Fusaichi Pegasus gets off to uncomfortable start on Pimlico track

Hesitant workout downplayed by Drysdale

Pompeyo wins Aitcheson

Notebook

125th Preakness

May 19, 2000|By Tom Keyser and Kent Baker | Tom Keyser and Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

On his first morning on the track at Pimlico, Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus showed why bettors shouldn't assume he is a shoo-in for greatness in the Preakness Stakes.

After stepping onto the track about 6 a.m., he halted nine times during his trot around the oval. Each time he refused briefly to budge. Once, his exercise rider Andy Durnin slapped him on the side with his hand to get him moving.

Neil Drysdale, the colt's trainer, downplayed the antics."He's just looking at everything," he said.

Then, shortly before 1 p.m., Drysdale sent Fusaichi Pegasus to Pimlico's indoor paddock with two handlers. The idea was to let the colt get a look at the claustrophobic area where he'll be saddled before the Preakness.

As Fusaichi Pegasus walked around the paddock, sweat dripped off his stomach like leaks from a faucet. Sweat lathered between his hind legs resembling whipped cream.

The longer he walked the less he sweated - a good sign. But sweat on a horse is a sign of stress.

Drysdale, again, downplayed it."That's just him," he said.

Meanwhile, Drysdale heightened the strict security surrounding Fusaichi Pegasus in the barn area on the remote, eastern side of Pimlico. Morning visitors were escorted by Maryland Jockey Club security workers to designated viewing areas far from the colt's stall. Afternoon visitors were barred altogether.

After his morning trot around the track, Drysdale's workers performed the very unusual task of bathing the horse in his stall. Usually, the morning bath presents photographers pleasing photo opportunities.

So far here at Pimlico, Drysdale has limited access to Fusaichi Pegasus as much as possible. He downplays that, too, repeating what he has said many times already, that the horse needs his rest and enjoys the peace and quiet.

Perhaps. But yesterday, Fusaichi Pegasus did not look like a happy horse.

Pompeyo wins again

Odds-on favorite Pompeyo took the second step toward the steeplechase Triple Crown by winning the Grade I, $100,000 Joe Aitcheson Stakes by 1 3/4 lengths over long shot Banjo Man yesterday.

Ridden again by Gus Brown, the Chilean-bred Pompeyo broke the track record for the seldom-run distance of 2 1/8 miles on the turf, finishing in 3:522/5.

He can complete the trifecta by winning the Meadowbrook Stakes at Belmont Park on June 8 after first prevailing in the Hardscuffle at Churchill Downs."I was a little concerned at first because there was no speed [thanks to the scratch of Field Day] and I thought Pompeyo might be too strong early," said winning trainer Sanna Neilson. "But I knew everything was OK when Gus got himto relax around the first turn."This is a big strong horse who has a lot of class and he's a natural jumper. He enjoys it."

Pompeyo was originally trained Drysdale, the conditioner of Fusaichi Pegasus, who is seeking the original Triple Crown."Luckily, he's easy to handle ont he track unlike in the morning," said Brown. "He loves the jumping and knows he's good at it."

Lucky Livi good, too

In the $100,000 Miss Preakness Stakes, Lucky Livi shipped in from New York, pulled away in the final eighth of a mile for an impressive victory.

The winner stalked pacesetter Big Bambu for four furlongs, then swept away to hand odds-on choice Swept Away only her third defeat in seven starts. Swept Away was third, the first time she has been worse than second."She's faced the best all winter," trainer Todd Pletcher said of Lucky Livi. "Her last race out really set her up for this. Dropping back to six furlongs [from seven] was really in her favor."

Swept Away never grabbed hold of the track and could not produce a rally."I was surprised that I was tracking the one horse instead of swept away," said victorious jockey Rick Wilson. "But she seemed to be having trouble with the race track, so I just measured the horse in front of me and let my horse do the rest of the work."

McKay honored

Maryland Jockey Club president Joe De Francis expressed "deep gratitude" to Jim McKay for his service to the racing industry at yesterday's Alibi Breakfast.

McKay will be doing his final Preakness-at least for a while-when the track's contract with ABC-TV expires after this year.

Awards were presented to Rick Snider of the Washington Times (David F. Woods Memorial), long-time journalist and historian Joe Kelly and WJZ-TV's Marty Bass (Old Hilltop) and Chick Lang of WBAL Radio (Special Award of Merit).

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas was made the honorary postmaster of this year's race and quipped: "Well, it finally happened. My mom said if you don't straighten up, you're going to be on the post office wall."

Fasig-Tipton sale set

The annual Fasig-Tipton Midlantic sale of 2-year-olds in training will be conducted at Timonium on Monday and Tuesday, beginning at 11 a.m. each day.

Also at Timonium, an auction of Eddie Blind's racing memorabilia will be held Sunday at 5 p.m. following a preview at noon.

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