Hemingway’s Key gives Zito fighting chance in Preakness

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Trainer Nick Zito missed the Kentucky Derby; he won’t miss the Preakness.

The Hall of Famer said Wednesday he plans to run Hemingway’s Key against Derby winner Barbaro in the second leg of the Triple Crown on May 20.

Hemingways Key finished eighth in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland back on April 12, and didn’t have enough graded stakes earnings to qualify for a full 20-horse Kentucky Derby field.

“He didn’t run well that day, which was very disappointing,” Zito said of the Lexington.

“He trains better than he performs in the afternoon, but the light bulb just hasn’t come on yet.”

The colt owned by Yankees’ boss George Steinbrenner was 2-for-2 last year, but is 0-for-4 in stakes races this year. Zito, who had five horses in last year’s Derby but none last week, hopes Hemingway’s Key runs well enough to set him up for the Belmont Stakes on June 10.

The Preakness at Pimlico has six confirmed starters: Barbaro, Brother Derek (fourth in the Derby), Sweetnorthernsaint (seventh), Gotham winner Like Now, Withers winner Bernardini and Hemingways Key.

A decision will be made on Lawyer Ron later this week, and trainer Bob Baffert is considering running Bob and John (17th) and Point Determined (ninth).

Simon Pure was pulled from consideration by trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

Lawyer Ron, who finished a disappointing 12th in the Kentucky Derby, has a slight ankle injury but trainer Bob Holthus said more X-rays were scheduled.

“He’s got a little something in his right hind ankle that the new owner’s veterinarian is a little bit concerned about,” he said.

“My veterinarian and myself feel that it’s probably been there a long time.”

A majority interest in Lawyer Ron was sold two days before the Derby to Audrey Haisfield’s Stonewall Stallions. Holthus said the new group owns 80 percent of the Lawyer Ron, who won six in a row coming into the Derby.

“We do have to respect their opinion because they now own 80 percent of him,” Holthus said. “If you see him going to the track in the morning, I think they had him out of the Preakness a little early.”

The estate of James T. Hines retained a minor ownership.

AP-ES-05-10-06 1803EDT

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