Get Hip to it: Foo-sah-EE-chee

Wednesday, May 10th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

Jockey Kent Desormeaux has been ``Kent Desormeaux'' his entire career. Track and TV announcers don't just refer to him as ``Kent.''

Same with Neil Drysdale. No one's lazy enough to try to get by with ``Neil'' on first reference to the trainer.

Their horse, Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus, has not been as fortunate. Plenty of people are tripping over his name, with some simply dropping ``Fusaichi'' — that's pronounced foo-sah-EE-chee — and resorting to calling him plain old ``Pegasus.''

ABC Sports reporter Charlsie Cantey might have opened the gates when she went to the winner's circle after Saturday's race. Before interviewing Desormeaux, Cantey tried three times to pronounce ``Fusaichi,'' eventually gave up, and asked if she could just stick to the horse's second name.

Kentucky Gov. Paul Patton also mangled the horse's name in the post-race ceremony.

Several others in TV and radio had a hard time, too, either seeking refuge with ``Pegasus'' or deliberately sounding out — one syl-la-ble at a time — ``Fusaichi.''

And with two legs left in the Triple Crown, it's a name that is sure to be mispronounced over and over.

``All over the track, all week long, people were pronouncing it differently,'' ABC Sports vice president Mark Mandel said. ``We went over it in a production meeting, trying to get everyone on the same page.''

The horse's name combines Japanese slang with Greek mythology — and he's not the only thoroughbred with ``Fusaichi'' in his name. There's also a Fusaichi Concorde and a Fusaichi Grace.

Owner Fusao Sekiguchi came up with the first name by combining his own given name with ``ichi,'' which means ``No. 1'' in Japanese. Pegasus is the name of the winged horse of Greek mythology.

Fusaichi Pegasus posed no problems for Dave Johnson, who called his 23rd consecutive Kentucky Derby for ABC.

``I split it into two syllables in my mind. I just put a hyphen in there,'' Johnson said in a telephone interview. ``I heard the people surrounding the horse call him that. That's how (trainer) Neil Drysdale calls him. In fact, this was easier than some of them in the past.''

Bob Sheppard, honored Sunday for his 50 years as the New York Yankees' public address announcer, offered similar advice: ``My pattern for 50 years has always been to go to the athlete and ask personally how to pronounce his name.

``That obviously can't happen with a horse.''

Before the race Saturday, Johnson joked on the air about the tongue-twisting nature of the favorite's name, saying, ``You say 'Fusachi.' I say 'Fusichi.' Let's call the whole thing off.''

It wasn't even easy in print, apparently.

Some writers resorted to the nickname ``Fu.'' USA Today, in a story that referred to pronunciation difficulties, provided a mistaken guide: ``FU-A-EE-CHI.''

Many past Kentucky Derby winners have made things simple for announcers: Seattle Slew, Spectacular Bid, Real Quiet, Charismatic. But they also didn't make things quite as fun.

ESPN's late-night edition of ``SportsCenter'' on Saturday opened with anchor Steve Berthiaume introducing himself and cohort John Anderson by saying, ``I am Fusaichi Berthiaume, he's Fusaichi Anderson.''