14 hole puts Silverbulletday in `Susan' field

Slot leaves connections little choice but to pull filly from Preakness


May 14, 1999|By Tom Keyser and Kent Baker | Tom Keyser and Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

It wasn't yet noon, but Mike Pegram said the heck with it. He popped a Coors Light ("the silver bullet") at the stakes barn, not far from where his filly, Silverbulletday, stood and munched hay.

(Yes, the filly is named for the beer, which Pegram prefers except in the company of fellow horse owner Bob Lewis, who owns a large Budweiser distributorship.)

Pegram talked about denial. He talked about disappointment. He talked about the decision to withdraw Silverbulletday from tomorrow's Preakness and run her in today's Black-Eyed Susan Stakes.

But really, he said, there wasn't much to decide, not after Silverbulletday ended up with the No. 14 post, the dreaded outside slot on the far end of the starting gate.

"If you're going to run, you've got to run to win," said Pegram, who also owns Real Quiet, winner of last year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness. "It would be just too much of a handicap out there.

"Last year, we drew the 11 with Real Quiet. I just laughed. I said, `Eleven's a great number. In a dice game, it's the only number you can't lose on.'

"I can't make that argument for 14. I just can't. I like to find the silver lining in every cloud. But the 14 hole, you're empty. Can't find nothing good about it."

So Silverbulletday, perhaps the most intriguing entrant in the Preakness, will be scratched from that $1 million race to run against fillies in the Grade II, $200,000 Black-Eyed Susan.

Pegram and Bob Baffert, the filly's trainer, all but said Thursday night after the draw that she would be scratched, but they confirmed it yesterday during and after the Alibi breakfast.

"When you get good ones like this, you've just got to take care of them," Baffert said. "That's why I have all these good older horses."

He said the problem with the outside post is that Gary Stevens, Silverbulletday's jockey, would have to hustle her out of the gate and avoid being pushed wide around the turn. That exertion could cost Silverbulletday late in the race when she would need that energy the most, especially in her first race against colts.

Baffert said that maybe post positions for Triple Crown races should be drawn in order based on earnings. The richest horses draw first, and it might discourage a few long shots from entering.

Or, Pegram said, maybe raise the entry fee for Triple Crown races. Currently, an owner pays $30,000 to run in the Derby, $20,000 to run in the Preakness.

"I feel sorry for the fans, because it was going to make the Preakness a special race," Pegram said. "This filly has a great following. She could have been a star."

`Susan' gets facelift

The complexion of the Black-Eyed Susan changes dramatically with Silverbulletday as the prohibitive favorite (listed at 1-to-5 overnight) in today's projected eight-horse field. Dreams Gallore -- second to Silverbulletday by two lengths in the Kentucky Oaks -- is the likely second choice.

The Black-Eyed Susan is at 1 1/8 miles -- a sixteenth of a mile shorter than the Preakness -- and offers $120,000 to the winner. Imaginary Lady's 10-year-old stakes record of 1: 48 1/5 for the distance may be in jeopardy with Silverbulletday breaking from the rail.

In the Oaks, she was not really extended while winning in a modest 1: 49 4/5, so Baffert gave her a solid workout Monday; she galloped out six furlongs in 1: 11 3/5 at Churchill Downs.

Dreams Gallore won the Grade III Honeybee at Oaklawn Park, beating The Happy Hopper handily, then finished three lengths behind her in the Grade II Fantasy (won by Excellent Meeting) over the same track.

Of the local hopes, Dick Small-trained Magic Broad appears the best. She has won twice at the distance, including the Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship.

Also on today's card is the Grade III, $100,000 Gallorette Handicap for older fillies and mares at 1 1/16 miles on the turf.

High-weighted and the probable bettors' choice is Pleasant Temper, trained by Elliott Walden. She has won three straight, including the Grade III Jenny Wiley Stakes at Keeneland, and will have Jerry Bailey in the irons.

Stevens on `Stephen'

After Baffert announced Silverbulletday's withdrawal, trainer Nick Zito tabbed Gary Stevens to ride Stephen Got Even. He replaces Chris McCarron, who injured a foot this week at Hollywood Park.

Stevens, Chris Antley and Pat Day will be among the jockeys signing autographs from 11: 30 a.m. to 12: 30 p.m. today on the first-floor grandstand at Pimlico.

Vicar waiting to scratch

Carl Nafzger, trainer of Vicar, repeated his vow not to run his colt from post 13. It would take several horses scratching -- and Vicar moving in several slots -- for him to let Vicar run.

Nafzger said he won't scratch Vicar until tomorrow morning.

Prado prepares on Valhol

Edgar Prado climbed aboard Valhol yesterday for the first time, jogging and galloping the gelding around the Pimlico track.

He said he had not yet discussed race strategy with Dallas Keen, the colt's trainer, who told reporters he thought 99-1 in the morning line was an insult.

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