Provincialism is alive and well in the racing world, if Private School is any indication.
The Kentucky-based colt has won more than $500,000 and has been competitive against classy foes. But whenever he races in unfamiliar territory, "he never gets any respect," said Donnie Habeeb, 30, the colt's trainer.
Private School is one of eight in today's $100,000 Polynesian Handicap at Pimlico Race Course. After finishing second to Black Tie Affair and Thirty Six Red earlier this year, Habeeb believes the colt should be considered the one to beat today.
"But when he ran in New Jersey, the Racing Form had him 20-1 and the program had him 12-1," he said. Private School ran second in that race, the Salvator Mile at Monmouth Park, at 5-1 odds.
Today's race marks the fifth track in as many races for Private School. Habeeb travels with the horse, leaving the rest of his seven-horse stable at Churchill Downs.
"It's been a thrill," he said. "I've never had a horse this good."
The Polynesian, second of two graded races at the 25-day Pimlico meet, comes later on a 12-race card that also features the simulcast of the $850,000 Jockey Club Gold Cup from Belmont Park.
Twilight Agenda, a California invader from D. Wayne Lukas' powerhouse stable, will contend for favoritism with Chief Honcho. Two starts back, Kent Desormeaux obtained the mount on Twilight Agenda. Desormeaux rode him to a second-place finish in the $1 million Pacific Classic, then guided him to an easy win in the Del Mar Budweiser Breeders' Cup. Tomorrow, however, Jerry Bailey will ride the 5-year-old son of Devil's Bag.
"There are top riders available here in New York," Jeff Lukas, who manages his father's New York division, said yesterday. "We just wanted to use a local rider."
NOTES: Jacinto Vasquez, who rides Private School, will be making his first appearance at Pimlico since leaving last month after a 5-month stay. . . . With 3 days left in the meet, Mike Luzzi leads Edgar Prado, 26-25, atop the jockeys' standings, and 3 remain tied among trainers with 12 winners each: Vinnie Blengs, Carlos Garcia and Dale Capuano. . . . Starfield, ridden by Andrea Seefeldt, won yesterday's $27,000 Pimlico feature. . . . Clarence "Jo Jo" Ladner rode 3 winners yesterday. . . . Fourteen horses go in tomorrow's Arc de Triomphe. NBC-TV provides live coverage from Paris of the Arc, which will be simulcast to Pimlico/Laurel to lead off a 14-race program that begins at 11:30 a.m. . . . Wide Country, the star Maryland-based filly, goes in today's $100,000-added Rare Perfume Stakes at Belmont. . . . Mane Minister, third in all 3 Triple Crown events this year, has been retired because of an injury to a suspensory ligament.