04/28/2010 11:00PM

Bushwhacked points to Preakness

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Steeplechase champions, turf champions, a 2-year-old champion, even a sprint champion in Informed Decision, who won her Eclipse in 2009: Jonathan Sheppard has trained top-class runners of widely divergent types. One thing Sheppard has not done is start a horse in a Triple Crown race, but if things go well over the next two weeks, that will change in the Preakness Stakes, the race to which Sheppard is pointing lightly raced and promising Bushwhacked.

Bushwhacked rallied for second April 17 in the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland, his stakes debut and first start against other winners. Third and second in one-turn maiden tries at Gulfstream Park, Bushwhacked won for the first time when stretched to two turns on April 3 at Keeneland.

"I know there will be proven horses there, but he's fresh and he's improving," Sheppard said Thursday morning just after watching Informed Decision blow out a quarter-mile for her start in Saturday's Humana Distaff. "I think a lot of the horses have peaked or are about to peak."

Bushwhacked, by Posse and out of the Dynaformer mare Run In, was purchased by George Strawbridge's Augustin Stables for $130,000 at the Ocala Breeders select 2-year-old sale in 2009. Strawbridge has not bought many 2-year-olds, but keeps getting good ones: Both Informed Decision and champion Forever Together were acquired that way.

Bushwhacked comprises part of what looks like another formidable cast of Sheppard-trained graded-stakes horses. Sheppard won 16 graded stakes races from only 332 total starters in 2009, and, with luck, could be poised for similarly mind-boggling output. He has two fillies for middle-distance turf races in Fantasia, who runs in the Distaff Turf Mile here Saturday, and Rainbow View, winner of her 2010 debut who could start next in the May 15 Gallorette at Pimlico. Forever Together, meanwhile, could try longer distances in upcoming starts, while Just As Well may run next in the Dixie, also on May 15 at Pimlico. Even Cloudy's Knight, who suffered a tendon injury at Keeneland, might not be done for 2010.

"He's gone back to the farm, and we're going to tinker and see what happens," Sheppard said. "If he could run two or three times at the end of the year, it would be worth bringing him back."

Endorsement surgery goes well

Endorsement underwent surgery Wednesday to repair the condylar fracture of his right front ankle that he suffered during a workout that morning, which prevented him from being entered in Saturday's Kentucky Derby. By all accounts, the surgery went well and Endorsement could return to the races next year.

"You couldn't see the fracture line after surgery," said Elliott Walden, vice president of WinStar Farm, the owners of Endorsement. "Dr. [Larry] Bramlage said he should come back to race with no problem; that remains to be seen."

Walden said Endorsement was to van from Rood and Riddle to WinStar on Friday and would be out of training for a minimum of three months.

Live Derby Future Wager runners

For racing fans still holding live tickets in any of the three pools in the 2010 Kentucky Derby Future Wager, a long-awaited payday might finally come Saturday.

The mutuel field, the 24th or "all others" option, closed as the favorite in all three pools, which were held Feb. 12-14, March 5-7, and March 26-28. The respective odds on the field were 3-2, 3-1, and 9-2.

Only six Derby starters were individual interests in all three pools: Conveyance, Dublin, Jackson Bend, Lookin At Lucky, Noble's Promise, and Super Saver. Seven more Derby starters were never listed separately and are field horses in all three: Backtalk, Dean's Kitten, Devil May Care, Homeboykris, Line of David, Paddy O'Prado, and Stately Victor.

As for overlays, Lookin At Lucky looks pretty good in Pool 1 (8-1) and Pool 2 (9-1), as does Noble's Promise in Pool 1 (36-1) and Make Music for Me in Pool 1 (105-1). But surely the best overlay is Sidney's Candy in Pool 2 (33-1) and Pool 3 (22-1).

One of the more curious betting patterns involved Super Saver, whose odds went up with every pool, from 20-1 to 24-1 to 35-1. He is 15-1 on the Saturday morning line.

Ill writer's namesake tops allowance

About an hour after the Derby is over, writers and broadcasters might take a little break from their work to pull for a colt whose namesake is missing from the press box this year.

Handleman, a 4-year-old Florida-bred named by owner Al Gold in honor of Bill Handleman, is one of the favorites in the 12th race, a second-level allowance. Bill Handleman, a longtime sportswriter and feature columnist for the Asbury Park Press, is suffering from renal cancer at his New Jersey home.

Handleman, 62, covered about 20 runnings of the Derby, according to his friend and colleague, Tom Luicci of the Newark Star-Ledger.

"Bill's fighting as courageous a fight as I've ever seen," Luicci said. "He's truly been an inspiration for people."

* Other than the usual smorgasbord of exotic wagers, the betting menu for Derby Day also includes the following: pick fours on races 2-5, 4-7, 8-11, and 10-13, and a $2 pick six on races 6-11, ending with the Derby. All pick fours and rolling pick threes carry a 50-cent minimum. There also is a $1-minimum super high five on the Derby.

* Churchill linemaker Mike Battaglia has pegged four horses at 50-1 on his morning line, and it's arguable which of the four - Dean's Kitten, Make Music for Me, Backtalk, or Homeboykris - will actually wind up as the longest shot. But one thing is certain: none will approach the Derby record for highest odds held by A Dragon Killer, who finished seventh of 14 at a whopping 294-1 in 1958.

The last time that Derby starters were 99-1 on the odds board was 2001, when Startac ran 10th at 102-1 and Arctic Boy was 12th at 102-1.

- additional reporting by David Grening and Marty McGee