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Commanding Curve Works Toward Belmont; Churchill Trainers Offer Preakness Thoughts

| Churchill Downs Communications | 05/16/2014 #
  • Commanding Curve, shown prior to his runner-up finish in Kentucky Derby 140, is pointing to the Belmont Stakes (Reed Palmer, CD)

  • Jockey Calvin Borel will ride the filly Ria Antonia in the Preakness (Reed Palmer, Churchill Downs)

  • Eight Belles winner Fiftyshadesofgold is training toward Belmont Park's GI Acorn (Reed Palmer, Churchill Downs)

COMMANDING CURVE WORKS A HALF-MILE; POINTING TO BELMONT STAKES  - West Point ThoroughbredsCommanding Curve, runner-up in the Grade I Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, returned to the work tab early Friday morning at Churchill Downs, logging a half-mile on the main track in :48.80 outside of workmate Golden Soul.

He recorded splits of :12.40 and :24.40 and galloped out an additional furlong in 1:03 under exercise rider Emerson Chavez.

Trainer Dallas Stewart said the 3-year-old son of Master Command would work again at Churchill in about a week, and likely once more after shipping to Belmont Park for his next race, the Belmont Stakes (GI) on June 7.

CHURCHILL DOWNS HORSEMEN FAVORING CALIFORNIA CHROME TO WIN PREAKNESS - One of the main topics of discussion on the Churchill Downs backside Friday morning was Saturday’s Preakness Stakes (Grade I) at Pimlico. Several horsemen at the Louisville racetrack are leaning toward Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (GI) winner California Chrome to take down the second jewel of the Triple Crown this Saturday.

“I think if California Chrome runs the race he ran here at Churchill he should have no problem,” Greg Foley said.

“I’m rooting for California Chrome,” Steve Margolis said. “It’s good for racing.”

“Everything I’ve seen out of California Chrome has been fabulous,” Neil Howard said. “I think he’s clearly the one to beat.”

“California Chrome has easily been the most consistent 3-year-old colt we’ve seen,” Eddie Kenneally said.

“It’s going to be tough to beat California Chrome in the Preakness, especially with only a couple of Derby horses coming back,” Larry Melancon, assistant to trainer Al Stall Jr., said.

“I think the Preakness is coming up a tough race,” Grant Forster said. “But I think he (California Chrome) has proven he’s the best of the class and obviously we’re rooting for him to do it again. It’s great for everybody involved and great for the whole industry when the Derby winner wins the Preakness.”

Trainers Ron Moquett, Tom Proctor, Randy Morse, Bernie Flint and Dave Vance also picked the Derby winner to win the Preakness.

A couple of other horsemen mentioned Social Inclusion as a possible threat to the Derby winner.

"Social Inclusion could be dangerous, but I’m rooting for California Chrome” Rusty Arnold said.

"I haven’t had that much time to look at it, but I’m picking Social Inclusion,” Kenny McPeek’s assistant Matt Shirer said.

There were also a handful of trainers rooting for Churchill-based trainer Billy Gowan, who has Ride On Curlin in the Preakness Stakes.

“I like Ride On Curlin,” Buff Bradley said. “He got a tough trip in the Derby, but I’d like to see Billy (Gowan) do well.”

“Ride On Curlin should be up there,” Paul McGee said. “Can he beat California Chrome? We’ll see, but I’m rooting for the local guy.”

The Preakness is scheduled as Race 12 on the 13-race card at Pimlico with a post time of 6:18 p.m. (all times Eastern).

BOREL “VERY IMPRESSED” WITH RIA ANTONIA’S PROGRESS HEADING INTO PREAKNESS -  Three-time Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands winning jockey Calvin Borel will ride his fourth career Preakness mount Saturday aboard the filly Ria Antonia for owners Christopher Dunn and Loooch Racing Stable and trainer Tom Amoss.

“I got on her Sunday,” Borel said. “I worked her for an easy half-mile and let her gallop out. I was very impressed. Tom (Amoss) and I both thought she came out of the Kentucky Oaks well. She has put on a little bit of weight since the Oaks and I was very impressed with the work.”

Only five fillies have ever won the Preakness Stakes, the last one being Rachel Alexandra, who was ridden by Borel in 2009. Prior to that, the last time a filly had won the Preakness was when Nellie Morse won the 1924 edition. The victory on Rachel Alexandra was the first and only Preakness win for Borel, who was inducted into Racing’s Hall of Fame in 2013.

“I know the Preakness might be a little step up for her,” Borel said. “But when Tom sees something he likes, I’m going to go with it for sure. He’s been there and done that, so I know one thing, I’m going to ride her with a lot of confidence.

“I just need to let her get into her game. She seems to have a big high cruising speed. When I’ve taken a look back at her good races, she hasn’t been too far back, but not on the lead either… and that’s where I need to keep her until she’s ready to strike.”

Ria Antonia has been given morning-line odds of 30-1 and drew post position six for Saturday’s Preakness.

NAPRAVNIK ON BAYERN: “I LOVE HIM GOING AROUND TWO TURNS” -  Rosie Napravnik, who has the second-most wins (12) of any jockey in the 2014 Churchill Downs Spring/Summer Meet, will ride Khaleem Shah’s Bayern in Saturday’s Preakness Stakes (GI) at Pimlico. Trained by Bob Baffert, Bayern finished first in the Derby Trial Stakes (Grade III) at Churchill, but was disqualified to second after ‘drifting out and floating’ runner-up Embellishing Bob late in the race.

“He came out of the Derby Trial great,” Napravnik said. “He’s a really cool horse and is super laid back. He’s done everything really the right way.”

Napravnik said she did not see the Preakness distance of 1 3/16 miles being an issue for Bayern.

“Love him,” Napravnik said. “He’s been working fantasic. Love him going around two turns.

“There’s a little bit of speed in there. I think the horse will do alright sitting off a couple of lengths and he’s taking the blinkers off. But in his works he relaxes really well and finishes so I think that might be what we do. But he can do anything, he’s tactical.”

Napravnik rode her first Preakness mount last year aboard Mylute, who finished third. The effort was the best finish for a female jockey in the history of the Preakness.

Bayern has drawn post position five for the Preakness and was given morning-line odds of 10-1.

$1.5 MILLION GUARANTEED LATE PICK 4 HIGHLIGHTS PREAKNESS DAY SIMULCAST WAGERING FROM PIMLICO - Saturday’s Pimlico Race Course wagering menu has plenty to offer. In addition to the Grade I Preakness Stakes, there are three other graded stakes on the card (the $400,000 Dixie Stakes (GII); the $150,000 Gallorette Handicap (GIII); and $150,000 Maryland Sprint Handicap (GIII)). There will be a $350,000 guaranteed early Pick 4 on Races 5-8 and a $1.5 million guaranteed late Pick 4 on races 9-12.

The late Pick 4 ends with the 139th running of the Preakness Stakes which goes as race 12 at approximately 6:18 p.m. The “Call to the Post” for the Preakness will also be the last call for drinks at Churchill Downs.

FIFTYSHADESOFGOLD WORKS FOR CALHOUN; EYEING ACORN STAKES -  The Estate of Clarence Scharbauer Jr.’s Fiftyshadesofgold, winner of the Eight Belles Stakes (GIII) at Churchill Downs in her last start, breezed a half-mile Friday at Churchill in :50.40 with exercise rider Sara Escudero up for trainer Bret Calhoun.

Calhoun indicated that the next start for Fiftyshadesofgold would be the June 7 Acorn Stakes (GI) at Belmont Park.