Favorite shifts gears like few other horses

Long shots to set pace, but Derby winner will make his move to front

How the expert sees it

May 20, 2000|By Steve Davidowitz | Steve Davidowitz,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

If you saw Fusaichi Pegasus' Kentucky Derby victory, you do not a Ph.D in handicapping to know that he is better than the horses he is competing against.

Ordinary horses do not make such smooth, gear-switching moves as "Fusaichi" made in the Derby. Ordinary horses do not resemble sports cars. Indeed, it was a thing of beauty to see jockey Kent Desormeaux guide this well-balanced colt inside of traffic on the backstretch and shift into a faster gear when he swung outside for his winning bid at the top of the stretch.

In my handicapping career, I have seen few 3-year-olds who possess this colt's talent, or potential to improve: Secretariat, Seattle Slew, Affirmed, Damascus, Spectacular Bid, Dr. Fager, Majestic Prince, Canonero II, Alydar, Sunday Silence, Easy Goer and Arts and Letters are the only 3-year-olds who come to mind. But, while I believe Fusaichi Pegasus will prove that he belongs on that list, it should be noted that only three - the first three - swept through the Triple Crown series. The three-race series is never won easily.

Fortunately, this Preakness seems to set up well for "Fusaichi." Long shot Hugh Hefner and the Derby pace-setter, Hal's Hope, will be in front from the start, with slow-breaking stretch-runner Impeachment trailing and all the rest, including "Fusaichi," bunched up a few lengths behind the front-runners.

Newcomer Red Bullet, judiciously kept out of the Kentucky Derby after running second to "Fusaichi" in the Wood Memorial, has hinted at a vastly improved performance, but he will have to out-kick "Fusaichi" to beat him, a difficult assignment. The same probably is true for another newcomer, Snuck In, who was a moderate second in the Arkansas Derby without flashing anything close to "Fusaichi's" talent.

High Yield did not run a step in the Kentucky Derby, but D.Wayne Lukas-trained colts often reverse such poor Derby efforts with peak performances in the Preakness.

Captain Steve ran well enough for a mile in the Derby before he was severely bothered. This suggests he might be in the Preakness picture for second or third. Impeachment, who needs a major miscue by the favorite and a pace meltdown to upset, did close ground in the paceless Arkansas Derby before his third-place flurry in Louisville and might sneak into the trifecta again.

On his plus side, "Fusaichi" was so lightly trained for the Derby by patient Neil Drysdale that he could be ready for another leap forward in form, a scary thought if you are trying to beat him.

Will "Fusaichi" need to call upon some of his untapped power to get the job done? I surely hope so. Just imagine what it might look like to see him downshift into one of his faster gears to overcome a stiff challenge.

The pick is Fusaichi Pegasus to win the 125th Preakness with a strong move from closer to the pace on the final turn. And I will play two exactas, using Captain Steve and High Yield in the second slot. At $2 units, this ticket will cost $4.

Steve Davidowitz is a free-lance writer and handicapper.

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