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Ride On Curlin trainer seeks elusive clean ride

By Steve Ginsburg

BALTIMORE (Reuters) - After being squeezed, jostled and pushed wide in most of his races, Ride On Curlin trainer "Bronco" Billy Gowan is wondering if his colt will ever get a trouble-free ride.

And the affable trainer cannot think of a better time than during the $1.5 million Preakness Stakes on Saturday.

"I would like to see a clean trip and see what our horse is really made of," Gowan told reporters on Tuesday after Ride On Curlin tested the Pimlico Race Course track for the first time.

"I thought it would be our day in the Derby but maybe it'll be our day in the Preakness."

Joel Rosario, who rode Orb to victory in the Kentucky Derby a year ago, will be aboard Ride On Curlin for the Preakness, the colt's fourth jockey in his last four races.

In the May 3 Derby, Calvin Borel took the Arkansas Derby runner-up from 14th in the stretch to a seventh-place finish after a difficult trip in the 19-horse field at Churchill Downs.

"He's never had a perfect trip, in stakes (races)" said Gowan. "When he won a maiden allowance race, he just dominated the field. He's been in traffic, he's been wide, this and that.

"Hopefully we'll get a good trip on Saturday."

Despite playing musical chairs with his jockeys, Gowan refused to place the blame on them.

"All these jockeys are trying to win. They want to win races just like I do," he said. "I don't think the jocks are the issue. It's just racing luck and circumstance."

Gowan said he believed Rosario would be a nice fit for the son of two-time U.S. Horse of the Year Curlin although he conceded Kentucky Derby champion California Chrome will be the horse to beat on Saturday.

"He's a really strong finisher on a horse," Gowan said of Rosario. "And it's going to take a strong finish to beat California Chrome. All of these horses. They're all nice horses. Hopefully, we'll get a good trip and see what our horse is."

Ride On Curlin, purchased by Daniel Dougherty for just $25,000 at Keeneland's September yearling sale due to foot issues, has two victories in 10 career starts with over $414,000 in career earnings. His lone 2014 victory was a January allowance race at Oaklawn Park.

Gowan is hoping for a speedy pace in the 10-horse Preakness.

"A fast pace will help me," he said. "We thought the same thing in the Derby and it ended up being one of the slowest Derbies ever. Hopefully, there will be something with a little bit of speed and we have something to run at. Soften them up a little bit."

Gowan said the smaller field does not necessarily mean his colt will avoid trouble.

"Shoot, I've seen horses in five-horse fields gets in trouble so I'm not banking on anything," he said. "I just hope we get a good trip."

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

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