PREAKNESS CONTENDERS RACHEL ALEXANDRA, PIONEEROF THE NILE DEPART CHURCHILL DOWNS FOR BALTIMORE – The exodus of Churchill Downs-based contenders for Saturday’s 134th running of the $1 million Preakness (Grade I) was completed on Wednesday when major contenders Rachel Alexandra and Pioneerof the Nile stepped onto separate vans around 12:30 p.m. (EDT) on Wednesday for the short trip to Louisville International Airport for their flight to Baltimore. Those major players figure to be the top two betting choices in Saturday’s second jewel of racing’s Triple Crown. Post positions for the 1 3/16-mile Preakness will be drawn this afternoon at Pimlico. Kentucky Oaks (GI) winner Rachel Alexandra, running for the first time for new owners Stonestreet Stables and Harold T. McCormick, was led from the barn of new trainer Steve Asmussen to her waiting van by assistant trainer Scott Blasi. She had galloped and stood briefly in the starting gate on her final morning of training before traveling to take on the boys in the Preakness. Assistant Jim Barnes accompanied Zayat Stables LLC’s Pioneerof the Nile, runner-up to Mine That Bird in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) and winner of the Santa Anita Derby (GI), to his van. The son of Empire Maker also galloped and spent a little time standing in the starting gate on his final morning of Preakness preparations at Churchill Downs. Also leaving Churchill Downs for the flight to Baltimore was Adele Dilschneider’s Terrain, the fourth place finisher in the Toyota Blue Grass (GI) and third in the Louisiana Derby (GII) for trainer Al Stall Jr. Mark Allen and Dr. Leonard Blach’s Mine That Bird traveled to Baltimore in trainer Bennie “Chip” Woolley’s horse trailer on Tuesday. Also making the trip to Pimlico by van on Tuesday were owner-trainer Tom McCarthy’s Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (GI) winner General Quarters, who finished 10th in the Kentucky Derby, and the D. Wayne Lukas-trained duo of Flying Private, last of 19 in the Kentucky Derby, and Marylou Whitney’s Luv Gov, who notched his first career victory in Churchill Downs maiden race on the Kentucky Derby undercard.
‘CANDYMAN’ READY FOR CHURCHILL DOWNS RETURN – A lot has happened to Joseph Rauch and David Zell’s Capt. Candyman Can since he stamped himself as one of the top 2-year-olds on the grounds – and in the country – during the Fall Meet at Churchill Downs. After a win in the Iroquois Stakes (GIII) and a gritty third-place run in the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) over this track, trainer Ian Wilkes gave the Candy Ride gelding the opportunity to prove himself as a candidate for the Kentucky Derby. The first step, a victory in the seven-furlong Hutcheson (GII) at Gulfstream Park, was promising, but he faltered in a fourth-place run behind Quality Road in the one-mile Fountain of Youth (GII) over the same track. The latter convinced Wilkes that 1 ¼ miles on the first Saturday in May was not the goal that Capt. Candyman Can should pursue. “Seven furlongs, I think, is the max he wants to go,” Wilkes said. Capt. Candyman Can returned to form, and to the national racing consciousness, with a sharp victory in the seven-furlong Bay Shore (GIII) at Aqueduct. On Saturday he’ll be back at the seven-furlong distance when he starts as the likely favorite in the $100,000-added Matt Winn Stakes for 3-year-olds over his home track at Churchill Downs. Wilkes said the Bay Shore was a big step for Capt. Candyman Can, who is being pointed toward a run in the seven-furlong King’s Bishop (GI) this summer at Saratoga. “He’s got a lot of talent,” Wilkes said. “The win was good just to prove that we were doing the right thing with him in taking him back short.” With Capt Candyman Can’s focus back on one-turn distances, the Matt Winn – which is being run for the second time at seven furlongs – was a natural spot for Wilkes’ young star. “I don’t have to ship him, that’s the good thing about it,” Wilkes said. “We’re in our own backyard, he likes this track and it’s worked out perfect.” Capt. Candyman Can tuned up for the Matt Winn with a sharp five-furlong work in 1:00.60 on Monday, the second-fastest of 19 works at the distance that day. The steady gelding brings a record of 4-0-1 in seven races and earnings of $344,145 into Saturday’s Matt Winn.
VETERAN SILVERFOOT GEARS UP FOR ANOTHER CAMPAIGN – When the $100,000-added Louisville Handicap (GIII) is run over the Memorial Day holiday weekend at Churchill Downs, do not expect the veteran Silverfoot to be among those who enter the starting gate for the 1 ½-mile turf test. But just because Chrysalis Stables LLC’s gray – now nearly white – campaigner will not be competing in his favorite race should not be interpreted as a sign that the now 9-year-old son of With Approval will not be chasing lofty goals this year. Silverfoot, winner of three consecutive runnings of the Louisville Handicap from 2004-06 and fifth behind the victorious Lattice a year ago, is just gearing up for a campaign that will span the final six months of 2009. He worked a solid six furlongs around the dogs on the Matt Winn Turf Course on Tuesday in 1:16.80, and trainer Dallas Stewart likes what he sees in the old boy. “He’s doing great,” Stewart said. “He’s nine years old. We’re just going to give him steady workouts for the rest of the month and sometime in mid-June he’ll be ready.” Silverfoot managed only one win in 10 starts in 2008, but that was a victory in the $175,000 Stars and Stripes (GIII) at Arlington Park. He finished a good fourth to the front-running Spirit One in the Arlington Million (GI) and was beaten just 2 ½ lengths by the winner in that important race. “He ran really well in the Stars and Stripes, and had a bad trip in the Arlington Million,” Stewart said. “So that’s kind of the schedule we’re looking at, hoping we’ll have him back on target for that this year.” After those good efforts at Arlington Park in 2008, Silverfoot ended his season with a fourth-place run as the favorite in the Kentucky Cup Turf (GIII) at the all-turf Kentucky Downs and a fifth-place finish behind Always First in Keeneland’s Elkhorn (GIII). “We give him a break every year – every year he gets a couple of months off,” Stewart said. “After the Kentucky Cup and the Keeneland race, we just turned him out. But he’s sound.” Silverfoot has a career record of 10-1-2 in 34 races and has earned $909,515. He has won five of seven races over the Churchill Downs turf.
Sign up for race updates, wagering tips, and inside news