05/04/2002 12:00AM

Baffert calls Dan's scratch bad luck

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Danthebluegrassman, a surprise entrant in the Kentucky Derby on Wednesday, was scratched Saturday morning after the horse showed signs of tying up, trainer Bob Baffert said.

Baffert took Danthebluegrassman to the track Saturday morning for a routine jog, and when the horse came back to the barn, Baffert noticed he was "walking a little short in behind." Baffert treated the horse with Banamine and then muscle relaxers.

"If you don't treat them right away they mess up their back muscles," Baffert said.

Baffert entered Danthebluegrassman at the last minute, which prevented Windward Passage, owned by Team Valor, from getting into the field.

Windward Passage's trainer, Steve Asmussen, was upset upon learning about the scratch.

"I'm very disappointed I didn't get to run Windward Passage for whatever the reason is," said Asmussen, who did start Private Emblem in the Derby. "Although I'd be extremely surprised if any past dealings between Barry [Team Valor owner Barry Irwin] and Bob had anything to do with Danthebluegrassman being entered and scratched."

There is previous bad blood between Irwin and Baffert. Two years ago, at the draw for the Santa Anita Derby, Baffert made an ill-tempered comment about the training of a Team Valor colt, The Deputy.

Baffert, who said he entered Danthebluegrassman because he worked so well at Churchill on Tuesday, took offense to the suggestion made by some writers that he and owner Mike Pegram were never planning to run the colt.

"You think we're happy about this; you think it's a joke?" Baffert said. "You can write whatever you want. This is bad luck."

Windward Passage finished third, beaten nearly six lengths by Private Emblem, in the Arkansas Derby and would have been the lesser regarded of the Asmussen pair if he had started on Saturday. Asmussen said Windward Passage was doing well, and he expected him to run a big race if given the opportunity in the Derby.

"I think this horse will show as the year goes along how good he is and that he belongs with these horses," said Asmussen. "This wasn't his one chance at glory but it was his one chance at the Derby."

Asmussen said he would wait until after the Derby until deciding what would be next for Windward Passage.

"If he has a chance at winning one of the classics I believe he'd have a better chance at winning the Belmont than the Preakness," said Asmussen. "Pimlico is not really conducive to his style. Although Barry and I will wait until seeing how the Derby turns out before making any plans for him."

Buddha now pointing to Travers

Buddha, the Wood Memorial winner who was scratched from the Kentucky Derby Friday morning because of lameness in his left foreleg, was doing better Saturday morning, according to his trainer, James Bond. Buddha, who would have been one of the choices in the Derby, was to be examined by Dr. Larry Bramlage at the Rood and Riddle Equine Clinic in Lexington on Sunday.

Bond said Buddha jogged on the road outside his barn Saturday and was out for grazing.

"He's tickled to death," Bond said, pointing to the horse.

Bond said he had X-rays taken Saturday morning, and was waiting for the results. Bond said Buddha would undergo a bone scan Sunday, and ship to Saratoga by van on Wednesday.

Bond said Buddha would not run in any of the remaining Triple Crown races, and would be pointed to the Travers Stakes on Aug. 24. He could run in the Dwyer at Belmont and/or the Jim Dandy at Saratoga.

"Maybe there's a reason this happened," Bond said. "We'll put him away for awhile and hopefully, have a great fall."

'Eased' Imperial Gesture is okay

Tom Albertrani, assistant to trainer Saeed bin Suroor, said Imperial Gesture was doing better Saturday after being eased across the wire in Friday's Kentucky Oaks.

Jockey Frankie Dettori abruptly jumped off Imperial Gesture near the finish line because he thought the filly was in distress.

"Frankie thought she was wobbly and by the time we got her back to the barn she seemed a little stressed although after walking her around the shed she seemed okay," said Albertrani.

"She got bumped around pretty good leaving the gate and really had to do a lot just to catch up down the backside," Albertrani added. "By the time she hit the stretch she was emptied out. She just went too fast to be going that far. It seemed to be a heat problem, even though you wouldn't think that would happen since it wasn't a hot day. We'll keep an eye on her for the next few days and hopefully that's all it will turn out to be. It is totally unrelated to what happened with Tempera earlier in the week."

Tempera was euthanized last Sunday after suffering a case of laminitis.

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch