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Updated on 09/16/2011 8:16AM
A day to watch and worry
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - There were plenty of jitters Monday morning at Churchill Downs, and not just from the coffee. Derby Week began with workouts from 10 horses with designs on Saturday's 128th Kentucky Derby, including two who may be bumped from the field because more than 20 horses are expected to be entered on Wednesday. Trainers of eight of the horses watched nervously, solely because it was their horse's final work prior to the Derby, and two trainers had the added concern of wondering if their horses will get in.
Came Home, Private Emblem, and Proud Citizen - all stakes winners in their final Derby preps - were among the horses who had workouts Monday morning. Works also were recorded by Blue Burner, Easy Grades, Lusty Latin, Medaglia d'Oro, and Saarland.
Bobby Frankel, the trainer of Medaglia d'Oro, was distracted following the work, because his colt coughed. "He's got a little bit of mucus," Frankel said. "The vet is coming over to flush it out. He had a little discharge, but he'll be fine."
Also working were Sunday Break and Windward Passage, both of whom could be denied a starting spot in the Derby because of insufficient earnings in graded stakes races. If more than 20 horses are entered on Wednesday, when post positions are drawn, the 20 who will get berths in the starting gate are determined by graded stakes earnings.
Windward Passage, who worked four furlongs in 48.60 seconds, is currently 21st on the list of horses who are expected to be entered. His graded stakes earnings are equal to Wild Horses, but Wild Horses is preferred because he has won more money in non-graded stakes races, the first tie-breaker.
Barring the unforeseen, Windward Passage's status will be determined by whether Mayakovsky, who was scratched from last Saturday's Derby Trial, is entered. If Mayakovsky is not entered, Windward Passage will get in.
Patrick Biancone, the trainer of Mayakovsky, said a decision will be made Wednesday morning. There has been concern from rival trainers and owners that Mayakovsky will be entered, then scratched, to deny another horse a spot in the field. "If we enter Wednesday, we will run Saturday," Biancone said. "There will be no tricks."
Sunday Break's chances of running are so remote that trainer Neil Drysdale on Sunday was asked by Churchill Downs officials to return the courtesy car granted to trainers with Derby runners. Three horses in front of Sunday Break would have to withdraw prior to entry time on Wednesday for Sunday Break to run. There is no also-eligible list in the Derby, so the 20 entered on Wednesday are the only 20 eligible to race Saturday.
"He's in a position where he could run," Drysdale said after Sunday Break worked six furlongs in 1:14.40 with exercise rider Marcelino Olguin. "It was a very nice piece of work."
Drysdale said that if Sunday Break does not get into the Derby, "I'll make shipping plans."
"A lot would hinge on the result of the Derby," he said. Among Drysdale's options are the Lone Star Derby on May 11, the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico on May 18, or the Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park on May 25.
It was chilly Monday morning, and the weather is expected to be extremely volatile this week. Thunderstorms were forecast for late Tuesday and on into Wednesday, with the high temperature expected to reach the low 80's, 20 degrees higher than Monday. By the weekend, however, the National Weather Service is forecasting ideal weather for both the Derby and Friday's Kentucky Oaks, with high temperatures in the low 70's.
Proud Citizen, the Lexington Stakes winner, braved the brisk, pre-dawn weather and worked a sharp five furlongs in 58.80 seconds just before 6 a.m., only moments before Sunday Break worked. Exercise rider Stacy Maker was aboard.
Saarland, who was fourth in the Wood Memorial, worked five furlongs in 1:02 at around 6:35 a.m. with exercise rider Adolph Krajewski. Windward Passage worked minutes later, and then Arkansas Derby winner Private Emblem breezed an impressive four furlongs in 48.80 seconds to complete the early morning activity. Donnie Meche was aboard both Windward Passage and Private Emblem.
Following the mid-morning renovation break, Medaglia d'Oro was the first onto the track, and he worked six furlongs in 1:13.80 with exercise rider Marco Ramirez. Came Home, the Santa Anita Derby winner, eagerly worked five furlongs in 1:00.60 with jockey Chris McCarron. He was closely followed by Lusty Latin, who worked an even five furlongs in 1:01.
Easy Grades, with jockey Jorge Chavez, also worked five furlongs, in 1:01.40. Finally, Blue Burner, with exercise rider Judy Nicks, was asked aggressively while working five furlongs in 59 seconds to complete the day's work tab.
Most of the Derby runners are already in Kentucky, and the remainder were scheduled to be here by Tuesday night. U S S Tinosa, who is still not assured of a starting berth, was scheduled to be flown here from northern California. Buddha, the Wood Memorial winner, was scheduled to leave New York by van on Monday night, with a Tuesday morning arrival.
And the two Irish-based colts, Castle Gandolfo and Johannesburg, were scheduled to fly from Ireland to Kentucky on Tuesday. Castle Gandolfo and Johannesburg will go into quarantine at a facility adjacent to Keeneland. They can be released from quarantine once their blood is analyzed by the United States Department of Agriculture's laboratory in Ames, Iowa, a process that usually takes 36 hours.
Both Castle Gandolfo and Johannesburg will train at Keeneland until the morning of the Derby, when they are sent by van the 75 miles to Churchill Downs. Perfect Drift, who is based at the Trackside training center a few miles from Churchill Downs, also will be vanned to Churchill on Saturday morning. According to Churchill's overnight sheet, all Derby horses must be on the grounds by 9:30 the day of the race.
- additional reporting by David Grening