Derby Winner Ready To Run Again

Friday, September 22nd 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) — Fusaichi Pegasus was withdrawn from the final leg of the Triple Crown nearly four months ago, and no one knew when, or if, he would ever race again.

On Saturday, the Kentucky Derby winner makes his first start since mid-May when he faces a field of six other 3-year-olds in the $150,000 Jerome Handicap at Belmont Park.

With such a long layoff, trainer Neil Drysdale warns that the eye-catching colt probably won't be in the same racing shape he was last spring, when he was projected to become the first Triple Crown winner in 22 years.

``I look for him to move forward off this race, and it puts him in a position to run again before the Breeders' Cup,'' said Drysdale. ``Hopefully, he'll regain his spring form, but he might need a race or two.''

The Breeders' Cup is Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs.

With five wins and two seconds — including his second-place finish to Red Bullet in the Preakness — Fusaichi Pegasus will carry highweight of 124 pounds, including jockey Kent Desormeaux.

Among those challenging him in the one-mile race will be Travers runner-up Albert the Great; Hook and Ladder, coming off a seven-length allowance victory; the Bob Baffert-trained El Corredor, and Withers winner Big E E.

Also starting are Quiet Mike and Concerned Minister.

``If you're going to catch Fusaichi Pegasus, now is the right time,'' said John Kimmel, trainer of Hook and Ladder. ``He's going to have to run a sub-1:34 mile and I don't know if he's sharp enough to do that. They're looking at this as a prep race, but we have no ambitions about running 1 1/4 miles.''

The last time Fusaichi Pegasus raced in New York was in April, when he rolled to an impressive victory in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. But after going on to win the Derby, he caught a wet track at Pimlico and finished second. He was being pointed toward the Belmont when he tore a small chunk out of his right front hoof, and was declared out of the race.

Although the injury quickly healed, negotiations over the colt's ownership kept him off the racetrack until now.

``The horse has done very well,'' said Drysdale. ``He's developed like a 3-year-old and he benefited from his rest.''

Also on the card at Belmont Park is the $300,000 Grade I Vosburgh, headed by Trippi, More Than Ready and Successful Appeal.