Trainer Neil Drysdale saw Fusaichi Pegasus' natural curiosity as a positive trait before he won the Kentucky Derby. That the horse would stop on the way to the starting gate to gaze at a misplaced ambulance or high-soaring jet was supposedly a sign of intelligence, and the manner in which he handled a massive crowd at Churchill Downs seemingly reinforced that point.
Drysdale continued to say many of the same things Wednesday, but his handling of Fusaichi Pegasus at Pimlico Race Course seemed contradictory.
Before arriving late Wednesday afternoon, Drysdale had decided Fusaichi Pegasus would not be housed with the other Preakness entrants in the stakes barn behind the grandstand. Instead, he said the colt would be better off in the "quiet" of the backstretch.
Drysdale changed his tack again when the trailer containing Fusaichi Pegasus and two other horses approached Barn 7 along Belvedere Avenue.
The trainer jumped from the van in which he was riding and onto the running board of the truck, directing the driver to maneuver next to the barn instead of parking near the chute area where horses were to be unloaded.
"We didn't want to unload and make them walk along the track," Drysdale said. "This is just trying to do the best thing for the horse. My feeling was it was best to stable back here and it would not be good to walk on the tarmac and along the racetrack. That's it."
A ramp from the trailer allowed Fusaichi Pegasus _ who disembarked first _ and stable pal Body Guard to unload directly into the barn and avoid the asphalt.
Drysdale also said the colt would be saddled in the backstretch.
"It's just a matter of keeping him out of the sun and saddling him where it's cool," Drysdale said. "It's just a case of not exposing him to something he doesn't need to be exposed to."
Drysdale said the trip from Kentucky was uneventful. Fusaichi Pegasus shipped peacefully from Louisville to Baltimore-Washington International, and on the van trip, he said.
The colt caused a fuss wherever he went, as baggage handlers and other workers on the tarmac at the airport strained to get a glimpse of him.
Drysdale said Fusaichi Pegasus is tentatively scheduled to gallop each morning before the Preakness.
CAPTAIN STEVE: Bob Baffert's Kentucky Derby and Preakness runner made a much more mundane entrance, arriving about a half hour after Fusaichi Pegasus and settling into Stall 40, which is usually reserved for the Derby winner.
Baffert housed Silver Charm in that barn in 1997 and Real Quiet in 1998.
"Captain Steve is doing fine," Baffert said. "The horses I bring in are laid-back. Just like me."
Baffert said his colt could use some ego-boosting after a poor Derby finish and the treatment Fusaichi Pegasus received on the other side of the track.
"Put a camera on him," he said. "Make him feel important."
Baffert, who fell short of the Triple Crown when Silver Charm and Real Quiet were beaten in the Belmont Stakes, did not want to make any predictions about whether Fusaichi Pegasus can complete the task.
"We'll see," he said. "My job is to make him earn it."