Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Aikenite’s Preakness

On May 15, Aiken had a local horse to cheer for in the Preakness Stakes at the Pimlico Racetrack in Baltimore.  Aikenite, a 3-year-old colt owned by Dogwood Stable, drew post position one, on the inside rail. The morning line put his odds at 20-1, but people who knew the horse thought he might have the ability to pull off an upset. He came to the race as one of two colts trained by Todd Pletcher. The other was Supersaver, the horse that won the Kentucky Derby just two weeks earlier.

Aikenite, who won his maiden in Saratoga as a 2-year-old, earned just over $300,000 in his eight starts before the Preakness. Although he hadn’t been back to the winner’s circle since Saratoga, he had run several impressive graded stakes races, and his late-closing style seemed to indicate that longer distances might suit him.

Dogwood’s president, Cot Campbell, gave the jockey Javier Castellano, his instructions before the race.

“I told the rider to take him back about ten lengths off the pace, and at the half mile pole to push the button and come running,” says Mr. Campbell.

But the race would not go Aikenite’s way.

“It just wasn’t a good day for him,” says Campbell. “He didn’t like the racetrack, or for some other reason, the real Aikenite did not show up that day. After the race, the jockey said to me ‘I pushed the button, but there was nobody home.’”

Although he did make a good move for short while, Aikenite finished near the back of the pack, along with his stablemate Supersaver.

“I felt bad about it for the City of Aiken, because so many people were rooting for him,” says Campbell. “He’s just a lot better than what he showed that day.”

Aikenite is entered in an allowance race at Belmont Park on June 19, and his connections will assess his future after that.

“If he runs a big race, maybe we’ll go back to stakes races. Right now we need to win a race with him, to get his confidence back,” says Campbell.

Dogwood has some other horses to get excited about, among them Lou Brissie, who made his debut at the Aiken Trails this March. A son of Dogwood’s champion Limehouse, Lou Brissie was second by a nose in his race at the Trials, which does not count on his official race record. He then went to Keeneland in Kentucky, where he broke his maiden on April 15. He won his second race, the Grade III Kentucky Juvenile Stakes, on April 30.  His next race will be the Bashford Manor Stakes at Churchill Downs on July 3.

“He’s following in the exact same pattern as Limehouse,” says Cot, noting that Limehouse also broke his maiden at Keeneland, then won the Kentucky Juvenile, and went on to win the Bashford Manor. Limehouse won seven of 21 starts in his career, which included a fourth place finish in the 2004 Kentucky Derby behind Smarty Jones. In 2005, he was named Aiken Trained Horse of the Year. He now stands at stud at Vinery in Kentucky. Lou Brissie is from his second crop.

According to Cot Campbell, Dogwood is having a good season, and already has more winners this year than they did in all of 2009. The stable moves to Saratoga for seven weeks in the summer, where many of their 2-year-olds will run their first races.

“We’re happy,” says Cot. “We’ve got a lovely bunch of 2-year-olds, and we’re excited about them, but we’re excited every year about the 2-year-olds. That’s the nature of the game.”

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