Trainer John Parisella has always had an affinity for the outlandish, so it's not too surprising to hear him say that he's throwing out Unbridled when the Kentucky Derby winner and Preakness runner-up runs Saturday in the Belmont Stakes.
That pooh-poohing of Unbridled comes from the same conditioner who, a few days before the Kentucky Derby, gave a harsh critique of virtually every jockey who ever rode Country Day. What made Parisella's remarks unusual was that he trained Country Day for only one race before the Derby.
A couple of days ago, a reporter at Belmont Park said to Nick Zito, the trainer of Thirty Six Red, that this might be a dull Belmont because Summer Squall, the horse that beat Unbridled in the Preakness after running second to him in the Derby, isn't running Saturday.
"Well," Zito said, "there's always John Parisella."
Zito and Parisella, both New York-born trainers working at Belmont Park, are good friends.
As for Unbridled, Parisella says: "He won't be running on Lasix, and he can't have (butazolidin). I don't think the race sets up well for him, either. If it's 85 or 90 degrees Saturday, like they say it'll be, Unbridled won't even hit the board."
Lasix is the controversial diuretic that is given all over the country to horses with respiratory bleeding, but in New York horses aren't allowed to run on any medication. Butazolidin is a painkiller used on sore horses in many states.
Carl Nafzger, who trains Unbridled, was told about Parisella's comments.
"Who does John train?" Nafzger asked.
Told the horse was Country Day, Nafzger said: "Country Day, huh. I've never trained Country Day, but it looks like he's doing a good job training Unbridled."
Parisella is also discounting the Belmont chances of Video Ranger, who bled despite running fourth at 65-1 in the Kentucky Derby. Video Ranger came back on Lasix and ran second to Yonder in the Jersey Derby at Garden State Park on May 28.
Parisella, in fact, seems to be throwing out a lot of horses, and there are only nine scheduled to run. So who does he like?
"I'd like to see my pal Nick win with Thirty Six Red," Parisella said. "But I think he's fighting a time schedule (it has been 30 years since a Belmont winner didn't race at least once after the Kentucky Derby). So who does that leave?
"I'd say Yonder is the horse to beat. He's ridden by Jerry Bailey, who's at the crest of his career, and in Angel Penna, you couldn't find a trainer who's better at getting a horse ready for a distance race."
Country Day's last race was a second-place finish to Profit Key, a Wayne Lukas-trained horse not eligible for the Triple Crown, in the Peter Pan at Belmont on May 27. It was astounding that Country Day was even standing, let alone running, because the day before the Kentucky Derby, after a sensational workout at Churchill Downs, the 3-year-old colt came back lame, his leg dangling, and X-rays indicated that he suffered a hairline break.
Parisella, who once roomed with James Caan when he trained horses for him and other actors such as Telly Savalas and Nick Adams in California in the early 1970s, says Country Day's story is straight out of "Murder, She Wrote."
Veterinarians are telling Parisella that Country Day might have sprained the leg when he was younger, and another look at the X-rays revealed no break in the bone. The conclusion is that Country Day went lame because of the pounding his feet took on the hard Churchill Downs track.
It's the trainer who hasn't been feeling good lately. Parisella's 10- month-old daughter, Gabrielle, who lives with her mother, Melissa in Northern California, was on the critical list last month with a swollen lymph node behind the tonsils and was running a 106-degree fever.
Now, however, Gabrielle has a 90% chance of pulling through, according to Parisella, and she and her mother will be flying here today, to get treatment from doctors the trainer is more familiar with.
Part of the treatment for Country Day has been fitting him with a set of seldom-used rubber horseshoes. Parisella heard about them from another trainer, Scotty Schulhofer, who used the shoes on stakes winners Sewickley and Smile, who won the Breeders' Cup Sprint and the national sprint championship in 1986.
Country Day was bought for $400,000 by James Scibelli and Barry Rubenstein, Long Island investment bankers, shortly after the Country Pine-Sportive Lady colt ran fifth in the Florida Derby won by Unbridled at Gulfstream Park on March 17.
Saddled by the 46-year-old Parisella for the first time, Country Day ran sixth, though beaten by only 3 3/4 lengths, in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct two weeks before the Kentucky Derby.
"I think I ran the best horse in the Wood," Parisella said. "We were 10 (horses) wide much of the way, and Angel (Cordero) had to check when Yonder got in his way."
The horses that finished ahead of Country Day in the Wood were, in order, Thirty Six Red, Burnt Hills, Champagneforashley, Pendleton Ridge and Yonder.
"My horse came out of the Wood still fresh, and the other horses came back dragging and looked fatigued," Parisella said. "I said in Kentucky that it would be a long time before the first four Wood finishers won a race again, and that's the way it's been."
Cordero has been committed to ride Land Rush throughout the Triple Crown series, so Parisella gave the Peter Pan mount to Chris Antley, who will ride Country Day again on Saturday.
Profit Key beat them by 6 1/2 lengths in the Peter Pan, which at 1 1/8 miles is three-eighths of a mile shorter than the Belmont.
"I told Chris before the race not to abuse the horse," Parisella said. "I told him that winning or losing the Peter Pan wasn't going to change my life or his, but winning the Belmont might."
Horse Racing Notes
John Parisella said he will train in New York and Florida next year, but plans to return to Southern California in 1992. He trained Simply Majestic, who set the world record of 1:45 for 1 1/8 miles at Golden Gate Fields in 1988. . . . Unbridled's final workout for the Belmont was five furlongs in 1:00 1/5, including a blazing final quarter of :22 4/5. Unbridled ran one of the fastest final quarters in Kentucky Derby history and also closed quickly in the Preakness.
Marshall Cassidy, New York track announcer for more than 10 years, will be replaced by Tom Durkin in September. Durkin has worked at Hialeah and the Meadowlands. Cassidy will become a racing official in New York. . . . One of Summer Squall's 28 original owners sold his share for $250,000. Original price for a package that included four other horses was $55,900.