Field of 9 `great' for De Francis

Jockey Club executive says Barbaro might have put off some horses

The Preakness


Joe De Francis, the Maryland Jockey Club's chief executive officer, was all smiles at the Preakness Stakes draw yesterday, not at all put off by suggestions made during the ESPN broadcast that poor sportsmanship was being shown by the majority of trainers who chose not to bring their Kentucky Derby horses to the Preakness.

"I think the problem was that Barbaro was so dominant trainers didn't want to face him again," De Francis said. "It's always a mixed blessing - or a double-edged sword - for a horse to win the Derby as easily as he did. The positive is that it generates excitement and enthusiasm for the Triple Crown among a lot of average spectators and the negative is it's very much tougher to convince the 19 trainers behind him to take him on in the Preakness.

"If you can only get two of them, the morning line favorite [Brother Derek] and the betting favorite [Sweetnorthernsaint] are the two you want."

Trainer Dan Hendricks, who trains Brother Derek, noted there are many other rich races available for trainers to run for.

"These days, you have to have a longer look on the career of your horse," Hendricks said. "There are more races for more money all over the place. I could win the Preakness and not go to the Belmont. Now, it's all based on your horse."

Perhaps, but De Francis said there is no other race with the allure of the Triple Crown Series and if trainers felt they had a horse capable of winning the Preakness they'd be here.

As it is, he said, everything is relative.

"If I had thought we were going to have a 12-horse field and ended up with nine, I'd be disappointed," he said. "But we thought we were going to have six, so nine is great. And it's a good quality field."

Ah Gee

Trainer King Leatherbury decided not to enter his colt Ah Day in the Preakness, choosing instead to place him in the less demanding Sir Barton Stakes on the Preakness Stakes' undercard.

"We're going to go in the easier spot," Leatherbury said.

Ah Day would have had to have been supplemented to the Preakness for a $100,000 fee and the Malibu Moon Partnership, which owns the horse, decided not to put up the money.

Friday specials

Trainer Nick Zito will saddle the only Grade I stakes winner in the Grade II $200,000 Allaire duPont Breeders' Cup Distaff Stakes tomorrow when he throws the saddle on Gold, who is looking to be in the money for the first time in four starts since winning the Grade I Gazelle at Belmont Park last fall.

Also looking to get back in the winner's circle will be Celestial Legend, a multiple stakes winner who was undefeated in six races before finishing second in the Grade III Cicada at Aqueduct in March. She'll run in the $125,000 Adena Stallions' Miss Preakness Stakes, a six-furlong sprint for 3-year-old fillies.

Meanwhile, the $75,000 The Very One features a competitive 13-horse field over a five-furlong turf course.

Also tomorrow, Invasor, the 2005 Uruguayan Horse of the Year, takes on a field of older horses for the first time when he makes his North American debut in the Grade I $500,000 Pimlico Special. To win, Invasor will have to beat 2003 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide and Harlington, a son of Unbridled out of Serena's Song, who has won five of six starts.

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