Rest assured, Orseno revels in victory

He makes all right moves in preparing `gifted horse'


May 21, 2000|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

The excitement filled Joe Orseno to such a level yesterday that he wouldn't require the usual mode of transportation to leave Baltimore. He could get there by himself.

"I definitely don't need an airplane to go home. This is amazing," he said.

20 Standing at a podium with his feet planted on the floor, Orseno already was in the clouds. And it will be awhile before he comes down.

The trainer of Red Bullet, Orseno watched his colt win yesterday's 125th Preakness and the latest bragging rights over favored Fusaichi Pegasus, who couldn't repeat his victory two weeks ago in the Kentucky Derby.

Red Bullet had no shot at the Triple Crown, having skipped the Derby after losing to Fusaichi Pegasus five weeks ago at the Wood Memorial in New York. Orseno knew Red Bullet needed the recovery time. Though it didn't come with any guarantees, the decision paid off handsomely.

"That can be tricky," he said. "During that time, I had to accomplish two things: Let the horse go through his growth spurt that he wanted to and get him fit enough to compete in the second leg of the Triple Crown. It was a little tricky, but my horse handled everything that I asked him to do. There were no setbacks. He's truly a gifted horse."

He was a much thinner one after the Wood Memorial, dropping 16 pounds in that race after losing none in the Gotham on March 19.

"That told me the race did take a little out of him," Orseno said. "In the five weeks, he gained back the 16 pounds plus 10 extra ones."

Most of the pre-race focus fell upon the other gifted entry, Fusaichi Pegasus, the seemingly unbeatable colt with the quirky disposition and cautious trainer. Orseno listened to all the hype surrounding the favorite. His confidence, on full display for everyone who drew close, never wavered.

"I truly believed all week that we'd win," Orseno said. "He's a good horse, `Pegasus,' but I had a good horse, also. I just wanted a chance and opportunity to prove it."

Orseno had wanted Red Bullet, ridden by Jerry Bailey, to stay back going into the first turn. But not that far back. Not in sixth place, with only two horses behind him.

"Where he was, I thought that was OK," Orseno said. "I obviously had my eye on Fusaichi Pegasus and he didn't get that far away from us. I thought, `If we stay on his tail, we'll have a good closing kick and we'll just see if we're better in the lane.' "

Orseno and owner Frank Stronach had decided to examine some of the earlier races before determining a strategy. That didn't prove very helpful.

"We talked about it most of the day," said Orseno, the main trainer for Stronach Stable. "We'd say, `Let's watch this race.' Then, `Well, we'll wait for one more race.' The bottom line is, when we got down there, you know what we told Jerry? `Good luck.'

"We out-thought ourselves, and at that point we said, `You know, if we tell him anything, we're just going to confuse him.' "

So what about the Belmont Stakes and a possible rubber match with Fusaichi Pegasus?

"Let's look at the horse for a few days and let me make a decision. If the horse comes out of it great and feels up to it, we'll probably run him back in three weeks. But I wouldn't say that's for sure right now. I'm beating around the bush because I really don't have an answer. The horse will tell me what to do."

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