05/01/2003 12:00AM

Baffert: Kafwain out 4-6 months


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Kafwain, the runner-up in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile last October, has been diagnosed with a tendon injury that will keep him out of training until late in the year, trainer Bob Baffert said on Wednesday.

The injury was first detected on Tuesday after Kafwain worked five furlongs with stablemate Indian Express in preparation for Saturday's Kentucky Derby. Kafwain was declared from the Kentucky Derby.

"He has a tendon injury," Baffert said. "It's pretty small, but he'll be out for four to six months."

When asked if the injury could lead to Kafwain's retirement, Baffert replied, "I don't know."

Kafwain has won 4 of 11 starts and $715,848. Last year, he won the Grade 3 Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar over 6 1/2 furlongs and the Grade 2 Norfolk Stakes 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita.

In three starts this year, he scored a convincing win in the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes over seven furlongs at Santa Anita on Feb. 1, but was winless in his next two starts.

He was second in the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds on March 9, but later disqualified from purse earnings for testing positive for an excessive amount of clenbuterol, a breathing medication.

In what was supposed to be his final start before the Kentucky Derby, Kafwain finished third in the Santa Anita Derby behind Kentucky Derby hopefuls Buddy Gil and Indian Express.

Kafwain is owned by The Thoroughbred Corp., who won the 2002 Kentucky Derby with War Emblem.

Injury toll continues to rise

Injuries to Derby contenders Empire Maker and Kafwain, coupled with another fatal breakdown in Tuesday's eighth race, has raised further questions about the main track at Churchill Downs, which saw a spate of fatal breakdowns last weekend.

Empire Maker is suffering from a bruise to his right front foot, but trainer Bobby Frankel was reluctant to blame the surface. He said he believes Empire Maker was jarred while racing over a sealed surface at Aqueduct in the Wood Memorial on April 12.

Baffert did not blame Kafwain's injury on Churchill's surface, either.

These injuries, however, followed fatal breakdowns during training hours on Saturday, Sunday, and Monday, another breakdown during a race on Sunday, and still another with Triple Aught in the eighth on Tuesday.

Churchill's main track is notorious for becoming much harder and faster each year as Derby Day approaches. But Ron Ellis, the trainer of Atswhatimtalknbout, said on Wednesday that the surface was "much softer out there today" than it was on Tuesday.

Day to return Friday

Pat Day, the all-time leading rider in Churchill history, was scheduled to return to action Friday after missing three programs Tuesday through Thursday. According to a Churchill official, Day strained his back while working at home Monday.

Last week, Day, 49, escaped serious injury after being thrown twice from mounts during races, and his taking off for three days this week was unrelated to those spills, Churchill officials said. Day's agent, Doc Danner, said Wednesday that he had "no idea" why his client was taking off his mounts.

Sellers elated to be back in Derby

Shane Sellers was still beaming Wednesday morning on the Churchill Downs backside, less than 24 hours after learning he would be riding Lone Star Sky in the Derby. It will be his 12th Derby mount overall, and first since 2000 when he finished last aboard Graeme Hall.

Sellers, 36, is trying to jump-start his career after missing more than a year due to a knee injury. Last week, Sellers was spotted hanging around the barn of D. Wayne Lukas, hoping to pick up the mount on Scrimshaw or Ten Cents a Shine. But Lukas chose other riders.

Lone Star Sky, who has not won a race this year, became open when Calvin Borel decided to ride Ten Cents a Shine because Lone Star Sky was not committed to the Derby until late Tuesday morning.

"It completes the whole comeback," Sellers said. "A few nights I didn't sleep wondering if I'd ride one or if wouldn't ride one. It makes the story a whole lot better that in my first year back I come back and get a Derby mount."

Though Lone Star Sky will be a longshot in the race, Sellers knows that anything's possible in the Derby. Though he had ridden some logical contenders in Skip Away, Pulpit, and Vicar, none of them ran well. Sellers's best finish was in 1993 when he rode Wild Gale, a member of the mutuel field, to a third-place finish behind Sea Hero and Jerry Bailey.

"I went for the same hole at the quarter pole that Jerry went for and Jerry beat me to it," Sellers recalled. "If I got through the hole Jerry got through, I win the Derby."

Lone Star Sky is only 2 for 10, but he ran his best race winning the Bashford Manor Stakes over this track last spring.

"He's coming into the race good, he's working good, he's got ability, he's got a shot," Sellers said.

Owner hopes to 'go nuts' Saturday

Mike Jarvis, one of the partners in Horizon Stable, which owns Illinois Derby winner Ten Most Wanted, recalled the day he decided to get involved in owning racehorses.

An avid horseplayer, Jarvis was in the Caesars Palace racebook in Las Vegas in the spring of 1988 when he noticed a familiar figure sitting in front of him. Gene Klein, owner of the San Diego Chargers - a football team to which Jarvis owned season tickets - was also the owner of the filly Winning Colors, who was running in the Santa Anita Oaks, a race Winning Colors won by eight.

"When she hit the stretch he jumped on his chair, he was pumping his fists and going absolutely nuts," Jarvis said. "I was watching him reacting to her winning. This guy was as excited as I've seen anybody, and he's a billionaire. I thought if he could get that excited I would like to try that."

A few years later, Jarvis began owning horses with trainer Robert Marshall. In 1993, they won the Grade 1 Californian Stakes with Latin American.

"I'm sure I acted as nutty as he acted when the horse ran so big," Jarvis said.

He hopes to be going nuts again Saturday.

Rose to donate Alydar's shoes

This is the 25th anniversary of Affirmed's sweep of the Triple Crown races, so it is also the anniversary of Alydar running second to Affirmed in the Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes.

One of the popular mainstays of that Triple Crown, Charlie Rose, the exercise rider for Alydar, has been a visitor in Lexington and Louisville the past week. He brought with him a set of shoes that were worn by Alydar, which Rose intended to donate to Churchill's Kentucky Derby Museum.

The museum this year is featuring a retrospective of the 1978 Triple Crown, with plenty of memorabilia from Affirmed and Alydar.

Pimlico hustling nominees

David Rollinson, the stakes coordinator for the Maryland Jockey Club, is making the rounds of the Churchill stable area this week, hustling nominations for more than a dozen stakes races that will be run May 15-17 at Pimlico Race Course in conjunction with the Preakness.

Included among those stakes are the $600,000 Pimlico Special and $200,000 Black-Eyed Susan, both scheduled for May 16, and the $200,000 Dixie Handicap, to be run on the Preakness undercard May 17.

- additional reporting by David Grening, Marty McGee, and Jay Privman