- The Washington Times - Friday, May 10, 2002

The 127th Preakness Stakes should have a blazing early pace, but it just may turn into a match race between Booklet and Kentucky Derby winner War Emblem on May 18 at Pimlico Race Course.

"I think everybody will be after War Emblem," Booklet trainer John Ward said. "It will look like the Indy 500 on the first turn. You're going to see a jam."

Bring 'em on, said War Emblem trainer Bob Baffert. Claiming the 3-year-old colt may be better than his previous Derby/Preakness winners, Silver Charm and Real Quiet, and Preakness/Belmont Stakes champion Point Given, Baffert dismissed Booklet as a miler and said any other rival foolish enough to contend with the front-running War Emblem early won't be around late.

"If they go with [War Emblem], who's going to be around at the end?" Baffert said. "We know that's his only way to run, so I can't change anything."

Ward conceded that Booklet eventually might excel over shorter distances than the Preakness' 1 3/16 miles. However, Ward purposely bypassed the Derby after winning it last year with Monarchos to freshen Booklet for the Preakness. Booklet led midway through three major Derby preps but finished second in the Blue Grass Stakes and fourth in the Florida Derby after surviving a photo finish in the Fountain of Youth Stakes.

"Booklet will have the ability to control the race," Ward said. "He's definitely got legitimate early speed and can hold it for a sustained time. Whether there are other horses coming into the picture I don't know, but you'll see War Emblem and Booklet locked together for most of the race. Whether they finish together or somebody runs by them I'm not sure."

The pre-race tactics are reminiscent of three vastly different Preaknesses. The 1989 showdown between Sunday Silence and Easy Goer, named the race of the decade after the two ran together for the second half of the race, was a heated match run. War Emblem even looks much like Sunday Silence, with a jet black coat and white markings.

"He acts like Sunday Silence he has an attitude problem," Baffert said.

It could also evolve into an early mugging that compromises both runners. Trainer Woody Stephens openly vowed Winning Colors wouldn't win in 1988 after beating Forty Niner by a neck in the Derby and leading every step. A roughly run first turn in the Preakness saw Forty Niner cost both horses with a series of bumps.

Then again, it could be a repeat of 1996, when Louis Quatorze and Skip Away ran 1-2 the entire race. Derby winner Grindstone didn't enter after suffering a career-ending injury in training.

Coincidentally, Booklet jockey Pat Day also rode Easy Goer, Forty Niner and Louis Quatorze.

Baffert was most worried over Derby runner-up Proud Citizen, whose trainer, D. Wayne Lukas, also will enter front-running Shah Jehan. The former European runner is an obvious rabbit for stablemate Proud Citizen after winning an allowance race April 10 at Keeneland. Sunday Break, who was excluded from the overfilled Derby, also could press the early pace.

"In the Preakness, you get the guys who have been waiting not knowing if they had a good enough horse [for the Derby] or waiting for a short race," Baffert said. "A large field won't hurt, because War Emblem's going to be in front of them."

Meanwhile, third-place Derby finisher Perfect Drift was withdrawn while Shah Jehan was added to the field of 15. Table Limit remains excluded in the 14-horse maximum field pending the post position draw May 15. Maryland football coach Ralph Friedgen will assist in the draw.


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