05/24/2009 11:00PM

Trainer profile: Neil Drysdale


Neil Drysdale got the nod from the Hall of Fame in 2000, which was appropriate since that also marked the year of likely his greatest victory, the Kentucky Derby win Fusaichi Pegasus.

It has been nine years since, and the 61-year-old Drysdale has not been resting on his laurels. His Hall qualifications are beyond reproach. His early equine days came with show horses in Florida, but then he cut his teeth working at famous Tartan Farms and worked as assistant to Roger Lauren. He spent time working in South America but got his primary tutelage when he became assistant to Charlie Whittingham in Southern California in the early 1970s.

Whittingham would be most proud of his pupil. He struck out on his own in 1974, working for the Saron Stable and guiding the career of eventual Hall of Fame filly Bold n Determined. From there it was onward and upward. He has handled such top-class runners as A.P. Indy, Princess Rooney, Tasso, Hollywood Wildcat, Prized, Aragorn, Fiji, Labeeb, Hawksley Hill, Gorgeous, and of course Fusaichi Pegasus.

Drysdale may not currently have such a force in his barn, but continues with his high-percentage work.

The main thing he learned from Whittingham, he has said, was patience and planning. Drysdale is respected among horseplayers for his ability to fire off a layoff and get a horse ready for a specific assignment, a la the Bald Eagle. He wins 13 percent of the time with horses who have had six months or more on the bench and his numbers are better after his horses have had a race. He s a superb 28 percent second time out after a layoff of 45-180 days and 21 percent second time out after a layoff of 180 or more days.

Like Whittingham, Drysdale has never been one to fire first time out (0 for his last 26). But his most talented runners may still run well first time out. Fusaichi Pegasus, for example, ran splendidly to be second, beaten just narrowly in his debut. It was always Whittingham s pattern to use early races to educate a horse. Drysdale does the same. Fusaichi Pegasus, War Chant, Splendid Blended, A.P. Indy, Bella Bellucci, and 2-year-old champion Tasso all ran superbly at 2.

Drysdale is consistent in many categories, winning 11 percent with straight maidens, 10 percent with claimers, 16 percent with allowance horses, 12 percent in stakes, and 11 percent in graded stakes. He s 0 for his last 9 with maiden claimers.

Drysdale knows when to add blinkers to a horse s equipment he s 5 for his last 26 (19 percent) with such a move. Things haven t gone so well, however, when he takes them off. He s 0 for his last 9 with that move.

While he currently does not have that big horse, don t take that to mean he doesn t still possess power.

Mrs Kipling, owned by celebrity chef Bobby Flay and winner of Hollywood s Grade 3 Senorita, may go next in Saturday s Grade 2 Honeymoon Handicap. U S Ranger, third in the Grade 3 Inglewood, was set to return in the Grade 1 Shoemaker Mile on May 25. And Drysdale s old stalwart Artiste Royal is scheduled to defend his title in the Grade 1 Charles Whittingham Memorial Handicap on June 6. Obviously another win there for Drysdale would be more than fitting.