Go For Gin had the look of a winner 119TH PREAKNESS

May 22, 1994|By Bill Free | Bill Free,Sun Staff Writer

Go For Gin walked into the starting gate yesterday and looked straight ahead.

The Kentucky Derby winner was focused on the finish line in the 119th Preakness.

"Usually, a horse moves its head to the left or right when it goes into the gate," said jockey Chris McCarron. "But not Go For Gin. He was ready to run, and everything was perfect. I was very confident we were going to win. Even the assistant loader [Gary Schmidel] said, 'What a class act he is.' "

There was no doubt about it.

McCarron was going to ride the 3-year-old colt to a first-place finish and head to the Belmont Stakes for a shot at becoming the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

McCarron was still thinking victory as he headed into the stretch, leading Tabasco Cat by a head.

But suddenly at the one-eighth pole, McCarron was jolted by a sudden burst from Tabasco Cat.

"I didn't hear Tabasco Cat until he was a nose in front of me," said McCarron. "At that point, I was hoping we could find another gear to kick in."

McCarron was still waiting for that gear as he tried to explain what happened down the stretch when Tabasco Cat outran Go For Gin to win by three-quarters of a length and end the Triple Crown dream.

"I'm at a loss for words when it comes to the last one-eighth of a mile," said McCarron. "My horse ran great and the only thing I would change is the distribution of that $600,000 purse." Tabasco Cat received $447,720 for first and Go For Gin $137,760 for second.

And what about the lost Triple Crown opportunity?

"It's very heartbreaking," said McCarron. "You don't get that many chances to win a Triple Crown. I thought he would do it. He trained well and was very composed all along."

Even McCarron had a perfect final 24 hours before the race.

He ate steamed crabs and signed autographs at Captain Harvey's in Owings Mills on Friday night.

"I felt great," said the second-place rider.

And so did Nick Zito, trainer of Go For Gin.

"I didn't think Tabasco Cat could pass him," said Zito. "I was sitting perfect on the turn and I thought we'd get home a winner. I'm extremely proud of Go For Gin. He's all guts and as gritty as they come. He ran great. A great ride, a great race."

McCarron said he used a little caution early in the race when he ran a close second to Polar Expedition.

"That was exactly where we wanted to be at that time," McCarron said.

He could see the race unfolding perfectly before Tabasco Cat blurred the scenery with a strong stretch drive.

But there will another chance for Go For Gin, three weeks from now in the Belmont Stakes.

"If he stays the same way, I'll definitely run him in the Belmont," said Zito. "Everything looks positive. That's the way the horse wants to run. You have to give him his head; that was exactly where I wanted him."

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