04/10/2011 5:21PM

Comma to the Top back in consideration for Kentucky Derby

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Benoit & Associates
Midnight Interlude (left) edges Comma to the Top to win the Grade 1, $1 million Santa Anita Derby.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Comma to the Top, a close second to Midnight Interlude in Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby, may run in the Kentucky Derby on May 7 after all.

Last week, trainer Peter Miller said it was unlikely that Comma to the Top, a three-time stakes winner, would run in the Kentucky Derby, citing concern over the race distance of 1 1/4 miles. But after Comma to the Top’s narrow loss by a head in the Santa Anita Derby over 1 1/8 miles and the surprise third-place finish by 2010 2-year-old champion Uncle Mo in the Wood Memorial Stakes at Aqueduct on Saturday, Miller said a start in the Kentucky Derby was possible.

“The way he ran and after Uncle Mo’s loss and everything else, I think we may need to re-evaluate and keep our options open,” Miller said. “I’ll discuss it with the owners.

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“He looked super and he ate up. He was bouncing around this morning and he jogged down the road like a Marine.”

Midnight Interlude and Comma to the Top may be the only runners from the Santa Anita Derby in the Kentucky Derby.

Mr. Commons, third in the Santa Anita Derby, has $120,000 in graded stakes earnings. If the Derby draws more than 20 entrants, earnings in graded stakes are the tiebreaker. Mr. Commons is well short of the necessary amount needed. As of Sunday, with several Kentucky Derby preps still to be run in coming weekends, the 20th-ranked contender had $200,000 in graded stakes earnings.

Comma to the Top, a gelding by Bwana Charlie, races for Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, and Kevin Tsujihara and has won 6 of 13 starts and $778,600. He has earned $671,000 in graded stakes, leaving him a safe third on the graded stakes rankings list.

Miller said a decision on Comma to the Top’s status may not be made until the start of Kentucky Derby week.

“We’re in, so it’s not like we’re scrambling for money,” Miller said. “We have to decide before the plane leaves. I couldn’t be prouder of the horse. He ran his heart out.”

Race winner Midnight Interlude, who only beat maidens on March 20 in his third career start, emerged from the race in good condition and with an appetite, trainer Bob Baffert said.

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“He’s a chowhound,” Baffert said. “He didn’t miss a meal.”

Owned by Arnold Zetcher, Midnight Interlude made his stakes debut in the Santa Anita Derby and closed from fifth to reach the front in the final strides under jockey Victor Espinoza. Baffert and Zetcher opted to start Midnight Interlude in the Santa Anita Derby on April 4 after the colt worked six furlongs in 1:10.60.

“I won a million-dollar race and had to scramble for a jockey,” Baffert said.

Short-term plans were unclear for some of the remaining runners. Silver Medallion is scheduled to travel to Kentucky on Thursday with the majority of Steve Asmussen’s stable, but Asmussen did not state a specific goal for Silver Medallion.

Anthony’s Cross, who finished fifth in the field of nine, will be considered for the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 21, but trainer Eoin Harty stopped well short of committing to that race.

“It’s certainly in my thoughts, but so are a lot of other things,” he said.

Indian Winter and Bench Points, who finished sixth and seventh, will be considered for the $100,000 Laz Barrera Memorial Stakes for 3-year-olds over seven furlongs at Hollywood Park on May 15. Quail Hill, who finished eighth, will be pointed to the second half of the Hollywood Park spring-summer meeting.