Work in Sports
The favorite arrives
Fusaichi Pegasus tours Pimlico track for first time
Posted: Friday May 19, 2000 11:47 PM
BALTIMORE (AP) -- Fusaichi Pegasus made his first two tours of the Pimlico track Thursday, stopping at least eight times to view points of interest -- at least of interest to him.
"It was his first time on the track and it was in character," Neil Drysdale said after the Kentucky Derby winner and 3-5 early Preakness favorite made the rounds in what the trainer called a half canter.
"He can do all sorts of things," Drysdale said. "What he was doing today was stopping to look around. He's a horse with a lot of character."
Fusaichi Pegasus also is a character.
The colt took his sweet time getting to the post for the Wood Memorial, then after the race looked around for about five minutes before allowing himself to be led to the winner's circle.
Ten days before the Derby he reared while leaving the Churchill Downs track, unseated his exercise rider and fell on his side. He also kicked up his heels on the way to the Derby paddock when he became annoyed as Drysdale tried to put a sheet on the colt's back to chase away flies.
Once the starting gate opens, however, Fusaichi Pegasus is all racehorse.
After finishing second in his only 2-year-old start, he has won five straight races in impressive fashion, and his 1 1/2-length victory in the Kentucky Derby has made him the first Derby winner to be favored in the Preakness since Go For Gin finished second in 1994.
Fusaichi Pegasus was bought by Fusao Sekiguchi of Japan for $4 million as a yearling in the Keeneland July Select Sale, and a win Saturday would increase his value by 10-15 times the purchase price.
Drysdale has the colt stabled in Barn 7 on the Pimlico backstretch. The other seven Preakness starters are in a barn near the stands on the other side of the track.
"It nice and quiet," Drysdale said, except for a couple of sirens. The Preakness barn is busier.
"Neil is a private person and he knows clicks of cameras are a distraction to his horse," said trainer Bob Baffert, who will saddle Captain Steve, eighth in the Derby. "He's just protecting him. I don't really blame him. Me, I like to share my horses with everyone."
Baffert won the Derby and Preakness with Silver Charm (1997) and Real Quiet (1998).
Drysdale also said Fusaichi Pegasus will be saddled in the indoor paddock and not with his seven rivals on the grass course in front of the stands.
"The sun's beating down. Why not go where he's cool?" Drysdale said. "Why not avoid any potential problems."
Besides Captain Steve, Fusaichi Pegasus will face Derby starters Impeachment (third), High Yield (15th) and Hal's Hope (16th), and three colts making their debuts in the Triple Crown competition -- Red Bullet, Snuck In and Hugh Hefner.
Red Bullet, the early second betting choice at 9-2, suffered his first loss in four starts, all this year, when he finished second, 4 1/4 lengths behind Fusaichi Pegasus, in the Wood Memorial April 17 at Aqueduct.
He would be the first Preakness winner not to have started in the Derby since Deputed Testamony in 1983.
The eight-horse field is the smallest for the Preakness since Hansel beat seven rivals in 1991.
Fusaichi Pegasus beat 18 rivals in the 1 1/4-mile Derby with a perfect trip from the No. 15 post under Kent Desormeaux.
He will start from the No. 7 post in the 1 3-16-mile Preakness and should have time to settle into position in the quarter-mile run to the first turn. Traffic should not be a problem.
"Sometimes in short fields of four or five horses, a horse gets into trouble," Drysdale said.
The trainer is pleased with the way Fusaichi Pegasus has been training and is feeling, but he said, "I'm never overconfident going into any race. I'm cautious going into a race because anybody who know racing knows anything can happen."
But Drysdale admitted to two concerns.
"We're dropping down in distance and it's only two weeks since the Derby," he said.
A question Joe Orseno, Red Bullet's trainer, hopes to answer is how Fusaichi Pegasus will react if a horse looks him in the eye in the stretch, since he has been virtually hand ridden to his five victories.
"I think Kent is afraid to ride Fusaichi hard because there's no telling what he's going to do," Orseno said. "If he runs the way in did in the Wood Memorial and my horse is finishing [strongly], I think we'll go to the wire together."
Post time for the 125th Preakness is 5:27 p.m. EDT. The race be televised by ABC.