By Dick Downey
According to Pimlico officials, California Chrome could be joined by any number of challengers in the 139th Preakness a week from Saturday.
Assuming the Kentucky Derby winner goes on, it would be trainer Art Sherman's first trip to Maryland since 1959.
“He came out of the race and looks really good,” Sherman said this morning.
At this point, only two Derby starters -- runner-up Commanding Curve and seventh-place finisher Ride on Curlin -- are possible to run back in the Preakness.
"We will see how he is. If he is OK, he'll run; if he is not, he won't,” trainer Dallas Stewart said of Commanding Curve. This morning, when asked about the matter by Bloodhorse.com, Stewart deemed Commanding Curve “50-50” and said, "I'm not rushing into anything. We'll consider all our options, see how healthy he is, seeing if he's doing as well as he was coming into this race. You just want to take care of the health of your horse...we all want to run in the Triple Crown races, but for me, it's got to all come together."
Trainer Billy Gowan pointed to a small amount of feed that Ride On Curlin didn't eat overnight.
"That's pretty good after racing a mile and a quarter,'' Gowan said. "He looks good. It was just bad racing luck, bad post position. But he's one tough horse. You've got to be proud of him. When he did get clear, he did come running, so that's all you can ask, really. We'll see If he bounces out of these races like he has been, I’m going to the Preakness. We'll just see. He's tough, so I expect him to bounce out of it good. We'll definitely consider it.''
Trainer Wesley Ward reaffirmed that Pablo Del Monte is headed for Baltimore. He drew into the Derby as an also-eligible with the defection of Hoppertunity, but connections declined to go there.
“We’re so excited, we can’t even stand ourselves,” Ward said. “Yeah, I’m going. I’ve already booked the flight for my horse on the Wednesday before the Preakness.”
Four other new shooters are considered probable, according to Pimlico: (1) Federico Tesio winner Kid Cruz, trained by Linda Rice; (2) Illinois Derby winner Dynamic Impact, trained by Mark Casse; (3) Bob Baffert’s Bayern, disqualified and placed second in the Derby Trial; and (4) Social Inclusion, third in the Wood Memorial last time out but scratched from Saturday’s Sir Bear Stakes at Gulfstream Park with what has been described as a foot bruise.
“I have to still talk with Mr. Oxley about it,” trainer Mark Casse said of Dyamic Impact on Sunday. “We said we’d discuss it after the Derby, but we were really pleased with his work Saturday. I would say there is a more likely than not chance that we’d be going.”
Social Inclusion’s owner Ron Sanchez said Sunday the colt has improved and that he plans to ship to Baltimore this Thursday.
Trainer Graham Motion’s Ring Weekend, winner of the Tampa Bay Derby and second in the Calder Derby, is said to be 50-50 for the race. Ring Weekend did not make the Kentucky Derby after Graham Motion said he spiked a fever.
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who earned his sixth Preakness victory last year with Oxbow, said he’s considering Strong Mandate. The son of Tiznow was last seen finishing eighth in the Arkansas Derby.
Trainer Todd Pletcher declined to commit any of his four Kentucky Derby starters to the Preakness. Pletcher reported that he is “going to get them back to Belmont and give it a few days.”
Sherman said he plans to keep California Chrome at Churchill Downs before sending him to Baltimore. Preakness officials are working with Sherman to develop a plan to ship California Chrome to Pimlico on Monday, May 12.
“Five days at Pimlico would be perfect for me,” Sherman said. “That way I wouldn’t have to do much with him. Just school him, stand him in the gate and let him get familiarized with the surroundings.”
Sherman, based in California, and said he has not been to Maryland since he rode at the old Bowie Race Course in 1959. Sherman said he rode a few races at Laurel during his 23-year career as a jockey, but has never been to Pimlico.
Though he set a record as the oldest Derby-winning trainer, Sherman, 77, is not in contention to claim that record in the Preakness: “Sunny Jim” Fitzsimmons was 82 when Bold Ruler won in 1957.