- The Washington Times - Monday, May 6, 2002

LOUISVILLE, Ky. War Emblem has run off most of his Triple Crown rivals.
The Kentucky Derby winner will face few repeat challengers in the Preakness Stakes. Only Derby runner-up Proud Citizen and Medaglia d'Or (fourth) committed yesterday to the second leg of the Triple Crown on May 18 at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore. Derby favorite Harlan's Holiday (seventh) is uncertain, and the remaining 14 entrants may scatter.
There is still a possibility for a full field of 14 for the Preakness. Twelve non-Derby entrants are considering the Preakness. Sunday Break, Booklet, Crimson Hero, Sky Terrace, Tails of the Crypt, Equality, Magic Weisner, Easyfromthegitgo and Marasca are expected to run the Preakness. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer is considering either U S S Tinosa or Cappuchino, and Cashel Castle and Mayakovsky also may enter.
War Emblem's victory wasn't dominating even though he became the first wire-to-wire champion since Winning Colors in 1988. Many jockeys second-guessed themselves after the race, saying they should have pressed the early pace rather than let War Emblem dictate a slow start that left him able to repel late challengers for a four-length victory. Still, War Emblem's 2:01 over 1 miles was the ninth-fastest Derby over a track that didn't post remarkable times on the undercard.
"They can talk all they want about pace in the Derby, but there was no way anyone was going to beat him," War Emblem trainer Bob Baffert said.
Baffert is touting War Emblem as a possible Triple Crown champion even though he is well aware of the challenges that lay ahead at the Preakness and Belmont Stakes on June 8. Three times since 1997 the white-haired trainer has won two-thirds of the Triple Crown, including last year when Point Given took the Preakness and Belmont. Baffert has won three Preaknesses, including 1997 and '98 with Silver Charm and Real Quiet, respectively.
"[War Emblem] really could win it," Baffert said.
With few challengers from what is considered an ordinary class of 3-year-old colts, War Emblem has a fair chance of becoming thoroughbred racing's first Triple Crown champion since 1978 and 12th overall. The 13/16 mile Preakness is more speed oriented than the Derby. War Emblem jockey Victor Espinoza never went to the whip harshly; he tapped the colt a few times in the first eighth-mile and nearly tripled the winning margin. The 1 mile Belmont typically has been decided with a quarter-mile remaining, so War Emblem again could put his foes away early.
But Proud Citizen trainer D. Wayne Lukas knows how to win the Preakness, too he has five middle jewel victories. Lukas also may enter Table Limit in the Preakness to challenge War Emblem early, setting up Proud Citizen's late move.
War Emblem, Proud Citizen and Table Limit are expected to arrive from Churchill Downs on May 15, hours before the post position draw.
Trainer Bobby Frankel, who didn't send Derby runner-up Aptitude to the Preakness last year, will enter Medaglia d'Or, perhaps hoping Medaglia d'Or will atone for his poor start at the Derby. Medaglia d'Or, a 6-1 second choice, was hurt by the slow early pace that prevented his usual stretch run. The horse will return to Belmont today to train.
Harlan's Holiday trainer Ken McPeek said his decision to enter the Preakness will come by week's end. Perfect Drift (third) and Request for Parole (fifth) are considered doubtful entrants.
The plans of the other Derby horses are fairly clear.
Came Home (sixth), Easy Grades (13th) and Ocean Sound (17th) will rest indefinitely in California. Johannesburg (eighth) and Castle Gandolfo (12th) returned to Ireland. Essence of Dubai (ninth) will be pointed to the Belmont. Saarland (10th) is sidelined indefinitely after suffering an ankle chip. Private Emblem (14th) may enter the Sir Barton Stakes on the Preakness undercard. It'sallinthechase (16th) will return to Minnesota. Wild Horses (18th) will rest after suffering respiratory bleeding during the race.


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