Alberts hoping for 'Magic' signal in Tesio


This has been a heady week for Nancy Alberts.

On Tuesday, she was a guest on a Triple Crown teleconference call for national reporters. On Wednesday, she collected the award for Magic Weisner as champion Maryland-bred 2-year-old male for 2001.

And today, she starts "Magic" in the Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico, hoping that another stellar effort will gain a berth next month in the Preakness.

"I'm enjoying every minute of it," Alberts said. "I'd better, because it may never happen again."

Alberts bred, owns and trains Magic Weisner, a 3-year-old gelding that has won six of nine races - and his last five in a row. In three decades of training, Alberts, 56, has never managed a horse close to this one in talent and accomplishment.

Still, he has yet to race against top competition. In the Tesio, he won't meet Harlan's Holiday or Came Home, but he will take on two New York horses capable of providing a stern challenge. Frank Carulli, Pimlico oddsmaker, even made one the program favorite.

Smoked Em, a son of Smoke Glacken trained by Todd Pletcher, is the morning-line favorite at 3-2. The bay colt finished third in the Whirlaway Stakes at Aqueduct but was placed second after being crowded in the stretch.

Heir D' Twine, fourth in the Gotham Stakes, is 3-1 in the Tesio. Derby Drive and Radio One, the Tony Dutrow-trained pair, are 6-1. Alberts' Magic Weisner is the 9-5 second choice.

"He's perfect right now," Alberts said. "He's never been off his feed, and by the third day after a race I have to put the tack back on him or take him to the racetrack. He's very happy."

Earlier in the year, Alberts considered pointing Magic Weisner to the Kentucky Derby. But she decided to leave that race to the more ambitious, and finally, two weeks before the Derby, its field has taken shape.

With the probable favorite an Ohio-bred and the top California entrant suspect at 1 1/4 miles, the Derby will likely feature a full field of 20. Everybody with a fast 3-year-old, it seems, thinks he has a chance of winning this year's Derby.

Audrey and Allen Murray, owners of Murmur Farm in Darlington, have already won. Their new stallion Our Emblem has not one but two prospective Derby starters: War Emblem, winner of the Illinois Derby, and Private Emblem, winner of the Arkansas Derby.

The Murrays bought Our Emblem in October from Claiborne Farm in Kentucky. They set his stud fee at $4,000. When his 3-year-old sons started winning derbies, the phone at Murmur began ringing off the hook.

"It's been so overwhelming," Audrey said. "We could book 300 mares to him at $4,000."

Breedings sell now for $7,500. Eighty are booked, many from New York, Florida and Kentucky. The Murrays plan on scheduling 10 more.

Then, they'll turn their attention to considering the offers they're receiving for the suddenly in-demand Our Emblem. They'll have to decide whether to accept an offer they might not be able to refuse, or to keep the 11-year-old, regally bred sire at their Harford County farm.

Both Our Emblem's sons have reasonable shots in the Derby. Even after last weekend's final major Derby preps, the race remains wide open because of flaws in every major contender.

Harlan's Holiday, winner of the Blue Grass Stakes and Florida Derby, has never been worse than second in 10 races. But he may have peaked too soon, and he is an Ohio-bred. Only one Ohio-bred, Wintergreen in 1909, has won the Kentucky Derby.

Came Home, the No. 1 contender from California, is as scrappy as they come, but many still doubt his ability at the Derby distance.

Buddha and Medaglia d'Oro, one-two in the Wood Memorial Stakes, have raced only four times. No horse has won the Derby off four starts since Exterminator in 1918.

Tom Keyser's Derby Dozen

Horse Sire Trainer Jockey Last race Comment Odds*

Harlan's Holiday Harlan Ken McPeek Edgar Prado 1st Blue Grass Consistent and tractable, would be second Ohio-bred to win Derby 5-1

Saarland Unbridled Shug McGaughey John Velazquez 4th Wood Mem. Underwent surgery for breathing problem, could peak in Derby 12-1

Came Home Gone West Paco Gonzalez Chris McCarron 1st Santa Anita Stamina doubts will follow scrapper into Derby starting gate 8-1

Medaglia d'Oro El Prado Bobby Frankel Laffit Pincay Jr. 2nd Wood Mem. Should improve off Wood; inexperience may hurt him in Derby 6-1

Private Emblem Our Emblem Steve Asmussen Donnie Meche 1st Arkansas Dy. Legitimate Derby contender after impressive win in Arkansas 20-1

Essence of Dubai Pulpit Saeed bin Suroor undecided 1st UAE Derby Still the only Derby contender with a win at 1 1/4 miles 20-1

Buddha Unbridled's Song H. James Bond Pat Day 1st Wood Mem. Had everything his way in Wood; Derby's another story 6-1

Sunday Break Forty Niner Neil Drysdale Gary Stevens 3rd Wood Mem. Could surpass Wood's top two with sparkling work at Churchill 15-1

Perfect Drift Dynaformer Murray Johnson Eddie Delahoussaye 1st Spiral Stakes How will he bounce back with six weeks between races? 30-1

Easy Grades Honor Grades Ted West Jorge Chavez 2nd Santa Anita California's second best in off year for California 3-year-olds 20-1

Johannesburg Hennessy Aidan O'Brien undecided 2nd Gladness One-race preparation insufficient for grueling Derby grind 10-1

War Emblem Our Emblem Bob Baffert undecided 1st Illinois Derby Gives Maryland stallion Our Emblem two colts in Derby 20-1

*Odds by Daily Racing Form

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