Drysdale Doesn't Plan on Changing

Monday, May 8th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) — Neil Drysdale promises he won't change even though he's now a Kentucky Derby-winning, Hall-of-Fame trainer.

He said he'll still be the same low-key, cautious trainer who loves to talk about his horses rather than himself.

``It won't change my life,'' said the witty 52-year-old Englishman on Sunday, the day after Fusaichi Pegasus won the 126th Derby with an electrifying stretch run that has racing fans again rooting for a Triple Crown winner. ``I'm a wry veteran.''

Fellow Hall-of-Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas politely disagrees.

``It'll change his life, all right,'' said Lukas, who knows all about what happens when you win a Derby, or four, in his case. ``Wait until he starts getting on airplanes and going to restaurants. Neil's got his head on straight, but I just told him, `Roll with it, enjoy it.'''

It was momentous week for Drysdale, who was elected to racing's Hall of Fame last Tuesday, and then watched his long-striding 3-year-old Mr. Prospector colt put away 18 challengers in the 1 1/4 -mile Derby.

The 2-1 top choice of the crowd of 153,204 — second-largest in Derby history — became the first favorite to win since Spectacular Bid in 1979.

``He's a very talented horse and it looks like he has a bright future,'' Drysdale said of the $4 million colt owned by Fusao Sekiguchi, the pony-tailed 64-year-old Japanese entrepreneur who picked out the frisky horse at the Keeneland July yearling sales. ``We'll just keep our fingers crossed and take it one step at a time.''

The Preakness on May 20 is the second leg of the Triple Crown.

Drysdale said Fusaichi Pegasus was fine Sunday, but won't commit to the Preakness until ``we see how he comes out of this one,'' meaning it'll be another three or four days before a final decision is made.

Again, it was left for Lukas to cut to the chase.

``Count Neil in,'' said Lukas, whose Derby trio — Exchange Rate, High Yield and Commendable — finished 12th, 15th and 17th, respectively. ``I was impressed with his horse. He went out there and was able to do what he had to do.''

Lukas said High Yield is headed to the Preakness, with Exchange Rate a possible for the Sir Barton Stakes on the Preakness undercard. Commendable looks headed to the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park.

Other Derby starters considering the Preakness include the Todd Pletcher-trained duo of Impeachment and More Than Ready, the third- and fourth-place finishers, Wheelaway (fifth), Captain Steve (eighth), and Hal's Hope (16th).

No decision has been made about War Chant, Drysdale's other Derby entry who finished ninth, while runner-up Aptitude returns to California and will be pointed to the Belmont Stakes.

The Dubai-based Godolphin Racing duo of China Visit (sixth) and Curule (seventh) also leave the Triple Crown trail, China Visit going to England, Curule to New York.

The Deputy, who finished 14th, will head back to California and rest for a month before returning to race on grass, probably in the Del Mar Derby.

``It was a fun ride while it lasted,'' said Jenine Sahadi, bidding to become the first female trainer to win the Derby.

Among the new challengers for Fusaichi Pegasus (pronounced Foo-sah-EE-chee) in the 1 3/16-mile Preakness are Red Bullet, Snuck In and possibly Performing Magic, who won the Derby Trial. Red Bullet was a distant second to Fusaichi Pegasus in the Wood Memorial.

The colt's Derby win was so impressive, it left several trainers and riders believing they were watching the next Triple Crown winner. The last one was Affirmed in 1978, but a Triple Crown was on the line in the Belmont the past three years with Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in '98 and Charismatic last year.

Can Fusaichi Pegasus pull it off?

``He's a Triple Crown winner if you ask me,'' said Alex Hassinger, whose 2-year-old champion Anees finished 13th. ``He was awesome.''

Added Sahadi: ``That's a Triple Crown horse there.''

Roger Velez, who was aboard Hal's Hope, said, ``The winner is a real talented horse. They are going to have a tough time beating him.''

On this topic, Lukas turned cautious.

``I'm not saying he's not capable, but in winning four races you don't have to bronze him yet,'' he said. ``Now he's won the Derby and should he win the Preakness and the Triple Crown then you can call him great.''

He was great in the world's greatest horse race.

Kent Desormeaux roused Fusaichi Pegasus three times with the whip on the right side in the stretch and the colt won by 1 1/2 lengths in 2:01 — equaling the sixth fastest time in Derby history.

The biggest question about the horse was his ``playful'' pre-race behavior of rearing up, bucking, or just stopping to take a look around. Other than kicking up his heels briefly when bothered by some flies on the walk onto the track, he was the perfect gentlemen.

``He was an angel,'' Desormeaux said, ``like riding a 5-year-old pony all the way around.''

Fusaichi Pegasus, who has won five in a row after a second-place finish in his first start, earned $888,400 and paid $6.60 to win.

Sekiguchi and Drysdale also collected a $250,000 bonus from the New York Racing Association for completing a Wood-Derby sweep. The last Wood-Derby winner was Pleasant Colony in 1981.

Visa USA will pay a Triple Crown winner a $5 million bonus.