`Bullet,' `Pegasus' look to Belmont

Runner-up more eager than Preakness victor

May 22, 2000|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

The winner of the Kentucky Derby and the winner of the Preakness may - or may not - meet again June10 in the Belmont Stakes at Belmont Park.

The trainers of Red Bullet, who won Saturday's Preakness, and Fusaichi Pegasus, winner of the Derby, said yesterday that their colts would run in the Belmont only if they're thriving. Otherwise, they said, they'll wait for 3-year-old stakes later in the year.`This horse was perfect for this race," said Joe Orseno, trainer of Red Bullet, referring to the Preakness. "We wouldn't want to run him in any other race until he's perfect again."

Speaking outside the stakes barn at Pimlico in the morning drizzle, he said Red Bullet is 50-50 for the Belmont. Behind him an employee walked Red Bullet under the shedrow.

On Saturday, the handsome son of Unbridled, chestnut with a striking white blaze, devoured the eight-horse Preakness field with a 3 3/4 -length victory. Red Bullet had skipped the Derby, which Fusaichi Pegasus had won with an equally impressive performance.

As a result of his Derby victory, his fifth in a row, Fusaichi Pegasus raced Saturday as the 1-5 Preakness favorite. He matched Riva Ridge in 1972 as the lowest-priced favorite to lose any of the 125 Preaknesses.

Neil Drysdale, trainer of Fusaichi Pegasus, said by telephone from Hollywood Park that his colt had apparently emerged from the Preakness "quite happy and alert. In fact, he was playing after the race in the receiving barn."

Drysdale flew back to California afterward. He said Fusaichi Pegasus would travel to Aqueduct today to begin preparing for the Belmont.

Asked whether he looked forward to a rematch with Red Bullet, Drysdale said: "I'm just looking forward to running in the Belmont. I think that this horse will be quite suited for the Belmont."

Drysdale seemed more enthusiastic about the Belmont than he had been about the Preakness. He said that was because of the time between races - the more favorable three weeks between the Preakness and Belmont vs. the more restrictive two weeks between the Derby and Preakness.

Drysdale asserted again that Fusaichi Pegasus did not care for the "greasy" track at Pimlico."He couldn't handle the track so he didn't extend himself," the trainer said. "I think he was very courageous to get up for second, even to keep going."

The Preakness was the second time Red Bullet and Fusaichi Pegasus have met - both times on a wet track. In the Wood Memorial Stakes April 15 at Aqueduct, the track was, in Drysdale's words, "wet-fast." Fusaichi Pegasus won that first meeting by 4 1/2 lengths.

Orseno, Red Bullet's trainer, differs with Drysdale on the condition of the track for the Wood."The track that day was equally or even a little more greasy," Orseno said. "And we didn't use that as an excuse."

As for a rematch with Fusaichi Pegasus, Orseno said: "Hopefully the next time the track will be dry, and everybody will get to run their race."

Red Bullet is the first horse since Deputed Testamony in 1983 to win the Preakness after skipping the Belmont. Since then 71 non-Derby starters have attempted the Preakness and failed.

Orseno said the reason for that is that most horses skip the Derby because they don't belong. Then they try the Preakness hoping to catch a tired bunch of Derby horses."My horse had the talent to be in Kentucky," Orseno said. "We just chose not to go there with him."

Frank Stronach, who owns Red Bullet, made that decision to give the lightly raced colt more time to mature for the Preakness.

Orseno said his and Stronach's goal is for Red Bullet to be voted 3-year-old champion at the end of the year. Their midsummer goal will be the Travers Stakes at Saratoga, Orseno said.

D. Wayne Lukas, trainer of High Yield, who finished a distant seventh in the Preakness, said the media and racing world had been too quick to proclaim Fusaichi Pegasus as the sport's next superstar."I think everybody was so hungry to see it happen," Lukas said. "I said all week, `Wait a minute here. This is not Secretariat or Spectacular Bid.' His Derby win was a good, solid performance, that's all."

Lukas said he believes the Kentucky Derby, which appeared so effortless for Fusaichi Pegasus, was probably more demanding than most observers had thought. Plus, he said, the condition of the Pimlico surface for the Preakness, although good and safe, was tiring."The Derby is never a walk in the park," Lukas said. "You come back in two weeks on a demanding racetrack, and you're going to have some unexpected things happen."

NOTES: Red Bullet and Impeachment were vanned back to their home base yesterday at Belmont Park. High Yield and Lukas' other stakes horses were flown to Churchill Downs. Captain Steve and Snuck In will be flown to Churchill Downs tomorrow, and Hugh Hefner will continue on the flight to California. . . . Beginning Wednesday, post times at Pimlico will be 2:05 p.m. during the week but will remain 1:05 p.m. on weekends and holidays. The Pimlico meet runs through June18.

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