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Full field expected; Zito may enter 3
By wire services
Published May 17, 2005
BALTIMORE - It appears the Preakness will attract a full field of 14 horses for the first time since 1992.
If more than 14 are entered by Wednesday, a three-tiered earnings format will determine the starters. The top seven will be determined by earnings in graded stakes races; the next four by earnings, excluding money made in restricted races; and the last three by total earnings.
Trainer Nick Zito is considering giving three of his five Kentucky Derby also-rans an opportunity to make amends Saturday. Two of the three - 14th-place finisher Noble Causeway and 15th-place finisher Sun King , the Tampa Bay Derby winner - were designated "a go," after they worked 5 furlongs Monday at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky.
Zito also may enter High Fly , who finished 10th in the Derby and was set to work out at Churchill Downs this morning.
If High Fly is entered as the 14th horse, Golden Man would be dropped because of lack of earnings.
Zito's other Derby horses - Bellamy Road and Andromeda's Hero - won't run in the Preakness. The George Steinbrenner -owned Bellamy Road, who was favored in the Derby, is out with a minor leg injury and Andromeda's Hero is training for the Belmont on June 4.
AFLEET ALEX ALONE: As the lone horse in the stakes barn at Pimlico, Afleet Alex has been training in virtual solitude.
The third-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby twice ran at a leisurely pace Monday morning, then received a bath before being led back into a deserted barn.
"It's almost like a little vacation. Stress-wise, it's got to help him," trainer Tim Ritchey said. "It's like a private barn right now; he can get accustomed to the environment in a laid-back surrounding."
Whether that translates to a victory Saturday is anyone's guess.
"I think it's an advantage. I'm the only one here, so obviously I'm the only one that thinks that way," Ritchey said.
Since arriving at Pimlico on Wednesday, Afleet Alex has breezed through his workouts. The horse ran 2 miles at 6 a.m. Monday then returned at 8:30 for a 1-mile jog and a 2-mile gallop.
"He had his ears up and looked like he was enjoying himself," Ritchey said. "I think he's a very happy horse, I think he's fit. We just need to have a little more luck than we had in the Derby."
At the Derby, Afleet Alex spent much of his energy weaving around and between the other 19 horses before taking third. Ritchey expects an easier time Saturday, in part because the field is limited to 14.
"I don't think you'll have the pace you had in the Derby. I think in this race the riders will be very aware of how fast they're going," he said.
"You're not going to have that suicide pace. But any time you have a full field, there's always traffic problems. Hopefully we'll avoid them."
Early indications are Afleet Alex will be the morning-line favorite. Besides finishing third behind two long shots at the Derby, the colt has a trainer who lives in Maryland and a jockey, Jeremy Rose , who has long been a regular on the Maryland circuit.
GIACOMO SIGHTING: Derby winner Giacomo galloped 2 miles at Churchill Downs. Trainer John Shirreffs took an overnight flight from California to see the horse. "It looks like he came out of the Kentucky Derby pretty good," Shirreffs said. "He was tired for a couple of days, but he got his energy level up after that." Giacomo, who won the Derby at 50-1 odds, is scheduled to be shipped to Pimlico Race Course on Wednesday. Giacomo is attempting to become the first Triple Crown champion since Affirmed in 1978.
THE PEOPLE: As many as 105,000 are likely to pack Pimlico for Saturday's race. This year's Derby drew the second-biggest crowd in its history; the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes had record attendance in 2004.