05/01/2017 12:36PM

Derby Doings: Bubble horse Royal Mo running out of time

Barbara D. Livingston
Royal Mo needs one defection by Friday morning to get into the Kentucky Derby field.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Trainer John Shirreffs arrived at Churchill Downs on Monday knowing he had one horse in this year’s Kentucky Derby and hoping he’d end up with two. The window was closing but not quite shut just yet.

Shirreffs trains Gormley, the Santa Anita Derby winner, and Royal Mo, who finished third in the race. Gormley is safely in the field for the 143rd Derby on Saturday, but the number of points earned by Royal Mo has him sitting 21st in a race that has a maximum of 20 runners.

If nothing changes by entry time on Wednesday morning, Royal Mo will be placed on the also-eligible list and can draw into the Derby only if there is a withdrawal from the main body of the field by scratch time on Friday morning. After that, he’s out of luck.

If something unforeseen befalls one of the horses in the top 20 before Wednesday’s post draw, then Royal Mo would have a spot secured in the field. But as of Monday morning, he was out, and that left Shirreffs frustrated.

“Especially with his credentials,” Shirreffs said.

:: ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays, and analysis

Royal Mo won the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis Stakes in February and was beaten only a length in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby. But Royal Mo is ranked below Sonneteer, who is winless in 10 starts but owns the 20th slot.

Both Royal Mo and Sonneteer earned 30 points in their prep races, but Sonneteer – who finished second in the Grade 2 Rebel, in which Royal Mo was ninth – is ranked higher owing to the tiebreaker, earnings in nonrestricted stakes. Sonneteer earned $236,000 from the Rebel and his fourth-place finish in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, while Royal Mo earned $213,000 from the Lewis and Santa Anita Derby.

Both Sonneteer and Royal Mo were outside the bubble entering last weekend, but Sonneteer secured a spot in the field when trainer Todd Pletcher announced Saturday that neither Battalion Runner nor Malagacy would run. Still, as of Monday, there were 23 horses eyeing a potential start in the Derby.

In addition to Royal Mo, both Local Hero and Master Plan – ranked in that order on the points list – were still under consideration for the Derby.

When the field is drawn Wednesday, up to four also-eligibles will be allowed, and they get in in post order if there are scratches by Friday morning. Royal Mo, though, is the only one certain to enter.

Local Hero is also being considered for the Grade 3, $250,000 Pat Day Mile here on Saturday. Under Kentucky racing rules, a horse cannot enter two stakes on the same card, so Local Hero cannot enter both races. Unless Local Hero is guaranteed a spot in the Derby field – which would mean two defections from the top 20 by Wednesday – he likely will enter the Pat Day Mile rather than rolling the dice for a Derby start and risking being shut out.

Shirreffs said there was no chance that Royal Mo would be rerouted to the Pat Day Mile.

Master Plan could enter the Derby, but he could await the Grade 3, $200,000 Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont Park on May 13.

Gormley and Royal Mo were among the arrivals at Churchill Downs on Monday, along with Irish War Cry, the Wood Memorial winner. Gormley and Royal Mo flew in from California, while Irish War Cry was sent by van from the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland.

The last horse scheduled to arrive is Girvin, the Louisiana Derby winner, who has spent the past week-plus at Keeneland, where he had his final Derby workout on Saturday. He is scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs late Tuesday afternoon. All Derby horses must be on the grounds by Wednesday morning.

If nothing changes before entry time Wednesday, the 20 who will be in the main body of the race will be Always Dreaming, Battle of Midway, Classic Empire, Fast and Accurate, Girvin, Gormley, Gunnevera, Hence, Irap, Irish War Cry, J Boys Echo, Lookin At Lee, McCraken, Patch, Practical Joke, Sonneteer, State of Honor, Tapwrit, Thunder Snow, and Untrapped.

Fast and Accurate was not nominated to the Triple Crown. He must be supplemented at entry time for $200,000.

The forecast from The Weather Channel for Derby Day is for partly cloudy skies and a high of just 66 degrees, following several days of rain and cooler weather, including Thursday, when there is a 100 percent chance of rain and the high will reach only 55.