Originally created 05/17/02

Eventually, Preakness favorite Medaglia d'Oro will show up



BALTIMORE -- His colt is the Preakness favorite, yet trainer Bobby Frankel and Medaglia d'Oro were nowhere near Pimlico two days before the race.

Frankel was in California, while his assistants were watching over Medaglia d'Oro in New York.

Is this any way to win a Triple Crown race?

"I'm doing it like I always do," Frankel said Thursday on a conference call. "When we're in Southern California, I've been shipping up the night before and I've been winning 75-80 percent of the races. I figure I'll keep doing the same thing. It's no big deal."

Horse and trainer reunite Saturday morning at the stakes barn, hours before the second leg of the Triple Crown. Medaglia d'Oro, with a new rider in Jerry Bailey, will attempt to rebound from a fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby and deny Derby winner War Emblem a chance to win the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes on June 8.

"He is the main danger in this," War Emblem's trainer, Bob Baffert, said of Medaglia d'Oro. "He's a young horse, learning how to run. That's why he's dangerous."

Frankel hopes so.

"He's a pretty good horse, he's got some talent," Frankel said. "Hopefully, things will go right and he won't have any excuses and you'll see the real Medaglia d'Oro show up."

Pimlico oddsmaker Frank Carulli made Medaglia d'Oro the 5-2 morning line favorite. War Emblem, who went wire-to-wire in the Derby, is the second choice at 3-1 in a field of 13 3 year-olds going 1 3/16 miles.

While he hasn't won since taking the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita two months ago, Medaglia d'Oro - Gold Medal in Italian - is a formidable foe.

He was second by a head behind Buddha in the Wood Memorial, and had an excuse in the Derby - he bobbled out of the gate and was bumped early and late by Essence of Dubai. Still, he was the only runner passing horses.

"I'm a little surprised," Frankel said of his colt's role as the early favorite. "He still got beat eight lengths, but everybody saw what I saw and I guess they liked the way he changed positions where nobody else did. They figured maybe there will be a hotter pace and maybe the public will jump on him."

Medaglia d'Oro, named for a brand of espresso, was ridden in the Derby by Laffit Pincay Jr. Bailey gets the call because, "He's the go-to rider right now," Frankel said.

Trainer Nick Zito, who sends out long shots Crimson Hero and Straight Gin, is also touting Medaglia d'Oro. "Very strong," he said. "He's the horse to beat."

The Preakness shapes up as an all-out effort to prevent War Emblem from a Derby rerun - racing unchallenged on the lead before romping to a four-length victory.

Medaglia d'Oro should be close to the pace, with front-runners Booklet and Table Limit pressing War Emblem for the lead. If the pace is too quick, the speed horses may weaken in the stretch, opening up the race for a closer such as Crimson Hero.

"My horse is a real easy horse to ride," Frankel said. "Jerry will ride him out of the gate and see what happens in front of him. If nobody goes, he'll go. If they go, he'll probably sit right behind them."

Whatever strategy opposing trainers devise, Baffert expects jockey Victor Espinoza to take War Emblem to the lead and stay there.

"There's a lot of competition out there," Baffert said. "This is the time everyone gets to woof a little bit. But they're just having fun. This is why they call it horse racing, not trainer racing. The horses have to get around there."

Since War Emblem's Derby win, Baffert has been criticized for "buying" the race because Saudi Prince Ahmed bin Salman paid $900,000 for the colt less than a month before the Derby and sent him to the trainer.

Frankel bought his Derby horse, too. Owner Edmund Gann purchased Medaglia d'Oro three months ago for an undisclosed price after the colt won a maiden race at Oaklawn Park.

Just eight of the last 17 Derby winners were favored in the Preakness, with Alysheba in 1987 the only one to win.