07/17/2002 11:00PM

Magic Weisner vulnerable in Ohio Derby

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NORTH RANDALL, Ohio - At first glance, one be might inclined to concede the winner's share of the Ohio Derby's $300,000 purse to Magic Weisner, who finished a fast-closing second in the Preakness and was fourth in the Belmont Stakes. But while Magic Weisner is the most accomplished horse entered, a closer look suggests the race may not be all that one-sided.

Magic Weisner's chief rival in the five-horse field is Wiseman's Ferry, who appears to be the controlling speed in the 1 1/8-mile race. Factor in that both The Judge Sez Who and Peekskill are improving with each start and enter off victories. Grey Beard rounds out the field, which is the smallest since Paradisical won the 1935 Ohio Derby.

Magic Weisner, who is owned and trained by Nancy Alberts, has a 6-3-0 record from 12 lifetime starts, for earnings of $493,100. He moved into the Triple Crown picture when his furious late rally fell three-quarters of a length short of catching War Emblem at the wire in the Preakness.

In the Belmont Magic Weisner was close up for a mile but gradually weakened, beaten 11 lengths. While he has tactical speed and is suited by the distance of the Grade 2 Ohio Derby, Alberts realizes that jockey Richard Migliore must be careful to keep Wiseman's Ferry within reach.

"I'm going to watch earlier races on the card and see how fast they go and then decide what we're going to do," Alberts said. "I've been told early speed holds up here, so we can't let that other horse get away from us."

Wiseman's Ferry led every step of the way to win the Grade 3 Lone Star Derby at nine furlongs but tired badly in the Belmont. He is the highweight in the race at 120 pounds, four more than Magic Weisner. Jorge Chavez will again ride Wiseman's Ferry for trainer Niall O'Callaghan, who is still smarting from a defeat in last year's Ohio Derby.

"We'd really like to win it this time," he said. "because last year we sent out Woodmoon (22-1) and got beat only a half-length by Western Pride.

"Wiseman's Ferry is ready, and I'm expecting him to run big on Saturday."

The Judge Sez Who won the Migrating Moon Stakes at Calder in his last start. Before that he was second by a length to Puck in the Unbridled Stakes. Puck's impressive win in last Saturday's Long Branch Stakes has earned him a starting berth in the Haskell Invitational. Mark Guidry rides The Judge Sez Who for trainer Milton Wolfson.

Peekskill won his last start at Churchill Downs at the Ohio Derby distance. Before that, he was third to Wiseman's Ferry in the Lone Star Derby. In March, Peekskill finished third in the Grade l Florida Derby, beaten 10 lengths by Harlan's Holiday. Trainer Anthony Reinstedler has engaged Robbie Davis to ride.

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