LOUISVILLE — Ron Paolucci knows exactly what he's being labeled as. Rather than subscribe to the ignorance-is-bliss way of living, the owner of Loooch Racing Stable actually reads the comments section of stories and tests his blood pressure by taking note of every name he's been deemed during social media conversations.
"Believe me, I read everything. I've been called everything from a joker to a bad man ... every name you can be called I've been called," Paolucci said Monday.
What Paolucci will always be known as is co-owner of 2013 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies winner Ria Antonia. On Monday morning, he and trainer Tom Amoss confirmed the daughter of Rockport Harbor will also become known as the 54th filly to try and claim the second leg of the Triple Crown.
The 139th Preakness Stakes had its intrigue factor cranked up when it was announced Ria Antonia will face males in what is expected to be a field of 10 for the 13⁄16-mile classic at Pimlico Race Course.
Ria Antonia is coming off a well-beaten sixth-place finish behind Untapable in the Kentucky Oaks, her third straight loss since winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies at odds of 32-to-1 via disqualification over eventual champion She's a Tiger last November.
Though Ria Antonia had only a maiden win in four starts coming into the Breeders' Cup, Paolucci brashly stated in the aftermath his desire to point the bay filly to the Kentucky Derby. That plan fizzled after Ria Antonia ran fourth during her season debut in the Grade III Rachel Alexandra Stakes at Fair Grounds on Feb. 22, but Paolucci maintains facing the likes of Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome and others in the 3-year-old male division might be a softer test than going against the best sophomore distaffers.
"I said after she won the Breeders' Cup that this group of girls is better than the boys," said Paolucci, who co-owns Ria Antonia with Christopher Dunn. "I didn't want to run against Untapable ... she's the best 3-year-old in the country, boy or girl.
"They called me dumb when I ran in the Breeders' Cup ... and I won. Even if you think I'm off my rocker, anyone who knows Tom Amoss knows that he's not going unless he believes we have some kind of a chance to win."
Ria Antonia is aiming to become the sixth filly to claim the Black-Eyed Susans — and she will have a man familiar with the task at the helm. Amoss said Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel, who won the 2009 Preakness aboard champion Rachel Alexandra, will have the mount.
"I think the way we look at this is this is an opportunity," Amoss said. "The Preakness field really is about California Chrome and the rest. He is the one to beat without question but after him, it's the rest. And I think she fits with the rest. We're running a healthy, sound horse who is training very well."
Amoss has only had about two weeks to get acquainted with the horse who will represent his third Preakness starter. He took over the training of Ria Antonia from Hall of Famer Bob Baffert after her run in the Oaks.
Amoss is the third trainer Ria Antonia has had this year alone. The leggy filly was originally conditioned by Jeremiah Englehart but was pulled from his barn after the Rachel Alexandra and sent to Baffert prior to her runner-up effort in the Grade I Santa Anita Oaks on April 5.
"Believe me I'm happy to have Tom as my trainer," Paolucci said. "But Bob Baffert is the nicest guy you could ever meet. I think a lot of him not wanting to go to the Preakness with this filly was, if something, God forbid, she did take a bad step, they would crucify him ... and he already gets crucified."
The repeated changing of trainers has made it easy for outsiders to direct grief Paolucci's way for how he has managed his star filly. He didn't listen to those who claimed he didn't belong on the Breeders' Cup card, so any so-called advice this time around is falling on equally indifferent ears.
"In her three starts this year, she's gone wider than any other horse," Paolucci said. "That's not her style. She needs to be in the race earlier. I think there will be a lot of speed (in the Preakness) and I think she will be sitting semi-close.
"Maybe we'll shock the world one more time," he continued. "Is it more crazy that I took a filly with her line and ran her in the Breeders' Cup, or is it more crazy that I took her and ran her in the Preakness?"California Chrome arrives
Kentucky Derby hero California Chrome arrived at Pimlico late Monday afternoon, traveling on the same flight that carried fellow Preakness hopefuls Ride On Curlin and General a Rod from Kentucky to Baltimore.
California Chrome was bedded down in Pimlico's Stall 40, which is traditionally reserved for the Derby winner.Final work for Bayern
Baffert trainee Bayern put in his final pre-Preakness move, covering 5 furlongs in 1:02.60 at Churchill Downs, working in company with stablemate Drill. With jockey Rosie Napravnik up, Bayern started about a length back of Drill and produced fractions of :133⁄5, :262⁄5, :384⁄5, galloping out 6 furlongs in 1:151⁄5.