In a day of almost mind-boggling changes in the field for the 123rd Preakness, Indian Charlie, the possible favorite, dropped out in Kentucky shortly after Halory Hunter fractured his left front cannon bone at Pimlico.
Those defections unleashed a fury of activity, the most notable being the addition of Derby runner-up Victory Gallop to the field.
"He's still a little bit knocked out from that race," Baffert said. "I don't want to take him up there if he's not going to be 100 percent. I don't want to take a chance and blow my whole summer with him."
Indian Charlie and Real Quiet, the Derby winner, both worked five furlongs yesterday morning at Churchill Downs. Clockers timed Indian Charlie in 59 1/5 seconds and Real Quiet in 59 4/5 seconds. Even though Indian Charlie ran faster, Baffert didn't like what he saw.
"I can look at my horses and tell when they're on their game and when they're not," Baffert said. "I could have brought him up there, and he might have still run well. But I don't think he'd be able to win it."
Baffert said he would give Indian Charlie time off and perhaps point him toward the summer's major 3-year-old stakes.
As unsettled as he was by Indian Charlie's drill, he was ecstatic with Real Quiet's.
"Real Quiet, he just looked really awesome today," Baffert said. "That's the way he looked before the Derby. This horse is just getting better and better. It's amazing that he's peaking right now."
After Shug McGaughey decided Sunday to run the speedy Coronado's Quest in the Preakness, Baffert said repeatedly that Indian Charlie might be the one looking him eye-to-eye early in the race. Yesterday, he said the prospect of dueling with Coronado's Quest played no role in his decision to keep Indian Charlie in Louisville.
After learning of the morning developments, the owners of Victory Gallop and trainer Elliott Walden conferred -- yet again -- about racing the colt in the Preakness or waiting for the Belmont. They settled, finally, upon the Preakness.
"This is probably the toughest decision I've had to make in horse racing," said Walden, also stabled at Churchill Downs. "But with two horses going out, the addition of some speed, and the horse doing so well, we decided to take a shot."
Victory Gallop breezed a half mile yesterday in 49 2/5 seconds. Walden was delighted with that work on a fast track at Churchill Downs. He quickly snagged Gary Stevens, the briefly unemployed jockey of Indian Charlie, to ride Victory Gallop.
The speed Walden referred to was Baquero, a D. Wayne Lukas-trained colt who has never raced farther than seven-eighths of a mile and never won a stakes. The Preakness is 1 3/16 miles.
Lukas denied that he entered Baquero just to pressure Coronado's Quest on the front end. A speed duel between those two would help set up the race for Lukas' Cape Town, a closer NTC who finished fifth in the Kentucky Derby.
"That's not the reason he's in there," Lukas said. "I think he can win the race. I've had the money [entry fee] in there for a week. It had no bearing on any other horse coming in or out of the race."
Baquero was originally scheduled to run in the $100,000 Sir Barton Stakes on Preakness Day. Owned by Beverly and Robert Lewis, he will be ridden by Pat Day, who did not ride in the Preakness last year after winning three straight.
Cape Town, Baquero, Victory Gallop and Real Quiet are to fly into Baltimore this morning. Patrick Byrne's Black Cash is scheduled to arrive this afternoon.
The other addition yesterday was the Virginia-bred Silver's Prospect, an undistinguished colt who finished fourth, fifth and eighth in his last three starts in Maryland. Stabled at the Middleburg Training Center in Virginia, Silver's Prospect is trained by Jean Rofe and owned by Robert Sowder.
"Mr. Sowder has had running him in the back of his mind for some time," Rofe said. "It's a once-in-a lifetime chance, and he really wants to take it."
Rofe said the horse has had health problems -- a guttural infection cleared up with antibiotics and a breathing problem corrected by surgery.
The story here is that the colt will be ridden by Frank Douglas, who returned to racing last month after suffering life-threatening injuries in a spill last summer at Timonium.
The two local horses, Chilito and Spartan Cat, are near-definites. Dick Dutrow, trainer of Peter Angelos' Spartan Cat, said he is 90 percent sure the colt will run in the Preakness.
"Unless he gives us reason to believe he's not doing well, we'll point him toward the race," Motion said.
Joe Allbritton's Lazy Lazy Farm owns Chilito. Allbritton also owned Hansel, who finished 10th as the favorite in the 1991 Kentucky Derby and came back to win the Preakness. Chilito finished 11th in the Derby at 34-1.
A horse still on the fence is Thomas Jo, winner of the Federico Tesio Stakes. Like Baquero, he was slated for the Sir Barton Stakes.
"Obviously, the defections make you want to reconsider your strategy," said Earle Mack, majority owner. "So we're taking a very serious look at the Preakness." Then, topping off a day filled with speculation and reversals, he said: "But that's not a final decision."
Pub Date: 5/13/98