By Don Markus, The Baltimore Sun
5:12 PM EDT, May 19, 2012
The jockey had raced an Arabian horse only once before and had never met the trainer before.
The trainer, a former jockey himself, has never actually mounted an Arabian.
The owner is an 18-year-old Shiek who, according to the trainer, knows very little about horses, even Arabians.
Experience seemed to be insignificant when it comes to T M Fred Texas, the 5-year-old Arabian who followed a world championship in Dubai in March with a victory Saturday in the first President of United Emirates Cup at Pimlico Race Course. T M Texas paid $4.40.
It marked the first time in the history of the now 137-year-old Preakness Stakes that Arabians were on the program.
The $75,000 President of United Arab Emirates Cup is part of a series of races that was created 20 years ago to help bring attention to the Arabian breed, which dates back to ancient Egypt and Babylonia. The horses are built to run long distances at a relatively good speed, and in the old days often helped their riders get away from others who were chasing them.
The idea to bring Arabians to Pimlico for the first time — they primarily run in Delaware and Texas as well as overseas — was broached by horsemen in the United Arab Emirates who put up the prize money with the idea of running the race the day of the Preakness.
"I think it's something we'll look at seriously in the future years, if they're interested in coming back," said Tom Chuckas, president and chief operating officer of the Maryland Jockey Club.
Skittish in the paddock and sluggish at the start of the 1 1/16-mile race, T M Fred Texas took a circuitous route in overtaking pacesetter Grilla to win by 2 ¾ lengths. Jockey Abel Castellano Jr. had to go 10-wide at the first turn and 4-wide at the far turn before pushing his horse to the front.
"I was a little worried about that," Castellano said of the early maneuvering. "I was able to drop him over and gradually saved some ground in the second turn. When I asked him to really run, he responded pretty good. He's a very nice horse."
Castellano, who regularly rides thoroughbreds and rode an Arabian last year at Delaware Park, said these horses take a little more work.
"You try really hard to make him go fast," Castellano said. "When you ask a thoroughbred to go really hard, they give it to you. The Arabian, they give it to you, but they are in slow motion. You got to work harder."
Trainer Ronald Martino barely said a word to Castellano before the race.
"The trainer had a lot of confidence in me because he didn't say too much," Castellano said. "He said, 'This is a nice horse, ride your race and he will take you to the wire first.'"
Martino didn't have Castellano mount T M Fred Texas until the horse was led onto the track "because he is a handful in the paddock," the trainer said. But he added: "I'm telling you, this is an iron horse. He always shows up."
Martino, who has trained T M Fred Texas "off and on" for the past two years, said he has transitioned from thoroughbreds to Arabians and noted "there is not much difference."
The Delaware-based trainer has never been on an Arabian.
"My knees are too bad," he said.
As for Arabian horses becoming a regular part of Pimlico's season, Chuckas said the Maryland Jockey Club can conduct up to three such races a year.
"It would be for big days," Chuckas said. "That's their view — they want maximum exposure. And our view would be to provide maximum interest on a big day like this."
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