BALTIMORE — Preakness contender Ride on Curlin turned in a strong gallop Tuesday morning at Pimlico.
Perhaps a little too vigorous to suit trainer Billy Gowan.
"I thought we were going to go slow today," Gowan shouted to exercise rider Bryan Beccia, who responded with a shrug from the saddle as the colt came off the track.
"It was a little quicker than I wanted, but it didn't hurt him any," Gowan said. "He was on the hook pretty good this morning."
That's never a bad thing with the middle jewel of the Triple Crown only days away.
Ride on Curlin might have been stirred up by a brief delay before he stepped onto the track. The tardy tractor crew was five minutes late finishing the midmorning renovation of the racing surface, and the colt got antsy during the unexpected wait.
He's got a temper, a trait he inherited from daddy Curlin, the 2007 Preakness winner and the Horse of Year in 2007 and 2008.
So far, he hasn't come close to replicating his sire's success. Ride on Curlin is only 2 for 10 in his career. He had a terrible trip in the Kentucky Derby, dropping back to 19th in the early stages, then hitting a traffic jam in the bulky field before rallying to finish seventh.
Some observers believe Ride on Curlin has the best chance to upset Derby winner California Chrome and snap his five-race winning streak. They point to the fact Ride on Curlin never had a clear shot in the Derby. The smaller field of 10 likely Preakness runners is another positive, keeping him much closer to the early pace.
And a rider switch, from Calvin Borel to Joel Rosario, could pay off.
"California Chrome is an awful nice horse," Gowan said. "I'd like to see a clean trip and see what our horse is really made of. I thought it would be our day in the Derby. Maybe it's our day in the Preakness."
There was not much pace in the Derby, producing a relatively slow race.
The final time was 2:03.66 for the 1¼ miles. Nothing to write home about, especially after Orb won last year in 2:02.89 on a sloppy track.
Secretariat's stakes record of 1:59.40 in 1973 was more than four full seconds faster.
Quicker times could be in store for the Preakness, with Social Inclusion in the field.
The inexperienced colt has the most raw speed in the race. He broke the Gulfstream Park record for 1 1-16 miles in only his second start, blazing away in 1:40.97 to win by 10 lengths March 12.
With the Derby approaching, Social Inclusion lacked qualifying points earned in stakes races.
So in a last-ditch Derby bid, Rontos Racing Stable and trainer Manny Azpurua entered Social Inclusion in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.
The colt suffered his first defeat in three races, running well despite a demanding trip from the outside post in a 10-horse field.
He got nosed out of second by Samraat. That tiny margin denied him enough points for an automatic spot in the Derby. Social Inclusion was entered in a stakes race at Gulfstream Park on Derby Day but scratched with a right front foot bruise.
He seems fully healed, based on a sharp 47-second half-mile drill Monday. A quick workout is usually a sign a horse will flash speed in his next race.
On Tuesday, Social Inclusion headed back to the track for an easy jog.
"It was like he did nothing," Azpurua said of the colt's reaction to the workout. "Sometimes after a work, horses that are tired will drop their heads. He was looking all around."
Pimlico has introduced a $100,000 trainer bonus this weekend to beef up the supporting stakes on Preakness weekend.
There will be 15 stakes, including the Preakness, presented over Friday and Saturday. Trainers will be awarded points for each stakes starter with 10 points awarded to each winner, on down to 1 point for every horse that runs.
The top point-accumulating trainer gets $50,000 with smaller bonuses paid back to sixth place. A trainer must start at least five horses to be eligible.