Newcomers look to spoil Crown bid
BALTIMORE -- Pleasant Prince did not succeed in the Florida Derby, so he has tried, and tried, and now will try again.
A nose loss in the Florida Derby completely changed the campaign of Pleasant Prince. Had he not lost a narrow decision to Ice Box, Pleasant Prince would have gone straight to the Kentucky Derby six weeks later. But the Florida Derby loss left him with insufficient funds in his graded-stakes earnings account. So, in a bid by owner Ken Ramsey to make the Derby, Pleasant Prince ran in the Blue Grass Stakes, but he managed to finish only seventh of nine. He came back two weeks later in the Derby Trial but finished a distant third, eventually leaving him 21st on an earnings list of which the top 20 got into the Derby.
After all that, Pleasant Prince makes his delayed Triple Crown debut Saturday, when he runs in the 135th Preakness Stakes at Pimlico. He is one of seven horses running in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness after missing the Derby, joining five horses coming out of the 1 1/4-mile Derby, including the victorious Super Saver.
The seven newcomers -- Aikenite, Caracortado, First Dude, Northern Giant, Pleasant Prince, Schoolyard Dreams and Yawanna Twist -- will be trying to join recent Preakness winners such as Red Bullet (2000) and Bernardini (2006) who were kept out of the Derby.
The two fresh-faced Preakness winners last decade were the first in 17 years, following a cluster of four in 12 runnings from 1972 through 1983. The most surprising of that bunch was 1972 winner Bee Bee Bee, who stunned Derby winner Riva Ridge on an off track. Codex, the 1980 winner, only missed the Derby because he was not properly nominated, one of the reasons there is now a common nomination form for all three Triple Crown races. Locally based runners Aloma's Ruler (1982) and Deputed Testamony (1983) were the last new shooters to win the Preakness before Red Bullet.
For Pleasant Prince, the Preakness will be his fourth race in eight weeks.
"Mr. Ramsey's got him fit for us," said Wesley Ward, who trains Pleasant Prince for Ramsey and his wife, Sarah.
Pleasant Prince will be ridden by Julien Leparoux, last year's Eclipse Award-winning rider who is seeking his first victory in a Triple Crown race. For Ward, a jockey turned trainer, this will be his first Preakness starter.
Todd Pletcher trains Aikenite, who will be going up against Pletcher's Derby winner, Super Saver. The last time a trainer ran another horse against his Derby winner in the Preakness was 1999, when D. Wayne Lukas put in Cat Thief, the Derby's third-place finisher, against Charismatic. Cat Thief finished seventh as Charismatic, only the fifth choice of 13 in the Preakness, added the second leg of the Triple Crown.
The last time a trainer beat his Derby winner with another horse in the Preakness was in 1995, when Timber Country defeated Thunder Gulch. Those horses also were trained by Lukas, for whom Pletcher at the time was his top assistant. Pletcher went out on his own following that year's Breeders' Cup.
Aikenite was second most recently in the Derby Trial.
Neither trainer Mike Machowsky nor jockey Paul Atkinson has ever had a runner in a Triple Crown race, but they have had great success so far with Caracortado, who won the first five starts of his career before finishing third in the San Felipe Stakes and fourth, with considerable trouble, in the Santa Anita Derby.
This will be the first start for Caracortado outside his birth state of California, but he does have prior experience on dirt, having won his debut at Fairplex last fall. He is the only gelding in the field.
In addition to Pletcher, both Lukas and trainer Dale Romans are sending out two runners in the Preakness. Romans trains Paddy O'Prado, who ran third in the Derby, and now adds First Dude, who finished third in the Blue Grass Stakes in his last start.
First Dude has won just once in six starts but has finished second three times. He was fifth in the Florida Derby in his stakes debut but before that was a narrow loser of an allowance at Gulfstream to Fly Down, who last Saturday won the Dwyer Stakes.
Lukas's two Preakness starters are Dublin, who was seventh in the Derby, and Northern Giant, who is making his first start since finishing last of nine in the Arkansas Derby on April 10.
"He had some pharyngitis coming out of that race, some low-grade mucus," Lukas said Wednesday morning at Pimlico. "He was out of horse at the half-mile pole."
Northern Giant has won just once in nine starts, against maidens at Oaklawn Park on a sloppy track in February. He was third in the Risen Star and second in the Lane's End before the Arkansas Derby.
Like Pleasant Prince, Schoolyard Dreams is best known for a brutally tough loss, in his case a razor-thin nose loss in the Tampa Bay Derby.
Since then, Schoolyard Dreams has raced just once, in the Wood Memorial, in which he finished a distant fourth, 11 1/4 lengths behind Eskendereya. His trainer, Derek Ryan, and jockey, Eibar Coa, combined to finish third in last year's Preakness with Musket Man.
Trainer Rick Dutrow will be trying to win the Preakness for the second time in three years, having captured it with Derby winner Big Brown in 2008. Yawanna Twist is not nearly as accomplished but has solid form, with two wins and two seconds in four starts. And he could very well be the controlling speed in a race that does not appear to have the same pace pressure as the Derby.
Yawanna Twist was second in the Gotham Stakes and the Illinois Derby in his last two starts.
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