The trainer of Fusaichi Pegasus said yesterday that he expects the Kentucky Derby winner to run in the Preakness barring unforeseen setbacks. Neil Drysdale also said he plans a "reconnaissance mission" this weekend to learn what awaits his colt in Baltimore.
The California-based Drysdale said he hadn't run a horse at Pimlico in so long that he wanted to check out the stables, saddling area, track surface and everything involved "to put the horse in the best environment."
One of the nation's most meticulous, cautious and tight-lipped trainers, Drysdale wouldn't say exactly when he might pop in at Pimlico. Nor would he say when Fusaichi Pegasus might execute his final serious workouts at Churchill Downs, where he's remained since winning the Derby last Saturday.
But Drysdale said he intended on running Fusaichi Pegasus in the Preakness as long as he trained well and remained bright.
The colt would likely travel to Baltimore on Wednesday. The trainer had said earlier that the colt was merely "possible" for the Preakness.
However, he added, "if to my knowledge the horse is not at his best, then he won't race."
After his impressive victory in the Derby, Fusaichi Pegasus would be perhaps the heaviest favorite in the Preakness since Spectacular Bid in 1979. The Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown, will take place May 20 at Pimlico.
Fusaichi Pegasus trotted two miles yesterday at Churchill Downs, Drysdale said
"He was nice and bright and reaching right out," Drysdale said. "I think he's coming along pretty well."
Seven horses seem intent on challenging Fusaichi Pegasus as he attempts to become the 12th Triple Crown winner. Two more arrived yesterday at Pimlico: High Yield, 15th in the Derby, and Red Bullet, second in the Wood Memorial Stakes.
That brings to three the Preakness horses settled in at Pimlico's stakes barn. Hal's Hope, 16th in the Derby, was the first to arrive Wednesday.
After a flight from Louisville and ride from the Baltimore-Washington International Airport, High Yield stepped off a van about 10a.m. with six other stakes horses trained by D. Wayne Lukas. High Yield is the only one entered in the Preakness.
Lukas said he still doesn't understand why High Yield ran so poorly in the Derby. The speedy colt has run only two clunkers in his 13-race career, and both occurred at Churchill Downs.
"I never led a horse over there as confident that I could win the Derby," Lukas said. "I really don't know what happened. I hate to think it was the racetrack. ... Sometimes these horses are hard to figure out.`
Red Bullet, the bettors' probable second choice in the Preakness, arrived at Pimlico about 5 p.m. after a van ride from Belmont Park. Red Bullet hasn't raced since finishing second behind Fusaichi Pegasus in the Wood Memorial Stakes.
Red Bullet's trainer Joe Orseno said he believes the five-week layoff for his colt might be beneficial.
"I'm glad we're training into the race and doing it our way," Orseno said. "We're going into the Preakness at our best."
In interviews yesterday, the trainers Bob Baffert, Marty Jones and John Kimmel said their horses were now likely for the Preakness.
Baffert trains Captain Steve, eighth in the Kentucky Derby. He said his colt might have finished fourth if Wheelaway hadn't slammed into him down the stretch.
The Churchill Downs' stewards slapped Wheelaway's jockey Richard Migliore with a five-day suspension for careless riding.
Baffert said he will breeze Captain Steve Monday at Churchill Downs and then make a final decision about running in the Preakness. But now, he said, Captain Steve's traveling to Baltimore for the Preakness is "a very good possibility."
Kimmel said that Wheelaway, fifth in the Derby, "hasn't even missed a beat, so we'll probably be coming" to the Preakness. The morning after the Derby, Kimmel said he'd probably skip the race and prepare Wheelaway for the Belmont.
Of Fusaichi Pegasus, Kimmel said: "Obviously he's the cream of the 3-year-old crop. But I've always said if you don't show up, you can't win."
A surprise entrant into the Preakness fray is Hugh Hefner, a California-bred son of Bertrando trained by Jones, who's based in Hollywood Park. The colt is named for the founder of Playboy magazine.
After finishing 13th out of 14 at odds of 50-1 in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Hugh Hefner has finished second this year in two stakes for California-breds.
Jones said he'd send Hugh Hefner to Pimlico Tuesday despite the presence of Fusaichi Pegasus."If that horse runs his race," Jones said, "we're all running for second money."
Todd Pletcher, trainer of four horses in the Derby, said that two remain possible for the Preakness: Impeachment and More Than Ready, third and fourth, respectively, in the Derby. Pletcher said he'd decide early next week after observing the pair train at Belmont Park.
What: Pimlico Special
Where: Pimlico Race Course
Post time: 5:40 p.m.
TV: Ch.45, 5 p.m.
Favorite: Lemon Drop Kid
A look at the Preakness field
Horse Trainer Last race
Captain Steve..Bob Baffert..8th, Kentucky Derby
Fusaichi Pegasus..Neil Drysdale..1st, Kentucky Derby
Hal's Hope..Harold J. Rose..16th, Kentucky Derby
High Yield..D. Wayne Lukas..15th, Kentucky Derby
Hugh Hefner..Marty Jones..2nd, Snow Chief Stakes
Red Bullet..Joe Orseno..2nd, Wood Memorial
Snuck In..Steve Asmussen..2nd Arkansas Derby
Wheelaway..John Kimmel..5th, Kentucky Derby
Impeachment..Todd Pletcher..3rd Kentucky Derby
More Than Ready..Todd Pletcher..4th, Kentucky Derby