Draw likely deals out a pair

Given outside posts, Vicar, Silverbulletday due to be scratched

124th Preakness

May 13, 1999|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

When Bob Baffert and Carl Nafzger decided to flip a coin for post position, you knew the Preakness was in trouble.

The post-position draw yesterday at ESPN Zone likely cost the race two of its best horses: the Nafzger-trained Vicar and Silverbulletday, the outstanding filly trained by Baffert.

After winding up with the two outside posts in a full field of 14, both trainers said they'll probably scratch their horses. Silverbulletday is 7-2 in the morning line and by post time -- 5: 27 p.m. Saturday -- might even have been favored over Menifee, the 5-2 early choice.

"Somebody's trying to tell us not to run," Baffert said. "She's a great filly. The Preakness is a great race.

"But these fillies come around very rarely. I have to be really careful what I do with her. Fans love her. She's a big star right now. I have to take care of her."

Baffert said Silverbulletday would likely run in the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes tomorrow against seven other fillies. She has won 10 of 11 races -- all against her own sex -- and would be the overwhelming favorite in the Black-Eyed Susan. She drew the 1-hole in that race.

Nafzger, who grimaced when Vicar got post 18 in the Derby, grimaced again when Vicar drew the 13th position yesterday. That meant he'd wind up on the far outside -- again.

The draw was conducted the same way as last year, in two stages. First, numbers were drawn that assigned horses their selection order. Second, trainers or owners chose post positions based on that order.

For the first time in the history of the Preakness -- this will be the 124th -- the draw was conducted somewhere other than Pimlico. Maryland Jockey Club officials decided to hold it at ESPN

Zone at the Inner Harbor to add pizzazz to an often dull event.

They got more than they bargained for when, in the first round, Vicar and Silverbulletday drew 13 and 14, respectively, meaning they'd be the last two to select starting spots. When it was Vicar's turn, Nafzger and Baffert both walked to the ESPN microphone.

Baffert said they were going to flip a coin "because we're both hosed." Nafzger called heads and won. He selected post 13. That left Baffert with 14.

Although he smiled for the cameras, Nafzger said later he was "99 percent sure" he'd scratch Vicar the morning of the race. The nearly black colt had a rough, pathetic trip in the Derby, and Nafzger said he doesn't want to repeat that experience.

"I will not be starting from the 13 hole," Nafzger said. "There will have to be a disaster for the Preakness -- they'd have to lose four or five horses -- for me to run."

Although Pimlico oddsmaker Clem Florio made Vicar 30-1 in the morning line, he would have attracted betting interest because of victories in Fountain of Youth Stakes and Florida Derby and an admirable third in the Blue Grass Stakes.

Horses have bounced back from dismal performances in the Kentucky Derby and run well in the Preakness. However, no horses have ever won the Preakness breaking from the 13 or 14 post.

From the outside posts horses have to gun from the start and use energy they should reserve for the end, or risk being fanned wide around the first turn and running farther than their competition.

The most Preakness winners (13) have come from post 6. That's where Charismatic, the Derby winner, will start from in his quest for the second leg of the Triple Crown.

Menifee, the morning-line favorite, will break from post 5. His trainer, Elliott Walden, selected fourth.

"I like being able to have a choice," Walden said.

His colt broke from post 18 in the Derby. Despite racing wide most of the 1 1/4 miles, he charged late for second. He was gaining on Charismatic, who broke from post 16 but didn't run as wide as Menifee.

Most horses in the crowded Derby encountered trouble, including Baffert's other top filly, Excellent Meeting. Nevertheless, she finished fifth, a mere 2 1/4 lengths behind Charismatic.

She will break from favorable post 7 in the Preakness. Baffert had second choice for her.

"Excellent Meeting's no slouch," Baffert said. "We're still represented pretty well."

But he couldn't hide his displeasure over Silverbulletday. First he wrapped both hands around his throat as if he was going to strangle himself. Then he doubled over as if was going to throw up.

He said later he was hoping she could break anywhere from the 4 to the 10 hole. He would have even accepted the 1, which was available until the pick before him (Torrid Sand), he said.

"I'm not upset. I'm disappointed," Baffert said. "That's the luck of the draw."

Post Positions

1. Torrid Sand

2. Kimberlite Pipe

3. Cat Thief

4. Badge

5. Menifee

6. Charismatic

7. Excellent Meeting

8. Patience Game

9. Adonis

10. Wordly Manner

11. Stephen Got Even

12. Valhol

13. Vicar

14. Silverbulletday

Race facts

Where: Pimlico Race Course

When: Saturday

Post time: 5: 27 p.m.

Gates open: 8: 30 a.m.

Distance: 1 3/16 miles

Purse: $1 million

TV: Chs. 2, 7

Derby winner: Charismatic

Information: 410-542-9400

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