Shuman Has ‘Unbelievable’ Triple
BALTIMORE, April 21 — Trainer Mark Shuman knew he was bringing three lively horses down from the Fair Hill Training Center for the Spring Festival of Racing at Pimlico on Saturday, and one after the other, they wound up in the winner’s circle as a day of promise unfolded like a dream.
First, Shuman’s 5-year-old My Girlie upset Silmaril, the finest race mare in Maryland, to win the $125,000 Northview Stallion Station stakes; then 4-year-old gelding Talent Search crushed a field of fast sprinters to take the $95,000 Jim McKay Stakes by six lengths.
The crowning achievement, however, came in the eighth race, when Xchanger, the trainer’s Triple Crown candidate, made a strong case for a place in the starting gate of the Kentucky Derby or Preakness Stakes by delivering a dominant performance under jockey Ramon Dominguez to win the $125,000 Federico Tesio Stakes by 43⁄ lengths over long-
4 shot runner-up Pink Viper.
The gray colt, purchased at a sale at Timonium last year for $40,000 by Shuman with owner Domenico Zannino of Baltimore, won the 11⁄ 8- mile Tesio in a sharp 1 minute 49.98 seconds.
Shuman’s smile appeared to grow wider with each victory as he posed for pictures with jockeys and owners before the boisterous crowd of 8,997.
“It’s wild,” Shuman said after the Tesio. “All week, the way all three horses trained was great. Xchanger could have been here or at Keeneland [for the Lexington Stakes]. This is unbelievable: three perfect trips, three perfect rides.”
While Shuman celebrated, trainer Richard “Dickie” Small could only wonder about what happened to his 3-5 favorite, Etude, who he had hoped could win the Tesio and go on to the Preakness Stakes for his owner Robert Meyerhoff.
Etude, ridden by Luis Garcia, started well, tracking the pace set by Pink Viper from third place as the leader ran the first half-mile in 46.55 seconds. When Xchanger took over with a powerful surge nearing the three-eighths pole, Etude had no response and steadily drifted back into the pack, finishing fifth. The powerful attack he showed March 24 in the Private Terms Stakes at Laurel Park never reappeared on his home grounds.
“He just didn’t have it today,” Small said. “The other race took a lot more out of him than it looked like. He’ll regroup and be back later.”
Asked if Etude might run in the newly minted Barbaro Stakes on the Preakness undercard on May 19, Small said, “It’s liable to take that long to figure out what happened to him.”
Etude never had run as fast as he did in the Private Terms, and he might have needed more time to recover from such a taxing effort.
“He bounced like a basketball,” said Charles Zannino, brother of the owner. “That’s what we were hoping for.”
Even if Etude had been in his best form, he might have struggled against Xchanger. The colt won the first two starts of his career as a 2-year-old, including a graded sprint stakes race at Monmouth Park. Then he mostly suffered one bout of bad luck after another. He was checked hard and lost momentum in the $1 million Delta Jackpot, got caught in traffic in the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park and then received a poor ride from an unfamiliar jockey in the Rebel Stakes.
“I knew what kind of horse I’ve got, and I made excuses his last four or five starts,” Shuman said. “I know I’m not crazy. I don’t think I am, but I had to stop making excuses.”
Shuman and his team will now wait a few days to see how Xchanger comes out of the race before making a decision about his next start. The Kentucky Derby couldn’t be any more enticing, and the horse has the graded earnings to get into the field, but there was no hurry in the winner’s circle.
“It would be foolish to commit,” Domenic Zannino said. “Xchanger will have to show us what to do.”
Racing Notes: In a race far different than the crawling Blue Grass Stakes the week before, 40-1 long shot Slew’s Tizzy went to the lead and set a strong pace on the Polytrack at Keeneland and never backed up, upsetting the Grade II $325,000 Lexington Stakes and possibly stamping a ticket to the Kentucky Derby.
Ridden for the first time by jockey Robby Albarado, the son of two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow ran the 11⁄ 16- mile Lexington in 1:43.20, finishing ahead of 36-1 shot Starbase, trained by D. Wayne Lukas. Favored Belgravia finished last in the field of nine.
The twin long shot exacta paid $1,002.20.