- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 15, 2003

BALTIMORE — The run to the first turn of Saturday’s 128th Preakness Stakes suddenly became a lot more crowded yesterday. Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide’s No.9 post position will embolden several long shots hoping to steal the Triple Crown race.

Recent workouts by Cherokee’s Boy, Foufa’s Warrior and Ten Cents a Shine indicate a blistering early pace at Pimlico Race Course. With Funny Cide and Peace Rules (No.7) unable to dictate the early fractions because of outside posts, inside long shots likely will force the top two choices into moving earlier than desired to avoid falling too far behind. Otherwise, the front-runners might not be caught.

“This track is known for speed and the rail,” said Cherokee’s Boy trainer Gary Capuano, who chose the No.1 post. “The inside speed definitely has an advantage.”

Said Foufa’s Warrior trainer Larry Murray: “There’s only one way to go about this, and that’s full speed ahead.”

Funny Cide managing partner Jack Knowlton downplayed the gelding’s outside post selected with the draw’s last pick. Real Quiet (1989) and Point Given (2001) also won the Preakness with the final selection.

“It’s not what you wish for, but it’s something you can live with,” Knowlton said. “It’s better than having the last pick in the Derby. He broke his maiden from the 12 hole, so he’s been outside before. He’s got enough tactical speed that it shouldn’t have an impact.”

Funny Cide is the 7-5 morning line favorite in a field of 10 that lost two potential entrants in the final hours. Champali was withdrawn because of colic, and During wasn’t entered because trainer Bob Baffert couldn’t gain a marquee rider. Jockey Jerry Bailey was a late replacement on Ten Cents a Shine over Pat Valenzuela.

Derby third-place finisher Peace Rules is the 8-5 second choice, with the entry of Scrimshaw and Senor Swinger as the only other non-long shot at 5-2. The Maryland Racing Commission considered splitting the two into separate entries, but a review of state regulations confirmed common ownership of both horses and forced one betting entry.

Certainly, trainers D. Wayne Lukas and Baffert as a co-entry with Scrimshaw and Senor Swinger, respectively, will be an attractive option for the expected crowd of 100,000. Lukas has five Preakness victories and Baffert four, but neither remembered a stakes races when they were the same betting entry. Each trainer joked that he would have to “carry” the other.

Elsewhere in the field, Cherokee’s Boy and Ten Cents a Shine are 15-1 while Foufa’s Warrior, New York Hero, Kissin Saint and Midway Road are 20-1.

Lukas said the Preakness is the only Triple Crown race where strategy is needed leaving the gate, partly because the 1 3/16-mile race is shorter than the Derby (11/4 miles) and Belmont Stakes (11/2). Lukas’ Scrimshaw suffered a bruised hip in the Derby when he collided with Ten Most Wanted leaving the gate.

“The Belmont draw is just something to do to give [the media] a free lunch,” Lukas said. “The Derby is of no consequence usually unless you get next to someone who runs over you. This one is significant. [Pimlico] is not a perfect oval. There a lot of things that are different.”

But Baffert said overanalyzing the race also can be dangerous. Trainers picking their Derby or Preakness posts often don’t gain any more advantage than when they are assigned in daily races.

“It can help you or you can make a mistake,” Baffert said. “You never know what they’re going to do when they get in [the starting gate]. People get to thinking. I get to thinking. Everybody gets to thinking.”

Three Preakness runners arrived after Midway Road was the first horse at the track Tuesday. Lukas made his traditional Wednesday appearance with Scrimshaw and Ten Cents a Shine; he was the second trainer to arrive after years of being the last. Baffert soon followed with runners for several stakes.

“Everybody questioned [coming Wednesdays], and we had to defend that,” Lukas said. “People said you had to work over the racetrack, but then we won five of them and it became popular. Now I schedule the plane on Wednesday and have to fight to get the last stall on it. It’s become the thing to do.”

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