Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Kentucky Derby field still a work in progress

Jay Privman,
Daily Racing Form

The field for this year's Kentucky Derby picked up two new shooters Saturday when the previously unheralded pair of Line of David and Stately Victor pulled off upsets in the Arkansas Derby and Blue Grass, respectively. But the prospective field for the Derby on May 1 will be in flux right up to entry time on April 28, both because there are currently more than the maximum number of 20 horses who are being pointed for the race and there is uncertainty over the prospects of some horses currently in the top 20.

The most notable question marks surround Noble's Promise, who was fifth in the Arkansas Derby, and Interactif, who was fourth on Polytrack in the Blue Grass. Both are in the top 20 in terms of earnings, so if they were to drop out, that would allow horses on the outside to get in.

If more than 20 horses enter the Derby, the criteria to determine the starting field is earnings in graded stakes races.

Ken McPeek, trainer of Noble's Promise, said he was "not sure" if Noble's Promise would run.

"He came out of it with several cuts and scrapes [that] happened at the start," said McPeek, who added that Noble's Promise had a "slight lung infection."

McPeek said there would be "no decision until he gets these issues resolved."

Trainer Todd Pletcher said Monday that Interactif "would have to work lights out" on the dirt at Churchill Downs in order progress to the Derby.

"I don't want to completely rule the race out, but I would call him doubtful at this time," Pletcher said from the Palm Meadows training center in Florida.

Another Pletcher trainee, Aikenite, was removed from Derby consideration on Monday by Cot Campbell, who runs the Dogwood Stable partnership which owns Aikenite. Aikenite finished eighth in the Blue Grass, beating just one horse, Odysseus, who came out of the race with a chip in his left knee.

"He's out. We're not thinking about the Derby," Campbell said from his office in Aiken, S.C. "We wanted to see him run a good race. He did not run well enough to entertain thoughts of the Derby."

Aikenite was 24th in graded stakes earnings.

Odysseus had been removed from Derby consideration by trainer Tom Albertrani - "We're going to regroup," he said Sunday - even before it was learned Monday that Odysseus had a knee chip.

"The X-rays show a chip in the back of the left knee," said Satish Sanan, whose Padua Stables owns Odysseus. "It's a very unusual spot, and it's an indication that he hyperextended it. We will see what needs to be done and go from there."

Also of interest will be the status of Uh Oh Bango, who finished fourth in the Arkansas Derby and now finds himself right on the bubble, 21st in graded earnings. As with Noble's Promise, whether Uh Oh Bango goes to the Derby, and whether some horses above him drop out in the next two weeks, will be keenly watched by those connected to horses like Jackson Bend, Backtalk, Make Music for Me, and Setsuko, who want to get in but right now are outside the top 20.

"I'm going to wait until the end of the week to decide, but the Derby is not really our number one pick," Kory Owens, who trains Uh Oh Bango, said at his barn at Oaklawn Park on Sunday morning. "We may take a look at it."

Line of David, who got a Beyer Speed Figure of 98 in the Arkansas Derby, was flown from Arkansas to Kentucky on Monday. He was scheduled to be joined Tuesday at Churchill Downs by his John Sadler-trained stablemate, Santa Anita Derby winner Sidney's Candy, who was booked on a Tuesday flight from California with, among others, Eclipse Award winner Lookin At Lucky.

Overnight rain in Southern California on Sunday night into Monday closed the main track at Santa Anita on Monday, which confined Sidney's Candy and Lookin At Lucky to the training track, which is dirt.

Trainer Bob Baffert said Lookin At Lucky's work schedule at Churchill Downs had yet to be finalized.

Larry Benavidez, the top assistant to Sadler, said Monday morning at Hollywood Park that Sidney's Candy was scheduled to have his first work at Churchill Downs on Saturday. Sidney's Candy has yet to race on a dirt surface.

Super Saver, a close second in the Arkansas Derby, was on the same plane with Line of David on Monday and went straight to Churchill Downs. Pletcher, who trains Super Saver, still has most of his Derby contenders at Palm Meadows. He said Eskendereya, Discreetly Mine, Mission Impazible, and Rule were all scheduled to work at Palm Meadows this weekend and then fly to Kentucky on April 20.

Stately Victor, who got a 94 Beyer in the Blue Grass, exited the race in great shape, according to trainer Mike Maker. The Ghostzapper colt will remain with Maker's other Derby-bound horse, Dean's Kitten, in the relative quiet of the Trackside training center just a few miles from Churchill.

Paddy O'Prado, who finished second in the Blue Grass, will remain at Keeneland for the time being but will soon move to join trainer Dale Romans's main string at Churchill. First Dude, third in the Blue Grass for Romans, already is back at Churchill but is unlikely to make the Derby with just $97,500 in graded earnings.

Trainer Alexis Barba said she hoped Make Music for Me would creep up the earnings list and make the Derby. If not, Barba said Make Music for Me would run in the American Turf on the Kentucky Oaks undercard April 30.

- additional reporting by Marty McGee

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