Jockey Jerry Bailey usually follows a simple strategy when riding.
"If it were up to me," Bailey said, "I would set right off the pace and wait and make the run from there."
Bailey found himself going against normal procedure, as his mount, Hansel, blew past the field for a seven-length victory in yesterday's Preakness.
Hansel got off to a good start and stayed with the pace, trailing Corporate Report by a head at the three-quarters pole before eventually grabbing the lead. Coming down the stetch, Bailey turned his head to check out the field, but finding no horse close, he triumphantly thrust his right fist in the air.
"I'd rather stay off the pace, but I hate to discourage a horse running so good," Bailey said. "I was going by horses like Olympio (fourth, 10 1/4 lengths back), and my horse is putting him away at ease. It's so good, you almost believe it's not true. He's as good as any horse on any given day."
It was Bailey's second mount in the Preakness, and the second time he's finished in the money. Riding Cut Away, Bailey finished third in the 1982 race won by Aloma's Ruler.
"What a magnificent rider," said Hansel owner Joe L. Allbritton. "What a magnificent race."
Born in Dallas, Bailey started riding quarter horses at age 12. He later switched to thoroughbreds, and, in 1990, he recorded 224 victories and his mounts earned $$9.3 million.
Until the middle of last week, Bailey, 33, didn't know if he would have a mount for the Preakness. After Hansel's 10th-place showing in the Kentucky Derby, the owners and trainer were not sure whether they would enter the horse in the race.
"It was real disappointing in the Derby -- he tried, but there just wasn't something right," Bailey said. "(Trainer) Frank Brothers said he wasn't sure after the Derby. But I really liked the horse, and I was going to hang with them as long as it took to decide. I knew they wouldn't have me riding a horse in a race he had no chance."
Bailey still didn't know what horse would turn up a post time, but said he knew immediately that the race wouldn't be another Derby disaster.
"He broke well, and we wanted him in the game in position on the first turn," Bailey said. "Halfway, my horse was aggressive, and I felt good about my chances. I thought I was in great error when he was going by horses like he was. But he just kept going.
Asked what role he had in the victory, Bailey replied, "I weighed in -- I hung on."
Whether Bailey, who rides mainly in New York, finds himself riding Hansel in the Belmont Stakes on June 8 remains to be answered. Hansel's handlers are not sure whether to run the horse,
"I will be available," said Bailey, who donated the car he won yesterday to a group of disabled riders. "I live in New York, so I'll be there.
Jockeys who have ridden the most Preakness winners:
6 -- Eddie Arcaro: 1941, 1948, 1950, 1951, 1955, 1957
3 -- G. Barbee: 1873, 1876, 1883
3 -- Bill Hartack: 1956, 1964, 1969
3 -- L. Hughes: 1875, 1879, 1880
2 -- 15 tied