Point Given, the most imposing Preakness horse when his feet are on the ground, created quite a stir yesterday at Pimlico when he nearly took flight.
As he exited the stakes barn on his way to the track, Point Given, an oversized chestnut, reared repeatedly as he headed out for a routine gallop. His exercise rider, Pepe Aragon, held on for dear life.
"That's his way of reacting to anything he doesn't like," Aragon said, "or his way of telling us he's feeling good."
Point Given apparently reacted to a group of photographers waiting for a glimpse of the beaten Kentucky Derby favorite. The colt did the same thing at Churchill Downs several days before the Derby. The morning of the Derby, he reared and threw Aragon off his back.
"That's his way of tipping us off he's feeling good," said Bob Baffert, his trainer. "But I don't like the way he tips us off. He's always been that way. He's just a big kid."
After tipping off his connections how good he felt the morning of the Derby, Point Given raced sluggishly and finished fifth.
A P Valentine and Dollar Bill are hard-luck horses from the Derby in need of a clean trip in the Preakness.
Pat Day, Dollar Bill's jockey, has won five Preaknesses. A victory would tie him with Eddie Arcaro for most Preakness wins by a jockey.
Of his Derby trip on Dollar Bill, Day said: "It was extremely rough. By the time we were in a position to do a little running, we had no chance to catch up."
After being knocked sideways around the far turn, Dollar Bill finished 15th.
"He's like a freight train," Day said. "But he's not too agile. He can run, but he can't change directions like a Ferrari."
Nick Zito, trainer of A P Valentine, had wanted Day to ride his colt in the Preakness. Zito was angry at Corey Nakatani, who rode A P Valentine in the Derby, for his post-race comments that the colt had encountered "a little trouble, nothing serious."
"It was obvious that he had a lot more than a little trouble," Zito said.
Elliott Walden, trainer of Mr. John, acknowledged that Monarchos is the horse to beat. But perhaps Monarchos won't run as well in the Preakness as he did two weeks ago in the Kentucky Derby, Walden said.
"After running that monster race in the Florida Derby," Walden said, "he didn't run quite so well in the Wood."
Of Mr. John, who hasn't won past six furlongs, Walden said: "He's a very fast breaker. I'll be disappointed if he isn't one-two coming out of the gate. Then I see Richly Blended coming over in front of us to take the lead."
2nd jewel a charm
Eleven of the past 20 Preaknesses were won by losers of the Kentucky Derby. Some notable examples:
In 1996, Louis Quatorze (16th in the Derby); in 1994, Tabasco Cat (sixth in the Derby); in 1991, Hansel (10th in the Derby); in 1986, Snow Chief (11th in the Derby), and in 1985, Tank's Prospect (seventh in the Derby).
Last year, Red Bullet became the third non-Derby starter in the past 20 years to win the Preakness. The others were Aloma's Ruler (1982) and Deputed Testamony (1983).
Field of 9 for Dixie
Million-dollar earners North East Bound and Quiet Resolve highlight a stellar nine-horse lineup scheduled to battle for a $200,000 purse in today's undercard feature, the Grade II Dixie on the turf.
This will be a rematch of their showdown in the Maker's Mark Mile at Keeneland in mid-April when North East Bound won by a neck and Quiet Resolve finished fourth, about two lengths behind the victor.
However, that race was at a mile and Quiet Resolve is expected to benefit from the longer distance of the Dixie (1 1/8 miles).
Both horses nearly took Breeders' Cup titles last fall, with North East Bound succumbing by a neck to War Chant in the Mile and Quiet Resolve losing to rallying Kalanisi by a half length in the Turf.
Md. Breeders' Cup
Another strong field has been assembled for the Grade III, $200,000 Maryland Breeders' Cup, including local star Disco Rico, the speedball who has won three of his last four.
The competition in the six-furlong test will be stiff. Bob Baffert-trained Flame Thrower, the overnight co-favorite with Disco Rico, is a 3-year-old testing older horses in his season debut.
At 2, Flame Thrower won four straight in California before faltering at 1 1/16 miles in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile when stablemate Point Given finished second to Macho Uno.
Toss in Crucible, an impressive winner in an allowance at Keeneland last out, graded stakes winner Delaware Township (trained by Ben Perkins Jr.), Istintaj and Explicit and the track record of 1:09 for six furlongs could be in jeopardy.
Other races today
The Grade III, $200,000 Pimlico Distaff affords another local horse, Prized Stamp, a chance to beat some of the finest older females.
But she'll have to deal with probable favorite Jostle, the 2000 winner of the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes who went on to score major wins in the Coaching Club American Oaks at Belmont and the Alabama at Saratoga. Jostle easily handled Prized Stamp when they last met in the Cotillion Handicap at Philadelphia Park in October.
A wide-open field looms in the Grade III, $100,000 William Donald Schaefer Handicap.
Rize emerged as a factor in the handicap division last summer when he upset Sir Bear in the Iselin Handicap, and Perfect Cat is a son of Tabasco Cat who finished second last time in the Ben Ali Handicap at Keeneland.
The $100,000 Sir Barton Stakes is the mini-Preakness-for 3-year-olds who don't quite make the big dance.
This race offers an opportunity for Burning Roma to redeem himself after being upset by Marciano in the Tesio Stakes. Burning Roma had been pointed toward the Preakness after two straight wins, but backed up in the Tesio when in good striking position.
Tomorrow, an auction of horse-racing memorabilia will take place at the Timonium track. The sale will begin at 4 p.m. Buyers can preview items beginning at noon.
The Fasig-Tipton Midlantic Two-Years-Old In Training sale Monday and Tuesday at the state fairgrounds in Timonium features a catalog of 517 horses. The auction will begin at 10 a.m. each day.