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Patience, planning pay off for Drysdale

Neil Drysdale
It may have taken eight years, but Neil Drysdale's (right) first Kentucky Derby was worth the wait.
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Neil Drysdale waited eight years to walk a horse to the paddock on the first Saturday in May. And when he did, Fusaichi Pegasus gave him a career-defining moment in a most memorable week.

Drysdale won the 126th Kentucky Derby with a frisky colt whose playful personality is just the opposite of the serious-minded trainer.

"I'm just so delighted for the horse," he said in his clipped British accent. "He's very talented and I'm very proud of him."

Fusaichi Pegasus was Drysdale's first Derby starter in a career that began with handling show horses in the '70s.

Drysdale, who is the epitome of British reserve, broke up the Bob Baffert-D. Wayne Lukas stranglehold in the Derby. He's the first trainer other than Baffert or Lukas to win since 1994.

Bad luck kept Drysdale from saddling his first Derby horse in 1992.

A.P. Indy turned up with a bruised foot on Derby Day, forcing Drysdale to scratch him. The injury also kept A.P. Indy out of the Preakness. But the colt came back to win the Belmont and was voted horse of the year, giving Drysdale some consolation.

He certainly didn't need any this week.

The 1½-length victory Saturday by the Japanese-owned horse, whose tongue-twister of a name often leads Drysdale to call him "the colt," completed a dream week for the trainer.

Drysdale was elected to racing's Hall of Fame on Tuesday. Lukas followed the same path last year, getting into the hall days before Charismatic won the Derby.

"It's a very humbling week and very rewarding," he said.

Why humbling?

"Because the horses put you here. Without the horses, there isn't the sport," he said. "These horses put out huge efforts for you, so I think that's what keeps one humbled. When you're training horses, you lose a lot."

Fusaichi Pegasus has lost just once in his six-race career. He's the fourth colt to wear the blanket of roses after racing just once as a 2-year-old, when he lost his debut.

Owner Fusao Sekiguchi called Drysdale "a remarkable horseman."

"He never really talks in detail about the horse and how he's been trained, but when I see his eyes I know he has confidence," he said. "I have 100 percent confidence in Mr. Drysdale and I left everything to him."

Drysdale is as cool as Fusaichi Pegasus can be contentious. The colt is famous for his playful ways, even bucking his exercise rider and then falling down early in Derby week.

The horse was calm Saturday. So was Drysdale.

Drysdale is unfailingly polite, but it's obvious he doesn't thrive on the spotlight like some of his fellow trainers.

He's loathe to reveal much, if any, emotion.

"You know I don't answer touchy-feely questions," he told reporters asking what it meant to win the Derby.

Drysdale learned the two P's -- patience and planning -- during four years as an assistant to the late Hall of Fame trainer Charlie Whittingham in the early '70s.

Drysdale, a former English teacher, opened his own stable in 1983. He trains on the same Southern California circuit as Baffert and Lukas, and is successful in a low-profile kind of way.

His horses earned more than $4 million last year, and 124 of his 266 starters finished in the money. Drysdale was even better in 1998. He won a career-high 73 races and finished fourth among the nation's trainers with earnings of $6.5 million. Help | Advertiser Info | Contact Us | Tools | Site Map | Jobs at
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