05/17/2002 11:00PM

Magic Weisner's narrow loss is worth celebrating

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BALTIMORE - The local girl made good. She came within three-quarters of a length of making great.

Trainer Nancy Alberts, who worked for trainer James P. Simpson for 30 years before going out on her own in the early 1990's, nearly pulled off one of the greatest upsets in Preakness history Saturday when Magic Weisner's late charge just fell short in finishing second to War Emblem.

Though Magic Weisner fell short, Alberts and her contingent were celebrating in the unsaddling area as if they had won. Alberts, who is stabled at Laurel, is also the breeder and owner of Magic Weisner. She told anyone who would listen that her horse would run big. Sent off at 45-1 - the second longest shot on the board - few people listened.

"``Of course, you want to win, but second is wonderful,'' said Alberts, 56, who was the groom for Cormorant when he finished fourth to Seattle Slew in the 1977 Preakness. "Especially, you know, when you're a little guy. I'm very proud of him.''

Weisner initially purchased the mare Jameza for $1 from an owner who didn't want her and raced her in low-level claiming races for most of her career. She would eventually buy the mare back for $1,500 from William Ecker, a trainer who had claimed her, and bred her to Ameri Valay.

Magic Weisner won six of his first 10 starts, including five in a row from Dec. 8 through March 30, including three Maryland-bred stakes. He was coming off a second-place finish in the Federico Tesio.

With new rider Richard Migliore up, Magic Weisner dropped back to 11th place after an opening quarter mile run in 22.87 seconds. Magic Weisner picked his way through the field and came a bit wide into the stretch. He set sail after War Emblem, but just ran out of room.

Migliore had ridden against Magic Weisner in the Federico Tesio Stakes and beat him with Smoked Em. When Alberts decided to replace regular rider Phil Teator, Migliore wanted to ride even though the horse was a longshot.

"I knew it was a big step up,'' Migliore said. "I went from being real happy that I was going to get the people a check, to ecstatic I was going to be second to being disappointed I didn't win.''