Preakness winner Tabasco Cat rolled over on his back, jumped to his feet, playfully kicked sand in the air and did a pirouette.
"Nancy Kerrigan would have been proud of him," trainer D. Wayne Lukas said Wednesday morning, still shaking sand out of his shirt from the early morning romp. "I think his triple axel was about a 9 or 9.8."However, unlike Kerrigan, who skipped the world figure skating championships after winning a silver at the Olympics, Tabasco Cat won't skip a beat in his championship season.
And he hasn't dissed Mickey Mouse, either.
Tabasco Cat and Kentucky Derby champion Go for Gin will be the only two horses to start in all three Triple Crown races when they go to post Saturday in the 1 1/2-mile Belmont Stakes.
In the last four years, no more than three horses have run in all three races, and three of the last four Belmonts have been won by horses that had run in neither of the previous two - Go And Go in 1990, A.P. Indy in 1992 and Colonial Affair last year.
"A rested horse is always better," Go for Gin's trainer, Nick Zito, said. "So, if Go for Gin wins, it's even more to his credit."
Seven were entered at the post position draw today. Along with the Derby and Preakness winners, the field includes Strodes Creek, Brocco, Ulises, Amathos and Signal Tap.
Neither Amathos nor Signal Tap ran in the Derby or Preakness, while Strodes Creek, Brocco and Ulises skipped the Preakness after running in Kentucky. Strodes Creek was second, Brocco was fourth and Ulises was 14th and last in the Derby.
Tabasco Cat, who was sixth in the mud at Churchill Downs on May 1, arrived at Belmont Park Tuesday along with his trainer. Lukas schooled Tabasco Cat in the paddock Wednesday morning, then let him loose in a sand pit behind his stable to blow off steam and limber up his jet-lagged muscles.
"He thoroughly enjoyed this morning," Lukas said. "He was pawing and digging and rolling around. He must have rolled in the sand 15 times. He kicked sand all over me, all over my shirt, down my neck."
Despite their recent successes, or perhaps because of the toll they have taken, neither Tabasco Cat nor Go for Gin are cinches to be favored at post time. Go for Gin was made the early 9-5 favorite with Strodes Creek at 5-2.