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PREAKNESS STAKES

Breaks Just Didn't Go McCarron's Way

Horse racing: His mount, Touch Gold, stumbles at the start, then gets shut off in the stretch and finishes fourth.

May 18, 1997|BILL CHRISTINE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

BALTIMORE — Touch Gold was the hot horse in Saturday's Preakness. His third birthday isn't until later in the month, and he had only run six times before, but an eight-length win in his last start sent him into the Pimlico race at a respectable 9-2.

Cryp Too, the outside horse in the 10-horse field and the last horse to be loaded, delayed the start several minutes. The assistant starters had to blindfold the gelding in order to coax him into his stall.

Chris McCarron, riding Touch Gold for the first time, didn't think the delay bothered his horse. "He was standing all right," McCarron said, "but when the gate opened the ground broke out from under him and he stumbled badly."

Touch Gold's nose actually skimmed the dirt in front of him.

"When a horse goes down that far," McCarron said, "the rider usually comes off, so I was very fortunate."

But in a race that was laced with tactical decisions for the jockeys, Touch Gold broke in last place, making McCarron's game plan worthless. "I wanted to be among the first four early," McCarron said. "The speed was holding all day of this track, and that was where you needed to be. Going past the stands the first time, it was very frustrating. This was the last place I wanted to be."

Touch Gold moved up on the inside, and at the top of the stretch he was back in the hunt. But when McCarron tried to send him through, between the fence and Free House, the hole closed and the jockey had to steady his colt. Touch Gold finished fourth, less than two lengths behind winner Silver Charm.

"I don't know what would have happened if we had gotten through," McCarron said. "But I think we might have won if he hadn't stumbled."

Jockey Alex Solis, who rode third-place Captain Bodgit, said he would have needed about 25 additional yards to pass Silver Charm and second-place Free House. As it was, Captain Bodgit was third, beaten by a couple of heads.

"It was a super effort on this track," Solis said. "All day, horses were running fast early, in :22 and :45, and still holding on to win, so the closers weren't doing much. I knew it was going to be hard, because my horse comes from far back. But at the quarter pole, I thought we had a great chance. All three of these horses [Silver Charm, Free House and Captain Bodgit] are very special."

Solis won the Florida Derby and the Wood Memorial with Captain Bodgit before they ran second to Silver Charm in the Kentucky Derby. "I hope to God we get another chance against these horses in the Belmont," Solis said. "My horse . . . deserves to win one of these Triple Crown races."

The first four finishers could run in the Belmont Stakes on June 7, although Paco Gonzalez, Free House's trainer, told Bob Baffert, who trains Silver Charm, that his horse's presence wasn't definite.

"He said he might take the horse home to California," Baffert said. "I hope he does."

After the race, Touch Gold's status for the Belmont also became uncertain. He kicked himself, probably in leaving the gate, and suffered a laceration near the ankle on one foreleg.

Silver Charm will be flown to Louisville and train at Churchill Downs until about five days before the Belmont.

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