, was on hand to watch exercise rider Nick Bush guide Always Dreaming through the routine using his now-familiar draw reins.

“He continues to show us all of the positive signs that we’re looking for,” Pletcher told Pimlico publicity. “His energy level has been good since the race. He handled the ship well. His appetite has been good. I thought he had a real good gallop over the track this morning.”

Off his 2 3/4-length triumph in the Derby last Saturday, Always Dreaming figures as an odds-on favorite next Saturday in the 142nd Preakness, the second jewel of the Triple Crown.

The four Preakness hopefuls who have stayed at Churchill Downs since the Derby also had an uneventful Thursday morning over a track soaked by overnight rain. Classic Empire (jogged), Lookin At Lee (gate-schooled, then galloped), and Hence (galloped) all trained before the regularly scheduled harrow break, and Gunnevera (jogged, then galloped) went directly afterward.

As of Thursday, Pimlico was listing a field of 11 3-year-olds for the Preakness, for which entries will be drawn Wednesday: Always Dreaming, Classic Empire, Cloud Computing, Conquest Mo Money, Gunnevera, Hence, Lookin At Lee, Multiplier, Royal Mo, Senior Investment, and Term of Art.

PREAKNESS CONTENDERS
Horse Trainer Jockey Last Race/Finish
Always Dreaming    Todd Pletcher John Velazquez Kentucky Derby, 1st
Classic Empire Mark Casse Julien Leparoux Kentucky Derby, 4th
Cloud Computing     Chad Brown Javier Castellano Wood Memorial, 3rd
Conquest Mo Money Miguel Hernandez Jorge Carreno Arkansas Derby, 2nd
Gunnevera       Antonio Sano Mike Smith Kentucky Derby, 7th
Hence Steve Asmussen Florent Geroux Kentucky Derby, 11th
Lookin At Lee     Steve Asmussen Corey Lanerie Kentucky Derby, 2nd
Multiplier  Brendan Walsh Joel Rosario Illinois Derby, 1st
Royal Mo John Shirreffs Gary Stevens Santa Anita Derby, 3rd
Senior Investment Kenny McPeek Channing Hill Lexington Stakes, 1st
Term of Art Doug O'Neill Jose Ortiz Santa Anita Derby, 7th