04/01/2009 11:00PM

Jerkens watches son's Derby run

Email

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. - Not that Jimmy Jerkens has or likely will ever need any help when it comes to training Quality Road into this year's Kentucky Derby. Obviously he's done just fine up to this point, having won both the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby. But should Jerkens be compelled to seek a little counseling somewhere along the Derby trail, all he needs to do is turn to Dad for some fatherly advice.

Dad is none other than Hall of Fame trainer Allen Jerkens, who knows a thing or two about winning big races and has already been to the Derby on three occasions.

Allen Jerkens made his first Derby appearance with Round Stake in 1975, returned three years later with Sensitive Prince, and was back again in 1992 with Devil His Due. His best finish came in 1978 when Sensitive Prince finished sixth behind Affirmed and Alydar.

"Jimmy knows what to expect at the Derby because he was there with me with Devil His Due," said the elder Jerkens. "It's an exciting experience and you can really get wrapped up in it. I just hope Quality Road stays where he is right now because he's definitely one of the good ones this year. I thought he really ran well the other day."

Jerkens said that if Quality Road does make it to the Derby, he will not accompany his son to Kentucky.

"I'd love to be there, but I won't be able to go," said Jerkens. "It's hard for me to go to a strange place these days. We'll be leaving here in about two weeks and I'll watch the race from home in New York. It sure would be nice for Jimmy to win it, but you can never be too confident about any race, let alone the Derby. So many things can happen, especially in a big field."

But Jerkens acknowledged he will be pulling for Quality Road on Derby Day as if he were his own horse.

"I'm already starting to get nervous now," said Jerkens.

Pletcher watching the money list

Dunkirk, who gave Quality Road all he could handle before settling for second in the Florida Derby, returned to the track on Wednesday and is doing well, according to trainer Todd Pletcher.

"He put in a big effort on a little bit of a hot day and was tired right after the race," said Pletcher. "But both his energy level and appetite have been good, and I'm pleased with the way he's bounced back from the Florida Derby."

Pletcher will obviously have some rooting interests in all three Derby preps this weekend aside from the horses he's entered in those races. Dunkirk is in a precarious position on the graded earnings list that will determine the 20 starters for the Derby.

"Obviously we're hoping the same horses that have already accumulated graded earnings continue to do so and we don't get any new shooters in the mix," said Pletcher. "Ultimately it's out of our hands, and all we can do is prepare our horse and live with whatever happens."

Pletcher said he'll put Dunkirk on a training schedule for a possible Derby start, similar to the pattern he followed coming into the Florida Derby.

"It's basically the same time period between his two previous starts," said Pletcher. "He'll probably work back on the 10th or 11th and once a week thereafter. If he does get into the Derby, we'll ship to Churchill on Tuesday or Wednesday before the race, barring a problem with the weather down here. Unless it gets too hot, I'm not planning on working him at Churchill Downs."

Tomcito returns with Albertrani

Tomcito garnered plenty of attention when he shipped here off a Group 1 win in Peru and finished a distant third behind Big Brown in the 2008 Florida Derby. He was put on a path toward the Belmont Stakes, but was sidelined following a distant seventh in the Grade 2 Peter Pan.

Tomcito eventually wound up being transferred from trainer Dante Zanelli to Tom Albertrani, who will send out the son of Street Cry for the first time in Saturday's Grade 3 Skip Away.

"He had some shin issues after the Peter Pan that needed time," said Albertrani, who trained Street Cry for Godolphin when working as an assistant to trainer Saeed bin Suroor. "He's a big horse, and the longer he goes the better. He's probably up against it in this race on Saturday, but whatever happens, he's definitely going to improve the next time."