LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- As many as 12 horses are likely to run in this year's Preakness Stakes, including surprise Kentucky Derby winner Sea Hero.
The Derby starters are scattering in all directions after Saturday's race. But at least seven, including the first five finishers and also-rans Union City and El Bakan, are expected to compete in the Preakness at Pimlico Race Course on Saturday, May 15.
Two non-Derby starters, Derby Trial winner Cherokee Run and local hope Woods of Windsor, are waiting for the survivors from Churchill Downs.
The Withers Stakes on the opening card at Belmont Park on Wednesday also could yield a Preakness starter or two. Several other names being mentioned are Grand Jewel, Duc d'Sligoville and Halostrada.
Only two Derby starters -- Sea Hero and fourth-place finisher Personal Hope -- are flying directly to Baltimore from Churchill Downs.
Winning trainer Mack Miller said as soon as he lines up a flight, either today, tomorrow or Wednesday, Sea Hero will fly to Pimlico to try for the Triple Crown.
At 12.90-1 odds, the horse was the third-longest-priced winner of the Derby in the past 10 years, behind Ferdinand (17.70-1 in 1986) and Lil E. Tee (16.80-1 last year).
"I don't think he'll object to the surface [at Pimlico]," Miller said. "But the stretch is not as long as Churchill Downs. It is going to be a much smaller field, and I know that after making two starts in three weeks [the Derby and Blue Grass Stakes], he's a lot fitter horse. He needed this win badly. He now has the seasoning that he didn't have before."
Miller's only previous Preakness starter was Cragwood Stable's BTC Jig Time, who was fifth in 1968. Owner Paul Mellon was second with Arts and Letters in 1969, third with Key to the Mint in 1972 and fourth with Quadrangle in 1964, but has never won. But Sea Hero's jockey, Jerry Bailey, did win the Preakness in his second try in 1991 with Hansel. He finished sixth last year on Technology.
Mark Hennig, trainer of front-running Personal Hope, said he will wait until the beginning of next week to ship his horse to Pimlico.
"I would think his style fits the Preakness," Hennig said. "I thought he held on well [in the Derby] and that sitting right off Storm Tower on the lead actually gave him confidence. He was relaxed the first time past the stands and then on the backside it seemed he could put him away whenever he wanted to. This horse has come a long way. Sixty days ago he would have fallen apart before we made the paddock. I think his best races are ahead of him. Certainly we haven't seen the best of him yet."
Derby runner-up Prairie Bayou will train for the Preakness in New York. Trainer Tom Bohannan will follow the plan he used with last year's Preakness winner, Pine Bluff, and ship Prairie Bayou into Pimlico a couple of days before the race. Bohannan's main string is headquartered at Belmont Park.
Third-place Derby finisher Wild Gale also is going to New York. He is expected to try the Preakness, although a decision won't be made until this weekend.
Trainer Mike Doyle said he thought the Wild Again colt might have been second in the Derby if he had not been checked at the top of the stretch.
"I didn't realize it was so bad until I saw the rerun," Doyle said. "I think he was just a little bit unlucky. He really didn't have anywhere to go. It might have cost him second, but I don't think he would have won."
Fifth-place Derby finisher Diazo, trained by Bill Shoemaker, will fly back to California tomorrow morning along with sixth-place Corby and Tossofthecoin, who bled and finished last. Shoemaker told Pimlico officials that he probably will run the horse in the Preakness.
D. Wayne Lukas also said that 15th-place Derby finisher Union City could be Pimlico-bound. "I was terribly disappointed," Lukas said. "I don't think I have taken one over as ready as this horse. He just lost his action at the top of the stretch."
El Bakan, who broke from the 19-hole and finished 18th, will race in the Preakness.
Howie Tesher, trainer of 11th-place Derby finisher Bull Inthe Heather, said that as soon as he saw the speeded-up condition of the Churchill Downs track on Derby day, he knew he was doomed. The enormous son of Ferdinand was simply outrun and is considered not agile enough to be a factor on the tighter turns at Pimlico. He'll skip the Preakness for the Belmont Stakes.
Rockamundo, who displaced his palate in the Derby and finished 17th, is undergoing throat surgery this morning by Dr. Alex Harthill. That probably will knock Rockamundo out of the Preakness.
Mary Eppler, owner-trainer of P. J. Higgins, winner of the Woodlawn Stakes at Pimlico on Saturday, also is considering running her horse in the Preakness.