`Real deal' War Emblem travels well

Preakness notebook

Horse Racing

May 16, 2002|By Tom Keyser and Kent Baker | Tom Keyser and Kent Baker,SUN STAFF

Kentucky Derby winner War Emblem led a procession yesterday of six horses from Kentucky who arrived at Pimlico for the 127th Preakness Stakes.

His trainer, Bob Baffert, said the colt seemed unaffected by his first airplane ride. Baffert and his assistant, Jim Barnes, walked him under the shedrow at the stakes barn before leading him into his stall.

"I feel really good about this horse," Baffert said. "He's the real deal. He's like a stealth bomber - black, fast and dangerous."

War Emblem will not reside in the stall traditionally reserved for the Derby winner. Baffert selected a nearby stall in which the aggressive colt will have more room between himself and neighboring horses.

"He's just tough, but he's getting better," Baffert said. "I can go up and rub the top of his head. I couldn't do that before.

"Still, he'll try to take a whack out of anybody who walks by. He's going to nail somebody. That's his way of playing."

Baffert said War Emblem, whom he began training five weeks ago, is blossoming at the right time.

"He's just getting better and better," the trainer said. "I'm just enjoying the ride. He's actually doing better now than he was before the Derby."

Also arriving from Kentucky were Proud Citizen (second in the Derby), Harlan's Holiday (seventh in the Derby) and three horses who skipped the Derby: Booklet, Easyfromthegitgo and Table Limit.

Eleven of the 13 Preakness horses have settled in at Pimlico. Magic Weisner, the local favorite, remains at Laurel Park, and Medaglia d'Oro, fourth in the Derby, remains at Belmont Park. Both will van to Pimlico the morning of the Preakness.

Aitcheson on card

The steeplechase set receives its Preakness Week moment tomorrow when Pimlico hosts the Grade I, $100,000 Joe Aitcheson Stakes, the second leg of the sport's Triple Crown.

Eleven horses are scheduled to run and jump, led by unbeaten McDynamo, who won the first in the series, the Hard Scuffle Stakes at Churchill Downs, on May 2 with a powerful effort.

The race was moved back a day to the Black-Eyed Susan Stakes card to assure better handle and more exposure.

Maryland will be well represented in the race with Ethical Actions and Sharp Face (who sold for $130,000 as a yearling), both trained by Jack Fisher; Anofferucantrefuse and Mr. Fater, prepared by Tom Voss, and Geaux Beau, trained by Ricky Hendriks.

McDynamo is another Sanna Neilson-trained horse seeking the Triple Crown. Stablemate Pompeyo won two legs in 2000 and Praise The Prince took two last year.

His competition also includes two former classy horses in flat racing, Dixie's Crown and Understood, both turfers.

$150,000 Distaff

Also on an attractive card tomorrow will be the Grade III, $150,000 Pimlico Breeders' Cup Distaff, a handicap for 3-year-old females at 1 1/16 miles.

The race appears wide open, although there is a distinctive local flavor, with Michael Dickinson-trained Fleet Renee, a Seattle Slew filly, to be ridden by Jerry Bailey.

Fleet Renee has already captured two Grade I tests, including the Mother Goose at Belmont Park two races ago.

Her primary competition could come from Summer Colony, winner of six straight before finishing second in the Grade II Rampart Handicap on March 2 at Gulfstream Park. She has not raced since and figures to be very fresh.

The fourth stakes tomorrow will be the $75,000 Very One, a five-furlong turf dash for older females. The big name in that one will be Flying Birdie, a winner in seven of her last eight and second in the other race.

Others with solid credentials are Maypole Dance, Merry Princess and Cantkeepfromsingin.

Pimlico security tightened

The Maryland Jockey Club has joined law enforcement and other government agencies to develop a series of security procedures for Black-Eyed Susan Day tomorrow and the 127th Preakness Stakes on Saturday. Included are:

All bags, purses and containers will be inspected at all public entrances to Pimlico.

Coolers, backpacks and thermoses will be permitted in the infield, where procedures will be less strict than in the grandstand. They will also be allowed in the new Turfside Terrace infield seating area.

Beverages and food items that are brought into the grandstand/clubhouse facility must be carried in clear plastic bags or clear, see-through plastic containers no larger than 18 inches by 18 inches. Coolers, backpacks and thermoses will be banned in the grandstand and clubhouse.

Ice at discount prices and foam coolers will be on sale.

Uniformed security personnel will be on duty throughout the track.

On Preakness Day, gates will open at 8 a.m., with first post at 10:30 a.m. for the 13-race card.

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