05/16/2011 8:14AM

Preakness: Nehro's sharp work tempts owner to send him to Pimlico

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Barbara D. Livingston
Kentucky Derby runner-up Nehro worked a half-mile in 50.80 at Churchill Downs on Monday. Now owner Ahmed Zayat and trainer Steve Asmussen (above) must decide whether to run the colt in the Preakness.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – With owner Ahmed Zayat watching from the grandstand, Kentucky Derby runner-up Nehro breezed a half-mile in 50.80 seconds over a sloppy Churchill Downs racetrack early Monday morning, leaving Zayat trying to decide whether to send the colt to the $1 million Preakness.

“It is such a tough decision,” Zayat said after returning to the Steve Asmussen barn shortly after the workout. “I know what I saw. I saw a significantly better work than what I saw before the Derby. He looked beautiful out there – his leads, his head. I saw what I wanted to see. I will talk to my team and I will weigh the benefits, and then we will make a decision.”

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Under exercise rider Carlos Rosas, Nehro was out in trainer Asmussen’s second set of horses at the break of dawn, going in splits of 12.80, 25.40, 37.80 before galloping out five furlongs in 1:05.20.

A start in the 136th Preakness on Saturday at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore would mark the fourth race for Nehro in an eight-week span. He has been second in three straight derbies: to Pants On Fire in the Louisiana Derby on March 26, to Archarcharch in the Arkansas Derby on April 16, and to Animal Kingdom in the Kentucky Derby on May 7. The colt would be flown with other Churchill horses leaving Wednesday morning on a charter. Preakness entries are due Wednesday morning, with the draw set for 5-6 p.m. Eastern.

Since Bally Ache returned to win the Preakness after finishing second in the Kentucky Derby in 1960, only two Derby runners-up have won the Preakness: Summer Squall in 1990 and Prairie Bayou in 1993.

Pimlico linemaker Frank Carulli said he intends to set Animal Kingdom as a tepid favorite on his Preakness line, with Nehro “no worse than second choice if he runs.”

In his first set Monday, Asmussen also worked his other Preakness prospect, Astrology, who went an easy half-mile in 51.60 seconds. Astrology is owned by Stonestreet Stables and George Bolton.