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Flying away

Fusaichi Pegasus wins 126th Kentucky Derby

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Posted: Sunday May 07, 2000 01:36 AM

Kent Desormeaux, Fusaichi Pegasus Kent Desormeaux and Fusaichi Pegasus are a dynamic duo. AP On-Site
Nick Charles
The most impressive thing is that this horse and jockey fit so well together. You have to have the horsepower and this horse came from 15 lengths back early to win. He put away this field like it was batting practice. He dropped in. He went wide. He changed gears.

Also, the way the horse and jockey, Kent Desormeaux, fit together was special. The jockey knew when to push the button and where to place the horse. Fusaichi Pegasus was not running against the field. He was running against the clock and against himself. His jolt, the power was so superior that Desormeaux hand rode him to the finish. 
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) -- Fusaichi Pegasus kicked up his heels before the Kentucky Derby in what looked like a victory dance.

Maybe he knew what was coming.

The playful colt, who sometimes gets too exuberant, acted like a perfect gentleman Saturday in doing what good horses like Easy Goer, Arazi and Holy Bull couldn't do -- win the Derby as the betting favorite.

The last horse to do that was Spectacular Bid in 1979.

Fusaichi Pegasus came on strong in the stretch, taking the lead approaching the eigth pole and finishing 1 1-2 lengths ahead of Aptitude.

And he did it while on his best behavior.

This is the colt who caused a brief delay at the starting gate at the Wood Memorial, who reared and threw his exercise rider and who has been known to stop and just look around.

But he was all business on this 82-degree day and before 153,204 cheering fans -- the second largest Derby crowd in history.

So gentlemanly was the colt, purchased for $4 million as a yearling, that jockey Kent Desormeaux said he broke like a pony.

Fusaichi Pegasus was the highest priced winner by far in the Derby and his victory came a year after the race was won by Charismatic, who once ran with a $62,500 claiming tag.

"You never know where a Derby winner is coming from," trainer Neil Drysdale said before the race. "Some cost $15,000, some cost $15 million."

For instance, Seattle Slew, the 1977 Triple Crown winner was bought for $17,500 while Real Quiet, who carried Desormeaux to victory in 1998, was a $17,000 yearling.

Fusaichi Pegasus, on the rail until he hit the stretch, was back in the pack down the backstretch. He started moving on the turn and made his winning move around five horses in the stretch. He then took the lead from Wheelaway shortly after that colt moved in and bumped Captain Steve.

The Deputy, the second favorite, trained by Jenine Sahadi, finished 14th.

Victorious Favorites
(Since 1973)
Year  Horse 
2000  Fusaichi Pegasus 
1979  Spectacular Bid 
1977  Seattle Slew 
1975  Foolish Pleasure 
1974  Cannonade 
1973  Secretariat 
"I'm very disappointed, not for myself," said Sahadi, trying to become the first female trainer to win the Derby. "I feel bad for the horse. We'll pack up, go home and regroup again."

Almost as jubilant as the winning connections, was Marlin St. Julien, who finished seventh on Curule, owned by the Godolphin Racing Stable of Sheik Mohammed Mahkthom and Hamdan al-Makhtoum of Dubai.

"I thought I had something to prove," said the 28-year-old St. Julien, the first black jockey to ride in the Derby since 1921. The last black rider to win was Jimmy Winkfield in 1902.

"I beat several of the favorites," St. Julien added. "What else could you want? When they played 'My Old Kentucky Home' my hair stood up on my chest. I can't explain the feeling. I'm on some kind of high."

"I was a little worried," Drysdale said, referring to the wall of horses in front of his colt at the top of the lane. "But then the racing gods smiled on us and things opened up."

"He had some challenging moments," Desormeaux said. "'But when I needed him to move forward, I had a ton of horse. When I encouraged him to improve his stride, he took off like a rocket and this race was over."

Drysdale was pleased with how the playful Fusaichi Pegasus won the race.

Fastest Derby Winners
Year  Horse  Time 
1973  Secretariat  1:59 2-5 
1964  Northern Dancer  2:00  
1985  Spend a Buck   2:00 1-5  
1962  Decidedly   2:00 2-5  
1967  Proud Clarion   2:00 3-5  
1996  Grindstone   2:01  
2000  Fusaichi Pegasus  2:01 1-5 
1965  Lucky Debonair   2:01 1-5  
1978  Affirmed   2:01 1-5  
1995  Thunder Gulch  2:01 1-5  
1941  Whirlaway  2:01 2-5  
"I noticed watching the race three times that Kent was riding him with one hand," the trainer said. "He was very relaxed. He does seem to be improving."

He was asked if Fusaichi Pegasus would go to the Preakness, the second race in the Triple Crown, in search of a sixth straight victory. The cautious Drysdale said: "You know how I am. We'll have to see how he comes out of this race."

Wherever the colt races, it will be in the United States.

"Fusaichi Pegasus is a treasure of the United States and I hope to keep him in the United States," owner Fasao Sekiguchi of Japan said through an interpreter.

"I am just in awe," he said of the victory, and added that he would have bid $5 million for the colt.

The time of 2:01.12 was tied for the sixth fastest in the 126 Derbies.

The winner earned $888,400 and paid $6.60, $5.60 and $4 after finishing a length-and-a-half in front of Aptitude, who paid $9.80 and $5.80. Impeachment, who was four lengths behind Aptitude and a half-length in front of More Than Ready, paid $4 as part of a four-horse entry due to common ownership.

"I couldn't have asked for a better trip," said Alex Solis, who rode the stretch-running Aptitude for the first time. "Unfortunately, the horse that won was just fantastic."

Completing the order of finish was Wheelaway, China Visit, Curule, Captain Steve, War Chant, Deputy Warlock, Trippi, Exchange Rate, Anees, The Deputy, High Yield, Hal's Hope, Commendable, Ronton and Graeme Hall.

It was a disappointing day also for trainer D. Wayne Lukas, seeking his second straight Derby victory and fourth in the last six year. Lukas saddled three horses then watched Exchange Rate finish fourth, High Yield 15th and Commendable 17th.

Another Derby jinx was extended when Anees, the 2-year-old champion and Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner finished 13th. Spectacular Bid was the last 2-year-old champion, and no winner of the BC Juvenile, which was first run in 1984, has ever won the Derby.

After being bumped, Captain Steve finished eighth. He is trained by Bob Baffert, who won the Derby in 1997 with Silver Charm and a year later with Real Quiet.

Fusaichi Pegasus became the first Derby winner to have raced only once as a 2-year-old. The others were Leonatus (1883), Tim Tam (1958) and Lucky Debonair (1965). Those three horses ran long before there were bonuses in thoroughbred racing.

Speaking of bonuses, Fusaichi Pegasus earned an extra $250,000 paid to any colt who wins the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct and the Derby.

He was the first Wood Memorial-Derby winner since Pleasant Colony in 1981.

The crowd moved into second place ahead of the 151,051 who watched Charismatic win last year. The record Derby crowd of 163,264 attended the centennial running in 1974.

Related information
2000 Kentucky Derby Results
Fusaichi Pegasus delivers under Desormeaux
SI's Nack: Fusaichi Pegasus a 'superstar'
SI's Mark Beech: Fusaichi Pegasus has the right stuff
Winning jockey Kent Desormeaux comments on what is means to win the Run for the Roses. (97 K)
Desormeaux talks about taking the win down the back stretch. (230 K)
Desormeaux is asked when he knew they had the win. (139 K)
Desourmeaux talks about his strategy once the race got under way. (314 K)
Neil Drysdale talks about Fusaichi Pegasus' victory. (97 K)
Drysdale says it was as much luck as it was confidence in the victory. (125 K)
Drysdale is asked about the strength of this year's Derby field. (201 K)
Drysdale talks about his thoughts entering the race. (238 K)
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