05/06/2011 12:50PM

Kentucky Derby: An also-eligible list would have allowed Sway Away to draw in

Barbara D. Livingston
Sway Away was 21st on the graded earnings list when the Kentucky Derby was drawn Wednesday.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The connections of Uncle Mo weren’t the only ones feeling disappointment Friday following his scratch from Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. So, too, were those associated with Sway Away.

Sway Away was one of two horses, the other being Ruler On Ice, that were excluded from an overfilled Derby when entries were taken Wednesday. The two horses ranked 21st and 22nd, respectively, by graded earnings, the preference criteria used to limit the field to its maximum size of 20 horses.

Although Uncle Mo’s participation was in doubt all week as he sought to recover from a gastrointestinal infection, he was entered Wednesday in the Derby, with trainer Todd Pletcher and owner Mike Repole seeking to buy time to further evaluate his physical condition.

Jeff Bonde, trainer of Sway Away, said he didn’t harbor any hard feelings toward the Uncle Mo camp but felt sorry for some of Sway Away’s owners, some of whom are in their 70s and might not have a chance to have another potential Derby starter.

Todd Pletcher said he sympathized for those associated with Sway Away, but didn’t regret entering. “I think Uncle Mo deserved every second,” he said of Uncle Mo recovering in time to make the race.

Bonde called Sway Away “a victim of the system,” referring to Churchill Downs not having an also-eligible list for the Kentucky Derby, which would allow a horse to draw into the race when a scratch occurs.

John Asher, spokesman for Churchill Downs, said the track would re-evaluate the practice following this year’s Derby, as they have in years past, while noting that the track has not allowed it due to logistical problems that could arise from advance wagering on the Derby that begins Friday.

Uncle Mo’s scratch occurred Friday morning, however, before even advance wagering had begun.

A secondary logistical issue would be “communication, either through the news media, all the way down to some of these smaller OTBs,” Asher said.

He added that the Derby audience includes many infrequent racing fans and bettors that could be unfamiliar with how an also-eligible list might work.

The Breeders’ Cup, which also offers advance wagering, began adding also-eligible lists to its overdrawn races in 2008.

Bonde, who is still represented by Twice The Appeal in the Derby, said that with Sway Away, “we’ll just pack our bags and move onto the next town.”

He said Sway Away would work at Churchill Downs on Derby morning in preparation for the next leg of the Triple Crown, the May 21 Preakness stakes at Pimlico.

An Afleet Alex colt, Sway Away finished second in the San Vicente Stakes to The Factor earlier this year and most recently ran fourth in the Arkansas Derby in his final Kentucky Derby prep.