05/13/2011 2:54PM

Preakness: Zayat unsure whether Nehro should run or rest until Belmont Stakes

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Barbara D. Livingston
Owner Ahmed Zayat wants to watch Nehro breeze on Monday before deciding whether to run the Kentucky Derby runner-up in the Preakness.

There is little doubt that there will be a full field in the Pimlico starting gate for next Saturday’s $1 million Preakness Stakes. Eight days out from the race, there are at least 16 horses under consideration for the Preakness, which is limited to 14 starters.

On Friday, Ahmed Zayat, the owner of Kentucky Derby runner-up Nehro, said that he was “on the fence big time” over whether to run in the Preakness. Zayat said his gut instinct tells him to wait for the Belmont Stakes – which he said the day after the Derby he was most likely to do – but all reports from Kentucky indicate his horse has come out of the race extremely well and may be ready to run back in two weeks.

Also on Friday, trainer Doodnauth Shivmangal said he would scratch Isn’t He Perfect from Saturday’s Grade 2 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park in hopes of getting into the Preakness field. If Nehro runs – and the remainder of the prospective field remains intact – Isn’t He Perfect would be the first one excluded from the field. Also sitting on the outside looking is Saratoga Red, trained by D. Wayne Lukas.

PREAKNESS STAKES 2011: Contender profiles, news updates, video, and odds

On Friday, Preakness probables Norman Asbjornson and Mr. Commons worked 3,000 miles apart. At Pimlico, Norman Asbjornson went five furlongs in 1:02.20 while at Hollywood Park Mr. Commons went seven furlongs in 1:24.40.

Meanwhile, Zayat said Friday that he will be at Churchill Downs on Monday to watch Nehro breeze at 6 a.m. and see if that helps him make a decision whether or not to run in the Preakness. In the last 50 years, the only two Derby second-place finishers to win the Preakness were Summer Squall (1990) and Prairie Bayou (1993).

“My gut’s saying go to the Belmont, but the horse is telling us he might want to run,” Zayat said Friday morning. “I want to go see him for myself. I really don’t know what to do, it could go either way.”

The Kentucky Derby was Nehro’s third race in six weeks. He finished second in the Louisiana Derby on March 26, second in the Arkansas Derby on April 16 and second in the Kentucky Derby. While Zayat wonders if running back in two weeks would be asking too much of the colt, he also believes horses are creatures of habit and that Nehro may actually prefer that type of schedule.

“I want to see a happy healthy horse, one that is keeping his flesh, doing everything right,” Zayat said. “You want to be 100 percent going into a race like that.”

Nehro is trained by Steve Asmussen, who has won two of the last four runnings of the Preakness and is also planning to run Astrology in this year’s running of the second jewel of the Triple Crown.

Mr. Commons flashes speed in workout

Friday, at Hollywood Park, Mr. Commons, the third-place finisher in the Santa Anita Derby, worked seven furlongs in 1:24.40 under jockey Victor Espinoza, in a move that went a little differently than trainer John Shirreffs had envisioned.

Ridden for the first time by Espinoza, who has the mount in the Preakness, Mr. Commons worked alone, and was very eager early, going the first half-mile in 46 seconds and five furlongs in 57.83 seconds, according to Shirreffs’s stopwatch. Shirreffs timed Mr. Commons finishing 1:24.29 for the workout, slightly quicker than the official time.

“It was a little rapido,” Shirreffs said of Mr. Commons’s early furlongs.

Espinoza had hoped that Mr. Commons would slow down after the workout began, but found himself on an aggressive colt.

“He just kept going,” Espinoza told Shirreffs after the workout, while riding Mr. Commons back to the stable.

Espinoza said he was impressed by Mr. Commons’s speed. “I think he has a lot of talent,” he said. “If you need the speed, it will be there. I’m glad I worked him.”

Shirreffs confirmed that Mr. Commons will be flown from California to Kentucky on Tuesday and then be sent to Baltimore by air on Wednesday.

At Pimlico, Norman Asbjornson breezed five furlongs in 1:02.40 under regular rider Julian Pimentel. According to trainer Christopher Grove, the track was “a little deep” and the colt went off his first eighth in 13.60 seconds.

“It wasn’t super fast or anything, definitely a nice little maintenance work,” Grove said. “The track’s been a little deep, a little tiring so I was real happy with it.”

Friday’s work came one week after Norman Asbjornson worked a mile in 1:40 at Pimlico. The horse vanned back to Bowie Race Course after Friday’s work and he will remain at Bowie until the morning of the Preakness.

– additional reporting by Steve Andersen