05/06/2002 11:00PM

Expect a different story at Pimlico


LAS VEGAS - In my Kentucky Derby pedigree profile of War Emblem in the Racing Form last Saturday, I wrote that "while War Emblem inherited his speed from Our Emblem, he also gets a healthy amount of stamina and turf ability from Lord at War and The Pruner, a turf stakes winner who was a son of Herbager out of a mare by Princequillo. His Illinois Derby victory proved he can handle middle distances if left alone on the lead, but 1 1/4 miles on a contested pace may be stretching it."

Unexpectedly, War Emblem did have a lone lead and was able to set moderate fractions on a track surface that was producing lightning-quick times all day. Vastly underrated, War Emblem led the field on a merry chase, and the fact that the first three finishers raced 1-2-3 around the track underscores the soft pace.

War Emblem faces a different pace scenario in the Preakness.

Booklet (by Notebook), who was a dominant player earlier this winter in Florida because of his speed, will ensure that War Emblem will have company from the bell. D. Wayne Lukas will send Derby runner-up Proud Citizen (Gone West), and possibly Table Limit, a son of Conquistador Cielo, whose obvious purpose will be to push War Emblem on the lead.

Nick Zito is hoping to start two runners, the Lexington Stakes runner-up, Crimson Hero, and Straight Gin. Crimson Hero is a half-brother to multiple stakes winner Albert the Great, by Capote. Crimson Hero is a rapidly improving colt with pedigree punch. Straight Gin, a son of Zito's 1994 Derby winner, Go for Gin, showed promise in Florida, and also has a strong pedigree. His second dam is a half-sister to Belmont Stakes winner Coastal, as well as major stakes winner Slew o' Gold and Dokki, the dam of Aptitude.

Easyfromthegitgo ran a strong race in the Louisiana Derby, finishing second to Repent by a nose, and has tactical speed. By Dehere, he is out of the Easy Goer mare Montera, and his stakes-winning second dam is a half-sister to grass champion Cozzene. Easyfromthegitgo descends from a sterling Tartan Farm female family, and the presence of Easy Goer as his damsire suggests he should handle the 1 3/16-mile Preakness distance. Based on the configuration and surface of Pimlico, Easyfromthegitgo fits the profile of a horse who should perform well in the Preakness.

Proud Citizen was no doubt aided as much by Churchill's surface as was War Emblem, but his performance is even more impressive considering that the Derby was basically his second start of the year. Away since August, Lukas chose the Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles as his 3-year-old debut, and not surprisingly, Proud Citizen showed some speed before tiring. But Lukas was making up for lost time and had to push Proud Citizen if he was to make the Derby. So the Santa Anita Derby actually served as a prep for the Lexington Stakes, where Proud Citizen showed the explosive form he displayed early at 2.

Proud Citizen has the pedigree and running style to be War Emblem's biggest threat in the Preakness. By Gone West, he inherits a double dose of speed from his damsire, Green Forest, an exceptional European sprinter/miler who was a noted sire of brilliant runners. Green Forest is by Shecky Greene, a multiple stakes-winning sprinter who was a member of the illustrious 1970 crop that included Secretariat, Mr. Prospector, Sham, and Stop the Music.

The 1970 foal crop also included 2-year-old filly champion La Prevoyante, who was undefeated in 12 starts as a juvenile. La Prevoyante is a full sister to Danseuse Etoile, the second dam of Proud Citizen. Proud Citizen's third dam, Arctic Dancer, was a full sister to Northern Dancer.

Medaglia d'Oro, Sunday Break, U S S Tinosa, and Equality are also likely to challenge War Emblem in the Preakness, while Harlan's Holiday, Perfect Drift, and Request for Parole may be back for a rematch.

Equality is the kind of late-blooming 3-year-old who is always dangerous in the Preakness. By Mt. Livermore, he is out of a half-sister to a Canadian Horse of the Year, Peaks and Valleys. Equality won the Tampa Bay Derby with an electrifying middle move, and his female family is having a banner year. Alternate, a half-sister to Peaks and Valleys by Seattle Slew, won the Go for Wand Stakes last weekend and is headed for the Delaware Oaks.

Bred for distance

The depth of the 3-year-old filly division just got deeper. Farda Amiga, winner of the Kentucky Oaks at 20-1, proved that she belonged with Grade 1 company when she finished a good fourth in the Santa Anita Oaks at 1 1/16 miles. By Broad Brush out of a Pleasant Colony mare, Farda Amiga was bred to get better with maturity and longer distances and the Kentucky Oaks fit the bill.

Farda Amiga is out of Fly North, a Canadian stakes winner from a highly successful female family. Her second dam, Dry North (by yet another stout influence, Temperence Hill) is a half-sister to major stakes winners St. Jovite, Lac Ouimet, L'Carriere, and Salem Drive. With so many stamina influences in her pedigree, Farda Amiga is tailor-made for the Coaching Club American Oaks at 12 furlongs and Alabama Stakes at 1 1/4 miles.