Second helping again carries no sour taste for Walden

As in '98, Menifee trainer finds some satisfaction with runner-up favorite

124th Preakness

May 16, 1999|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

Minus the fierce bumping, the outside route and the furious finish of two weeks ago, Preakness favorite Menifee still finished second to Charismatic yesterday.

With no excuses and virtually no complaints.

"When you're second in Grade I's and first in Grade I's, your horse runs a great race," said trainer Elliott Walden, who arrived at Pimlico last week with the hottest horse and left with another near-victory.

The Preakness jinx?

For the second straight year, Walden saddled the favorite here. For the second straight year, he finished second. His 1998 runner-up was Victory Gallop.

That makes four straight Preakness favorites that failed to win at Old Hilltop. The last favorite to triumph was Timber Country in 1995, at odds of 1.9-to-1.

Menifee went off at 2-to-1 odds, out of a favorable No. 5 post. After navigating through early traffic, jockey Pat Day wound up close to the rail down the stretch on a track that appeared to favor the rail the past few days.

But he never had the gas to catch the hard-charging Charismatic.

"I was hopeful we'd come off the turn and the horse would accelerate the way he did in the [Kentucky] Derby," said Day, who narrowly missed overtaking Charismatic with a powerful finish in Louisville two weeks ago. "I came off the corner and called on him, [but] I didn't think at any time we were running fast enough to catch the winner.

"I think I might have pulled the trigger a little soon, and then in the far turn I got in a little tight and lost my position briefly. We got near the winner, but couldn't make up any ground in the last sixteenth."

Menifee, running eighth at the half-mile, finished a length and a half behind Charismatic. He barely held off Badge by a head.

For the second straight year, that left Walden oh-so-close, but 0-for-2 in the first two Triple Crown events.

"I felt like we had the best horse in the Derby," Walden said. "Today, we got beat a little easier. But we won't give up. He's a grand horse."

Walden was less than thrilled with the track, although he refused to blame the loss on the speed bias.

"It was rock hard on the fence," he said. "It should be even all the way across. There's no excuse for it. It's not right, [but] it didn't cost us the race."

When Walden rose to national prominence a year ago with Victory Gallop, he suffered an excruciating loss to Real Quiet in the Derby and a no-excuse defeat to Real Quiet in the Preakness.

Still, the strong hint of deja vu holds an element of promise for Walden. A year ago, Victory Gallop won the Belmont to ruin Real Quiet's Triple Crown bid. Now, Menifee may get the chance to spoil Charismatic's shot, if Walden chooses to run him in New York.

"I don't know," Walden said of his Belmont commitment. "I'll have to get him back and see how he is. I won't make a decision until next week."

Familiar finish

Charismatic and Menifee are the 10th pair of horses to finish first and second in the Kentucky Derby, then repeat the feat in the Preakness:

1937: War Admiral, Pompoon

1943: Count Fleet, Blue Swords

1958: Tim Tam, Lincoln Road

1969: Majestic Prince,

Arts and Letters

1973: Secretariat, Sham

1978: Affirmed, Alydar

1987: Alysheba, Bet Twice

1989: Sunday Silence, Easy Goer

1998: Real Quiet, Victory Gallop

1999: Charismatic, Menifee

Pub Date: 5/16/99

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