Ride On Curlin finished a distant seventh in the Kentucky Derby, yet he was treated like a rock star Monday on his trip from BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport to Pimlico Race Course.
That's what happen if you happen to be one of California Chrome's wing, uh, horses.
It even took "Bronco" Billy Gowan, Ride On Curlin's trainer, by surprise.
"We got a police escort," Gowan said after walking his horse around the shed row. "It was good. We didn't have to stop."
Asked whether he had ever received a police escort before, Gowan joked, "Not for a horse."
Perhaps the trip to Baltimore was a foretelling of what's to come in Saturday's 139th Preakness Stakes.
"Maybe so. We followed California Chrome hoping we can follow him around and go down the stretch and see what happens," Gowan said.
Because he was born with what Gowan once described as a "turned-in foot," Ride On Curlin was purchased for just $25,000 by owner Daniel Dougherty despite being sired by Curlin, a former horse of the year with North America career record earnings of $10.5 million.
After a disappointing performance in the Kentucky Derby in which jockey Calvin Borel started Ride On Curlin toward the back of the pack but never could get to Borel's favorite spot on the rail, Gowan is going with Joel Rosario in the Preakness.
"I'm an equal-opportunity employer. I give everybody a shot," Gowan said of hiring Ride On Curlin's fourth jockey in as many races.
Asked what kind of ride he hopes to get from Rosario, who won last year's Kentucky Derby on Orb before finishing fourth in the Preakness after his horse got boxed in on the rail, Gowan said, "A clean one. Hopefully we don't ever get stopped and have a clean trip. Not too wide, maybe we'll see if we can have a better outcome. We've really never had a perfect trip ever."
General a Rod — who finished 11th at the Kentucky Derby with Rosario aboard — joined California Chrome and Ride On Curlin for the plane ride from Louisville on Monday.
Trainer Mike Maker, who will be making his first Preakness start with General a Rod, said deciding to race in Baltimore was not as difficult a decision as some might think for Jim Shircliff, the largest investor in Skychai Racing.
"He came out of his race good and it's the Preakness," Maker told reporters in Louisville on Monday. "It's the second leg of the Triple Crown. If you've got a good horse, you want to be in it."
Another kind of trifecta
Saturday will mark the first time in the history of the Preakness Stakes that a filly (Ria Antonia), a female jockey (Rosie Napravnik) and a female trainer (Linda Rice) will be competing at the same time in the second leg of the Triple Crown.
Rice, whose previous Triple Crown experience came when she stepped in for another trainer right before the 2003 Belmont Stakes, has has her own kind of blinders on when it comes to being part of history.
"I'm still rooting for Kid Cruz," she said of her horse.
Napravnik will ride Bayern, a horse trained by Bob Baffert.
Ria Antonia will be the first filly to run in the Preakness since Borel guided Rachel Alexandra to victory in 2009. It seemed to make sense that trainer Tom Amoss hired him to ride Ria Antonia after Borel lost his mount on Ride On Curlin.
Borel worked out Ria Antonia on Sunday in Louisville, turning in a time of 47 3/5 seconds for a half-mile.
"We wanted to get a rider that had an opportnity to work her and feel good about it," Amoss said Monday. "I think Calvin's confidence is strong after the work."
Tracking the field
Veteran trainer Todd Pletcher said that it is "very unlikely" that he will have a horse in this year's Preakness, including Danza, the third-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby. It would mark the third straight year that Pletcher — whose best finish in Baltimore was third, with Impeachment in his Preakness debut in 2000 — doesn't have an entry. ... Ring Weekend, who is trained by Graham Motion at Fair Hill in Elkton, joined Ria Antonia as the ninth and 10th horses in the field.
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