American Pharoah, Firing Line and Kaleem Shah’s Dortmund are being pointed to the Middle Jewel of the Triple Crown at Pimlico on May 16. All are scheduled to remain at Churchill Downs until flying to Baltimore on Wednesday, May 13
4 May 2015, Louisville, Kentucky ~ Arnold Zetcher’s Firing Line seemed to enjoy the peace and quiet surrounding Barn 42 on the Churchill Downs backstretch Monday morning as assistant trainer Carlos Santamaria walked the Preakness Stakes (G1) hopeful under the shedrow for approximately 30 minutes.
The 3-year-old son of Line of David, after putting up a courageous fight in the homestretch before finishing just a length behind American Pharoah in second place in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby (G1), looked like the picture of health with not the slightest nick visible on the legs that had pushed the Bob Baffert-trained favorite to the limit in a memorable stretch run.
“He’s doing really well. Even the first day after the race, he was in his stall always looking for something to eat. He never lost his appetite,” said Santamaria, assistant to trainer Simon Callaghan, who returned to southern California to check on his stable at Santa Anita. “For most horses to run that kind of race, it takes them a couple of days to recover. With him, it was just another horse race.”
The 141st Kentucky Derby was anything but “just another horse race” for the connections of Zayat Stables’ American Pharoah and Firing Line, as well as the 170,000 people who witnessed the memorable stretch battle on track.
Firing Line, who had finished second behind Dortmund in both the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) and the Robert Lewis (G2) before romping to a 14 ¼-length victory in the Sunland Park Derby (G3), loomed as a win threat in the Derby right up until the closing yards of the 1 ¼-mile first leg of the Triple Crown.
“Disappointed? Not for me. Not for us. It’s just for the horse. He didn’t deserve to lose. Maybe even if the horse, American Pharoah, that won the race were to lose, he wouldn’t have deserved to lose because both horses ran a huge race,” Santamaria said. “Too bad we couldn’t have two winners in the same race, unless it’s a dead-heat, but 99 percent of the time there is just one winner. We know we have a chance in the next race. We’ll see.”
Firing Line is housed in Stall 1 of Barn 42, which has not been the home to any recent Kentucky Derby winners, but in the early 1990s, it was the place to be for the Preakness. Hansel had the stall in 1991 and Pine Bluff was there a year later for the Derby. Both lost in the Derby but won two weeks later in Baltimore.
The owners of Stanford notified Maryland Jockey Club officials that the Todd Pletcher-trained colt is a ‘go’ for the Preakness. Stanford was entered in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby but was scratched Thursday. Also under consideration for the 140th Preakness are Danzig Moon, a troubled fifth in the Derby; Divining Rod, who captured the Lexington Stakes (G3) at Keeneland on April 11; Mr. Z, who ran into traffic during a 13th-place Derby finish; International Star, who was scratched from the Derby with a minor foot injury; and Bodhisattva, the winner of the Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico on April 18.
While American Pharoah and Dortmund enjoyed a leisurely morning, there was still plenty of activity for the Baffert crew. Meanwhile, trainer D. Wayne Lukas hoped that a Preakness run is in the cards for Mr. Z, who is also owned by the Zayat Stables.
“I haven’t talked to Mr. (Ahmed) Zayat, but we will get together,” Lukas said. “My vote would be to go. He never got a chance to run. We were the whipping boy, but you get that in an 18-horse field.”
Lukas plans to be in Baltimore for Preakness Weekend with runners expected in several undercard stakes both days.