Migliore nearly sneaks up on victory

Riding horse he'd beaten 4 weeks ago, jockey leads 45-1 `Magic' to runner-up

May 19, 2002|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,SUN STAFF

The longer Richard Migliore rode, the more he thought he could make history.

Aboard the 45-1 long shot Magic Weisner, Migliore staged a dramatic stretch run that left him second only to winner War Emblem - by less than a length - in yesterday's 127th Preakness.

With a little more track in the 1 3/16-mile race, Migliore and his Maryland colt might have delivered some indescribable Preakness magic.

"I would have been happy to get [owner and trainer Nancy Alberts] a check," Migliore said after the pulsating finish. "He was stepping up to a new level.

"I went from ecstatic at getting fourth, then moving into third and into second, to ... `I'm going to get there and win this thing.' But I came up three-quarters of a length short. I was disappointed I didn't quite finish the job. [But] if someone had told me this morning I'd be second in the Preakness, I would've signed the papers."

There were plenty of twists, turns and pratfalls in Migliore's dash to the spotlight.

Four weeks ago, riding Smoked Em in the Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico, he beat Magic Weisner. That loss by Magic Weisner ultimately led Alberts to remove jockey Phil Teator.

Two weeks ago, Migliore himself got bumped off a Kentucky Derby ride on Windward Passage when trainer Bob Baffert entered Danthebluegrassman 15 minutes before the draw. Worse yet, Danthebluegrassman was scratched before the race.

Only on Wednesday night did Migliore pick up the mount on Magic Weisner. "I was at my son's Little League game and I got the call," he said.

Migliore, 38, handled yesterday's success with the same aplomb he applied to the disappointment of missing the Derby. He finished fifth in the Derby two years ago aboard Wheelaway (and improved that to fourth in the Belmont).

"Those disappointments are part of the game," he said of getting bumped at Churchill Downs. "I don't dwell on it. I keep striving to do good. The day after, I was over that."

Migliore, who lives in Floral Park, N.Y., also was moved to defend Teator's ride in the Tesio. That, he said, came down to a track bias and his own horse, Smoked Em.

"Phil Teator is an excellent young rider," Migliore said. "I don't think he did anything wrong in that race. I don't think it was the fault of Phil's."

Nevertheless, Migliore's ride on Magic Weisner yesterday was stunning. He broke from the No. 2 post in 10th place and dropped to 11th at the quarter mile. But he tucked in behind USS Tinosa and Harlan's Holiday around the first turn and was saving ground.

"I think if he would have changed leads going into the backstretch and going into the stretch a little bit better than he did, we would have caught the winner," Migliore said.

As it was, Magic Weisner was in seventh at the three-quarter pole - right behind Harlan's Holiday - and then made his move. Fourth coming into the stretch, he powered past Harlan's Holiday and D. Wayne Lukas' Proud Citizen, who had finished second in the Derby.

"At the sixteenth pole, I thought I had a good shot," Migliore said. "I thought [War Emblem] was struggling and my horse was running. But when we got to the wire, [War Emblem] took off again."

Alberts was noncommittal afterward about entering the Belmont, but Migliore left no doubt about how he felt.

"Miss Alberts did an outstanding job with this horse, and I was grateful she had the confidence in me to let me ride him," Migliore said. "You can never count this horse out because he's a gamer. ... He doesn't back up to anybody."

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