Friday, May 19, 2006

BALTIMORE — Forget Derby Fever. Trainer Steve Klesaris’ case of Preakness Fever has been lingering for several months.

The colt he trains, Diabolical, required too much seasoning this winter to be ready for the May 6 Kentucky Derby. But patience on the part of Klesaris and development on the part of Diabolical have both entered in tomorrow’s Preakness at Pimlico Race Course.

Diabolical, who has six top-three finishes in seven races, is 30-1 on the morning line and will start from outside post No. 9.

“The Preakness has always been on my radar if I had a horse good enough,” he said. “In terms of this colt, he had to do a couple things correctly and he’s done those. The Derby was never a consideration because the timing wasn’t right. He wouldn’t have had enough time to run in a race like that with 20 horses and a hard, grueling race.”

Because the Derby is such a car wreck and the distance so testing, only three horses — Barbaro, Brother Derek and Sweetnorthernsaint — are running in both races. Diabolical, meanwhile, hasn’t raced since winning a Delaware Park allowance race on April 25.

“That’s another reason I liked the Preakness for this horse: You’re catching some horses on the rebound and it’s difficult for the trainers to get their horses ready and it’s difficult for the horses to be ready after only two weeks,” Klesaris said.

Klesaris, who has kept Diabolical at the Fair Hill Training Center in northern Maryland this week (the same site where Barbaro is being housed), has had to change his colt’s running style since he ran his first race last summer.

“He’s shown ability ever since we’ve been around him,” he said. “But as a 2-year-old, he was more aggressive than we wanted. He wanted to blast out to the lead and if he broke slow, he would try to run over somebody to get the lead. But we worked hard with him this winter to get him off the bridle and learn how to rate.”

In his last race, Diabolical, according to Klesaris, got the lead by default when the first quarter was run in 24-plus seconds. He led gate-to-wire and won by 81/4 lengths.

Klesaris, 46, won his first race in 1978 at Boston’s Suffolk Downs and is making his first Triple Crown race appearance. He left training from 1992 to 1995 to become a jockey’s agent before returning to the conditioning ranks.

“Definitely gratifying,” he said, “because these are the kinds of races you work for.”

Family affair

Platinum Couple, the longest shot in the Preakness, is owned by Team Tristar Stable, comprising four family members, including trainer Joe Lostritto and his son, Glenn.

The family also bred the colt who was a distant fifth in the Wood Memorial.

“[Glenn] said to me, ‘If George Mason can do it, why can’t we?’ ” Joe said. “We breed a lot of our own horses in New York and you don’t get a chance like this very often. … We knew we’d be a long shot coming in, but I love long shots.”

Platinum Couple is a long shot because he hasn’t won since Dec. 11 and is only 2-for-9 lifetime.

“We had high hopes for him in the Wood, but the track was so sloppy,” Glenn Lostritto said. “We feel like we’ve got to take a chance.”

Around the track

Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness favorite Barbaro galloped a mile and breezed a quarter-mile yesterday morning at Fair Hill Training Center. Barbaro is scheduled to be transported to Pimlico today. …

Seven of the nine Preakness trainers will be making their first appearance in the race. Only Kiaran McLaughlin (Like Now) and Nick Zito (Hemingway’s Key) have been in the race. Zito won with Louis Quatorze in 1996. …

Funny Cide, the 2003 Derby and Preakness winner, will run in tomorrow’s William Donald Schaefer Handicap at Pimlico.

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