Updated on 09/16/2011 7:03AM

Fresh legs a high priority

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Ed Whittaker/Racing Post
Essence of Dubai (left) overtakes Total Impact (right) in the UAE Derby.

It is hard to imagine, but horses used to run in the Derby Trial four days before the Kentucky Derby, then come back and run well on the first Saturday in May. Now, some trainers think even four weeks might be too close to the Derby.

The trainers of Perfect Drift and Request for Parole, who finished first and third, respectively, in Saturday's Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park, said they are strongly considering training their horses right up until the Derby on May 4, and skipping any other prep races. If either runs again before the Derby, the likely option is the $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 13, according to Murray Johnson, who trains Perfect Drift, and Steve Margolis, who trains Request for Parole.

"We're going to play it by ear," Johnson said Monday morning from Kentucky. "He doesn't have to run. More than likely he'll go straight to the Derby, but it's hard to look past a race like the Blue Grass. I'll train him a bit and decide. He's fit and ready to go, whether he comes back in three weeks or six weeks."

The Spiral was one of three key Kentucky Derby prep races run Saturday. Perfect Drift got a Beyer Speed Figure of 102 for his narrow victory over Azillion and Request for Parole.

At Oaklawn Park, Windward Passage captured the Rebel Stakes, earning a Beyer Figure of 94. He will return in the $500,000 Arkansas Derby on April 13, trainer Steve Asmussen said Monday from Texas. Windward Passage will have a new rider for the Arkansas Derby because Donnie Meche, who rode Windward Passage, will ride another Asmussen trainee, Perfect Emblem, in that race. Barry Irwin, whose Team Valor syndicate owns Windward Passage, said Chris McCarron would ride Windward Passage in the Arkansas Derby.

Irwin said McCarron would be able to tell if Windward Passage deserves to head to the Kentucky Derby. "I have great faith in his judgment," Irwin said.

Halfway around the world, Essence of Dubai rallied to win the United Arab Emirates Derby. There are no Beyer Figures produced for races in Dubai. Essence of Dubai got a Timeform rating of 115 for the UAE Derby. Generally, Timeform ratings are approximately 13 points higher than Beyer Figures, and while that is not an exact guide, it helps when comparing Essence of Dubai's performance to those of the other leading Kentucky Derby contenders based in this country.

Perfect Drift came out of the Spiral "super," Johnson said. "He's feeling great." Perfect Drift was ridden for the first time by Eddie Delahoussaye, a longtime friend of Johnson's. Johnson called Delahoussaye's ride "masterful."

Bob Hess Jr. did not disagree. "That was a fantastic ride by Delahoussaye," said Hess, who trains Spiral runner-up Azillion. Hess said Azillion would remain in Kentucky for a start in the Blue Grass. He will train at Churchill Downs, under the day-to-day care of Lalo Morales, an assistant to Hess.

"The timing of the Blue Grass is good," Hess said from Santa Anita, where he is based.

Margolis, who trains Request for Parole, said he would talk with owners Sam and Jeri Knighton before deciding whether to run in the Blue Grass, or head straight to the Derby. "He came out of the race well," Margolis said from Kentucky. Request for Parole left Turfway Park for Churchill Downs on Monday.

Windward Passage "came back great," said Asmussen, who has often said that Windward Passage would develop into a Derby prospect this spring. "I was very pleased. He looked good winning." Asmussen said Windward Passage and Private Emblem - who have different owners - would both run in the Arkansas Derby because "it's the responsible thing to do."

Asmussen said another of his 3-year-olds, Louisiana Derby runner-up Easyfromthegitgo, would point for the $325,000 Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 20.

Like Perfect Drift and Request for Parole, Essence of Dubai is expected to await the Kentucky Derby, too. He is expected to be joined by Godolphin Racing stablemate Ibn al Haitham, who, though still a maiden, was third in the UAE Derby.