Why Alwaysmining should be viewed as a serious Preakness player


Alwaysmining, the runaway 11 ½-length winner of the $125,0000 Federico Tesio Stakes on April 20 at Laurel Park., drew the No. 7 post position for the 2019 Preakness Stakes.

Riding a six-race winning streak into the middle jewel of the Triple Crown, Alwaysmining will attempt on Saturday to become the first Maryland-bred to win the Preakness Stakessince Deputed Testamony in 1983. In a year in which none of the official top three from the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve nor the horse who crossed the finish line first and was disqualified will move on to the Preakness, Alwaysmining has a golden opportunity to end the 35-year drought for Maryland-breds.

Ability: Winless in three starts in Kentucky to begin his career, all in races at 5 ½ furlongs or less, Alwaysmining established himself as a racehorse when he moved to Maryland. He won his fourth career start at Laurel Park by 4 ½ lengths before back-to-back unplaced finishes, one of which came in his lone start on grass in the Laurel Futurity on Sept. 22, 2018. Since that race, which was his first start for new trainer Kelly Rubley, Alwaysmining has not lost a race.

Alwaysmining won an allowance race by 10 lengths on a sloppy track on Oct. 27 and then closed his 2-year-old season with clear wins in the Maryland Juvenile Futurity and Heft Stakes at Laurel Park in December, earning a new career-best 96 Equibase Speed Figure for the former before smashing that with a 107 for the Heft. Alwaysmining defeated by 1 ½ lengths in the Heft previously unbeaten favorite Win Win Win, a future stakes winner who qualified for this year’s Kentucky Derby via a runner-up finish in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes.

Seven weeks later, Alwaysmining made his 3-year-old debut in the Miracle Wood Stakes at Laurel and led every step of the way en route to a 4 ¼-length victory. Stretching out to 1 1/16 miles for the first time in the Private Terms Stakes on March 16 at Laurel, Alwaysmining powered to a front-running 6 ¾-length romp that earned his a new career-best 109 Equibase Speed Figure as well as an eye-catching 95 Beyer Speed Figure. His final five-sixteenths of a mile in 29.99 seconds in the Private Terms was reason for optimism.

Rather than test Alwaysmining on the Kentucky Derby trail, his connections opted to target the Preakness and entered him in the local prep race, the Federico Tesio Stakes at 1 1/8 miles, and he won by 11 ½ lengths as the 1-20 favorite.

He took a small step back in terms of speed figures in the Tesio, earning a 104 from Equibase and a 92 Beyer Speed Figure, but he did rate comfortably in third through a half-mile in that race and also showed he could stretch out to 1 1/8 miles.

The Preakness at 1 3/16 miles will be a sixteenth of a mile longer, but based upon his final three-eighths of a mile in 37.15 seconds and final eighth of a mile in 12.47 seconds, Alwaysmining should be able to handle the distance.

Running style: After leading from start to finish in his previous five victories, Alwaysmining went back to the tactics he employed in his maiden win and rated off the pace in the Tesio. He did so quite comfortably while racing about three to four lengths off a leisurely pace. Most impressively, when was given his cue by jockey Daniel Centeno, Alwaysmining shifted gears and made a powerful move entering the final turn to open a clear lead at the top of the stretch. Despite expending energy to take command, he still had enough stamina in reserve to finish very well. That was no doubt due in part to the slow early pace, but it’s also promising to see a 3-year-old capable of multiple moves in a race.

Tactical speed has been key in recent editions of the Preakness with four front-running winners in the last 11 editions, and only two of the last 11 winners and four of the last 17 winners more than 3 ¼ lengths back after the first quarter-mile.

Connections: Runnymede Racing is the Thoroughbred racing operation of Greg and Caroline Bentley, whose farm is near Coatesville, Pa. BloodHorse wrote a nice feature on the couple, who started out racing steeplechase horses as a hobby but became hooked on flat racing after a jumper named Hardest Core win the 2014 Arlington Million. They have since been active purchasing mares at auction and breed their own racehorses.

BloodHorse also wrote a terrific profile of Kelly Rubley, who trains for Runnymede and is based out of Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland. A lifelong horse lover, Rubley joined up in 2009 with Barclay Tagg, best known as the trainer of dual classic winner Funny Cide, and became his top assistant. She subsequently served as an assistant for Jimmy Toner before venturing out on her own in 2014. Her lone graded stakes winner to date is Divisidero.

Daniel Centeno picked up the mount on Alwaysmining to start his current six-race winning streak and has been aboard for each of those victories. A six-time leading rider at Tampa Bay Downs and two-time winner of the Tampa Bay Derby, Centeno will be riding in the Preakness for the first time and seeking the first Grade 1 win of his career. He has won 2,805 races since taking out his jockey’s license in 1996.

Pedigree: Alwaysmining is from the third crop of 2011 Travers Stakes winner Stay Thirsty, by 2006 Preakness winner Bernardini. Stay Thirsty ranked in the top 10 among third-crop sires in 2018 and topped the sire list in California.

Stay Thirsty was a winner from three-quarters of a mile to 1 ¼ miles and finished second by three-quarters of a length in the 2011 Belmont Stakes at 1 ½ miles.

In addition to several Southern Hemisphere Group 1 winners, Stay Thirsty is the sire of Grade 1 winner Mind Control and 2019 Godolphin Mile winner Coal Front, the latter a winner of seven of nine starts who has earned more than $1.6 million.

The bottom half of Alwaysmining’s pedigree is anchored by his fourth dam (maternal great-great grandmother), Cequillo, by Princequillo, who produced four stakes winners and is responsible for 2000 Belmont Stakes winner Commendable, Grade 1 winners and notable sires Fappiano, Ogygian, Quiet American, and Honour and Glory, and champion sprinter Dr. Patches as well as many other notable Grade or Group 1 winners.

While much of the class is deeper in the bottom half of this pedigree, there are reasons for optimism as his dam (mother), What Will Be, by Anees, placed in 14 of 33 starts with four victories, including one at 1 1/8 miles. His grandam (maternal grandmother), Che Sara Sara, by Golden Act, also was a winner at 1 1/8 miles and twice ran second in stakes at 1 1/16 miles. His third dam(maternal great-grandmother) is Tartan Farms homebred stakes producer Consequential, by Hall of Famer Dr. Fager. I don’t typically delve this deep into pedigrees for this feature, but there is some serious back class in the pedigree and that could come into play in what is a huge class test for Alwaysmining in the Preakness.

I think we have a chance to see a true breakout performance in the Preakness from a racehorse who is in impeccable form. Alwaysmining is very fast, he has tactical speed, he’s versatile, and he’s facing a field that is missing the first four to cross the finish line in the Kentucky Derby. I respect Grade 1 winner Improbable and multiple graded stakes winner War of Will as well as several of the other new shooters, but Alwaysmining is my pick to win the Preakness.

Watch the 2019 Preakness Stakes only on NBC and NBCSN. Coverage on NBCSN begins Friday, May 17 at 3 p.m. ET with the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes and continues on Saturday May 18 at 2 p.m. before moving to NBC at 5 p.m. Post time is set for approximately 6:50 p.m. See the full broadcast schedule here.

Preakness winner National Treasure has final workout for Belmont Stakes

Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

NEW YORK — Preakness winner National Treasure breezed five furlongs in his final workout for the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes.

Working on the main track at Belmont Park with exercise rider Erick Garcia aboard, National Treasure was timed in 59.55 seconds and galloped out six furlongs in 1:11.20 and seven furlongs in 1:25.20. It was the second workout on the track for the Bob Baffert-trained colt.

“He worked very well this morning,” said Jimmy Barnes, Baffert’s top assistant. “It’s a big track and you can find yourself lost out there. Erick did an excellent job working him and now we’re just waiting for the race.”

National Treasure was fourth in the Santa Anita Derby prior to the Preakness on May 20.

Trainer Steve Asmussen’s Red Route One also posted his final work for the final jewel of the Triple Crown, breezing a half-mile in 50.20 seconds over Belmont Park’s dirt training track.

“I thought he went beautiful,” said Toby Sheets, trainer Steve Asmussen’s Belmont-based assistant. “It was nice and fluid and he came back with good energy. I’m very happy with him. We wanted to be out on the track before it got really busy.”

Red Route One finished fourth in the Preakness at Pimlico Race Course, almost five lengths behind National Treasure.

Kentucky Derby winner Mage is not running in the Belmont Stakes.

Churchill Downs moves meet to Ellis Park to examine protocols following 12 horse deaths

churchill downs
Michael Clevenger and Erik Mohn/USA TODAY NETWORK

Churchill Downs will suspend racing and move the remainder of its spring meet to Ellis Park in order to conduct a “top-to-bottom” review of safety and surface protocols in the wake of 12 horse fatalities the past month at the home of the Kentucky Derby.

No single factor has been identified as a potential cause for the fatalities or pattern detected, according to a release, but the decision was made to relocate the meet “in an abundance of caution.”

“What has happened at our track is deeply upsetting and absolutely unacceptable,” Churchill Downs Inc. CEO Bill Carstanjen said in Friday’s release. “We need to take more time to conduct a top-to-bottom review of all of the details and circumstances so that we can further strengthen our surface, safety and integrity protocols.”

Racing will continue at Churchill Downs through Sunday before shifting to the CDI-owned racing and gaming facility in Henderson, Kentucky. Ellis Park’s meet was scheduled to start July 7 and run through Aug. 27 but will now expand with Friday’s announcement.

Ellis Park will resume racing on June 10.

The move comes a day after track superintendent Dennis Moore conducted a second independent analysis of Churchill Downs’ racing and training surfaces as part of an emergency summit called this week by the Horseracing Integrity and Safety Authority (HISA) with the track and the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission. Meetings took place in Lexington, Kentucky, and at the Louisville track.

The head of the federally created oversight agency suggested ahead of the summit that it could recommend pausing the meet and that Churchill Downs would accept that recommendation.

Churchill Downs’ release stated that expert testing raised no concerns and concluded that the surface was consistent with the track’s prior measurements. Even so, it chose to relocate “in alignment” with HISA’s recommendation to suspend the meet to allow more time for additional investigation.

“We appreciate their thoughtfulness and cooperation through these challenging moments,” HISA CEO Lisa Lazarus said in a statement. “We will continue to seek answers and work with everyone involved to ensure that horses are running safely at Churchill Downs again in the near future.”

Carstanjen insisted that relocating the remainder of the spring meet to Ellis Park would maintain the industry ecosystem with minor disruption. He also said he was grateful to Kentucky horsemen for their support as they work to find answers.

Rick Hiles, the president of Kentucky Horsemen’s Benevolent and Protective Association, questioned the move, especially since there’s no conclusive evidence that Churchill Downs’ surface is the problem.

“We all want to find solutions that will improve safety for horses,” Hiles said in a statement. “However, we need to discuss allowing trainers and veterinarians to use therapeutic medications that greatly lessen the risk of breakdowns.

“Drastic steps, such as relocating an active race meet, should only be considered when it is certain to make a difference.”

The latest development comes a day after Churchill Downs and HISA each implemented safety and performance standards to address the spate of deaths.

HISA will conduct additional post-entry screening of horses to identify those at increased risk for injury. Its Integrity and Welfare Unit also will collect blood and hair samples for all fatalities for use while investigating a cause.

Churchill Downs announced it would immediately limit horses to four starts during a rolling eight-week period and impose ineligibility standards for poor performers. The track is also pausing incentives, such as trainer start bonuses and limiting purse payouts to the top five finishers instead of every finisher.