Exercise rider Umberto Gomez gallops Preakness Stakes entrant Firing Line at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore, Friday, May 15, 2015. (AP Photo/Garry Jones)
Garry Jones
May 15, 2015

BALTIMORE (AP) It was a calm Friday morning for all eight Preakness contenders at Pimlico Race Course.

Everyone went for a jog the day before the second leg of the Triple Crown.

Firing Line, the Kentucky Derby runner-up, took a 1 1/4 mile tour of the track on another clear, cool morning.

''I really liked the way he galloped,'' trainer Simon Callaghan said. ''He's training equally as well as he was going into the Derby. We're seeing all the same things, so I couldn't be happier.''

Trainer Bob Baffert's dynamic duo of Derby winner American Pharoah and third-place finisher Dortmund were also out for some exercise.

Baffert said both horses would again use ear plugs to muffle the sound and tension generated by a Preakness crowd expected to top 100,000.

American Pharoah always uses the plugs.

''He's a very gentle horse but his ears are so sensitive,'' Baffert said.

At first, Baffert simply stuffed American Pharoah's ears with cotton. He later upgraded to plugs designed for show horses.

Dortmund wears the plugs during paddock saddling, and in the post parade. Once he's in the starting gate, jockey Martin Garcia pulls a string to remove them.


PASSING THE TEST: American Pharoah faces a big test in the Preakness. If he passes, it's on to the Belmont Stakes in three weeks for shot at the Triple Crown.

Justin Zayat, the son of owner Ahmed Zayat and the family's racing manager, just finished his own exams, completing a degree in economics at NYU.

With school over, Zayat made his first visit to Pimlico to check on American Pharoah. Even though he was tied up with studies, Zayat helped negotiate the sale of Preakness contender Mr. Z, named for his father, to Calumet Farm on Wednesday.

''It's amazing,'' Zayat said. ''The last two weeks have just been so surreal. Everything has been going by so quickly. It's been hectic. But to be here with American Pharoah, I wouldn't trade places with anyone.''

Zayat will have company later Friday. His father, returning from a trip to Europe and the Middle East, is due in town to cheer on the 4-5 Preakness favorite.

''He has the talent to do it,'' Justin Zayat said. ''We just have to pray for a clean break and a clean trip.''


BIRTHDAY BOY: Trevor McCarthy celebrates his 21st birthday Saturday with a special present: his first Triple Crown mount on Bodhisattva.

''It's quite exciting,'' McCarthy said. ''I would rather it be this than go out and drink, or go to the casino or something like that. It's a pretty cool experience.''

McCarthy has been a cool customer in a brief career that started late in 2012. He was the leading rider the last two years in Maryland, booting home 263 winners in 2014 to rank seventh in the nation. His mounts earned over $8 million last season, ranking 20th in the country.

''I've been watching this kid since he started,'' Jose Corrales, Bodhisattva's owner and trainer said. ''He's a complete rider.''

McCarthy is following family tradition. He is the son of former rider Mike McCarthy, a longtime leading jockey at Delaware Park. In a 20-year career with almost 3,000 victories, Mike McCarthy never got the call to ride in a Triple Crown race.

''He just always wanted this for me,'' Trevor McCarthy said. ''He taught me everything, gave me everything.''

This will be his third straight ride on Bodhisattva, a 20-1 shot who won the Tesio Stakes here last month.


PREAKNESS FACTS: Not surprisingly, 95 of the previous Preakness winners were bred in Kentucky, the birthplace of six of the eight runners this year. Danzig Moon will try to become only the second Canadian, and third foreign bred, to take the Preakness. Bodhisattva hails from California - just like California Chrome, last year's winner. ... Deputed Testamony (1983) was the last Maryland-bred winner. ... Eddie Arcaro is the leading jockey with six Preakness wins. ... Gary Stevens, a three-time Preakness winner, will set the record for Preakness mounts aboard Firing Line. Stevens and Pat Day currently hold the mark at 17. ... D. Wayne Lukas can tie R.W. Walden's record for training victories when he saddles Mr. Z. Walden posted seven wins from 1875-1888. ... Bob Baffert has two shots, American Pharoah and Dortmund, to tie Lukas for second-place ... Calumet Farm, the leading owner with eight wins, sneaked into the Preakness with the purchase of Mr. Z on Wednesday. ... The Preakness attendance record of 123,469 was set last year.

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