Hansel's storied run writes a topsy-turvy Belmont script

May 20, 1991|By Marty McGee

Welcome to Preakness World, the morning after.

The Pimlico Race Course infield looks like a war zone. Television roadies scramble to ship off to the next assignment. Rock music and a buzzing mob has yielded to lonely silence. And Preakness trainers grope their way through the wreckage of Hansel's 7-length victory on Saturday.

This year, Preakness World is Derby World turned upside down. Whatever happened at the Kentucky Derby two weeks before, the opposite happened at Pimlico. You want an inverted pyramid story? You've got one.

Hansel finished 10th in the Derby, beaten by all four of the Derby horses he would face in the Preakness. On Saturday, he #F trounced them all.

Strike the Gold, the Derby winner, beat none of his four Derby victims in the Preakness, finishing sixth in a field of eight.

The same for Corporate Report, Mane Minister and Best Pal. You beat me in the Derby? I beat you in the Preakness.

And the same for the morning after. You scratch your head after a puzzling loss; I meet with the reporters, calmly explaining victory. That was the role reversal undertaken yesterday morning by Frank Brothers, trainer of Hansel, and Nick Zito, Strike the Gold's trainer.

Brothers, 44, is a racing-hardened veteran, one who plays down the significance of the many subtle details of the sport in deference tothe all-important qualities of talent and luck.

The morning after the Preakness, Brothers said, was much better than the one after the Derby. "No question about it," he said.

In the Preakness, Hansel raced with a shadow roll -- a roll of sheepskin that fits over a horse's nose and tends to make it run with its head lower -- for the first time. Asked about the addition, Brothers said: "He's always been a little bit of a high-headed horse . . . [but] I don't honestly think it was a major factor.

"It was just a question of not anybody losing faith in the horse."

Zito, who was quick-witted in his morning-after press session in Kentucky, was gracious and low-key at the Preakness barn yesterday morning. Strike the Gold raced in tight quarters along the rail for much of the Preakness, then showed none of the fire he displayed in his Derby win. He was beaten 11 1/2 lengths.

"Strike the Gold likes to settle, then make one run," Zito said. "He doesn't like to be pinned in and have to bull through.

"I'm not making excuses for losing the race. If you analyze everything, he didn't really run that bad because he didn't really know what he was doing."

Now all that's left of this curious Triple Crown campaign is the Belmont Stakes, to be run June 8 at Belmont Park in New York.

A field of about 11 is coming together for the 1 1/2 -mile Belmont. The race's selling points are a likely rubber match between Strike the Gold and Hansel, the end of the chase for the $1 million Triple Crown bonus and the probable appearance of the filly Lite Light, which would add a sense of intrigue.

Hansel races with the anti-bleeding diuretic, Lasix. The colt began receiving Lasix in the March 16 Florida Derby, his second start of the year, after bleeding in his 1991 debut.

Lasix is not permitted at New York tracks. Brothers said he would not make up his mind whether to run in the Belmont until about a week before the race, but he said his decision does not hinge on the Lasix issue. On Saturday, Brothers said Hansel is "not a bad bleeder at all" and would probably run in New York if he emerged from the Preakness in good order.

Hansel will return to Brothers' base at Arlington International Racecourse near Chicago by plane, probably tomorrow. Hansel, who became racing's newest millionaire ($1,244,106) with his $432,770 Preakness paycheck, had taken a van from Chicago to Pimlico when he became the last horse to enter the Preakness Tuesday.

Corporate Report and Mane Minister, the 2-3 Preakness finishers, will join Strike the Gold and ship to New York for the Belmont. Other Belmont possibilities include Green Alligator, Lost Mountain, Quintana, Scan, Subordinated Debt and Paulrus.

For D. Wayne Lukas, trainer of Corporate Report, the topsy-turvy experience of the 1991 Triple Crown is encouraging -- because in the final leg, it may be his turn to surprise.

"Pat [Day, the colt's jockey] said all along he's going to be some kind of horse in August," Lukas said. "I want him to be some kind of horse in June."

At Belmont World, nobody knows what might happen.

Post-Preakness plans

Tentative plans for horses from Saturday's Preakness (in-order of finish):

Horse .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. ..Plans

1. Hansel .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Chi.-Belmont probable

2. Corporate Report .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Belmont

3. Mane Minister .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Belmont

4. Olympio .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Belmont-no

5. Best Pal .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . Calif.-Belmont maybe

6. Strike the Gold .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . Belmont

7. Whadjathink .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. Chicago

8. Honor Grades .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . California


Points standings for the $1 million Triple Crown bonus (points earned on 10-5-3-1 for first- through fourth-place finishes):

Hansel .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 10

Strike the Gold .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 10

Mane Minister .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 6

Best Pal .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. . .. .. 5

Corporate Report .. .. .. .. .. .. .. .. 5

In case of tie, the bonus will be divided equally.

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