Shu­man Has ‘Un­be­liev­able’ Triple

The Washington Post Sunday - - Sunday Morning On The Air - By John Schein­man

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.

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