04/30/2012 2:04PM

Kentucky Derby 2012: Bubble horse Optimizer must wait for Jones to decide whether to run Mark Valeski

Barbara D. Livingston
Mark Valeski worked Monday morning, but trainer Larry Jones says he will use the horse's mood on Wednesday to gaurge whether to run in Saturday's Kentucky Derby.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – This is a hot Derby, and the temperature is getting turned up. The field for the 138th Kentucky Derby on Saturday at Churchill Downs is deep and strong, more than the maximum of 20 want to run, it’s a seller’s market for tickets, and the weather is heating up, with a predicted high temperature of 90 degrees for race day.

Workouts over the weekend by Bodemeister and Union Rags cemented those two atop the leader board, as both – with their good form and large followings – are expected to be the top two wagering choices on Saturday. But there will be at least 20 entered in the race on Wednesday, and on Monday, five Derby aspirants had their final workouts here at Churchill Downs.

Trainer Steve Asmussen sent out both Daddy Nose Best and Sabercat under the lights early in the morning. Both went a half-mile, by themselves, under exercise rider Carlos Rosas. Daddy Nose Best was timed in 49.23 seconds by Daily Racing Form, with Sabercat clocked in 48.02 seconds.

Later in the morning, after the renovation break, Creative Cause went a half-mile in 47.54 seconds for trainer Mike Harrington, Liaison worked five furlongs for trainer Bob Baffert in 1:00.83, and Mark Valeski also went five furlongs, in 1:00.34, for trainer Larry Jones.

Jones has been vacillating over whether to run Mark Valeski, and said he would not decide until Wednesday morning whether to go ahead and enter.

“I’m not guaranteeing that we’re in or we’re out,” Jones said. “If he’s fresh on Wednesday, especially if he tries to buck me off, we’re in. But if he doesn’t act like he wants to play, we’ll let Wayne have a spot.”

Wayne would be four-time Derby winner D. Wayne Lukas, whose Optimizer is essentially 21st on the graded earnings list and needs at least one defection from those above him to get into the race. He has until Friday to find out. This year, there will be up to four also-eligibles allowed for the Derby, the first time there have been also-eligibles in the Derby since 1983. They can get into the race is there is a withdrawal from the main body of the field by scratch time on Friday morning.

The 20 who will be in the field are the ones with the most graded stakes earnings among those entered, provided they were nominated to the Triple Crown in January or March. That is why Hero of Order, who is still under consideration for the race but is not expected to run, goes to the back of the line. Though he has $617,375 in earnings, he was not nominated to the Triple Crown. In order to run, he must be supplemented for $200,000, then hope that there are enough defections to get him in.

If more than 20 enter, the also-eligibles, no more than four, will be ranked by graded earnings, and would have program numbers 21 through 24. If there is a scratch by Friday morning, all the runners outside the scratched horse would move in one post position in the starting gates, and the also-eligible who gets in would start from post 20. Saddle-cloth numbers, of course, would not change.

All entries for the Derby are due on Wednesday morning. Post positions will be drawn later Wednesday, during a one-hour telecast, beginning at 5 p.m. Eastern, on NBC Sports Network. The post draw will be a traditional, double-blind draw, where an entry card is selected concurrent with a numbered pill that corresponds to post position. The concept of selecting posts through a draft was discontinued a few years ago.

This draw could be of paramount importance. There are several horses who have speed or who have had ideal trips in recent races, and an inside draw, or possible slow start from there, might compromise their chances. The most notable horses to watch at the draw include expected pacesetter Trinniberg, as well as Bodemeister, Gemologist, Hansen, and I’ll Have Another, all of whom have never really had to face a spray of dirt in the early going of their winning races.

Even Asmussen, who has horses that rally from behind, wants to avoid the inside if possible.

“They’re in good form, in good shape,” Asmussen said. “We’re hoping for a good post, and hoping for a good trip. There are a lot of positives. The problem is who you have to do it against. You have to get lucky. We’ll wear our lucky socks, stand in a lucky spot. I just want to draw well now.”

The draw also concerns Harrington, who on Monday said Creative Cause was “annihilated” in the Del Mar Futurity.

Since then, “He doesn’t like crowds,” Harrington said, referring to traffic in races, not fans in the stands. “But he’ll have to deal with it.”

Creative Cause was allowed to roll along in his workout on Monday under John Cisneros, a former jockey who is now Harrington’s assistant. The work came two days after Creative Cause arrived from California. On Sunday, he had to have his right hind shoe re-shod.

“He was flying down the stretch,” Cisneros said.

Liaison has poor recent form, but Baffert said he is happy with how he has trained here.

“He has really improved by leaps and bounds. He has to,” Baffert said.

Baffert’s best chance clearly lies, though, with Bodemeister, who dazzled in his workout on Sunday. He worked five furlongs in 59.48 seconds, then continued boldly on the gallop out for another three furlongs to complete one lap around the track in 1:40.26.

One day earlier, Union Rags was timed by Daily Racing Form in 59.97 for five furlongs. He also galloped out with enthusiasm.

Though a large number of Derby horses are late arrivals this year, all must be on the grounds by Wednesday. Done Talking arrived Sunday from Maryland, and had his first tour of the track Monday. Alpha arrived Monday from New York.

El Padrino, Gemologist, and Take Charge Indy were scheduled to travel from Florida on Tuesday. Daddy Long Legs was set to fly from Ireland on Tuesday. Hansen, who is based at the nearby Churchill Downs Training facility, is scheduled to make the short van ride to Churchill Downs on Wednesday.

They will encounter warm, humid conditions. Beginning Wednesday, according to Weather.com, the high temperature will be at least in the upper-80s each day, with a forecast of 90 for Saturday, along with a 30-percent chance of thunderstorms.

– additional reporting by Marcus Hersh and Mike Welsch