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Fusaichi Pegasus favored in Preakness
Posted: Thursday May 18, 2000 07:31 AM
BALTIMORE (AP) -- Fusaichi Pegasus, named for the winged horse of Greek mythology, flew into Baltimore on Wednesday for the Preakness, where the Kentucky Derby winner will try to take a second step toward the Triple Crown.
He would be the fourth straight Derby winner to win the Preakness should be succeed Saturday. The previous three -- Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and Charismatic (1999) -- all lost in the Belmont Stakes, failing to become the first Triple Crown champion since Affirmed in 1978.
"No problems, he was fine," trainer Neil Drysdale said of the colt's plane trip from Louisville and his van ride from the airport to Pimlico.
"My main concern after the Derby was that he not lose too much weight and I think he has handled the weight well," Drysdale said, adding the colt would get his first look at the Pimlico track when he gallops Thursday morning.
In his final workout at Churchill Downs on Monday, Fusaichi Pegasus went five-eighths of a mile in 59 seconds.
"He went a little quicker than I anticipated," Drysdale said. "But he did it easy. He was well within himself, and the track was fast that day."
Fusaichi Pegasus is the 3-5 early favorite, making him the first Derby winner to be favored in the Preakness since Go For Gin in 1994. Go For Gin, 2.80-1, finished second in the Preakness, six lengths behind Tabasco Cat, the third choice.
The early 9-2 second choice for Saturday's race is Red Bullet, who could become the first Preakness winner not to have started in the Derby since Deputed Testamony in 1983. In his last start, Red Bullet finished second, 4 1/4 lengths behind Fusaichi Pegasus in the Wood Memorial.
Other Derby horses in the 125th Preakness are Impeachment (third), Captain Steve (8th), High Yield (15th) and Hal's Hope (16th).
Two other 3-year-olds making their debuts in Triple Crown competition will be Snuck In and Hugh Hefner.
It is the smallest Preakness field since Hansel beat seven rivals in 1991.
Drysdale, getting the sixth pick, took the No. 7 post for Fusaichi Pegasus.
"It's a quarter mile to the [first] turn and eight horses, I don't think it's that important," Drysdale said of the post position.
The long stretch should help sort things out by the time the field hits the first turn in the 1 3/16-mile race.
Trainer Joe Orseno, picking first, took No. 4 for Red Bullet, while trainer D. Wayne Lukas, picking third, chose No. 5 for High Yield.
Fusaichi Pegasus, bought for $4 million as a yearling by Fusao Sekiguchi of Japan, was a big, gangling 2-year-old and so Drysdale did not elect to start him until Dec. 11, when he finished second in a 61/2-furlong maiden race.
The son of Mr. Prospector opened his 3-year-old campaign by winning a six-furlong maiden race Jan. 2, then won a 1 1/16-mile allowance, the 1 1/16-mile San Felipe, the 1 1/8-mile Wood Memorial and the 1 1/4-mile Derby.
Asked how the Derby winner might lose, Lukas said, "He might not. I thought he had less chance of winning the Derby than he does of winning the Preakness."
Lukas also thinks Red Bullet has the best chance of pulling an upset.
After Red Bullet finished second in the Wood Memorial on April 15, it was decided to skip the Derby with the colt, who did not race as a 2-year-old.
"We decided if we're going to try to beat him [Fusaichi Pegasus], let's do it the right way and not run back in three weeks," Orseno said. "I want to go in there off five weeks and try to beat him."
As for Red Bullet not racing as 2-year-old, Orseno said, "He was slow in getting started. I got him in September and he didn't really have that racing attitude. Mentally, I thought we should take our time."
Red Bullet won a six-furlong maiden race in his debut Jan. 8, then won a seven-furlong allowance and the one-mile Gotham before finishing second in the Wood Memorial.
Captain Steve, who also was flown in from Churchill Downs on Wednesday, finished third in his first three starts this year and had the lead briefly in the Derby, during which he was bumped badly by Wheelaway in the stretch.
High Yield finished second to Hal's Hope in the Florida Derby and won the Blue Grass, both 1 1/8-mile stakes, before his dismal 15th finish in the Derby.
"A lot of horses have come in here after not doing very well in the Derby and run very well in the Preakness," Lukas said. "He might not run a winning race, but he'll have something to say about it."
Hal's Hope, owned and trained by 88-year-old Harold Rose, has run poorly since winning the Florida Derby. He finished last in the eight-horse Blue Grass, then ran 16th in the 19-horse Derby.
It will be only the third start this year and the first since he finished second in the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby on April 15 to Snuck In, who won four of seven starts as a 2-year-old. He also arrived from Kentucky on Wednesday.
In two starts this year, Hugh Hefner finished second in the restricted La Puente over one mile on the grass and was runner-up in the 1 1/8-mile Snow Chief for California-breds on April 30. In two starts in open stakes competition, he finished fourth, beaten by 10 1/2 lengths, in the 6 1/2-furlong Best Pal on Aug. 18, and he was 13th, beaten by 34 1/2 lengths, in the 1 1/16-mile Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Nov. 6.