Irish trainer Derek Ryan is cautiously optimistic that Schoolyard Dreams can realize his vision and win the Preakness Stakes today at Pimlico.
IrishCentral caught up with the Tipperary native earlier in the week to get his thoughts on the colt’s preparations for the big race.
“Everything has gone good, so far no problems,” Ryan told IrishCentral on Thursday.
It has been a up and down year for the Erin Fein & Triple Diamond Stables-owned colt, as a win in January at Tampa Bay Downs was offset by a few close calls, the closest cut being the Tampa Bay Derby, where he lost at the death to Odysseus.
“Well, we had that type of year. We brought him on gradually because he is a late May foal. The whole winter plan was to win the Tampa Derby but we got nailed on the wire and after we that ran in the Wood, which, hindsight is 20/20 and all, was a little too quick back for him,” said Ryan.
“We were trying to get those graded earnings to get into the Kentucky Derby. When he didn’t run his race and came in fourth, we put him in for this race.”
However, Ryan has often stated that this horse needs his down time between races, and the extra fortnight could work in his favor.
“Well, this horse will have had the benefit of not having run two weeks ago in the derby, if he ran in the derby he wouldn’t be running this week.
“He is coming into this race better than he has done for any else so far. Six weeks between races is good for him, it is a big plus. He just needs a good trip, all he needs is a trip!
Schoolyard Dreams was drawn in trap 2 for the race, and Ryan was not too forlorn with that position.
“Well, you are better off being closer to the rail to save some ground, and he will be able to get a good position,” said Ryan.
Third last year with Musket Man, Ryan wants to go better this year, and for Schoolyard Dreams to have a real shot, the race will have to be relatively swift.
“Hopefully we will get a lively pace up front, and something to run at. Hopefully they go at good fractions and at a good honest pace and we’ll be sitting right up behind him and make a run at them.”
The horse has never had the same jockey in any of his six races, and Ryan has put his faith in Eibar Coa, the man who rode Musket Man last year, to do the honors for him in this year's Preakness
“We have had a lot of luck with him (Coa). He was obviously on Musket Man last year. He’s had a couple of wins for me this year, and you've to go with who you are lucky with. We didn’t’ have a lot of luck just bad breaks, so we are going to go back to who we are lucky with,” added Ryan.
So what are the horse’s chances? Ryan is bullish about his colt’s potential.
“I expect him to run real, real good, I expect to win. If he couldn’t win it I wouldn't run him, I would have held him back for the $100,000 in Monmouth the next week, you know."
The one thing Ryan is not too shy in asking for is a little intervention from the divine above.
“Just a bit of luck from the racing gods,” he says.