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Bill Kwon

Sports Watch

By Bill Kwon

Tuesday, May 9, 2000

Triple Crown threat
‘Fu’ a sure thing

THERE are only three horse racing events I watch, if there's no parimutuel betting to get my attention.

The three, naturally, are horse racing's Triple Crown -- the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Belmont Stakes.

And every time a colt runs off with the Kentucky Derby, what follows, most naturally, is the question -- can it win the Triple Crown?

In Saturday's winner, Fusaichi Pegasus, we might have come up with a real winner, folks.

In a time in which we've been fortunate to see some of the greatest talents -- Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods, Jerry Rice and Wayne Gretzky -- who exhibited star quality and athletic ability, Fusaichi Pegasus apparently has the ability and the pedigree to join their ranks in capturing our imagination.

A horse called "Fu." And it looks like he has the right stuff. In an equine sense, that is.

Don't snicker. Don't even give me a horse laugh.

No less than the best racing sportswriter today -- Sports Illustrated's William Nack -- is enamored of the colt, which was purchased as a yearling for a staggering $4 million dollars.

HIS owner, Fasao Sekiguchi of Japan, said he would have paid $5 million.

I respect Nack's judgment. To me, he's the best ever to write about the sport of kings since Joe Palmer, who had to be good because he was even admired by Red Smith.

"Fusaichi Pegasus is a gorgeous individual. An equine Adonis," said Nack, in a interview.

"He's kind of a high-strung goofball who plays around a lot. He's also very curious. ... He's a real jock, a real Michael Jordan-type. He's got great balance and great movement, and he's very smooth -- silky even -- and very athletic."

His trainer once whinnied at Fusaichi Pegasus, and he whinnied back. More than once, he'd stop in the middle of his gallop and turn around to look back at what's happening.

"Yes, he's slightly neurotic, but aren't we all?" Nack said.

Like I said, my kind of horse. A horse with an antic disposition.

His name is a combination of the first four letters of the owner's first name and "ichi," Japanese for No. 1. Pegasus is the mythical winged horse. And he could reach mythic status by winning the Triple Crown.

It is racing's most exclusive club with only 11 Triple Crown winners. It's hard to believe that the last to do it was Affirmed in 1978.

But Fusaichi Pegasus showed that he's already something special. He was the first favorite -- at 9-5 odds -- to win the Kentucky Derby since Spectacular Bid did it in 1979.

On May 20, he'll be the huge betting favorite to win the Preakness, the second leg of the Triple Crown. Then it's on to the Belmont Stakes in June.

The Triple Crown is horse racing's Holy Grail.

WE might not remember the names of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness or Belmont winners. Well, except for the 1966 Derby winner because it was named Kauai King.

But the horses that go on to win the Triple Crown remain indelibly in our minds:

Seattle Slew (1977), Secretariat (1973), Citation (1948), Assault (1946) and Whirlaway (1941).

In 1999, Charismatic was the third horse in as many years -- and 17th overall -- to miss the Triple Crown on the final leg as it finished third in the Belmont Stakes to the Lemon Drop Kid.

From Triple Crown to Triple Frown. Too bad. Charismatic had a lot of charisma.

Fusaichi Pegasus -- the bay colt with a beguiling name -- won't disappoint.

You can bet on it.

Bill Kwon has been writing
about sports for the Star-Bulletin since 1959.

E-mail to Sports Editor

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