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A Blazing Workout Has Trainer Fuming

Preakness: Exercise rider lets Free House go too fast, raising concerns about how much horse will have left for race.

May 14, 1997|BILL CHRISTINE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BALTIMORE — While his brother fumed back at the barn, exercise rider Sal Gonzalez Sr. brooded in a Pimlico parking lot and talked about quitting his job.

This was the aftermath to a lickety-split Preakness workout by Free House, who sped across Pimlico Tuesday morning in 45 3/5 seconds.

"Free House scorched the surface," read the report of the Pimlico clocker who caught the Santa Anita Derby winner in eye-rubbing fractions of :11 3/5, :22 3/5 and :33 3/5.

Free House, who finished third in the Kentucky Derby, galloped out five furlongs in :58 1/5.

Paco Gonzalez, who trains Free House, lashed out at his brother for allowing their horse to train so fast.

"He was very hard on me," Sal Gonzalez Sr. said. "It was a mistake. When I got off him, I thought the time might have been :48 or something. He was going that easy. This horse always goes easy. I don't even carry a whip when I ride him, because he doesn't need it."

Gonzalez, 58, has been working as his brother's assistant since Paco Gonzalez, 52, began training horses for Free House's owners, Trudy McCaffery and John Toffan, in 1989.

"The owners will be coming in [late Tuesday], and they will be mad at me too," Sal Gonzalez Sr. said. "I think I'll be moving on after the race. Bob Baffert [who trains Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness favorite Silver Charm] said he might have room for me and I might go with him."

Paco Gonzalez, who watched the workout from a spot high in the grandstand, said he would have waved to his brother when the horse came down the stretch, but the exercise rider wouldn't have been able to see him.

"I was expecting :48 or :49," Paco Gonzalez said. "It was very fast. The horse was fine afterward. He cooled out fine. I just hope it wasn't too much."

Touch Gold, another Preakness probable, worked a half-mile in a more sensible :48, the second-fastest time of the morning. The second-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, Captain Bodgit, who is training at Bowie, about 30 miles from Pimlico, worked in :48 2/5.

Others expected to run Saturday are Concerto, Wild Tempest, Crypto Too, Hoxie, Jack At The Bank and Frisk Me Now, who missed a workout Tuesday because of a cough.

(BEGIN TEXT OF INFOBOX / INFOGRAPHIC)

Preakness Stakes

* WHERE: Pimlico Race Course, Baltimore.

* DISTANCE: 1 3/16 mile.

* WHEN: Saturday, 2:30 p.m.

* TV: Channel 7.

* PROBABLE STARTERS: Silver Charm, Free House, Touch Gold, Captain Bodgit, Concerto, Wild Tempest, Crypto Too, Hoxie, Jack At The Bank and Frisk Me Now.

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