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Tough, fast horses have come out of Texas before. They carried the mail

May 18, 1995

BALTIMORE (AP) _ Tough, fast horses have come out of Texas before. They carried the mail for the Pony Express. They headed off stampedes during cattle drives. John Wayne must have ridden several of them.

Two of them, Assault in 1946 and Middleground in 1950, won the Kentucky Derby. In fact, Assault won the Triple Crown. Both of them were bred by the King Ranch.

Now Itron is not a cow pony, but the Preakness candidate is hardly an Assault or a Middleground either, and not just because the Texas-bred didn’t race in the Derby.

``It wasn’t my decision, it was Mr. Albert’s,″ trainer Roy Frazier said of why Itron will start in the Preakness on Saturday at Pimlico after finishing seventh in the mile Cascarone Stakes in his last start April 22 at Retama Park near San Antonio.

OK, David Albert, why?

``I’ve been asked that question 100 times and I’ve come up with 100 different answers,″ said the owner-breeder, a 68-year-old Dallas businessman who lives on his Quick Style Farm at Perrin, Texas.

Perrin, according to Albert’s biography in the media guide, is near Mineral Wells.

``We came here for fun, to meet people and to learn the ropes,″ Albert said Wednesday. ``Ninety-nine percent of the owners show up in their box on the day of the race. I’ve been walking the horse, and talking to (trainers) Nick Zito and Bill Mott and to hot walkers and assistant trainers.″

Zito won the Kentucky Derby with Strike the Gold in 1991 and with Go for Gin last year. He finished 11th with Suave Prospect in this year’s Derby, and will start Star Standard in the Preakness. Mott trains handicap star Cigar, winner of seven straight races, including the Pimlico Special last Saturday.

``There’s a lot to this horse racing business,″ Albert said. ``So we’re really up here for the experience, for the fun of it _ and I think he might have a shot.″

Well, at least Albert will get some experience.

After arriving here Friday evening after 2,000-mile, three-day van trip, Frazier said, ``It would have cost $6,500 to fly him.″

One morning, while watching Itron graze, Frazier said, ``He’s a typical Texan,″ Frazier said. ``He just wants to eat and drink.″

The 51-year-old Frazier also is enjoying his visit to Baltimore.

``They treat you so well, you think you’re down south,″ said the native of Fordyce, Ark., who grew up in Hot Springs, the site of Oaklawn Park.

It’s a big occasion, too, for Joan Frazier, who will be coming in for the race.

``My wife’s bought three outfits already,″ Frazier said. ``The last time I talked to her, she said, `Wait until you see the last one, you’ll like it.′ ″

Frazier’s 31-year-old son Ricky also will be at Pimlico on Saturday, to ride Itron in the Preakness.

``He rode seven winners in one day at Louisiana Downs,″ Frazier said proudly.

Itron was nominated to the Triple Crown races after winning seven of eight starts, mostly at Louisiana Downs and at Trinity Meadows in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.

This year, the chestnut colt has won two of seven starts. Both of the wins were in stakes at Sam Houston Racepark, one of them for Texas-breds.

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