04/30/2006 11:00PM

Derek drills in spite of mud

On a muddy track Monday at Churchill, Brother Derek works a half-mile under Alex Solis.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - One of the major concerns with Brother Derek regarding the 132nd Kentucky Derby on Saturday is whether he can wait before making his run. He got plenty of practice on Monday morning at Churchill Downs. Trainer Dan Hendricks agonized before finally deciding to work Brother Derek late in the morning on a muddy track, and then Brother Derek had to await the arrival of jockey Alex Solis, who got lost driving to the track after a red-eye flight.

"I only know where the wire is," Solis said, sheepishly.

Despite the aura of anxiety surrounding him, Brother Derek remained serene. He turned in an easy half-mile work, which came more than three hours after the early morning drills of two other Derby contenders, Private Vow and Storm Treasure. That followed a dizzying weekend of activity here, which saw 11 confirmed Derby runners work on Saturday morning and two possible

candidates drop out following the Derby Trial on Saturday afternoon, but still left several 3-year-olds on the outside looking in with the entry deadline fast approaching.

The Derby field is limited to 20 horses. As of Monday, there were still more than 20 horses whose connections wanted to run in the race. The deadline for entries is Wednesday morning. If more than 20 horses are entered, the field will be determined by earnings in graded stakes.

The defections of Derby Trial runners Dawn of War on Saturday and Mister Triester on Monday put Flashy Bull in the race, but left the likes of Sunriver, Sacred Light, and Red Raymond needing horses to drop out by Wednesday morning to get in. Once the field of 20 is determined Wednesday morning, that's it. There is no also-eligible list for the Derby. Post positions will be drawn Wednesday evening.

"Time's ticking away on us," Todd Pletcher, the trainer of Sunriver, said Monday. "Obviously you'd like to hear some good news soon. It's frustrating if he doesn't get in, but we're aware that it could happen."

Pletcher has two other colts in the race: Bluegrass Cat, who will be ridden by Ramon Dominguez, and Keyed Entry, who will have Patrick Valenzuela.

The only trainer with a horse in the top 20 who was even slightly wavering on Monday was Barclay Tagg, who trains Showing Up, the unbeaten winner of the Lexington Stakes. Showing Up worked a half-mile in 49.63 seconds on Monday at Belmont Park with jockey Cornelio Velasquez, and was scheduled to fly to Kentucky on Thursday.

Showing Up is being treated for a puncture wound in his right front leg. Tagg said he took Showing Up off antibiotics on Saturday. He said everything looked good on Monday, but said that if there were a flare-up, "then no ballgame."

The Churchill Downs track was rated muddy for training on Monday, which may be a precursor of the week. The Weather Channel forecast called for thunderstorms with possible hail on Monday night and continuing into Tuesday morning, a chance of thunderstorms on Wednesday, dry weather Thursday and Friday, but a possibility of rain on Saturday. The high temperature was expected to reach 80 degrees on Wednesday, go into the low 70's on Thursday and Friday, and dip into the low 60's on Saturday.

The wet weather caused Hendricks to think long and hard about whether to work Brother Derek, the Santa Anita Derby winner, on Monday or wait until Tuesday.

"The track's a mess, but there might be more rain [Tuesday]," Hendricks said before the renovation break. "You're damned if you do, damned if you don't. I want to make sure it's safe. He doesn't need much. He just needs to stretch his legs."

Hendricks watched horses train after the renovation break from the outside rail on the backstretch. He was satisfied with conditions.

"It's not going to be any better [Tuesday]," he said. "They're only going into it a couple of inches. It's not like our tracks in California. They don't seal it hard. They might pack it a little here, but that's it. For as much rain as there's been, it's in good shape."

Hendricks asked Solis to go in about 49 seconds. Brother Derek breezed a half-mile in 49.20. "Damn that son of a gun," Hendricks said, feigning anger. "He missed by a fifth.

"He looked like he was galloping," Hendricks added. "He's fit from his races. He doesn't need a lot. That was as much for him as us. He'll have some strong, long gallops. I might have gone five-eighths if it wasn't an off track. And going a half-mile, if you go a little fast, it's not to your detriment."

Earlier in the morning, before the sun came up, trainer Steve Asmussen worked his pair of Private Vow and Storm Treasure, both five furlongs, both with exercise rider Carmen Rosas. Private Vow, who was third in the Arkansas Derby, was timed in 1:00, the best time of 11 at the distance. Storm Treasure, second in the Blue Grass Stakes, was given an official time of 1:00.40.

On Sunday, three California-based horses worked.

At Santa Anita, Wood Memorial winner Bob and John went six furlongs in 1:11.40 with jockey Garrett Gomez. The time was the best of nine at the distance. Point Determined, second to Brother Derek in the Santa Anita Derby, worked five furlongs in company in 59.80 seconds with Victor Espinoza. Both are trained by Bob Baffert. Rafael Bejarano rides Point Determined in the Derby. Espinoza is on Baffert's third runner, Blue Grass winner Sinister Minister.

"I was really happy with the way it went," Baffert said on Monday. "They were very good works. Best they've ever worked. They came out of it good. Just need some luck now."

At Hollywood Park, San Felipe Stakes winner A. P. Warrior worked six furlongs, in company, in 1:13.80 for trainer John Shirreffs. Corey Nakatani rides A. P. Warrior in the Derby, but exercise rider Ramon Guerra was up for the work.

"He wasn't blowing at all," said Shirreffs, who won last year's Derby with Giacomo. "The only reason I had someone in the work with him is because he's so lazy. When he worked alone, he went in 1:17."

A. P. Warrior, Bob and John, and Point Determined were scheduled to be flown to Kentucky from California on Tuesday.

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen and David Grening