05/13/2008 11:00PM

Theriot making Triple Crown debut


BALTIMORE – When jockey Jamie Theriot decided to move his tack – and his family – to Kentucky a little more than a year ago, it was with the hope of doing exactly what he will do Saturday at Pimlico.

Theriot, for years a proverbial big fish in a small pond on a circuit of smaller tracks in Louisiana and Texas, will achieve a career breakthrough when he makes his Triple Crown debut by riding Kentucky Bear in the 133rd Preakness.

“It means a lot to me,” said Theriot, 28. “It’s a dream come true to ride in these races.”

Like many aspiring jockeys from Louisiana bayou country, Theriot officially began his career at a young age – 16 – at smaller tracks such as Evangeline Downs and Delta Downs. He eventually became a leading rider at Oaklawn Park and Fair Grounds, and with Fred Aime – the former longtime agent for Pat Day – handling his business, Theriot has made substantial inroads with major stables in Kentucky since moving there in April 2007. His greatest victory to date came last fall aboard Purim in the Grade 1, $600,000 Shadwell Turf Mile at Keeneland.

Kentucky Bear, trained by Reade Baker, finished third in the Blue Grass Stakes, then was excluded from the Kentucky Derby because of insufficient earnings. Theriot has worked the horse twice since then, including a drill last Saturday at Pimlico.

“The horse is peaking at the right time of year,” said Theriot. “Every owner, trainer, and jockey wants to be in the Derby, but I think missing the Derby and giving him a couple extra weeks is really going to help. He was kind of green in the Blue Grass, but he’s really been learning and getting better since then.”

Theriot is one of two jockeys making his Preakness debut, but the only one who never has ridden in a Triple Crown race. Tyler Baze, the jockey for Tres Borrachos, has never ridden in the Preakness but has ridden in the Derby.

Schosberg’s first Triple Crown race

He has trained a champion 2-year-old, conditioned four Grade 1 winners, and competed in several Breeders’ Cups, but trainer Richard Schosberg has never had a horse in a Triple Crown race.

That will change Saturday when Schosberg runs Giant Moon in the $1 million Preakness Stakes at Pimlico.

“It’s great to have a horse that’s worthy of being considered for those kinds of races,” Schosberg, 46, said earlier in the week. “You’re always looking for a nice 3-year-old. When 2-year-olds come in the spring, you’re always looking at them hoping maybe you’re the one.”

In 1995, Maria’s Mon appeared to be the one. He won 4 of 5 starts as a 2-year-old, including the Grade 1 Champagne. He fractured an ankle 12 days after the Champagne and could not make the Breeders’ Cup. Still, he was voted champion 2-year-old.

Maria’s Mon didn’t make it to the races until July of his 3-year-old year, and was retired after running sixth in the Jim Dandy.

In 1993, Schosberg won the Gotham with As Indicated, but the horse finished seventh in the Wood. In 1993, As Indicated won the Grade 1 Pimlico Special.

“That’s as close to the Preakness as I’ve come,” Schosberg said.

In the late 1990s, Schosberg trained Affirmed Success, who didn’t make it to the races until a week after the Kentucky Derby. He would go on to win 14 races – including 10 stakes – and banked $2.2 million before retiring in 2003.

Giant Moon, a New York-bred son of Giant’s Causeway, won his first four starts, including the Count Fleet Stakes in January. He finished last in the Gotham, run over a sloppy track, before finishing fourth, beaten two lengths by Tale of Ekati, in the Grade 1 Wood Memorial.

“We’ll have to step our game up from the Wood to be able to hit the board in there,” said Schosberg, who saddled his first winner in 1988. “But I don’t think we’re flying by the seat of our pants. He’s still 4 out of 6; 4 out of 5 if you toss the [Gotham]. He’s still a darn nice 3-year-old that should be very competitive with some of the better 3-year-olds around.”

Last week, Schosberg welcomed Giant Moon’s half-brother Samurai Moon to his stable. Samurai Moon is by Fusaichi Pegasus.

Guaranteed wagering pools

Besides the Pimlico Special-Preakness double, a two-day wager that once again is being offered on Friday, Pimlico also is offering guaranteed pools on two pick fours on Preakness Day. There is a $250,000 guarantee on races 4-7, and a $1 million guarantee on races 9 through 12, ending with the Preakness. Mutuel takeout on the pick fours is only 14 percent.

o Pimlico has instituted a new rule, effective Friday, that will create a mutuel field for any horses with saddlecloth numbers 14 and above. The rule will be relevant to the Friday card, when early scratches in several races have allowed also-eligibles to run.

– additional reporting by David Grening