BALTIMORE — Winning Colors and Forty Niner, who finished the Kentucky Derby only a neck apart, are bound to be close to one another again in the 113th Preakness--at least at the start of the second race in the Triple Crown series.
When the post positions were drawn Thursday at Pimlico for Saturday's 1 3/16-mile race, Derby winner Winning Colors got No. 5, and Forty Niner wound up with No. 4.
The draw eliminated any doubt about what trainer Woody Stephens will tell jockey Pat Day to do with Forty Niner.
"The way we're lined up, there's nothing I can do except hook the filly early," Stephens said. In the Derby, Forty Niner broke from the outside in a 17-horse field, and Day took the horse back.
Forty Niner probably would have had to run early Saturday, anyway, since there is little speed besides Winning Colors in the nine-horse field. Stephens must avoid what happened in the Derby, when the salt-and-pepper filly sped through the first 6 furlongs and then had just enough to outlast Forty Niner at the wire.
Of the nine starters, there's only one horse besides Forty Niner that appears to have the running style that might enable him to be on the pace with Winning Colors. But there is reason to question Finder's Choice's ability to stay with Winning Colors for long.
The stablemate of Derby favorite Private Terms won his first four starts while racing in Maryland, then ran fourth and seventh when he tried better company outside his home state.
"I think Finder's Choice is capable of running with Winning Colors for the first 6 furlongs," said Jim Ryan, one of the owners of Cefis.
Cefis drew the inside post, will be ridden by Eddie Maple and is listed by the track linemaker at 20-1. The rest of the Preakness lineup consists of Regal Classic, with Jorge Velasquez riding, at 15-1; Risen Star, Eddie Delahoussaye, 4-1; Forty Niner, Day, 5-2; Winning Colors, Gary Stevens, 8-5; Brian's Time, Angel Cordero, 12-1; Private Terms, Chris Antley, 9-2; Finder's Choice, Kent Desormeaux, 9-2; and Sorry About That, Randy Romero, 30-1.
Finder's Choice is a short price because he's coupled in the betting with Private Terms, who finished ninth in the Derby. Forty Niner and Cefis, it turns out, will run separately, even though they are both trained by Stephens. A recently changed Maryland rule permits horses with different owners but the same trainer to run uncoupled, a provision that covers Forty Niner and Cefis.
There is still a possibility that Risen Star, who finished third in the Derby, 3 lengths behind Winning Colors, may not run. Louie Roussel, who trains and is co-owner of Risen Star, is undecided and keeps saying that he needs sleep before he can make a move. By not running Saturday, Risen Star's owners would forfeit a $5,000 entry fee.
All of the starters except Winning Colors will carry 126 pounds. The filly, as she did in the Derby, will get a 5-pound sex allowance.
At the draw, Winning Colors was well represented--by Gene Klein, her owner, and his wife, Joyce; by trainer Wayne Lukas and his wife, Shari, plus several friends. Most of them were wearing Winning Colors sweat shirts, and when the numbers were drawn, Shari Lukas opened her jacket to show a picture of the filly in a running pose with No. 5 on the saddlecloth.
"How about this!" Shari Lukas said. "Is this an omen or what!"
The Baltimore weather is an omen that makes her husband frown. The track was muddy Thursday after a second day of rain; there is more rain forecast for today and a chance of continued showers Saturday.
Klein and Lukas, who teamed to win the 1985 Preakness with Tank's Prospect, don't know what to expect from Winning Colors on an off track. In winning six of seven starts, she has never run in the mud, never even worked in it.
One bloodlines expert says that offspring of Caro, Winning Colors' sire, are not known to like off tracks. What is more, Lukas says that Winning Colors doesn't have small feet, which sometimes indicate that a horse will be able to handle mud.
The possibility of an off track is definitely a concern, Lukas said. "You never know how a horse is going to react, but I would think she'd handle it."
There is no question that progeny of Mr. Prospector generally thrive on mud, and Forty Niner is a good example. In the first two starts of his life on off tracks, both as a 2-year-old, Forty Niner won the Sanford at Saratoga and the Futurity at Belmont Park.
Except for Sorry About That, who like Winning Colors has never been exposed to mud, all of the filly's rivals Saturday have either won on off tracks or run respectably on them.
Private Terms, for instance, ran a winning 1:39 1/5 mile at nearby Laurel last December. On a fast track at Pimlico last Sunday, Private Terms worked five furlongs in a speedy :59 4/5. That was in marked contrast to his dull work at Churchill Downs just before the Derby.
Trainer Charlie Hadry said that Private Terms will work again early this morning, going three-eighths of a mile.