BALTIMORE — Ring Weekend will try to become the eighth gelding to win the Preakness, and the first since Funny Cide in 2003.
The middle jewel of the Triple Crown has not always welcomed geldings. Bowing to pressure from breeders interested only in developing mares and stallions, the Preakness banned geldings from 1920 through 1934.
Ring Weekend was gelded following a 2-year-old season in which he managed only a pair of thirds in three starts.
“He was quite a tricky horse to be around,” trainer Graham Motion said. “We also felt he was showing more in morning training than he was in the afternoon. It gave us reason to think there was more there, and perhaps getting his mind more focused would help.”
In addition to the mental aspects, Ring Weekend also had an undescended testicle that might have physically hampered him.
Whatever the reason, the procedure worked.
He has two wins and two seconds in four races this season, including a victory in the Tampa Bay Derby.
A fever this spring cost him several days of training, knocking him out of consideration for the Kentucky Derby.
Ring Weekend arrived at Pimlico shortly before 11 a.m. Thursday after a short van ride from Motion’s barn at the nearby Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Maryland.
He was the last of the 10 Preakness runners to report, and is 20-1 on the morning line.
MINOR COUGH: If Art Sherman has one worry about California Chrome, it’s the colt’s health.
The Kentucky Derby winner coughed a few times Thursday, the result of a small blister in his throat that itches.
Alan Sherman, Art’s son and assistant trainer, said the blister appeared before the Derby and is being treated with a glycerin throat wash.
“After he ran in there, it came back a little bit,” Alan Sherman said. “It’s not a big deal at all.”
That didn’t prevent chatter that something was wrong with California Chrome and could affect his status for Saturday’s Preakness.
Sherman Racing Stables responded on Twitter, saying, “Chrome is fine. Vet stopped by to scope him and draw blood. Blood came back perfect. He is eating/acting normal.”
California Chrome visited the Pimlico starting gate Thursday, another step in making sure he is comfortable with his surroundings.
“He just walked in there and relaxed,” Art Sherman said. “There were a couple guys from Churchill Downs that were working on him. They knew him. He’s perfect.”
Ideally, every horse is pointing squarely at the racetrack when the gate springs open. California Chrome tends to rock side-to-side in the gate and that can leave him slightly off-balance when the bell rings.
“Sometimes he’ll get off just a shade slow,” Sherman said. “That can mean a length or two leaving there. That means you have to ride a different kind of race.”
THE WAIT: The owners of Pablo Del Monte declined a late invitation to join the Derby field.
The Preakness will determine if the wait paid off.
Pablo Del Monte was 21st on the list of horses eligible for the 20-horse Derby field. He moved into the field when Hoppertunity was scratched with a foot injury, but would have had to start from the far outside post.
The offer was rejected.
Two weeks later, Pablo Del Monte is in the Preakness as a 20-1 shot. He will break from the No. 9 post.
“Well, I like nine better than the 20,” breeder, trainer and co-owner Wesley Ward said.
Pablo Del Monte set the pace in his latest effort, finishing third over the synthetic track at Keeneland in the Blue Grass Stakes.
Ward feels the five-week gap since the Blue Grass gives his horse a chance against California Chrome.
“If you ever want to take on a Kentucky Derby winner, it’s when he’s coming back on short rest like these two weeks,” he said.
Jerry Sanchez will be aboard.
(© Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)