The owners of Kentucky Derby winner Gato del Sol said today the horse definitely will skip the Preakness on May 15 and will point toward the Belmont Stakes next month.
Leone J. Peters, a part-owner of Gato del Sol, said from his New York realty office today, "We're not ducking anybody. Our trainer, Eddie Gregson, has logged a textbook case of preparing a horse for one race, the Kentucky Derby. He went off at 21 to 1 in the Kentucky Derby and we felt that he should have been the favorite at the distance (1 1/4 miles).
"Mr. (Arthur B.) Hancock (another part-owner) and I listen to our trainer. We pay our trainer to advise us and we usually listen. He has been telling us that the Preakness is not a good race for our horse. Now, how the hell are we to dispute his obvious wisdom? In my native tongue (Italian), the phrase is 'abbiamo fatto la giobba,' which, freely translated, means we've already got the job done. Gato del Sol will absolutely win the Belmont Stakes."
Ann Presley, speaking for Hancock, said from Paris, Ky., "Mr. Hancock has been advised that Linkage is there at Pimlico with those sharp turns and the Preakness is a sixteenth of a mile less than the Derby. His trainer knows the terrain there and his advice is that the Belmont (June 5) is the best course for Gato del Sol to take at this time. Mr. Hancock listens to his trainer on most matters regarding the handling of the horse. He told me that Gato del Sol goes in the Belmont next month."
The latest decision to bypass a Triple Crown event was made some time before the Derby by Gregson, who said Sunday, "This was the plan before we ever came back here (from the Santa Anita Derby). It was like a win, lose, or draw promise that we made for ourselves."
Barring a last-minute change of heart, Gato del Sol, who finished second to Linkage in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 22, would be the first Derby winner to pass up the Preakness since Tomy Lee in 1959. Gato del Sol was shipped to Belmont today.
Meanwhile, Linkage's trainer, 77-year-old Henry Clark, has decided not to train over the Pimlico racing strip until the resurfacing of the track is completed.
Clark, who has said he is seriously thinking about retiring at the end of this year, took Linkage to Laurel for a workout on Sunday. He is scheduled to work again at Pimlico later this week.
Other Preakness probables are Laser Light, runner-up in the Derby, and Reinvested, the third-place finisher.
The status of Shimatoree, second to Air Forbes Won in the Wood and a horse of high speed, still is to to be determined. Shimatoree runs in the Withers Saturday and trainer Richard Dutrow will decide after that race whether to challenge Linkage in the Preakness.
With nine starters, an optimistic assessment, the Preakness would gross $287,400, with $217,400 going to the winner. Reinvested will pay a supplementary fee of $10,000 since he was not nominated to the race.