Ferdinand, the upset winner of the Kentucky Derby, was installed today as the overnight favorite for Saturday's Preakness Stakes, given odds of 9 to 5 by Pimlico linemaker Jeff Weissman.
That was fine with Charles Whittingham, Ferdinand's trainer, who said, "I truly believe this colt will win the Triple Crown."
The usually reticent Whittingham, a Hall of Fame trainer, has refused to bring any of his colts east since 1960 "unless they have a realistic chance of winning."
"Barring the unforeseen, and that gets in the way sometimes, I think he'll win the Preakness," Whittingham said after Ferdinand completed a two-mile gallop at Pimlico Race Course today.
"Right now, he's the best horse," Whittingham said of Ferdinand, who won the Derby at 17-to-1 odds. "He beat them in Kentucky, and didn't have a smooth trip. He should keep improving."
The second choice in the early line was the Wayne Lukas-trained entry of Badger Land and Clear Choice at 2 to 1. Badger Land was heavily bet in the Derby and ran exceptionally well after encountering traffic problems throughout, finishing fifth.
Clear Choice improved sharply in his last effort, winning the prestigious Withers Stakes at Aqueduct by daylight over Tasso, last year's 2-year-old champion.
Weissman said, "The last 13 winners of the Kentucky Derby have been made the favorite for the Preakness. That's one item. Then there's Ferdinand's powerful race in the Derby. Besides, I feel that the public will go for the Sunshine Boys," the veteran owners, trainer and jockey (Willie Shoemaker) associated with the colt.
Weissman, unlike private linemakers and newspaper handicappers, is required to project what the odds at race time will be, not what he thinks they should be.
Here is Weissman's full line: Following Ferdinand is Badger Land at 2 to 1, Clear Choice 2 to 1, Broad Brush 3 to 1, Snow Chief 4 to 1, Miracle Wood 20 to 1 and Groovy 30 to 1.
Broad Brush, the third choice in the Preakness, worked five-eighths of a mile in an unimpressive 1:02 4/5 this morning under Jack Gerkin.
In today's fifth race at Pimlico, Big Red Breaker, ridden by Donald Miller, was disqualified from third position, which may result in Miller having to forfeit a chance to win his second Preakness.
Miller, who is scheduled to ride Miracle Wood in the Preakness, had Big Red Breaker under full steam at the eighth pole when his mount ducked in and bothered Dependable Deb, with Cedric Lewis aboard. Lewis claimed foul against Miller and the stewards agreed, dropping Miller's mount from third to fourth and moving up Dependable Deb from fourth to third.
The stewards must now decide whether Miller should be suspended. If so, the suspension would begin Saturday, Preakness day.