There's no fear in Cat-bird seat

May 23, 1994|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Sun Staff Writer

Two Hall of Fame trainers -- one with a horse that started, the other with one that didn't -- took swipes at the 119th running of the Preakness yesterday, saying the time was slow and the competition uninspiring.

"It didn't impress me any," said Charlie Whittingham, who ran one horse, Numerous, in the Preakness, and saved another one, Kentucky Derby runner-up Strodes Creek, for the June 11 Belmont Stakes.

"None of those horses scare me. I think if I had run Strodes Creek, it would have been no contest. He's a bigger, stronger horse and he can lay up there [near the pace] if he has to."

Tabasco Cat defeated Kentucky Derby winner Go For Gin by three-quarters of a length, running the mile and three-sixteenths in 1 minute, 56 2/5 seconds, the second-slowest time in 20 years.

Jimmy Croll, who will be inducted into racing's Hall of Fame in August, owns and trains beaten Kentucky Derby favorite Holy Bull. He said that Saturday's Preakness "was nothing to write home about.

"You had the two horses at the wire and the rest nowhere. At the quarter pole, Go For Gin looked like a 1-2 shot and couldn't make it. Tabasco Cat out-gamed him. But the time was slow and it looked to me like neither one of them wanted to go much farther."

Croll said that if he had started Holy Bull "and he had run back to his races in the Florida Derby and Blue Grass Stakes, then he would have won the Preakness. As it was, I'm glad I skipped the race and gave him more time."

Holy Bull, who worked six furlongs in 1:11 yesterday at Monmouth Park, is scheduled to race a week from today in the $500,000 Metropolitan Mile at Belmont Park. Croll said it's only "a remote possibility" that the horse will start in the Belmont Stakes.

New York Racing Association officials who were at Pimlico Race Course yesterday said they expect a field of seven or eight for the third leg of the Triple Crown.

Three Preakness starters, one fewer than last year, are expected to go in the Belmont. They are Tabasco Cat, Go For Gin and Numerous.

Rounding out the possible Belmont field are Strodes Creek; fourth-place Kentucky Derby finisher Brocco; Amathos, a colt owned by Sheik Mohammed al Maktoum and trained by Bill Mott; Copper Mount, a New York-bred son of Cormorant, who is also the sire of Go For Gin; possibly Ulises, the last-place Kentucky Derby finisher; and a European horse from the stable of Andre Fabre.

"There's a chance we'll pick up some others after the Peter Pan Stakes [Sunday]," said NYRA racing secretary Bruce Lombardi.

The scene at Pimlico the day after the Preakness was relatively calm.

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said that Tabasco Cat came out of Saturday's race in excellent shape and might be shipped to Churchill Downs before going to New York for the Belmont.

Trainer Nick Zito said that even though Go For Gin was defeated, he proved he could handle a dry track. He pointed out that his horse had done better in the Preakness than the three previous Derby winners. Sea Hero was fifth last year; Lil E. Tee was fifth in 1992; and Strike the Gold was sixth in 1991.

"I loved the way Chris [McCarron] rode the horse," Zito said. "He went right for the lead, and when he galloped him out after the race, he finished stronger than Tabasco Cat. It was like he was looking him in the eye and sending a message. We were just beaten by a better horse on this particular day. We might have the lone speed horse in the Belmont and that's going to help at 1 1/2 miles."

Trainer Dick Small is following the same pattern with third-place finisher Concern that he did with the colt's sire, Broad Brush. After Broad Brush was third in the 1986 Preakness, Small shipped the horse to Cleveland and won the Ohio Derby. That race is also Concern's next scheduled start. His stablemate, Looming, who finished seventh Saturday, goes next in the Deputed Testamony Stakes against Maryland-breds at Pimlico on June 5.

Two horses, Kandaly and Powis Castle, bled in the Preakness. Trainer Louie Roussel III is undecided if he will ship Kandaly to Belmont or to Arlington International Racecourse in Chicago for a summer campaign.

Powis Castle returns to California and will be given a long rest before a possible return to competition at Del Mar in August.

Blumin Affair didn't bleed in the Preakness, but might have flipped his palate, a flap of skin in the throat that can close off the breathing passage when it becomes entrapped.

"I would have to think he entrapped that thing at the eighth pole or somewhere in there, because he was moving and then he wasn't going nowhere," said trainer Jack Van Berg.

Polar Expedition, who sped to the lead and then tired and finished last, came out of the race with a sore hip.

"He was just exhausted," said trainer Hugh Robertson. "I've never had a horse so tired."

Robertson said he is "still glad I brought him. Everybody connected with the horse had a good time. Pimlico put on a good show."

Apparently, quite a few other people thought so, too.

A record $24,009,822 was wagered on the Preakness, of which $21,461,540 came through the national Preakness simulcast network, eclipsing the previous simulcast high of $19,338,393 set in 1992.

Preakness attendance at Pimlico and inter-track outlets at Laurel, Rosecroft and Delmarva totaled 99,834 compared to the previous high of 98,896 in 1989. The figure does not include attendance at the state's four off-track betting sites.

Track operator Joe De Francis termed the day "the most successful in the 250-year history of the Maryland Jockey Club."

POST-PREAKNESS PLANS

What's next for each of the 10 starters in Saturday's Preakness (horses listed in order of Preakness finish):

Tabasco Cat: Belmont Stakes

Go For Gin: Belmont Stakes

Concern: Ohio Derby

Kandaly: Undecided

Numerous: Belmont Stakes

Blumin Affair: Hollywood Derby

Looming: Deputed Testamony Stakes

Silver Goblin: Ohio Derby

Powis Castle: Hollywood Park (rest)

Polar Expedition: Arlington International Racecourse (rest)

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