- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 17, 2003

BALTIMORE — Long shots and locals, Triple Crown newcomers and no familiar favorite — welcome to today’s 128th Preakness Stakes.

An apparent two-horse race became cluttered by a post position draw that favors inside long shots. Furthermore, a wet track at Pimlico Race Course will muddy the field. Kentucky Derby winner Funny Cide seeks legitimacy rather than being remembered as a fluke. Peace Rules is the only narrow Derby loser (third) seeking redemption on a track that normally favors the speedy stalker.

The pair are supposed to be the only logical choices. Funny Cide is a 7-5 morning-line choice over Peace Rules at 8-5, with the entry of Scrimshaw-Senor Swinger getting respect at 6-1 only because the trainers have combined to take nine of the last 11 Preaknesses. The other six entrants are 15-1 or more.

But the Preakness often produces surprises. Scrimshaw (11th) and Ten Cents a Shine (eighth) could join Snow Chief (1986), Hansel (1991) and Point Given (2001) as entries who rebounded from bad Derby efforts. The last local to win was Deputed Testamony (1983) on a sloppy track. Even Red Bullet (2000) ended a 16-year streak of non-Derby runners not benefiting by awaiting the second leg of the Triple Crown. Given that six of 10 entrants bypassed the Derby, the jinx could be beaten again.

“I think Peace Rules and Funny Cide, you have to lean their way,” said trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who enters Scrimshaw and Ten Cents a Shine. “Those two ran the best in the Derby. Now can they repeat it? Sometimes, unless the horse has genuine greatness, when they have a super Derby run they don’t repeat in the Preakness. People always try to beat the Derby winner.”

Indeed, long shots don’t fear Funny Cide. After all, he was a 12-1 Derby outsider himself.

“This is a little out of character for us — we’ll give it a shot,” said Midway Road trainer Neil Howard, whose Summer Squall won in 1990. “He’s a fast horse with a lot of tactical speed, a little unseasoned, but I think he’ll do well.”

Said Lukas, whose five Preakness victories included no major upsets: “I want to be in it if I think I have a shot. My clientele want to be in it. I don’t mind the pressure of it being 15-1. We’ve overcome it before.”

Trainer Bob Baffert seeks his second straight Preakness and fifth in eight years with long shot Senor Swinger, whose biggest victory was on grass. Baffert opted to try the Preakness when five-time winning jockey Pat Day committed after his Ten Most Wanted suffered a back injury leaving the Derby gate. Baffert chose the outside No.10 post to keep the colt out of traffic.

“I wanted to put him on the outside because turf horses don’t like getting dirt thrown in their face,” Baffert said. “Hopefully, he’ll get a clean break, and if he can do it, he’ll do it.”

Still, Funny Cide can’t be overlooked. The gelding pulled away from two challengers in the stretch to win by 13/4 lengths while his 2:01 tied for the Derby’s 10th fastest time.

“Peace Rules and Funny Cide are going to be the top two, and I have a lot of confidence in Funny Cide,” jockey Jose Santos said. “It’s a pretty good field. Lukas and Baffert know how to win races, so you have to respect everybody.”

Santos doesn’t mind the No.9 post despite having several early speedsters inside him who could quicken the pace. Santos expects to sit strategically behind the early leaders as in the Derby, when he didn’t gain first until the final turn.

“It’s a long way to the first turn, and my horse has very good speed to be in any position,” he said. “The nine post is a good position so he won’t get too crowded.”

A wet track would favor front-runners, especially local long shot Cherokee’s Boy. However, track superintendent John Passero “guaranteed” the track would be rated “fast” despite 2 inches of rain yesterday that canceled the steeplechase race and left the dirt track sloppy.

“It only takes 1 to 1 hours for the moisture to disappear,” Passero said. “[The tracks] like an old cake recipe — there’s a lot of things out there.”

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