May 17, 1997 in Sports

Silver Charm A Win Away From Shot At History Derby Winner Favored In Preakness, Possibly Setting Stage For Triple Crown

Joseph Durso New York Times

If Silver Charm withstands Captain Bodgit and Free House in the Preakness Stakes today, can he go on three weeks later and become the 12th horse to sweep the Triple Crown? Or will he become the 13th horse to fall short in the Belmont Stakes?

“The Kentucky Derby was the hardest part,” said Bob Baffert, who trains Silver Charm, the California star who is the favorite in the Preakness. “If we win the Preakness, too, the Belmont relatively should be the least difficult of the three.”

Baffert, who seldom avoids a quip, promptly added: “He’s lucky, he didn’t have to go out and party after the Derby. He’s doing great, but I’m starting to run out of steam.”

Silver Charm galloped half a mile Friday morning with his regular exercise rider, Larry Damore. In the Preakness, his jockey again will be Gary Stevens. The colt looked relaxed and professional, and Baffert said: “I didn’t want to do too much with him.”

Baffert said his colt had bounced back well after winning the Derby by a head over Captain Bodgit, with Free House third. Those three Derby graduates were the top three favorites to dominate the field of 10 in the 122nd Preakness. The race will be run at a mile and three-sixteenths at Pimlico Race Course, with post time at 2:31 p.m., PDT, and a crowd of 90,000 expected. Televised coverage begins at 1:30 p.m. on ABC.

The last horse to go into the Belmont with a chance to sweep the Triple Crown was Sunday Silence, who had defeated Easy Goer in memorable races in the 1989 Derby and Preakness but who was outrun by his archrival in the Belmont. The last of the 11 horses to win the Triple Crown was Affirmed in 1978.

Neither the weather nor Pimlico’s narrow track with tight turns was expected to be decisive. After a rainy night and morning, the weather forecast for Baltimore was clear, with a temperature in the 60s.

On the eve of the race, Silver Charm was 9-5 to win, with Captain Bodgit next at 2-1 and Free House third at 9-2. The only other Derby alumnus to enter the Preakness was George Steinbrenner’s Concerto, who ran ninth and was 12-1 for the Preakness on the track’s early line. The most highly regarded of the newcomers was Touch Gold, winner of the Lexington Stakes, at 5-1.

Captain Bodgit did some late galloping at nearby Bowie, where he has been conditioned by his Maryland trainer, Gary Capuano, who reported: “He’s a wild man.”

Kent Desormeaux, who began his career riding in Maryland, will ride Free House in place of David Flores, and he predicted new tactics for his horse, which will start from the No. 4 stall.

Mike Smith will replace Carlos Marquez aboard Concerto.

But the colt’s trainer, John Tammaro, said, “You just can’t plan the way the race is going to be run.”

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