LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Ian Jory, trainer of Kentucky Derby runner-up Best Pal, is eager for a rematch with Strike the Gold in the Preakness.
"My horse is a gelding, and we're going for the $1 million [Triple Crown] bonus," Jory said. "It's conceivable we could be in a good position to win it."
The 33-year-old Englishman respects Strike the Gold, but believes the horse to beat in Baltimore will be Olympio, a non-Derby starter.
"He [Olympio] is fresh," Jory said. "He is a speed horse. And it seems to me that the Preakness is usually won by that kind of runner."
Olympio won the Arkansas Derby in his last start. Because of his front-running style, he was reserved especially for the Preakness by his trainer, Ron McAnally. Olympio worked at Churchill Downs yesterday, getting six furlongs in 1 minute 11 seconds, easily the best work of the day.
The Preakness will be the fourth race in eight weeks for Strike the Gold, "and all that racing, especially after two big races in the Blue Grass and Kentucky Derby, might take its toll," Jory said.
Jory was philosophical about Best Pal's second-place Derby finish. "Everything was going great until Thursday [at the post position draw]," Jory said. "Then my world came crashing down."
Best Pal started from the 15 post position "and that alone could have cost us 2 to 2 1/2 lengths," Jory said. Best Pal lost to the fast-closing Strike the Gold by 1 3/4 lengths.
Jory said he had hoped that Chris McCarron, on front-running Sea Cadet, would have opened up a longer lead going into the first turn. "When he didn't, I knew we were in trouble," Jory said. "I had envisioned Chris being three or four lengths in front, with Fly So Free right behind him and Hansel and us sitting third and fourth. But that didn't happen."
Instead, McCarron slowed the pace down early. "We could have gone on and taken the lead, which we didn't want to do, or drop back," Jory said. "My jock, Gary Stevens, did the right thing. He dropped back, but we were about 10 lengths off the pace."
Best Pal was checked going into the first turn. "Then he got snatched up again near the far turn," he said. "He never got a chance to run until the stretch and then the gap on the rail didn't open up until the eighth pole. If that hadn't have happened, we could have easily been eighth or ninth instead of second."
The day belonged, however, to Strike the Gold. He was six horses wide coming into the stretch, circled the whole field and won with a strong outside rally, so far outside that it's conceivable Best Pal didn't even see him. Strike the Gold was drifting farther out at the wire.
Winning trainer Nick Zito said yesterday that "if my horse stays the way he is, then we'll be tough in the Preakness."
But the horse's come-from-behind running style could be at a disadvantage at Pimlico.
"People looked at the Dosage and the horse's slow workout [Wednesday before the Derby], and got scared," Zito said. "But I knew Strike the Gold is a good horse. You can't put too much faith in witchcraft or voodoo, although Dr. Roman's [Dosage] system is a scientific study." The Dosage Index is a pedigree formula that predicts which horses cannot win the Derby. Strike the Gold became the first horse in 62 years to win the Derby with an incorrect Dosage profile.
Zito also said he knew his horse's workout patterns, and wasn't concerned over his slow final Derby drill.
Meanwhile, here in Baltimore, the Preakness field shapes up so far with seven definite starters.
Included are Strike the Gold, Best Pal and Mane Minister -- the first three Derby finishers -- as well as Wayne Lukas-trained Corporate Report, who finished ninth.
Newcomers are Olympio, Near The Limit -- runner-up to Tank in the Garden State Stakes -- and Honor Grades, second-place finisher in the Derby trial.
Honor Grades is trained by Rodney Rash, a former Carroll County resident who is a protege of Hall of Fame trainer Charlie Whittingham. Honor Grades is owned by Bruce McNall and hockey star Wayne Gretzky.
Also considered Preakness possibilities are Fly So Free, Hansel and Tank.