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Bayern to take blinkers off in Preakness

Bayern's equipment change is designed to help him stalk, rather than set, the pace (Rickelle Nelson/Horsephotos.com)
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has decided to take the blinkers off speedy Bayern for Saturday's 139th Preakness Stakes.

The son of Offlee Wild has pressed the pace in all four of his career starts. He broke his maiden on January 4 wearing blinkers but didn't have them on for an allowance victory by 15 lengths on February 13 or his third-place finish in the Arkansas Derby on April 12. The blinkers were back on for the Derby Trial on April 26, when he finished first but was disqualified and placed second.

There appears to be plenty of speed in the Preakness: Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome, Pablo Del Monte, Ring Weekend, Social Inclusion and Dynamic Impact have all been prominently placed in their recent races.

After the Derby Trial disqualification, Baffert said that the colt had to be able to stalk the pace, hence the decision to make the equipment change.

"If we're going to get him to track horses, track the speed, he needs them off," Baffert said Sunday.

Bayern, purchased by Kaleem Shah at the Fasig-Tipton Midlantic May two-year-old in training sale for $320,000 last year, galloped 1 1/2 miles after the Sunday morning renovation break at Churchill Downs with exercise rider Jorge Alvarez aboard. The dark bay, who later schooled in the paddock with the horses in Churchill's 1ST race, is scheduled to have his final work for the Preakness Monday morning and ship to Baltimore on Wednesday.

Also after the renovation break at Churchill, Daniel Dougherty's Ride On Curlin galloped an easy 1 1/8 miles with exercise rider Bryan Beccia up.

Trainer Billy Gowan said Ride On Curlin would go to the track at 6 a.m. (EDT) Monday morning to train before being prepared for a 10 a.m. departure by van to Lexington to join California Chrome on a flight bringing him to Pimlico.

Beccia's departure will be quicker.

"As soon as I jump off him, I'm jumping in my car and heading to Baltimore," Beccia said.

Skychai Racing LLC and Starlight Racing's General a Rod galloped at Churchill Downs Sunday morning. He is slated for the same flight with California Chrome and Ride On Curlin, scheduled to arrived at Baltimore-Washington International Airport Monday at approximately 1:45 p.m.

"I've been a fan of the horse since I saw him run on January 1 at Gulfstream (a head victory in the Gulfstream Park Derby)," said Starlight managing partner Jack Wolf, whose group joined Skychai in purchasing the colt from J. Armando Rodriguez days before his troubled 11th-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.

"We didn't see the real General a Rod that day. I think he's got a lot of good races in front of him."

Trained by Mike Maker, General a Rod had never finished out of the money in five starts before encountering traffic in the Derby under jockey Joel Rosario. Eclipse Award-winning jockey Javier Castellano has been named to ride him in the Preakness with Rosario having already committed to Ride On Curlin.

"Javier gave the horse a very good ride in the Fountain of Youth," Wolf said, referring to his near-miss second. "I think it was an easy choice for Mike when he came open. I think he'll do a good job for us and the horse."

General a Rod, a $72,000 yearling purchase, has already earned $282,200 and is set to be Maker's first Preakness starter. He was third in the Florida Derby, losing by only 1 1/2 lengths to well regarded Constitution in his final Derby prep.

Trainer Wesley Ward reported that Pablo Del Monte walked Sunday, a typical morning after his Saturday breeze at Keeneland. The Giant's Causeway colt, bred by Ward and co-owned with Mrs. John Magnier, Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor, worked six furlongs in company in 1:12 1/5 Saturday morning.

Ward joked that Pablo Del Monte was doing so well Sunday that he had to bring in reinforcements to help out because the colt had so much energy.

Pablo Del Monte will be one of California Chrome's traveling companions on the Lexington, Kentucky, to Baltimore charter flight Monday. Assistant trainer Blake Heap will handle the horse at Pimlico until Ward arrives later in the week.

Ward has had two previous Preakness starters: Pleasant Prince, 11th in 2010, and Flashpoint, 14th in 2011.

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