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Updated on 09/17/2011 11:29AM
Work day for many horses
ELMONT, N.Y. - For the first time in almost a week, the biggest news regarding the Triple Crown was made on the racetrack, where more than half the field for Saturday's Preakness Stakes - including Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide - put in final workouts Tuesday at four different venues.
The Preakness field was reduced to 11 starters Tuesday after trainer Pat Reynolds declared Gotham Stakes winner Alysweep out of the race. Reynolds said he was not satisfied with the way Alysweep came out of a five-furlong workout Tuesday morning at Belmont Park and has decided to wait for either the Peter Pan (May 24) or Riva Ridge (June 7), both at Belmont.
Alysweep's defection enabled Jorge Chavez to pick up the mount on New York Hero, who was confirmed a starter for the Preakness after working at Aqueduct on Tuesday morning.
Post positions for the Preakness were to be drawn Wednesday at the ESPN Zone in Baltimore's Inner Harbor. The draw will be shown live on ESPN from 5-6 p.m. Eastern. The selection order was to be determined during a random draw conducted in the Pimlico press box at 11:30 a.m.
Other than an inordinate amount of media at Belmont Park on a dark day, a sense of normalcy returned to the Triple Crown scene Tuesday, a sunny, spring-like morning in New York. Jose Santos, the jockey of Funny Cide, was back in town one day after meeting with Churchill Downs stewards, who determined that Santos had nothing in his right hand other than the whip while guiding Funny Cide to victory in the May 3 Kentucky Derby.
As pleased as Santos was to get that news, he had to be smiling from ear to ear after watching Funny Cide put in a strong four-furlong workout at Belmont Park. Funny Cide officially was credited with a half-mile move in 47.32 seconds Tuesday, equaling the fastest of 50 moves at the distance. Some private clockers timed him faster, including Daily Racing Form, which caught Funny Cide in 46.92 seconds.
Robin Smullen, Funny Cide's regular exercise rider, was up for the move, and labeled it "perfect." Funny Cide galloped out in 59 seconds and pulled up six furlongs in 1:11.54.
"I thought it was excellent," Tagg said. "It's him; it's him all the way. He was nice and relaxed. If he was a little more uptight, he probably would have worked a little faster, but it might have taken a little more out of him and he certainly didn't need to go any faster than that. I think it was probably just what he needed; I hope it was. It's a bit of a guessing game no matter what you do, but I was very satisfied."
Smullen likened the work to the sharp 58.50-second move Funny Cide put in the week before the Kentucky Derby, with one notable exception.
"Today, he was much more relaxed doing it," she said. "Whatever speed I wanted to go I could've gone."
Tagg, who had been characterized in some reports as being uptight the previous two mornings, seemed at ease Tuesday in discussing Funny Cide's chances to win the Preakness.
"I don't feel any pressure at all, really," he said. "It's a horse race, they have to go around two turns and a lot can happen. It's going to be a crowded field. If things go right for him I think he can win the race."
Tagg said he feels Peace Rules, the third-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, is the horse to beat in the Preakness.
"One thing is he's got Edgar Prado, who's probably ridden Pimlico as well as anybody in history, and he's a good horse," Tagg said.
Prado won 14 Pimlico riding titles from 1990-99, but is 0 for 6 in the Preakness.
While Tagg didn't officially say when he's shipping Funny Cide to Maryland, he gave every indication that he would wait until 4 a.m. Saturday to leave. Tagg said the only reason he would ship earlier is if he felt Funny Cide needed to school in Pimlico's indoor paddock, where Funny Cide will be saddled prior to the Preakness. He said he would discuss that option with Smullen.
"I can't see any reason to go earlier," said Tagg, who added that he needed Smullen in New York to get on his other horses. "I've only got one other rider."
Shortly after Funny Cide worked, Alysweep breezed five furlongs in 1:01 under Jorge Chavez. Later, Reynolds said Alysweep came out of the work a little tired, which prompted him to cancel his Preakness plans.
Chavez soon picked up the mount on New York Hero, who on Tuesday worked five furlongs in 1:01.81 at Aqueduct. It was the fastest of five moves at the distance. Under exercise rider Kevin Grau, New York Hero was clocked in factions of 24.19 seconds, 48.40, and galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.66. Trainer Jen Pedersen, who saddled Griffinite to a fifth-place finish in the 2001 Preakness, thinks New York Hero can be in the mix Saturday.
"If my horse gets the ride he's supposed to get he will pick up something," she said. "I can't stand when they put him on the lead."
Pedersen said she felt fortunate that Chavez came available. New York Hero will ship Thursday, the same day as Peace Rules.
At Churchill Downs on Tuesday, trainer D. Wayne Lukas put his pair of Preakness hopefuls, Ten Cents a Shine and Scrimshaw, through their final workouts. Ten Cents a Shine, eighth in the Kentucky Derby, went four furlongs in 46 seconds, the fastest of 42 moves at the distance, while Scrimshaw, 11th in the Derby, covered the same distance in 48 seconds, the third best time. Stacy Maker was aboard for both moves.
Lukas said he wanted a sharp move in Ten Cents a Shine because, "I'm going to try to get him a little more focused in the early part of the race."
Lukas said he felt Scrimshaw might have needed the Derby, which was only his second start since February.
"I felt that way on Derby night after we cooled him out," said Lukas, who has won the Preakness five times. "His energy seems good."
Champali, the Derby Trial runner-up, worked five furlongs in 1:00.80 at Churchill. Champali, Ten Cents a Shine, Scrimshaw, and Senor Swinger were to be flown to Baltimore from Louisville on Wednesday.
At Bowie on Tuesday, Cherokee's Boy, winner of the Federico Tesio Stakes and a perfect 3 for 3 at Pimlico, worked four furlongs in 47.40 seconds under exercise rider Sam Davis. It was the second fastest of 17 works at the distance. Cherokee's Boy will ship over from Bowie the morning of the race.
The forecast for Preakness Day calls for partly cloudy skies and a high temperature of 63 degrees. There is a 20 percent chance of rain Saturday, but a greater chance for precipitation Thursday and Friday.
- additional reporting by Jay Privman