Full field likely on way to Pimlico

10 from Derby appear to be Preakness-bound

May 03, 1999|By TOM KEYSER | TOM KEYSER,SUN STAFF

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The rough-and-tumble Kentucky Derby may give rise to a wild-and-woolly Preakness that could feature at least 10 Derby horses, including four of the top five, and the super filly Silverbulletday.

The morning after Saturday's Derby, in which 14 of the 19 horses encountered trouble, the Preakness field began taking shape. The Preakness could have only the third full field of 14 horses since 1970.

The Derby's limit is 20, and 19 ran Saturday in one of the roughest races in memory. The race featured no flashy early speed, so most of the horses arrived at the first turn about the same time.

"It looked like a swarm of bees going into the turn," said Carl Nafzger, trainer of Vicar, who never found room to run and finished 18th.

A mere 10 lengths separated Charismatic, the surprise winner, and Valhol, who finished 15th.

One prominent trainer said it might be time to think about reducing the number of horses allowed to run in the nation's signature race.

"You hate to say it, but you're going to hurt somebody," said Bob Baffert, whose three horses finished fourth, fifth and 11th. "Somebody could have gotten hurt in that first turn."

He said a manageable number might be 14.

"Then it becomes a competition, not a crapshoot," he said.

Although Baffert failed to become the first trainer to win three straight Kentucky Derbies, he said he plans to continue down the path of Triple Crown races with Prime Timber and Silverbulletday in the Preakness.

Silverbulletday would be the first filly to run in the Preakness since Winning Colors finished third in 1988. And Silverbulletday could be the favorite with her record of 10 victories in 11 races. Her latest was Friday, a two-length triumph over fillies in the Kentucky Oaks.

Baffert did not run her in the Derby because of the distance (1 1/4 miles) and the size of the field, and he said yesterday that he was glad he didn't.

"She could have been in there getting knocked around and clobbered, and she might have gotten hurt," he said.

He and Silverbulletday's owner, Mike Pegram, had settled on a strategy of running her in the Oaks and then perhaps in the Preakness in her first test against males, Baffert said. The Preakness at 1 3/16 miles is slightly shorter than the Derby.

Baffert said he didn't know when or where Excellent Meeting, the filly, and General Challenge, the gelding, would run next. As a coupled entry in the Derby, they were favored at 9-2. For the 21st straight year, the favorite failed to win.

"They both had rough trips, but General Challenge took the worst of it," Baffert said. "Poor guy, he had so much dirt in his eyes. And it looked like he was dragging a hind leg. He might have strained himself a little bit."

D. Wayne Lukas said he will bring his powerful pair to Baltimore. Charismatic won at 31-1, producing the third-largest payoff in Derby history. And Cat Thief finished third.

Asked which horse -- Charismatic, who rallies from off the pace, or Cat Thief, who tracks the leaders -- would have a better chance in the Preakness, Lukas said: "If you like one, you've got to like the other. I wasn't able to separate them all week. I'll just do my damndest to get them there in the best shape I can and let the chips fall where they may."

Other Derby starters headed for the Preakness, assuming all goes well between now and then, are Menifee, Kimberlite Pipe, Worldly Manner, possibly K One King, Lemon Drop Kid, Vicar and Nick Zito's pair, Stephen Got Even and Adonis.

"What I saw [in the Derby] makes me want to go," Zito said. "Both horses had excuses."

Elliott Walden, trainer of Menifee, the Derby runner-up, said the colt ran "a winning race but didn't win." He was trapped wide the entire race.

"I think he'd probably be the favorite in the Preakness," Walden said.

A spokesman for Godolphin Racing, the international stable based in the Middle East, said Worldly Manner would likely compete in the Preakness. And Scotty Schulhofer, trainer of Lemon Drop Kid, said his colt would, too. Jose Santos rode Lemon Drop Kid, who finished ninth after an extremely wide trip.

"Jose came back and said, `Don't be discouraged. He can beat these horses,' " Schulhofer said.

Jinny Vance and Laddie Dance, who live in Sparks, own Lemon Drop Kid.

One who won't attempt the Preakness is Three Ring, the filly who never had a chance in the Derby. She finished last, trotting under the wire.

"She broke into Adonis and got hit solid," said her trainer, Eddie Plesa Jr. "By the time she hit the wire the first time she had probably gotten clobbered three or four times.

"Then she got caught behind a wall of horses with no place to go, wanting to run. [John] Velazquez had to stand straight up to restrain her, and the saddle slipped. At that point if I'd have had a magic wand, I would have waved it and said, `That's it. Let's go home.' "

Filly infiltration

Kentucky Oaks champion Silverbulletday is expected to become the 52nd filly and first since Winning Colors in 1988 to enter the Preakness. The four who have won:

Year, Filly

1903, Flocarline

1906, Whimsical

1915, Rhine Maiden

1924, Nellie Morse

Pub Date: 5/03/99

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