6th-place finish right on line for Woods of Windsor Cavey delighted with run after rough trip at half-mile

May 16, 1993|By Don Markus | Don Markus,Staff Writer

The chart on the 118tH Preakness Stakes will show that Woods of Windsor finished sixth. But you couldn't tell that listening to Mike Cavey yesterday evening at Pimlico.

"I thought he had an excellent race," said Cavey, who manages the stable of Woods of Windsor owner Adelaide Riggs. "He had a rough trip. He got knocked around a little bit."

It could have been better if not for a few bumps from Rockamundo around the half-mile pole. But after what happened to Union City, who had to be pulled up after fracturing sesamoid bones in his right front ankle and later was humanely destroyed, it could have been a lot worse.

L "As long as he's OK," said Cavey, "that's all that matters."

Considering the way things went from early yesterday morning on, it was an uneventful end to an uneventful day for the Maryland-bred colt. But that's usually the case for horses that don't win the Preakness.

*

On Friday morning, trainer Ben Perkins Jr. was asked what the atmosphere is like the day of a race. "It's pretty boring," he said. "All the work is done. You stand around and tell goofy stories."

One of the stories Perkins was telling at around 9 yesterday morning had to do with a guy named Harry. They used to co-own a horse named I'm Wild. Of course, Harry was wild about I'm

Wild.

Perkins wanted to sell the horse.

Harry, who was about 75 at the time, wanted to keep it.

"He offered to buy my half of the horse," Perkins recalled. "The horse had won a race on a Friday, and Harry went to the casino that night and made some money. On the way over with the check, he died of a heart attack."

Harry's son called a few days later to say the family couldn't buy Perkins' share. This was three years ago, when I'm Wild was a promising 2-year-old. Perkins still has his share of I'm Wild, and his memory of Harry.

"He was like a Damon Runyon character, somebody you'd see in the movies," said Perkins. "That's what I love about this business. You can have a lot of fun, if you don't take it that seriously."

*

It has been 19 years between Preakness rides for Woods of Windsor's jockey, Rick Wilson. As a 20-year-old, Smith came to the Preakness with a horse named Silver Florin and finished back in the pack.

"I was more nervous than he was," Wilson said, sitting in the jockeys' room at Pimlico a couple of hours before post time.

He certainly was not nervous yesterday. After riding in three races early in the day -- "I like to get a feel for the track," he said -- Wilson was ready to do a little better than he did nearly two

decades ago.

*

If the Kentucky Derby is "the most exciting two minutes in sports," the hours leading up to any big race could be among the most anticlimactic. Unless your spine tingles watching horses sleep and eat.

After taking his morning-of-the-race half-hour constitutional around the Pimlico parking lot, Woods of Windsor was back in his stall before 7:30 a.m. yesterday. The countdown began: only 10 hours until post time.

By a few minutes before 10, Woods of Windsor was out on his feet. Better than bouncing off the walls. No signs are necessary to keep visitors quiet; in the horse business, everyone knows to stay out of the way.

"It's like a baseball pitcher getting ready for a game," said exercise rider and assistant trainer Pat Daniels, who has worked for Perkins for 3 1/2 years. "You leave him alone."

What do you give a horse getting ready for a race like the Preakness? Everything from oats to zzzzzzzzz's. Lunch was served -- six quarts of oats with a little molasses sweetener -- at around noon.

Then it was nap time.

"This is related to a fight manager managing a prize fighter," said Daniels, the son of trainer Edward J. Daniels. "You want him to go out and run his guts out. You have to keep him happy and fit.

"There's a lot of stress on the horses. They're pent-up in their stalls 22 hours a day. If a horse feels happy about its training, normally it will give a good performance on the day of the race."

*

While it was a quiet day for Perkins in regard to the race itself, it was a busy day when it came to everything else. Not only was the 37-year-old Penn graduate in charge of keeping Woods of Windsor happy, he also had to make sure that everyone else is content, too.

That meant making sure that Riggs, the horse's 84-year-old owner, had a wheelchair to get around Pimlico. It meant checking out the logistics -- "just in case we win" -- of getting her to the winner's circle.

Perkins got a little bit of a scare yesterday, when he heard on his car radio an announcement by Chick Lang, the former Pimlico manager-turned-analyst on WBAL, that Woods of Windsor's trainer was being paged to his barn.

"I was sitting out on Northern Parkway and Chick was saying, 'I hope there's nothing wrong,' " said Perkins, who was making his Preakness debut. "It turned out that one of the owners didn't have their seats. Minor crisis. It should be the worst thing that happens today."

It was. Considering what happened to Union City in the Preakness, thankfully it was.

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