Bizarre becomes banal for handlers of Strodes Creek

June 09, 1994|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Sun Staff Writer

ELMONT, N.Y. -- Arthur Hancock III was at his farm in Paris, Ky., last night, inspecting a mare and her new foal.

On his way back to the house from the barn, he must have been wondering "Can anything else weird happen to Strodes Creek?"

If Hancock's horse wins the Belmont Stakes on Saturday, he and his human connections will have overcome a string of recent incidents that can only be described as bizarre.

The horse's jockey, Eddie Delahoussaye, is the third member of the Strodes Creek camp to be victimized by a strange circumstance.

The 42-year-old jockey, who was set to ride in his 17th Triple Crown race this weekend, was told by his doctor that he can't fly from his home in California to New York to ride in the Belmont Stakes.

Delahoussaye, who rode at Hollywood Park yesterday, has been suffering from a mysterious viral infection that caused him to miss riding Numerous in the Preakness and is now preventing him from taking the mount on Strodes Creek, whom he rode to a second-place finish in the Kentucky Derby.

Instead, New York's leading jockey, Jerry Bailey, who has been working Strodes Creek since he arrived at Belmont Park three weeks ago, was named yesterday by Charlie Whittingham, the colt's trainer, to replace Delahoussaye.

Bailey, 35, finished third and sixth, respectively, in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness on Blumin Affair, the Jack Van Berg-trained colt who is skipping the Belmont. Bailey won the Belmont in 1991 on Hansel.

Whittingham, 81, was the first member of "Team Strodes Creek" to be hit by misfortune. Last Friday, after watching the horse work out, Whittingham felt ill and was rushed to nearby North Shore Memorial Hospital.

However, after he was inspected by a team of a half-dozen doctors, nothing serious could be found and the octogenarian horseman was diagnosed as having a stomach virus.

He was back at the barn within five hours.

Then two days later, on Sunday, the most bizarre thing happened to Strodes Creek.

The horse was out for a routine morning gallop when his exercise rider, Sonia Simmons, suddenly felt him go lame. She immediately hopped off the horse. He was holding one leg up in the air and Simmons thought he had fractured it.

Strodes Creek was taken off the track in a horse ambulance.

By the time the colt reached the barn, he was putting weight on his leg and then began walking normally. Extensive X-rays proved negative.

"No doubt about it, it's been a tough week, especially when they put the horse on an ambulance," Hancock said. "Charlie immediately called and said he didn't want me to hear it from anyone else. That was a rough morning."

Hancock said the horse either pinched a testicle when he was galloping or his foot was stung by a stone.

Yesterday, Strodes Creek had his final speed drill for the Belmont Stakes under Bailey, going three furlongs in the quick time of 34 4/5 seconds.

The Belmont field, which will be officially drawn today, is expected to consist of seven runners. The favorite is Kentucky Derby winner Go For Gin, followed by Strodes Creek, Brocco, Tabasco Cat and the long shots Amathos, Signal Tap and Ulises.

Hancock is encouraged by Strodes Creek's fast workout.

"It was a sharp move," Hancock said. "He seems to be doing well and should be improving. I'm just sorry now that Eddie [Delahoussaye] isn't feeling well. It's been a rather stressful week. Just when you think you've seen it all, something new comes along. It helps to be a veteran in this game.

"As Charlie will often say, this racket is no bed of roses."

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