A steady, cool wind swept across the track at the Fair Hill Training Center Friday as two trainers prepared colts to run in next Saturday’s 137th Preakness.
Went the Day Well, the fourth-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby trained by Graham Motion, and Teeth of the Dog, trained by Michael Matz, went out early this morning. It was Went the Day Well’s first trip to the track since running in Kentucky; he galloped a mile.
“He looked good, did well,” Motion said. “I continue to be impressed with him.”
Went the Day Well will continue jogging at Fair Hill until early next week, when he’ll ship to Pimlico to get accustomed to the new surroundings.
Teeth of the Dog, a new shooter, likely won’t arrive in Baltimore until late next week. Originally entered in Saturday’s Grade II Peter Pan, he’ll scratch and will run at the Preakness if he stays in the field. He finished third in the Wood Memorial.
“Everything seems fine with him right now,” Matz said. “We’ll just keep working him toward it.”
Teeth of the Dog will work at some point over the next couple of days.
Spending half of the morning with Motion and half with Matz is a study in contrasts. Both are pure horsemen who prefer the bucolic setting and versatility of a training center to the track. But Motion is about the calmest person you’ll ever meet, while Matz is one of the most intense. Their barns are on opposite sides of the track here. Motion has 100 horses. Matz has about 60. Motion weaves through the chaos, eliciting feedback from his riders. Matz quashes the chaos and demands answers.
It is, of course, an interesting time to be out at the Fair Hill facility. Not only are we a week out from the state’s most important race, but both trainers are welcoming new 2-year-old colts and fillies to their barns.
“You’d be crazy not to think about the possibilities when you see them come in,” Motion said from one of his two barns, this one dedicated to Team Valor’s horses. “That’s what you’re hoping for: that one gets to your barn that can win those big races.”
But new “babies,” as they’re called, mean the start of a long, difficult period. Motion and Matz employ riders they know and trust, and often receive the 2-year-olds from trainers they know. But no matter how much information they gather, or how many safeguards they put in place, a new horse is always an unknown. One of Matz’s fillies fell Friday and suffered a few minor cuts; a colt in Motion’s barn seemed slow to acclimate to his new surroundings.
“This is one of the toughest parts,” Matz said. “You just want to make every right move, but there’s so much you don’t know.”
Though I quickly identified the probable Triple Crown winner in the bunch, I can’t possibly pass the name on at this point.
(Really, my definition of promising is: didn’t turn and run toward Pennsylvania, or try to eat my notebook. I wish I had a better idea.)
A couple of other notes of interest from the day at Fair Hill:
Animal Kingdom, the Motion-trained winner of the 2011 Kentucky Derby, is resting well at Fair Hill. He has a prime stall in the Team Valor barn and receives a pet on the head from almost everyone who walks by. He’ll have a bone scan next week to check the status of the stress fracture that has kept him sidelined since the middle of March. If it has healed sufficiently, Animal Kingdom will begin doing light training at a clinic near Motion’s barns. The most optimistic outlook for him is an October return to the track. Since winning the Derby, placing second at Preakness and sixth at Belmont last year, Animal Kingdom has dealt with two injuries. He did win his return to the track this spring before being injured, and Team Valor owner Barry Irwin has resisted the urge to retire him and send him off to stud.
Union Rags, the seventh-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, went out for a jog. He’s done well since a terrible trip cost him any shot at putting Matz in the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs for the first time since 2006, with Barbaro. Matz continues to be dismayed, to say the least, with the path jockey Julien Leparoux took.
Sagamore Farm announced former Maryland riding star Kent Desormeaux will ride Tiger Walk in the Preakness. Tiger Walk, who would be Under Armour founder Kevin Plank’s first Preakness entrant, galloped 1 3/8 miles at Sagamore on Friday.
Desormeaux became free for Sagamore because Kentucky Derby third-place finisher Dullahan withdrew from consideration. That leaves Dale Roman, who trained 2011 Preakness winner Shackleford, with Cozzetti as a possibility.
Derby winner I’ll Have Another had a “fantastic” gallop at Pimlico, according to trainer Doug O’Neill. “The more we ask him, the more he gives,” he said. “His overall appearance and energy level are just sensational.”
Meanwhile, the scrutiny of O’Neill’s record continues, with The New York Times turning to its analysis of racing data to reveal that O’Neill has had about 12 breakdowns per 1,000 starts. The average for other trainers is five. Writer Joe Drape also takes a look at O’Neill’s troubles with “milkshaking,” and uses Motion – who has never had a violation – as a counter-example.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times