Dynamic Impact's connections weren't sure what they had entering the April 19 Illinois Derby. The colt had flashed plenty of talent, but his performance in the afternoon never seemed to match his workouts in the morning.
Facing the best competition of his life and starting from the No. 1 post, Dynamic Impact changed the narrative with a victory that surprised even his trainers. Four weeks later, he's a 12-1 fifth choice in the morning line at the Preakness.
Is he simply a late bloomer?
"That's certainly a possibility," said assistant trainer Norman Casse after the colt's first gallop at Pimlico Race Course on Thursday morning. "That's what it looks like, although we haven't entirely figured out what to attribute it to."
But he likes his horse's chances to wait off the pace as the Kentucky Derby champion duels with the early speed horses. "I hope they go at each other and then we're in position to make a late move," Casse said.
Dynamic Impact's connections weren't thrilled with the No. 1 post position, but he won from the same spot in Illinois. "The No. 1 hole is like death in the Kentucky Derby," Casse said. "Here, it's not nearly as meaningful."
Chrome treated for throat blister
Preakness favorite California Chrome is receiving treatment for a small throat blister discovered Thursday morning, but his connections say the irritation shouldn't affect his preparations for the race.
"He's fine," said assistant trainer Alan Sherman. "He had it going into the Derby and it went away. After he ran in there, it came back a little bit, but it's not a big deal at all."
Sherman compared the problem to a scratchy throat for a person. He said the horse is being treated with a glycerin throat wash.
Old-school trainer wisdom says white hooves equal sensitive feet. In fact, Art Sherman's late colleague Richard Matlow used to tell him: "Never buy a horse with four white feet."
Ironically, the greatest horse Sherman has ever trained, California Chrome, fits exactly that description. As a result, Sherman says he devotes extra care to the Kentucky Derby champion's feet.
"You have no feet, you have no horse," he said Thursday. "So you have to be careful."
In this special case, that means Sherman will fly his blacksmith, Judd Fisher, from California to Baltimore, just to apply California Chrome's shoes for the Preakness.
"I don't want anybody else shoeing him," he said. "He knows the horse. You're going for $1 million, $2 million, what the hell is an airplane fare? You might as well go for it and go first class."
Sherman said Fisher uses glue-on shoes but affixes those using nails. He said the method has helped California Chrome overcome heel discomfort he experienced as a 2-year-old.
The blacksmith also flew to Kentucky to apply the colt's shoes before the Derby. "He did a hell of a job," Sherman said.
Ringing them all in
Ring Weekend arrived at Pimlico Thursday morning, about an hour before the noon deadline for Preakness entrants.
He had the shortest trip, coming from Elkton, where Graham Motion trains him at Fair Hill. The gelding is a 20-1 morning-line choice, and Motion said he's worked out well all week after a promising breeze on Saturday.
"We're going to take our shot," he said. "You don't run in a race like this unless you have real hope."