Whadjathink cushions hooves, training on grass Preakness notes


Whadjathink, the Dick Duchossois-owned, Michael Whittingham-trained runner, is taking an unusual training route to the Preakness.

He's being prepared for the race by working out on Pimlico's grass course.

The big, handsome grandson of Seattle Slew has flat, shelly feet. The main track, which is currently on the fast, hard side, has been stinging his hoofs.

So Whittingham elected yesterday to gallop him on the grass.

"It's nothing serious," Whittingham said. "I might put him back on the main track today."

Whittingham is one of Hall of Fame trainer Charlie Whittingham's three children. Michael's brother died in his early 20s. His sister, Charlene, is married to a veterinarian.

Michael, one of the most engaging trainers with a horse in this year's Preakness, has four children from three different marriages. He has had two children with his current wife, Mary.

He spends most of the year training in California, but takes the majority of his horses to Arlington Park in Illinois for the summer. The reason? His main patron, Dick Duchossois, owns the track.

Whittingham flew Bob Lang, his blacksmith, in from California yesterday to re-shoe Whadjathink.

While many of the other Preakness trainers took advantage of a dark day Wednesday to go sight-seeing, Whittingham spent most of the day at the track.

It was lucky for well-known horse transporter Tex Sutton, whose air charter business flies just about every major stakes horse all over the United States.

Security guards wouldn't allow Sutton on the grounds unti Whittingham was called to the stable gate and vouched for his identity.

* There aren't any Maryland horses in this year's Preakness, bu fans will have plenty of local horses to bet on tomorrow in the Dixie Handicap and Black-Eyed Susan Stakes.

Opening Verse, the Dixie favorite, is scheduled to be retired nex season to Northview Stallion Station in Chesapeake City. Northview is the site of the old Windfields stallion station where Northern Dancer stood at stud.

Opening Verse was the beaten favorite last year in the Pimlic Special. He has recovered from minor knee surgery and a bruised foot, but will be kept on the grass this season.

So far, he's undefeated in two 1991 starts, including a victor over Eclipse Award winner, Itsallgreektome, at Churchill Downs two weeks ago in the Early Times Turf Classic.

Wide Country, last year's champion Maryland-bred 2-year-old fill who is undefeated in her last seven starts, is a slight favorite in the Black-Eyed Susan. Her main competition is expected to come from Ashland Stakes winner Do It With Style and Wayne Lukas-trained Fancy Ribbons.

* Weather forecasts suggest there might be rain on Saturday There are said to be no "mud monsters" in the Preakness field, but rain could help a few of the horses.

Best Pal is said to do well over a wet track, as is Mane Minister Nick Zito also has indicated Strike the Gold can handle an off track.

* Rodney Rash, the Carroll County born trainer who has Honor Grades in the Preakness, started riding show ponies as a youngster. He used to fox hunt as a child with the Taylorsville Hunt Club, located near Mount Airy, and later broke yearlings at Shamrock Farm as a teen-ager. He graduated from South Carroll High School.

* The field for the Preakness is now set with eight starters.

Five of the eight jockeys have already ridden Preakness winners.

Pat Day, who has the mount on Corporate Report, has won twice: last year with Summer Squall and in 1985 with Tank's Prospect. Other winners, and their mounts are: Eddie Delahoussaye (1988-Risen Star), Chris McCarron (1987-Alysheba), Alex Solis (1986-Snow Chief) and Jorge Velasquez (1981-Pleasant Colony).

The other three jockeys -- Chris Antley, Gary Stevens and Jerry Bailey -- have hit the board. All have finished at least third in one Preakness.

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