Two Kentucky Derby winners will clash in the Pimlico Special on May 15.
Lynn Whiting, trainer of 1992 Derby victor Lil E. Tee, said yesterday his horse is ready to take on Strike the Gold in the $600,000 race on Preakness day.
Strike the Gold won the Derby in 1991 and recovered from a 12-race losing streak last year and won the Pimlico Special. The horse recently returned to the races at Aqueduct and was an impressive winner in allowance company.
The appearance of the two past Derby winners, plus the expected arrival of today's first-place Derby finisher for the Preakness, means that three Kentucky Derby winners will compete on one Pimlico card.
Whiting said Lil E. Tee was too aggressive in the early running of the recent Oaklawn Handicap when he finished second to Jovial. Whiting said Lil E. Tee lacked seasoning for that race, but now is more settled and ready for an improved effort.
Whiting is picking Prairie Bayou to win today's Derby.
"He's the one horse that will get the 1 1/4 miles," Whiting said. "I like Bull Inthe Heather. He is a big, strong horse, but he is not as athletic as Prairie Bayou and will need the speed to come back to him."
Whiting added that he thinks Union City could finish second "because he is working well. Personal Hope is compromised by the other speed horse, Storm Tower, being in the race."
Whiting said Lil E. Tee's owner, W. Cal Partee, had tried to buy Derby starter Tossofthecoin last year. "But we couldn't close a deal. He is a big, strong horse," Whiting said.
"We now have switched our attention to the 2-year-old crop with the idea of trying to buy one to have ready for the Derby next spring."
Trainer Ben Perkins, Jr. is sick of people asking him about Storm Tower's No. 1 post position. "I go out to dinner last night and the waitress asks, 'Oh, how do you think you're going to do coming out of the one hole?' " Perkins said. "Then my father-in-law called to get directions to the hotel and he wanted to know about the post position. Then the guy carrying in my wife's bags had to give his opinion. Isn't there anything else for people to talk about?" . . . After a total of $624,095 was bet in the advanced wagering pool on the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs and Kentucky intertrack wagering outlets yesterday, Bull Inthe Heather is the early 9-2 favorite above Prairie Bayou, who is 5-1, and Union City, who is 6-1. Maryland-based Storm Tower is lightly regarded at 20-1.