Strike the Gold will defend his title in the Pimlico Special.
After a winter break, during which he had a mild case of anemia, the horse is back to work and is up to breezing five-eighths of a mile.
"I have a mile allowance spot picked out for him at Aqueduct on April 21," trainer Nick Zito said at Gulfstream Park yesterday. "Then it's on to Pimlico."
The Pimlico Special will be held this year for the first time on May 15, the day of the Preakness. It is the fourth event in the American Championship Racing Series.
Zito said Strike the Gold "crashed at the farm like a lot of horses do when they are first let down. We took a blood sample, and that's when we found his blood count was a little low. But he's all right now."
George Gianos, trainer of Donn Handicap winner Pistols n' Roses, and Allen Jerkens, who won the Gulfstream Park Handicap with Devil His Due, also said the Pimlico Special is on the schedule for their respective horses. But both horses will start in the Oaklawn Handicap at Oaklawn Park on April 10. Each has won one of the first two races of the ACRS, but the Oaklawn race is not on the ACRS schedule this year.
Jerkens added that he plans to run Missy's Mirage in the Pimlico Distaff on May 8, a week before the Preakness. The first Pimlico Distaff was run in June last year, but was rescheduled to take the date of the Pimlico Special.
Paulson sacks Valenzuela
The Los Angeles Times reported that owner Allen Paulson is dropping Pat Valenzuela as his stable jockey.
Valenzuela, who has had drug problems, has missed 20 days of riding at the Santa Anita meet and was replaced by Chris McCarron on Paulson-owned San Felipe Stakes winner Corby last week.
It is undecided if Valenzuela will re-claim the mount on Corby in the April 3 Santa Anita Derby, but it is doubtful.
Paulson said he also is considering running his champion filly, Eliza, winner of the Santa Anita Oaks, in the Kentucky Derby.
She will be tried against colts in the Santa Anita Derby or the Blue
Grass Stakes at Keeneland Race Course on April 10.
Neither of the first two finishers in the Swale Stakes yesterday will try for the Kentucky Derby. The winner, Premier Explosion, rallied from off the pace on a sloppy track and beat pace-setter Demaloot Demashoot by a head.
Owner John Franks said Premier Explosion, who was making his stakes debut, "needs to mature more. I have no Derby aspirations for him." The gelding may run in the Lafayette Stakes at Keeneland.
Trainer Mark Hennig has the same plans for Demaloot Demashoot. "We'll keep him going short," he said.
The Swale, at 7 furlongs, is a Grade III event preceding the 9-furlong Florida Derby.
Franks subsequently finished fourth in the Florida Derby with Kissin' Kris and also bred the upset winner, Bull inthe Heather, in partnership with Claiborne Farm.
Franks owns the Maryland-based mare, Wood So, who is trained Laurel by Katy Voss. He plans to breed the mare to Lively One this spring and then keep running her for the rest of the year.