There will be no dueling Derby winners at Pimlico.
Lynn Whiting, trainer of 1992 Kentucky Derby winner, Lil E. Tee, said yesterday that his horse has developed a lung infection and will miss the $600,000 Pimlico Special on May 15.
Lil E. Tee's defection thwarts a much-anticipated match against 1991 Kentucky Derby winner Strike the Gold in the 1 3/16-mile race, which is being run for the first time on the same card as the Preakness.
"I worked Lil E. Tee at Churchill Downs yesterday [Wednesday] morning," Whiting said. "He went quite well the first three-quarters of a mile, going a mile. But the last quarter-mile was not satisfactory, and the last eighth was very disappointing. We scoped [by endoscopic examination] him afterward and found a lung infection. We're doing a culture and we'll have the results back in three days."
Lil E. Tee recently finished second in the Oaklawn Handicap to Jovial, who is being flown to Baltimore on Sunday from California for the Pimlico Special.
"I just don't feel he's coming in to the race quite satisfactorily," Whiting added. "I discussed it with Mr. [Cal] Partee [the horse's owner], and we decided to decline. We're disappointed. We were looking forward to being there."
Lil E. Tee's absence spoils Pimlico's hopes of having three consecutive Kentucky Derby winners compete on one card.
In addition to the Lil E. Tee-Strike the Gold matchup, this year's Derby winner, Sea Hero, is scheduled to race in the Preakness.
It has been 75 years since three Derby winners competed on the same program at Pimlico.
In 1918, the 1916 Kentucky Derby winner, George Smith, defeated Omar Khayyam and Exterminator in the $25,000 Bowie Handicap. Omar Khayyam and Exterminator had won the Kentucky Derby in 1917 and 1918, respectively.
"Naturally, I'm disappointed," said Pimlico/Laurel operator Joe De Francis. "But I'm more disappointed for Lynn Whiting and Cal Partee."
In addition to Jovial and Strike the Gold, who ships in to Pimlico tomorrow, other probable starters in the Pimlico Special include Devil His Due, Pistols and Roses, Conte Di Savoya, Waki Warrior and Snappy Landing as well as such local runners as Ibex, Timely Warning and Baron De Vaux.
* Pat Day has been named to ride Jill Robinson's Cherokee Run in the Preakness.
The speedy Florida-bred colt, winner of the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs and the Lafayette Stakes at Keeneland Race Course, worked at Belmont Park yesterday, getting six furlongs in 1 minute, 14 seconds.
Trainer Frank Alexander plans to van the horse to Pimlico on Tuesday.
Day rode Alexander-trained Wallenda in the Kentucky Derby, but that horse finished 13th and is skipping the Preakness.
Day has ridden two Preakness winners -- Tank's Prospect (1985) and Summer Squall (1990). He finished fifth last year on Lil E. Tee.
* De Francis said he is encouraged after the first day of taking full-card simulcasts from Belmont Park.
De Francis quoted these figures from yesterday:
* Live Pimlico races: $914,279 bet.
* Belmont Park simulcast: $167,027.
* Churchill Downs simulcast: $110,000 (estimated after seven races on twilight card).
* Hollywood Park simulcast: $175,000 (estimated after seven races on twilight card).
* Freehold, N.J., harness simulcast: $51,746.
De Francis said the total bet is approximately $1,418,000 or about a 37 percent increase over the projected handle of $1,035,000 if only a standard live Pimlico card had been run.
"So far, I'm pleased with the results," De Francis said. "After the Preakness we will be able to make adjustments such as offering improved television and audio equipment and making results more accessible to our fans."