Nathan Scherr has great respect for Affirmed, Alydar and Believe It.
"I never want to meet any of the (Kentucky Derby's) first three in a dark allsy," Scherr admitted yesterday at Pimlico. So he entered his horse in the Preakness instead.
The Baltimore apartment-house owner and his brother, Bob, own Dax S., a dark bay colt that has as much chance of defeating AA&B as Scherr does. "We can't beat them," the owner said. "But we have a heck of a shot for fourth place, in the second race."
Scherr was not referring to the second race on tomorrow's program. He believes Dax S., with a little luck, can finish ahead of Track Reward, Noon Time Spender and Indigo Star, the Preakness' second flight.
If Dax S. does, Scherr will make $3,400 on the gamble, fourth money being $7,500. It costs $100 to nominate, $2,000 to enter and $2,000 to start in the Preakness.
"It's not the money, it's the excitement of having a chance to have your horse run in the big hometown race," the owner acknowledged.
Two races within a race is the appearance given by the field of seven drawn yesterday for the 103rd running of the middle event in the Triple Crown series. The Derby's 1-2-3 do not take the four pretenders very seriously, and the Preakness' 4-5-6-7 do not pretend they are about to make Upset history.
The Fourth-Place Four will be 40 to 1 or longer in the wagering, with the odds on Indigo Star and Dax S. certain to stretch the two-digit spaces on the tote boards tthe breaking point, exceeding 99 to 1.
Albert Barrera, the oldest son of Affirmed's trainer, Laz Barrea, spoke for the longshots yesterday when he said: "I don't mind at all being accused of having a horse in the same race with my father. What bothers me is that my father has the best horse." Albert Barrera trains Track Record.
Affirmed, Alydar and Believe It had the stretch run of the Derby to themselves and their is little reason to expect the final seconds of the Preakness to be any different. Darby Creek Road, Esops Foibles and Sensitive Prince, three highly respectable 3-year-olds, finished 4-5-6 at Churchill Downs but they passed the Preakness. Nor is there an obvious cheap speedball around, as Raymond Earl was in Louisville.
Noon Time Spender or Track Reward might fill that role here, but the probability is that Affirmed will take control of the Preakness proceedings early and prove difficult to catch over the mile and 3/16ths. The Derby winner is 4 to 5 in most overnight lines and is certain to be the favorite.Alydar is the second choice, at about 8 to 5, while Believe It's probable odds range from 4 to 1 to 8 to 1.
Members Club will take encouragement from the fact that favoritism has not served as a good indication of the final results in the Affirmed-Alydar series. Only twice had the public's choice won, Alydar capturing the Great American Stakes at Belmont Park last July at 4 to 5, while Affirmed scored by a nose over his archrival in the Futurity at Belmont last September as the 6-to-5 favorite.
Otherwise, Alydar was favored in the Champagne, and Alydar won; Alydar was favored in the Laurel Futurity, and Sffirmed won: and Alydar was favored in the Derby, won by Affirmed.
"The Futurity at Laurel was probably the best indication of these two," Laz. Barrera said yesterday. "That is the race where my horse and Alydar hooked up for nearly seven furlongs, head to head, in the race of the year, and Affirmed won it.
"Affirmed won it by a neck but the was not going to lose it, no matter what the other horse did. If you saw it, you knew it. That is why the fans in Maryland will not make the same mistake the people in Kentucky did. The fans here are familiar with both these horses, not just one."
Barrera is still a little pertubed by the pattern of the betting in Kentucky. "Affirmed win four and the Eclipse Award. Alydar win two. Yet they make the other horse, not mine, favored.
"They tell me it was so because Affirmed had been winning in California last winter while Alydar was winning in Florida and Kentucky. You would have thought we were in Russia, or China.
"It made no difference there. It makes no difference here," Barerra declared. "Only, now, they know."
There was concern, briefly, yesterday for Steve Cauthen, Affirmed's rider, who strained his right wrist in a spill at Aqueduct Wednesday. He was back in action at Aqueduct yesterday.