It rained yesterday, it’s raining today, and it’s going to rain tomorrow. Simply put, it’s been a wet week so far in Baltimore. While it may put a damper on the weekend overall, it might not be such a bad thing for our entrants.
Bay of Sighs showed her usual early speed when running on grass for the first time in Thursday’s seventh. The 3-year-old filly raced prominently until turned for home when she tired to finish seventh.
As expected, Best Way showed improvement in his second start when competing in Friday’s sixth. Unlike his debut, the 3-year-old raced forwardly from the outset, dueling for the lead until upper stretch. He responded when asked for more by Sheldon Russell and put in a valiant effort to hold on to second.
“He got a little lost around the turn, being in front,” Tim said. “I thought Sheldon gave him a perfect ride, he got beat by a horse who was a little more experienced. (Owner Tom Teal) was very happy. He was pleased that the horse was able to jump up and show something.”
Three seems to be Flight Crew’s magic number lately as the 5-year-old put in another solid effort to finish third in Sunday’s second. He dropped back during the early stages of the 5-furlong event but made a big move through the muddy stretch run to only be beaten 1 3/4 lengths.
“If he had broken better and not given that up there, I think he could’ve been second,” Tim said. “He goes out there and tries, which obviously, you really like that in a horse.”
Another who always tries, Emma’sdiamonddiva did not disgrace herself when finishing third in Sunday’s ninth. She was far behind the runaway winner, who looks to be a smart filly, but still earned a decent check for her effort against a tougher group than she faced in the past.
“Certainly nobody was going to beat the winner,” Tim said. “I was happy with her. She tries and keeps grinding it out. Because she’s a Maryland-bred, she was able to catch that extra money, so she made a little over $6,000 for finishing third.”
It will be a long wait until 6:31 p.m. EDT in a race that Tim jokingly agreed is scheduled to go off his past his bedtime, but Le Weekend’s ability to run on multiple surfaces will almost certainly benefit her in the finale Black-Eyed Susan Day. The 5-furlong allowance set to go as Friday’s 14th race will most likely be moved from the turf to a wet main track. Le Weekend ran very well at 6 furlongs on dirt in her last effort and races for the third time since her winter break.
“She’s the type of filly that I don’t think anything or any type of surface is going to bother her,” Tim said. “She tries every time, she’s an absolute racehorse. I don’t think she’s going to have any issue with an off track if that’s where we run.”
Bestkindoftrouble has handled a wet track before and will likely run again over a track containing moisture when competing in Saturday’s third. He’s done well since knocking out the open first-level allowance condition last month at Laurel and faces a solid group this weekend.
A few hours later at 2:45 p.m. EDT, Still Having Fun will contest the $200,000 Chick Lang Stakes. The 3-year-old colt returns to racing around his preferred trip of one-turn but faces a deep group of quality sprinters. He continues to do well following his latest run and completed a 5-furlong work in :58:4 last Saturday.
“The track was lightning fast,” Tim said. “I was happy with him. Sheldon thought he felt great. His attitude is great and he’s sharp. I wanted a sharp work in him and we got that. He came out of it well and he’s been training well all week.”
Still Having Fun has Sheldon Russell back aboard this weekend and breaks from the inside post. Although he won the Miracle Wood Stakes on a track listed good, that was more of a snow-covered surface and he will face a truly wet track for the first time.
“He’s a closing sprinter. He doesn’t mind dirt in his face and I don’t think he’ll mind the mud, but it’s a new experience for him,” Tim said. “It’s certainly not an easy field but we’ll just have to see what kind of horse he is.”
While taking her final high school exams this week, Ryan Keefe has also been taking a test at Laurel proctored by her dad.
“Ryan has been coming in and galloping for me. She’s been out here the last three mornings,” Tim said Thursday. “It’s her first time out here, I’ve purposefully tried to keep her away. It’s good for her riding, it’s a different kind of riding. It teaches her how to gallop, she can gauge her speed a little bit more so it’s been good.”
Some sad news to report, as Tim’s grandfather Alan English passed away earlier this week at the age of 102.
“He and my grandmother used to come to the races all the time and loved it,” Tim said. “He was a bettor, he loved coming out and watching. He and Grandma used to get the American Turf Magazine all the time and go through it. There would be a section on horses to watch and they would get so excited when they would see one of my horses in there.”
Chick Lang Preview
The publicity staff at the Maryland Jockey Club previewed Saturday's Chick Lang, leading off with Still Having Fun. Here's their piece:
Still Having Fun Shortens Up for $200,000 ClearSpan Chick Lang
Before Kentucky Derby winner Justify and runner-up Good Magic have their rematch against six others in the 143rd running of the $1.5 million Preakness, the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, 3-year-olds will be also be in the spotlight in a pair of supporting stakes Saturday at legendary Pimlico Race Course.
The ninth running of the $200,000 ClearSpan Chick Lang at 6 furlongs and the 21st running of the $100,000 LARC Sir Barton to benefit Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance at 1 1/16 miles are among eight stakes, four graded, worth $2.55 million on the 14-race program. First race post time is 10:30 a.m.
Gary Barber’s, Wachtel Stable’s and Terp Racing’s Still Having Fun, already a two-time stakes winner in Maryland, returns to sprinting in the Chick Lang after back-to-back off-the-board finishes in his last two races, both around two turns.
Still Having Fun opened his sophomore campaign with wins in the 7-furlong Frank Whiteley Jr. Jan. 27 and 1-mile Miracle Wood Feb. 17, but stumbled at the start and got pinched on the first turn of the Private Terms March 17 and wound up fourth, beaten 2 1/4 lengths.
Trainer Tim Keefe opted to give Still Having Fun another shot around two turns in the 1 1/8-mile Federico Tesio, where he raced in contention along the inside for a half-mile but faded to be sixth behind Preakness contender Diamond King.
“He came out of it fine. He proved to us there that he’s probably not a two-turn, mile-and-an-eighth, mile-and-a-sixteenth kind of horse. So we shortened him back up,” Keefe said. “I think that’s probably what he prefers to the longer distances so we thought we’d give it a try on Preakness Day.
“Pimlico is a little bit different kind of track. Sometimes it can be a speed-favoring track just going three-quarters, but he’s got a lot of natural speed,” he added. “That kick at the end that he’s shown us when we were sprinting them he just didn’t have going the two turns but we’re excited about him. He’s doing great and I’m looking forward to trying him up there. He’s coming into the race very, very well.”
Jacks or Better Farm homebred Old Time Revival, second by a neck to Still Having Fun in the Miracle Wood, steps back into stakes company for the Chick Lang. The Brethren colt found himself briefly on the Triple Crown trail after finishing second while setting the pace in the 1-mile Gotham March 10 at Aqueduct, but couldn’t duplicate that effort four weeks later in the Wood Memorial tiring to be eighth of nine.
Trainer Ken Decker brought Old Time Revival back in an open six-furlong entry-level allowance April 27 at Laurel, where he again showed early foot to lead through four furlongs but gave way late and wound up third as the favorite.
“He ran a good race and come out of it good. We decided we’d sprint him in the Chick Lang and we’ve been pointing there,” Decker said. “We might go back to some distance later on but right now he kind of looks like he wants to be a sprinter so we’re going to give it a try.
“I don’t really think that distance is a limitation to him. He just kind of right now kind of wants to sprint,” he added. “We may need a little more maturity before we stretch him back out. We’re going to take what’s in front of us right now and he’s doing well. Hopefully we get a good trip Saturday.”
Another multiple stakes winner in the field is GoldMark Farm’s homebred Soutache, who capped his juvenile season with successive wins in the seven-furlong Affirmed and 1 1/16-mile In Reality divisions of the Florida Sire Stakes series at Gulfstream Park. Trained by Ralph Nicks, Soutache has raced one this year, finishing second in the 6-furlong Hutcheson March 24 at Gulfstream.
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen, who will send out Tenfold in the Preakness, has two for the Chick Lang – Bill and Corinne Helligbrodt’s Mitole, winner of the Bachelor Stakes April 12 at Oaklawn Park, and Scott Dilworth and Norma McKathan’s Pure Shot, exiting an off-the-board finish in five-furlong turf stakes April 28 at Churchill Downs.
Kaleem Shah’s Run Away will be making his 3-year-old debut in the Chick Lang after winning four of six starts in California as a 2-year-old for trainer Simon Callaghan. Run Away won his first three starts including the 6 1/2-furlong Best Pal and was third in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity behind Bolt d’Oro.
Also entered are Aqua Bel Sar, Clouded Judgement and Curly’s Rocket.
The Chick Lang is named for the Baltimore native and racing industry legend who served as a trainer, jockey’s agent and racing official as well as director of racing and vice president and general manager of Pimlico, retiring in 1987. He continued to promote racing until his death in 2010 at age 83.