- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 17, 2000

BALTIMORE Reputations are created in the Kentucky Derby, but they are proved in the Preakness Stakes.

Fusaichi Pegasus became the first favorite in 22 years to win the Derby two weeks ago, and many give him a strong chance to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978. In winning the Derby, Fusaichi Pegasus also chased off 14 of his Churchill Downs rivals from entering Saturday's running of the 125th Preakness.

However, a field of seven horses will test him at Pimlico Race Course, where the tight turns and the shorter (1 3/16 miles) distance have put an early end to many bids for the Triple Crown.

"He's still got to come in here to do it," High Yield trainer D. Wayne Lukas said. "It's a new place, new surroundings, new crowd. He's not a windup toy. He's a deserving favorite. We'll just try to upset him."

Said Red Bullet trainer Joe Orseno: "I respect Fusaichi Pegasus, but I'm not going to say he's not beatable."

Derby losers Impeachment (third place), Captain Steve (seventh), High Yield (15th) and Hal's Hope (16th) will enter the Preakness. Red Bullet, Hugh Hefner and Snuck In also are expected to enter even though a horse that didn't run in the Derby hasn't won the Preakness since 1983.

But there is no doubt who will be the marquee attraction when 100,000 spectators overflow Old Hilltop on Saturday.

At least 60 Japanese photographers are expected to chronicle Fusaichi Pegasus, owned by Japanese entrepreneur Fusao Sekiguchi. Trainer Neil Drysdale will seclude the colt far from the traditional stakes barn to diminish attention when he arrives today from Louisville.

That may be difficult; the Preakness seemingly is a one-horse race.

After losing his debut as a 2-year-old by a neck, Fusaichi Pegasus has won five straight races and never has trailed in the stretch. The two-length Derby victory was deceiving because jockey Kent Desormeaux didn't even use his whip in the final eighth-mile. It was the seventh-fastest Derby time despite a poor start by Fusaichi Pegasus.

"The winning margin is not as important as people make it out," Drysdale said. "When you see people slashing [when firmly ahead] it's absurd."

Fusaichi Pegasus faces the smallest Preakness field since 1991, but Drysdale said a small field isn't always beneficial.

"The reduced field does limit [traffic] problems," he said. "But sometimes in a five-horse field the jockeys are so busy watching each other they get confused."

The challengers have their reasons for trying Fusaichi Pegasus again. Lukas has won five Preaknesses; his Tabasco Cat (1994) and Tank's Prospect (1985) rebounded from seventh-place Derby finishes and Timber Country (1995) from a third to win.

Orseno is seeking his second big upset in a week; his Golden Missile took the Pimlico Special on Saturday as the fourth choice. Red Bullet won his first three races before finishing second to Fusaichi Pegasus in the Wood Memorial on April 15 at Aqueduct. Orseno bypassed the Derby for a better chance at redemption in the Preakness, where the smaller field and shorter distance should improve Red Bullet's chances.

"If my horse pops up to beat him, then it's a lot of attention to [owner Frank Stronach] and our breeding program," Orseno said. "It may skyrocket us to the No. 1 breeder in the country."

High Yield and Hal's Hope both figure to run better than their disappointing Derby finishes. High Yield never contended after breaking from the No. 17 post position. Hal's Hope suffered cuts on his left foreleg leaving the starting gate that probably weakened him in the stretch, where he dropped from second to 13th in one-eighth mile. Both horses want to set an early pace slow enough to provide some reserve in the stretch to hold off late-runners Fusaichi Pegasus and Red Bullet.

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