- The Washington Times - Friday, May 20, 2005

BALTIMORE — Malibu Moonshine trainer King Leatherbury picks Afleet Alex to win tomorrow’s 130th Preakness Stakes. That doesn’t mean the Maryland conditioner lacks a strategy for his 20-1 long shot.

“My objective is to run second and have the winner disqualified,” Leatherbury said jokingly. “All the times the [stewards] have taken me down …”

Leatherbury has largely dominated the Maryland circuit for 40 years, earning nearly 6,100 career victories. But, the Laurel Park trainer knows when he’s overmatched. He was hoping for a smaller field to grab part of the $1 million purse, but the maximum 14-horse Preakness with 10 Kentucky Derby runners makes Malibu Moonshine unlikely to even hit the board. Leatherbury — known for his wagering as well as his training — figures to toss Malibu Moonshine from his own triples. Maryland trainers are allowed to bet on other horses.

“When we thought about running, I thought if we had a chance to run third or fourth it would be worth a shot,” he said. “I can see us maybe getting fourth, but am I going to bet on him? No, I’m going to bet on [Afleet Alex] and maybe a couple of those horses I bet in the Derby and that didn’t run their race.”

Malibu Moonshine was nearly sold by owner Woodrow Marriott last week before the deal fell apart late. Leatherbury decided to keep the colt in the Preakness rather than drop to tomorrow’s less-challenging Sir Barton Stakes. Malibu Moonshine won the $150,000 Federico Tesio Stakes on April 23 and is the only Preakness entrant to have raced at Pimlico, but he is outclassed against his Triple Crown rivals.

“The only way we can win is to get every possible break,” Leatherbury said.

Then again, the same was said about Giacomo before he won the Derby at 50-1.

Wilson honored

Jockey Rick Wilson received a standing ovation during the Alibi Breakfast when he was named the Preakness honorary postmaster. Wilson hasn’t ridden since suffering near-fatal injuries during a spill last year.

“I’m not going to say I’m ever going to retire,” Wilson said, “but I want to thank everyone.”

The annual gathering of state and national racing leaders also featured Maryland Gov. Robert Ehrlich renewing his pledge to help the beleaguered local industry without expressly saying slot machines.

“I want you leaving feeling my commitment to you, to this way of life, to this track, to this industry, to this race, to 20,000 farms that keep our state beautiful,” he said. “You’ve always had my absolute commitment that we will be there. We will ensure this industry has the tools and means to compete in an incredibly competitive environment.”

Blinks on

High Limit will don blinkers for the first time after finishing 20th in the Derby. Trainer Bobby Frankel said the eye pieces help the colt focus. High Limit recently posted the fastest morning workout at Churchill Downs.

“He’s going to make the lead,” Frankel said. “He seems like he needs something to make him focus. He does things like jump tracks.”

Forever young

Greeley’s Galaxy trainer Warren Stute comes to Pimlico for the first time, but it’s not a farewell tour for the 83-year-old California trainer.

“I’ll never retire,” he said. “At the racetrack, something new happens every day. You never get bored. In my case, I’m lucky to have such good owners. Owners make the difference.”

Stute even used his age to pitch a new client.

“One owner approached me and said he was looking for a trainer with experience,” Stute said. “I told him ‘You want a guy with experience, I’m your man.’ Every morning I wake up at 4 a.m. I drink a lot of coffee.”

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