Originally created 05/15/98

Coronado's Quest: talented but temperamental



BALTIMORE -- Coronado's Quest's talent is undeniable. It's his temperament that has everybody all worked up.

Trainer Shug McGaughey and owner Stuart Janney have spent more time talking about how the colt might act before the Preakness Saturday than how they think he'll run in it.

Coronado's Quest, who has acted up while being saddled for some races, including three starts in Florida this year, behaved before the Wood Memorial and won that race impressively April 11 at Aqueduct. He has not raced since.

"I think the horse is going to come here and do well -- before the race," Janney said Thursday from his home at Butler, Md.

"This horse is not a bad-boy type of horse," McGaughey said from his barn at Belmont Park. "He's just a bad boy sometimes. I think everything is working in a positive way right now."

Coronado's Quest, who underwent a surgical procedure in March to relieve a breathing problem after his misbehavior in Florida, is scheduled to leave Belmont Park by van at 3 a.m. Saturday and arrive at Pimlico about 7 a.m.

"If he was a 20-1 shot in the race, there wouldn't be any talk about it," McGaughey said.

Coronado's Quest, however, is the early 2-1 favorite in the field of 11 3-year-olds for the 1 3-16 mile Preakness, with Kentucky Derby winner Real Quiet next at 5-2 and Derby runner-up Victory Gallop third choice at 3-1.

Janney got first pick at Wednesday's draw and selected the No. 4 post for Coronado's Quest. Trainer Bob Baffert got the 11th pick, and Real Quiet will start from the No. 11 post, just outside of Victory Gallop.

"If Real Quiet had drawn first, and we had drawn the outside, I'm sure he would have been the favorite," McGaughey said.

Horses for the Preakness are saddled on the turf course in front of the stands. McGaughey thinks being out in the open will benefit Coronado's Quest. "The saddling area at Gulfstream Park is a little claustrophobic," he said.

The horses are taken to the saddling area in post position order, which means Coronado's Quest would be led over fourth.

McGaughey said he proposed that Coronado's Quest go right behind Real Quiet, so as "not to compromise anybody's chances should he stop in front of a horse or act up in any way. But if they want me to go No. 4, I'll go No. 4."

The post parade is a bridge that will have to be crossed when it's reached, McGaughey said.

"I'm more concerned about riding the race itself," jockey Mike Smith said from Belmont Park. "I'm not worried about the horse acting up."

Smith returned to riding on Wednesday after recovering from a broken collarbone in a spill three races before the Florida Derby March 14 at Gulfstream. Robby Davis replaced Smith and rode the colt, who acted up badly while being saddled, to a fifth-place finish. Davis also was aboard for the Wood Memorial.

Coronado's Quest acted up a couple times before races last year, but he won five of six starts as a 2-year-old and was a model of decorum before winning the Remsen Nov. 30 at Aqueduct, just as he was before winning the Wood Memorial. He was something else, however, in three Gulfstream starts between those two races.

McGaughey thinks the breathing problem had something to do with it.

"I think close to race time, he was anticipating a problem (breathing during the race)," the trainer said.

The surgical procedure to alleviate the problem was performed in the colt's stall and took a few minutes.

Despite the victory in the Wood Memorial, Janney and McGaughey decided to skip the Derby.

"I didn't want to take a chance of causing a problem in that kind of atmosphere," McGaughey said.

The colt would have had to spend two or three days in the carnival-like atmosphere of the Churchill Downs stable area, make a longer walk to be saddled than he will have to make Saturday and be saddled in much tighter quarters. The Derby crowd was 143,215, about 50,000 more people than will attend the Preakness.

"I have no second thoughts about the Derby," McGaughey said. "I'm glad I was there."

He, obviously, is hoping he will be glad to be at Pimlico with Coronado's Quest on Saturday.