Entries' off-grounds work draws smiles

Lukas cites Cat Thief

`Meeting' `very sharp'

Valhol cleared to race

Preakness notebook

May 12, 1999|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Yesterday's final workouts by horses not on the Pimlico grounds did nothing to change the makeup of the Preakness field.

Trainers generally expressed satisfaction after a number of entries underwent their final serious tuneups at Churchill Downs in preparation for a flight to Baltimore today.

Kentucky Derby winner Charismatic and Cat Thief, third in the Derby, went five and four furlongs, respectively, and trainer D. Wayne Lukas said Cat Thief "could suit the scenario of the Preakness a little better. He looks like the kind of horse who could run well there."

Cat Thief, clocked at 50 1/5 seconds, fought off several challenges to his lead in the Derby, and held on gamely for the show. He could be the pacesetter Saturday.

Lukas said both of the horses were in excellent shape after doing "about what they wanted to do." Because of the rough trip experienced in Kentucky, Charismatic (1: 01 yesterday) is not expected to be the Preakness favorite, and "that suits me fine," Lukas said.

He added that, "The Preakness has always been the toughest [of the three Triple Crown events] for me because of the time frame. Two weeks after the Derby makes it a very tough race."

Excellent Meeting covered five furlongs in a brisk 59 seconds, pleasing trainer Bob Baffert, who still plans to run both of his fillies, Excellent Meeting and Silverbulletday, in the Preakness, pending the outcome of the draw today.

"The Derby didn't take anything out of her, although she, Menifee and General Challenge probably got the worst of it," Baffert said of Excellent Meeting. "She looked very sharp. She's still on edge, which you like to see."

Excellent Meeting was next to last after a half-mile in the Derby, then closed furiously to gain fifth in the 19-horse field, beaten by a little more than two lengths.

"The Preakness is more of a speed race and Kent [Desormeaux, her jockey] is going to have to do some things differently than in the Derby," said Baffert. "Excellent Meeting tends to drop back and tries to get through. Silverbulletday has the right style for the Preakness."

Vicar (18th in Kentucky) worked "better than before the Derby, steadier," said trainer Carl Nafzger. His five-furlong time yesterday was 59 3/5.

"He's more direct and focused. We're ready to go to Pimlico. I just hope we get a better post [17 in the Derby]. He just never got into his rhythm."

Nafzger has announced Robby Albarado as his jockey in place of Shane Sellers, who has the mount on Kimberlite Pipe. They are reversed from the Derby.

Worldly Manner (seventh) turned five furlongs in 1: 00 2/5 at Churchill Downs after running beyond seven furlongs for the first time in the Derby.

Jockey Jerry Bailey was aboard for the work. "He hasn't lost any confidence and maybe he needed a tightener," said assistant trainer Tom Albertani.

Derby Trial winner Patience Game turned in 58 3/5 for five furlongs, and Torrid Sand went a half-mile in 48 1/5.

Zito also happy

At Pimlico, Nick Zito's two trainees, Stephen Got Even and Adonis, went to the track early for five-furlong works. Adonis finished in 1: 01 3/5 and "went pretty quick early," Zito said. "He kind of got a little disinterested in the stretch finishing up, but that's him."

Stephen Got Even was timed in 1: 01 4/5, starting slowly and finishing "nice and smooth. I'm relieved and pleased with both my colts," Zito said.

Chris McCarron will not ride Stephen Got Even. The jockey suffered a foot injury Monday at Hollywood Park and will miss the Preakness.

Zito said he will wait to name a jockey after today's post-position draw.

Valhol will run

Valhol, controversial winner of the Arkansas Derby, will race in the Preakness, and Edgar Prado will ride him.

The Arkansas Racing Commission has notified Maryland racing officials that today's hearing on Valhol's disqualification has been postponed. That means the latest ruling in the court battle will apply to the Preakness: Valhol won and earned $300,000, and Torrid Sand finished third and earned $50,000.

The issue is important because the Preakness field is limited to 14 based on earnings. With Lead Em Home's apparent leap back into contention, 15 horses are vying for 14 spots. The purse money from Arkansas is crucial for Valhol and Torrid Sand.

With the $300,000, Valhol is in. With merely the third-place money of $50,000, Torrid Sand is out -- assuming all 15 enter.

The dispute involves allegations that Valhol's jockey, Billy Patin, carried an illegal electrical device. Arkansas racing officials disqualified Valhol and ordered redistribution of the purse money. That meant Valhol earned nothing, and Torrid Sand, elevated to second, earned $100,000 (twice third-place money).

If that had been the end of it, Torrid Sand would qualify for the Preakness, and Valhol would not. However, Patin and Valhol's owner appealed, and a judge granted a stay of that order. Today's session was to hear the appeal.

So the judge's stay, the latest ruling, applies, and Valhol's earnings stand at $344,100, and Torrid Sand's at $91,400.

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