Ms Locust Point looks to “find winning ways” in Skipat
by Linda Dougherty
Since Jim Reichenberg and Cash is King’s Ms Locust Point began her career at Parx Racing in October, 2016, she has rarely run a bad race. And the only two times she finished out of the money, she had legitimate excuses.
The 4-year-old chestnut daughter of Dialed In steadily progressed up the ladder, and trainer John Servis picked her spots carefully. She’s looking to rebound after an off-the-board effort in the Grade 1 Madison Stakes at Keeneland last month, and Servis thought Friday’s $100,000 Skipat Stakes at Pimlico Race Course was the perfect vehicle to get her back in the winner’s circle.
The Skipat kicks off Preakness weekend for Servis, who’ll saddle Cash is King, LC Racing and DJ Stable’s Diamond King in the 143rd Preakness Stakes on Saturday. It also kicks off the return of the Mid-Atlantic Thoroughbred Championships (MATCH) Series, a program of 25 stakes in five different divisions taking place at racetracks throughout the mid-Atlantic region.
The Madison, at seven furlongs, was the first time Ms Locust Point was out of the money since the Gr. 2 Forward Gal Stakes at Gulfstream Park in February, 2017. Overall, she’s racked up a stellar record of six wins and a second from nine starts with purse earnings of $440,160.
“In the Madison, she broke a step slow, was steadied early, and it was quite a fast pace,” said Chuck Zacney, who races under the banner Cash is King and won the Preakness in 2005 with Afleet Alex. “The jock rushed her up and used her pretty badly, and she had nothing left in the tank down the stretch. But she had a really good work for the Skipat at Parx, she was timed in 59 and change (59.07), and the hope is she’ll find her winning ways again.”
“The plan was to cut her back to six furlongs, and the Skipat fit right into the schedule,” said Servis.
The Skipat is carded as the fifth race on Friday’s card, and seven fillies and mares will square off against Ms Locust Point, who was installed the 7-5 morning line favorite. Second choice is the Linda Rice-trained Startwithsilver, who captured the Broadway Stakes at Aqueduct in February and recently won an allowance/optional claiming test there, while third choice is Cairenn, from the Mark Reid barn, second in the Primonetta Stakes last out at Laurel Park. Also in the field is Vertical Oak, winner last year of the Gr. 2 Prioress Stakes at Saratoga and third in her 2018 debut in the Carousel Stakes at Oaklawn Park for Steve Asmussen.
Ms Locust Point was a $17,000 short yearling buy at the 2015 Keeneland January mixed sale by clocker and handicapper Bruno de Julio for a four-person partnership that included Reichenberg, a handicapper from Baltimore. The group tried to pinhook her at Keeneland September but she didn’t meet her reserve, and de Julio and Reichenberg bought out the other owners and she was put into training with Servis.
During her juvenile year, the filly captured the Gin Talking Stakes at Laurel and then shipped south with Servis to Florida. She began her 3-year-old season in the Gr. 2 Forward Gal Stakes at Gulfstream Park, which resulted not only in a fifth-place finish, but put her on the shelf for nine months.
“She came out of the Forward Gal with some foot issues, so we decided to stop on her,” said Servis. “We put some corrective shoes on her and gave her plenty of time. She came back a monster.”
Ms Locust Point reeled off four consecutive victories upon her return at Parx November 11 in an allowance/optional claiming race, followed by three stakes at Laurel – the Willa on the Move in December, the What a Summer in January, and the Gr. 2 Barbara Fritchie in February. Servis and the owners decided to swing for the fences in the Gr. 1 Madison, and have decided to draw a line through that race.
“I actually thought her effort in the Madison was great, considering her break and the fact she was compromised by the wicked early pace (21.96, 44.31, 1:09.16, set by American Gal),” said Servis.
Considering Ms Locust Point’s affinity for Maryland, with a four-for-four record at Laurel, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see her bounce back in a big way.
“She’s a beautiful filly, really well-built,” said Zacney, who became part-owner with Reichenberg right before her third start. “She’s just terrific.”
Zacney was born and raised in northeast Philadelphia and is currently president of his own medical billing company.
Diamond King will look to put both Zacney and Servis in the Preakness winner’s circle for the first time in more than a decade. Servis’s only other Preakness starter was the popular Smarty Jones, who captured the Maryland classic in 2004 after having triumphed in the Kentucky Derby, while Cash Is King campaigned Afleet Alex to Preakness and Belmont victories in 2005. Servis and Zacney have tasted Grade 1 success together before, having teamed up to win the Gr. 1 Kentucky Oaks with Cathryn Sophia in 2016.
Diamond King, purchased by Zacney for $235,000 at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale of 2-year-olds in training, is a two-time stakes winner, having earned an automatic entry into the Preakness by virtue of his victory in the Federico Tesio Stakes April 21 at Laurel.
“It’s a little different now, obviously, but it’s nice to be back at Pimlico,” said Servis. “There’s no pressure this time, that’s for sure. It was pretty crazy (with Smarty Jones), but it was fun. I enjoyed the hell out of it.”
Should Diamond King, a son of Quality Road, prevail, Servis would become only the fourth trainer since 1909 to win the Preakness in his first two tries. The others are Thomas Healey (1922, 1923), Jimmy Jones (1947, 1948), Henry Forrest (1966, 1968) and Tom Bohannan (1992, 1993).