After days of indecision by trainers and owners, the field for the 123rd Preakness Stakes is finally taking shape -- except for the two holdouts in Maryland.
Black Cash is in. Basic Trainee is out. Spartan Cat and Chilito are still maybe.
And back in Kentucky, where trainers Bob Baffert and D. Wayne Lukas prepare for tomorrow's trip to Baltimore, the sniping continues about Coronado's Quest. Baffert trains Derby winner Real Quiet and third-place finisher Indian Charlie, and Lukas trains fifth-place Derby finisher Cape Town.
Shug McGaughey, the trainer of Coronado's Quest, said Sunday that he planned on saddling his sometimes temperamental horse on the turf course in front of the grandstand just like the other horses. But he said he would like the colt to walk last in the procession from the barn to the saddling area, and he would ask for permission for the horse to skip the post parade.
Although not the closest of friends, Baffert and Lukas found common ground on this subject. Lukas said the two talked Sunday at Churchill Downs and agreed that any special treatment for Coronado's Quest should not be tolerated.
Lukas said he called Lenny Hale, Pimlico's vice president of racing, to voice his concerns.
"I said I don't care what you do with [Coronado's Quest]," Lukas said. "But rest assured that Indian Charlie, Real Quiet and Cape Town will be no farther than three feet from him wherever he is at any given time.
"I'll guarantee you that if [Coronado's Quest] breaks off from the post parade, I'm going to tell [jockey Jerry] Bailey just to lope right off with him. This isn't the third race at Ellis. This is the Preakness. It's a major fixture in American racing. [Coronado's Quest] has got to go through the drill."
Baffert said that any concessions to Coronado's Quest are unfair to the other horses. He described the scene in the paddock before the Wood Memorial Stakes, which Coronado's Quest won. Baffert saddled the high-strung Prosperous Bid.
"When I took Prosperous Bid to the Wood," Baffert said, "my horse was in there, nervous, falling apart on me in the paddock. I wanted to get out of there. And I turned around and old Coronado's Quest was saddled and gone."
Baffert said all horses in the Preakness should play by the same rules.
"Part of the classics is the pressure of being there and the post parade and all that stuff," Baffert said. "If he wants special treatment, then my horses are going to do exactly as he does."
Back in Baltimore, Nick Zito stood in a drizzle outside the stakes barn at Pimlico and shook his head. He said the idea of wanting to be near a horse who might act up defies logic. He wants Halory Hunter, fourth in the Derby, as far away from Coronado's hTC Quest as possible, he said.
"I don't want to follow a nut," Zito said.
The only concession he would object to, Zito said, was the starter giving Coronado's Quest a head start out of the gate.
Real Quiet arrival
Baffert's Real Quiet and Indian Charlie and Lukas' Cape Town are due to arrive at Pimlico tomorrow morning. Pat Byrne's Black Cash is expected tomorrow afternoon.
After meeting with Frank Stronach, the owner of Black Cash, Byrne said he decided early yesterday to run the lightly raced colt in the Preakness.
With only five starts -- and only one this year -- Black Cash joins Indian Charlie as the most inexperienced horses in the race. Whereas Indian Charlie has won four of his starts, Black Cash has won only two, both last year as a 2-year-old.
H. Graham Motion, trainer of Chilito, said he discussed the Preakness yesterday with the colt's owner, Joe Allbritton. They decided to sleep on it and talk again today, Motion said. Eleventh in the Kentucky Derby after winning the Flamingo Stakes, Chilito is stabled at Laurel Park.
Dick Dutrow, trainer of Spartan Cat, also stabled at Laurel, said he and the colt's owner, Peter Angelos, would decide tomorrow about the Preakness.
But Luis Gambotto, owner of Basic Trainee, last in the Kentucky Derby, said his New York-based horse would pass the Preakness and wait for the Belmont.
Gambotto said his horse, if he hadn't run into trouble around the final turn, would have won the Derby. He was eased and finished 73 lengths behind Real Quiet.
And now, Gambotto said, "we're going to win the Belmont. I'll tell you that right now."
Cape Town worked five furlongs in 1 minute, 2 3/5 seconds yesterday on a fast track at Churchill Downs.
Real Quiet and Indian Charlie are scheduled to breeze today at Churchill Downs, as are Halory Hunter and Classic Cat at Pimlico. Tomorrow's scheduled works are Coronado's Quest at Belmont and Hot Wells at Pimlico.
Pub Date: 5/12/98