Horse racing: Machowsky stays loyal to his rider for Preakness
By MIKE FARRELL
For The Associated Press
BALTIMORE — Loyalty means a lot to trainer Michael Machowsky.
He fielded inquiries from the agents of several top riders about the mount on Caracortado in the Preakness on Saturday.
Machowsky never budged. He's sticking with Paul Atkinson, a low-profile jockey in Southern California who will be riding in his first Triple Crown race.
"If we made a change and if we got lucky enough to win the race Paul is such a great guy I wouldn't be able to enjoy it that much," Machowsky said. "That's the way you try to live your life."
Atkinson has been aboard the California-bred gelding in all seven of his starts, including victories in the first five starts of a career that was launched in a $40,000 maiden claiming race at Fairplex Park.
PLETCHER MEMORIES: Todd Pletcher has vivid memories of the epic Preakness duel between Sunday Silence and Easy Goer in 1989.
The trainer will try to write his own chapter in Preakness history when he sends out Kentucky Derby winner Super Saver and Aikenite. Pletcher is 0 for 4 in the middle jewel of the Triple Crown. His best finish was a third by Impeachment in 2000 .
"Even though I haven't run in that many Preaknesses, I've probably watched every one for the last 36 years," Pletcher said.
Since he is 42, the son of a trainer started following this race at a very early age.
Of all those races, the 1989 renewal stands out.
Pletcher had just graduated from the University of Arizona and was about to start a job as an assistant to Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
"I had driven to New York with my dad because I was starting for Wayne the next day," he said. "We got to the hotel just in time to watch that race. It was a classic."
Indeed it was.
Sunday Silence edged highly regarded Easy Goer in the Kentucky Derby. The rematch two weeks later was everything a racing fan could hope for.
They hooked up at the top of the final turn and battled side-by-side to the wire with Sunday Silence prevailing by a nose, equaling the smallest margin of victory in Preakness history.
Easy Goer finally got the better of Sunday Silence in the Belmont Stakes, ending his Triple Crown bid.
LUKAS SPEAKS: D. Wayne Lukas has no shortage of opinions about the state of horse racing. He will gladly expound on any topic, at the drop of his familiar cowboy hat.
After the discussion shifted away from his two long shots in the Preakness — 10-1 Dublin and 30-1 Northern Giant — Lukas focused on the leadership void in the sport.
The National Thoroughbred Racing Association, the sport's league office, exerts very little control over individual racetracks. The very existence of the NTRA is threatened by the recent decision of several tracks, led by Churchill Downs, the home of the Kentucky Derby, to withdraw from the organization.
Lukas would like see a stronger central body similar to the NFL and pointed to former baseball commissioner Peter Ueberroth as the kind of chief executive racing needs.
"The NTRA, I think is history," Lukas said. "I think the bell tolled this past week when Churchill and those tracks did not go back in. If I were those guys (NTRA), I wouldn't be putting meat in my freezer or taking my dry cleaning out."
FEARLESS: Derek Ryan has no fear when it comes to running 15-1 shot Schoolyard Dreams in the Preakness.
The only 3-year-old who gave Ryan pause was Eskendereya. The dominant winner of the Wood Memorial beat fourth-place Schoolyard Dreams by 11€ lengths at Aqueduct.
With Eskendereya retired following a leg injury in the week leading to the Kentucky Derby, Ryan feels his colt stacks up well against the rest of the field, including Super Saver.
"No one is scared of him," Ryan said of the Kentucky Derby winner. "Everyone was scared of Eskendereya, including me. He was that impressive, but he's not here."
Ryan has justification for feeling that way. Schoolyard Dreams suffered a heartbreaking loss in the Tampa Bay Derby, losing by a nose to Odysseus. Next in line behind Schoolyard Dreams was Super Saver.
With the Tampa Bay loss, Schoolyard Dreams lacked sufficient graded stakes earnings to land a spot in the Kentucky Derby. So he had to tackle Eskendereya in the Wood.
An inside ride by Ramon Dominguez was the wrong strategy, and it cost Schoolyard Dreams a shot at the Derby.
"Ramon said he should have been second," Ryan said. "Of course, we all know who the winner was."
Schoolyard Dreams will have a new rider in the Preakness as Eibar Coa gets the mount.
"All I need is one clean race and we'll be fine," Ryan said. "I need the racing gods on my side, for a change."
NICANOR ON UNDERCARD: Nicanor, Barbaro's brother, makes his stakes debut Saturday on the Preakness undercard.
Nicanor landed the outside post in the 13-horse field for the $200,000 Dixie Stakes on the turf.
There is poignancy to having Nicanor on the card. It was four years ago that Barbaro, the Kentucky Derby winner, suffered a catastrophic breakdown in the Preakness. His heroic, but ultimately failed fight to overcome those injuries captured the hearts of sports fans everywhere.
Like Barbaro, Nicanor is owner by Gretchen and Roy Jackson and is trained by Michael Matz.