04/25/2010 11:00PM

Endorsement back on track for Derby

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Sunland Derby winner Endorsement returned to regular morning training Monday, shushing whispers that something might be amiss after he got an unexpected day off Sunday.

Endorsement had tentatively been scheduled for a five-furlong workout Sunday morning, but trainer Shannon Ritter, readying her first Kentucky Derby runner, elected not only to cancel the work but to keep Endorsement in the barn. Ritter said she preferred not to work Endorsement over a wet track and that she likes to give her horses a day off every week.

"A lot of people were concerned," Ritter said. "I'm just doing what I want to do with the horse."

Ritter said she still plans to give Endorsement a shorter work, probably a half-mile, on Wednesday morning. Monday, she was aboard Endorsement while he jogged one mile and galloped one mile at about

6 a.m., opting for the early hour over the post-renovation-break window during which only Derby and Oaks horses are allowed onto the racetrack.

"I took him a few times during the 8:30 thing, but I just wanted to keep him in his routine," said Ritter, who was the regular exercise rider for 1998 Derby runner-up Victory Gallop.

Careless Jewel out of La Troienne

Careless Jewel, who has not started since finishing eighth as the favorite in the Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic, will miss her expected return in Friday's Grade 2 La Troienne at Churchill Downs after suffering a minor injury over the weekend.

"The filly came up with a small quarter crack over the weekend," trainer Josie Carroll said. "It's already patched, and she's back in training, but she missed three days of training plus a work. Obviously, we are very disappointed, but you can't go into a race like that with everything not 100 percent."

The La Troienne will feature Rachel Alexandra, the reigning Horse of the Year.

Carroll said Careless Jewel, a Grade 1 winner at 3, might return in the Grade 2 Shuvee going a mile at Belmont Park on May 15.

"If everything continues to go well, she'll probably have her next work this coming weekend," Carroll said.

Careless Jewel is stabled at Keeneland.

Defections give Backtalk a shot

Just a few days ago, Backtalk's chances of competing in Saturday's Kentucky Derby seemed bleak. He did not rank among the top-20 probable entrants based on graded stakes earnings.

Then expected Kentucky Derby favorite Eskendereya was withdrawn from Derby consideration Sunday with swelling in his left front leg, and Rule and Interactif were officially declared out Monday.

Suddenly, Backtalk is in a position to run.

Amoss expressed relief upon hearing the news late Monday morning, though he sympathized with those whose horses did not make the race.

"I certainly take no pleasure in others' Derby dreams being crumbled," he said.

Backtalk, winner of the Grade 3 Bashford Manor Stakes last year at Churchill Downs, has raced twice as a 3-year-old, winning a minor stakes race at Delta Downs, the Sportsman's Paradise, before finishing a distant third behind American Lion in the Illinois Derby.

Sunday, he worked five furlongs over Keeneland's Polytrack in 1:01.60, breezing there to avoid working over a wet Churchill Downs main track that has been hit with heavy rain in recent days.

Backtalk was scheduled to return to training Tuesday at Churchill Downs, and for the first time will train with the bulk of the Kentucky Derby runners at 8:30 a.m., immediately after the morning training break. Amoss said he previously chose not to train him in that allotted time "out of respect for those that were in the race at that time."

Meanwhile, Make Music for Me is expected to be entered Tuesday in Friday's Grade 2 American Turf at Churchill Downs. That race will serve as an alternative if he does not get into the Derby, trainer Alexis Barba said.

A Little Warm waiting in Florida

A Little Warm, the Louisiana Derby runner-up, remains three deep on the earnings list and most likely will not get into the Kentucky Derby field. Monday, however, his connections had him booked on a Tuesday flight from south Florida to Louisville as well as on a van from south Florida to Delaware Park.

Even if there were three defections, A Little Warm would not be guaranteed a spot in the Derby. Since he and Setsuko have the same graded stakes earnings, both of their names would be put into the entry box. Whoever is picked first would get a spot in the field, whereas the other would not.

If A Little Warm does not get into the Derby field, he would be pointed to the Preakness, according to trainer Tony Dutrow. On Sunday, A Little Warm worked four furlongs in 48.40 seconds at Palm Meadows.

"The horse is very, very good for whatever his next race is," Dutrow said. "I hope it's a little easier to get into [the Preakness] than it is the Derby."

Dominguez to ride Homeboykris

Trainer Todd Pletcher's decision to withdraw Rule from consideration for the Kentucky Derby left one of the nation's premier jockeys, Ramon Dominguez, without a mount in the race. But not for long.

Dominguez's agent, Steve Rushing, said late Monday afternoon that Dominguez would ride Homeboykris for trainer Rick Dutrow.

Dutrow had been actively trying to secure the services of Dominguez since Sunday, when he heard Rule might come out of the race.

Interactif to remain on turf

Though trainer Todd Pletcher said he was pleased with Interactif's workout on dirt Monday morning at Churchill Downs, he said Interactif would continue to race on turf, possibly targeting races such as the $100,000 Lamplighter at Monmouth Park on May 29 or the $100,000 Hill Prince at Belmont on June 4.

Interactif, who has recorded two of his three career victories on turf, worked four furlongs in 47.53 seconds in company Monday morning over a muddy main track. Exercise rider Patti Barry gave Interactif three cracks of a right-handed whip at the quarter pole and he went by his workmate, Collect the Fee, finishing about two lengths in front at the wire.

"I told her I wanted to see him run down the lane a little bit," Pletcher said. "I thought it was a pretty good work; I don't know if it was a Derby-winning work or not. I was satisfied with the work, I just think his body of work leading up to it is what we're looking at more than just the work this morning."

Borel begins meet red-hot

The 42-day Churchill spring meet couldn't have started much better for Calvin Borel. By following a five-win Saturday with two more winners Sunday, Borel took the early lead atop a jockeys' race that also figures to have Robby Albarado, Julien Leparoux, and Shaun Bridgmohan as contenders.

Borel capped opening day by winning the Derby Trial aboard Hurricane Ike, then won Sunday on Purrfect Alibi ($7.40) in the fourth and Emmy Darling ($3.60) in the featured ninth. Both Hurricane Ike and Emmy Darling are trained by John Sadler.

Also Sunday, jockey Jamie Theriot broke a 60-race losing streak when he rode Garifine ($2.60) to a 10-length score in the second race. Two races later, he won aboard Cowgirl Knockout ($15.60). Theriot, who rode six winners at Churchill on June 18, 2008, had not ridden a winner since the March 26 program at Fair Grounds. He went winless from 44 mounts at the recently ended Keeneland meet.

Return of two-day exotic bets

Churchill once again will offer not only the two-day daily double linking the Oaks and Derby, but also a two-day pick three linking those races with the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic. This will be the 15th year for the Oaks-Derby double and the second year for the pick three.

Churchill actually has explored a two-day pick four and even a two-day pick six for Oaks and Derby Days but has been unable to implement either because of complications involving totalisator systems, according to track spokesman Darren Rogers.

Also, Churchill will permit pick threes in 50-cent increments on Oaks and Derby days, as it does every day here, but 10-cent superfectas will not be offered either day, with the minimum reverting to $1. The super high five on the Oaks and Derby are both $1 minimums.

* The superstar country group Rascal Flatts will sing the Star Spangled Banner on Derby Day. Last year, LeAnn Rimes sang the national anthem, marking the first time in years that an individual had performed the song, which traditionally had been played by the University of Louisville marching band.

* After years of hosting thousands of corporate clients on Oaks and Derby days in the Marquee Village, a makeshift tent city set up in the Longfield Ave. parking lot, Churchill has done away with the village and shifted its emphasis on the Infield Club, now in its second year, and other seating areas throughout the grounds.

Likewise, the oversized tent that was used for years for the Derby Museum Gala on the Saturday night preceding the Derby was not set up this year. A less obtrusive tent housing the Infield Club is in its place.

- additional reporting by David Grening, Byron King, Marty McGee, Mike Welsch