`Lemon Drop' takes shot at Special field

'99 Belmont winner faces test Saturday

May 11, 2000|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

Scotty Schulhofer, the Hall of Fame trainer, has said for more than a year that Lemon Drop Kid is the best horse he's ever trained. If that's the case, now's the time for the real Lemon Drop to show up.

The 4-year-old winner of last year's Belmont and Travers Stakes is the tepid morning-line favorite in the Pimlico Special on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course. He heads a stellar field of eight that is perhaps the strongest collection of older horses assembled for one race this year.

"Of what's around, it's about as good as you can put together," Schulhofer said.

Early retirement and injuries always take their toll on the older division of thoroughbreds racing in this country. That's the case this year, too, as standouts such as Stephen Got Even and General Challenge recover from injury or illness.

But nearly every other top horse will line up for the Pimlico Special, scheduled for 5:40 p.m. With a $750,000 purse and a GradeI status, it is not only one of Maryland's most significant sporting events but also one of the country's major races.

In the Pimlico Special, Lemon Drop Kid will break from post No. 4 and face the likes of Cat Thief, Budroyale and Golden Missile, the first three finishers in the Breeders' Cup Classic; Almutawakel, winner of last year's Dubai World Cup, and the up-and-coming K One King, impressive winner of last month's Oaklawn Handicap.

The race also has attracted some of the top jockeys in the country as well, including Pat Day, Jorge Chavez, John Velazquez, Mike Smith, Alex Solis and Kent Desormeaux.

Lemon Drop Kid, the 3-1 program favorite, has finished first in both races this year. But in the first race, the Widener Handicap at Gulfstream Park, he was disqualified to fourth (last) after the stewards ruled he bumped another horse. In the second, an allowance race at Aqueduct, he barely managed a dead heat against the lightly regarded End of the Road.

That dead heat prompted Schulhofer and Lemon Drop Kid's owners Jinny Vance and Laddie Dance to dismiss jockey Jose Santos and hire the former Maryland star Edgar Prado. Vance and Dance own Taylor's Purchase Farm in Sparks.

Prado has not ridden the horse in a race, but he has worked him three times in the mornings.

Yesterday, Prado breezed Lemon Drop Kid a half-mile in 481/5 seconds at Pimlico before flying to New York to ride at Belmont Park.

Schulhofer said Lemon Drop is doing better than ever.

"He's the soundest, the best horse I've ever had," he said.

Schulhofer has raved about Lemon Drop Kid's talent for more than a year. When he says this is the best horse he'd trained, he's paying a large compliment because Schulhofer has handled four Eclipse-award winners (Mac Diarmida, Smile, Fly So Free and Rubiano) as well as the Belmont winner Colonial Affair.

NOTES: The first horse for the Preakness Stakes on May 20 arrived in Baltimore about 5 a.m. yesterday when a van hauling Hal's Hope pulled up to the stakes barn at Pimlico.

Hal's Hope finished 16th in the Kentucky Derby after fading to eighth in the Blue Grass Stakes. The colt's trainer-breeder-owner, 88-year-old Harold J. Rose, said he hopes his horse regains the form with which he won the Florida Derby in March at Gulfstream Park.

"At the shorter distance, if he's not challenged, he might be able to go all the way," Rose said of his front-running colt.

The Kentucky Derby is 11/4 miles. The Preakness is 1 3/16 miles.

Two more Preakness horses are due in today: High Yield, 15th in the Derby, and Red Bullet, second in the Wood Memorial Stakes. Fusaichi Pegasus, the Derby winner, is not expected at Pimlico until the Wednesday before the Preakness. ... In partnership with the Maryland Jockey Club and Maryland Tourism Development Board, the Smithsonian Associates will conduct an evening for celebrating the 125th Preakness from 6:30 to 9 p.m., Thursday, May 18, at the Ronald Reagan Building in Washington.

Trainers Bob Baffert, Bill Boniface and D. Wayne Lukas, jockeys Jerry Bailey and Kent Desormeaux, and the owners Cot Campbell and John Ed Anthony are scheduled to appear. For tickets call 202-357-3030.

Field for Pimlico Special

PP Horse Trainer Jockey Last race Odds

1 Allen's Oop..Dallas Keen..Willie Martinez..6th, Oaklawn Handicap..10-1

2 Pleasant Breeze..H. James Bond..Jose Chavez..4th, Oaklawn Handicap..20-1

3 K One King..Akiko Gothard..Mike Smith..1st, Oaklawn Handicap..4-1

4 Lemon Drop Kid..Scotty Schulhofer..Edgar Prado..1st, Belmont allowance..3-1

5 Cat Thief..D. Wayne Lukas..Pat Day..3rd, Oaklawn Handicap..7-2

6 Golden Missile..Joe Orseno..Kent Desormeaux..2nd, Westchester Handicap..8-1

7 Budroyale..Ted West..Alex Solis..5th, Oaklawn Handicap..9-2

8 Almutawakel..Mark Hennig..John Velazquez..2nd, Oaklawn Handicap..6-1

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