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Bullet spoils bid for Crown

Fusaichi Pegasus, the 1-5 favorite, finishes second in the Preakness.

Frank Stronach proved he was in control again.

Five weeks ago, after watching Red Bullet fade to second behind Fusaichi Pegasus in the Wood Memorial, Stronach decided his 3-year-old would bypass the Kentucky Derby and tack for the Preakness Stakes.

In the meantime, Fusaichi Pegasus became the next coming of Secretariat with a resounding victory at Churchill Downs. Such was the Derby winner's aura, Red Bullet's trainer, Joe Orseno, sounded like a crackpot last week when he steadfastly contended his colt could win on Saturday.

The grand plan came together in a decisive stretch drive as Jerry Bailey stalked the overwhelming favorite around the track, then accelerated to the wire to win the 125th Preakness by 3} lengths over Fusaichi Pegasus.

"This shows me the plan was right, and we did what was best for the horse and it worked out," said Stronach, the nation's leading owner in earnings the past two years. "This proved what we knew in our hearts was right."

Sent off at 1-5, Fusaichi Pegasus equaled Riva Ridge (1972) as the biggest Preakness favorite to lose.

Misting rain fell on the track for most of the afternoon, but the condition was listed as good for the start. Trainer Neil Drysdale, however, said the track had a major effect on the favorite.

"He couldn't handle the track," Drysdale said. "It was a kind of a greasy track, and he just couldn't go with it. He was squeezed a bit, but I don't think that hurt his chances at all. I think he just couldn't handle the track."

Red Bullet, a son of Unbridled, has four wins in five starts, avenging his only loss. He went off as the 6-1 second pick and paid $14.40, $3.20 and $2.80. He covered the 1 3/16 miles in 1:56.

Fusaichi Pegasus paid $2.60 and $2.20.

Impeachment, who sat eighth at the three-quarters mark, well behind the leaders, rallied to finish third, a head behind Fusaichi Pegasus, and paid $3.60. He was followed by Captain Steve, Snuck In, Hugh Hefner, High Yield and Hal's Hope.

"My biggest concern was to get a jump on Fusaichi Pegasus at the half (mile) pole," said Bailey, who put in an excellent ride aboard Red Bullet. "I thought if I could beat him to the quarter pole, I probably could beat him to the wire. And it turned out to be just that way."

Bailey said he knew from earlier mounts on the card that he did not want to be on the rail. Both he and Kent Desormeaux, Fusaichi Pegasus' jockey, stalked Hugh Hefner, High Yield and Hal's Hope around the backstretch, then began to angle around as the speedsters tired.

Bailey also knew he did not want to be in the middle, behind Hal's Hope, who ran third until the three-quarter pole then ran out of gas.

"I knew he was going to be stopping," said Bailey, who also won the 1991 Preakness with Hansel. "Cash Asmussen (on Snuck In) was directly in front of me inside of him, and I was kind of at his mercy. If he had enough horse to poke through, I was going to have to follow him. He didn't, and I moved up alongside and took the gap."

Desormeaux said he thought he was in perfect position after swinging wide as Bailey stayed in the middle, meeting up for a head-to-head battle down the stretch. Unlike the Wood Memorial and Kentucky Derby, however, Fusaichi Pegasus did not have a final surge.

"He went inside and I went around and we ended back head and head," Desormeaux said. "We both pushed a button, and he just opened on me."

Red Bullet was the first Preakness winner not to have started in the Derby since Deputed Testamony in 1983.

"We made the switch to Jerry because we knew Jerry knew how to rate," Orseno said. "And we had five weeks to school this horse to do just that. Everything turned out right for us."

Bailey, riding the colt for just the second time after prior commitments took him off in favor of Alex Solis, said he would relish a rematch with Fusaichi Pegasus in the Belmont. He said it would not be the "rubber match," although they have each won in head-to-head meetings.

"(Red Bullet) has lost once, Fusaichi Pegasus has lost twice: advantage Red Bullet."

Drysdale said he would ship his horse to Aqueduct in New York and assess whether he would enter the Belmont. "We'll have to see how he comes out of the race. If he comes out okay, we'll press on."

Orseno said he would wait before making a decision. "If the horse comes out and feels great, we'll probably run him back in three weeks. The horse will truly tell me."

_ Information from Times wires was used in this report.