04/30/2011 2:30PM

Churchill Downs: Santiva tries to buck historical trend in 2011 Kentucky Derby


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – No Kentucky Derby winner has finished worse than fourth in his previous start since Iron Liege was fifth in the Derby Trial in 1957. Four hopefuls for the 137th Derby will try to buck that long-standing trend by rebounding in a big way Saturday at Churchill Downs – Santiva, Stay Thirsty, Soldat, and Watch Me Go.

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Of those, Santiva might well have had the most obvious excuse for failing to hit the board in his last start. A son of Giant’s Causeway, Santiva never appeared comfortable when in traffic for much of the 1 1/8-mile trip in the April 16 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, winding up ninth as the 2-1 favorite under Julien Leparoux.

“At no point did he really get to run,” said trainer Eddie Kenneally, a 44-year-old Irishman with his first Derby starter. “He was sitting on hold a lot of the way. Not only was he the victim of a bad trip, but there was not a lot of pace on. You’d have to think with a 20-horse field in the Derby, there will be a legitimate pace.”

Owned by Tom Walters, who lives less than two hours from Churchill in the Indianapolis suburb of Franklin, Santiva entered the Blue Grass with a chance to become one of the Derby favorites. Last fall, he was second in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland, then won the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes here. In his only race at 3 before the Grade 1 Blue Grass, he was a sharp second in the Grade 2 Risen Star at Fair Grounds.

That smooth sailing to the Derby was interrupted by the subpar race in the Blue Grass, and now Santiva will be a long price when trying to buck history.

“I can’t help what the statistics say from previous years,” said Kenneally. “All I can worry about is how my horse is doing, and he’s doing great. He won a graded race over the dirt here last year, and he should like the distance. Ideally, we’ll be in behind the leaders, and if he runs his race, we’ll have to be satisfied with what becomes of that.”

With Leparoux riding likely favorite Dialed In, Santiva will be ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan, who was up in the KJC victory in his only race aboard the colt.

Borel confident in Twice the Appeal

It is not often the Sunland Derby winner draws a crowd of interested Kentucky Derby onlookers, but that was the case Saturday when Twice the Appeal headed out to breeze at Churchill Downs.

Truth be told, most were focused on the jockey aboard Twice the Appeal, Calvin Borel, more so than the horse. After winning three of the past four Derbies, his every move is watched.

The jockey found himself a popular interview shortly after working Twice The Appeal six furlongs in 1:15.62.

Borel said he was particularly pleased by how Twice The Appeal galloped out – which Daily Racing Form ’s Mike Welsch clocked in a crisp 1:43.36 for a mile.

Borel said Mine That Bird worked similarly prior to winning the Derby in 2009, turning in a modest breeze but with a nice gallop out.

Borel’s other Derby wins came aboard Street Sense in 2007, and Super Saver last year.

“He’s not Street Sense, nothing like that,” Borel said of the Jeff Bonde-trained Twice the Appeal. “But with the quality of the horses in here, I think he fits.”

The colt’s midpack closing style has him excited, too.

“He’s my kind of horse,” he said.

Twinspired gets one more shot on dirt

Blue Grass runner-up Twinspired, like Twice The Appeal, also worked Saturday and similarly figures to be a Derby longshot, but for a different reason: He ran poorly in his lone race on dirt.

His two wins, as well his best race, a nose loss when second in the Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland, all came on Polytrack.

Shortly before watching Twinspired breeze five furlongs in 1:01.20 at Churchill Downs Trackside, trainer Mike Maker explained why he feels the horse merits another shot on the dirt in the Derby.

He said when Twinspired competed on dirt in the Springboard Stakes at Remington Park on Dec. 11, the colt raced inside, not where he likes to be, and unfamiliarity with that surface, as well as the horse’s relative inexperience, worked against him.

Twinspired has always trained well over the dirt surface at Trackside, Maker said.

* Churchill is introducing a 50-cent pick five this meet, following several other tracks that have shown the wager to be popular with fans. For the rest of the week, the standard array of wagers will be offered, including trifectas, pick threes, and pick fours in 50-cent increments.

One notable exception: the 10-cent superfectas available on a daily basis will be a $1 minimum on Oaks and Derby Days.

– additional reporting by Byron King