04/29/2013 3:30PM

Kentucky Derby: Fear the Kitten brings field to an even 20

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Barbara D. Livingston
Orb works a half-mile Monday at Churchill Downs under Jennifer Patterson.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Both the likely field, and perhaps even the likely favorite, for the 139th Kentucky Derby on Saturday at Churchill Downs came into sharper focus Monday, when Code West, Govenor Charlie, Tiz a Minister, and Winning Cause all were officially taken out of consideration for the Derby, and Florida Derby winner Orb turned in an eye-catching workout that, combined with his improving form, may propel him to favoritism over the heretofore acknowledged favorite, the unbeaten Verrazano.

[DERBY WATCH: Top 20 Kentucky Derby contenders with odds and video]

None of the defections from the field was a surprise. But there was one late surprise Monday afternoon, with Fear the Kitten being added to the prospective lineup. So, as of Monday evening, there were 20 runners known to be likely to enter the Derby on Wednesday morning, with post positions to be drawn Wednesday evening on the NBC Sports Network from 5-6 pm Eastern.

A maximum of 20 horses can run in the Derby. If that holds, then the points system instituted this year by Churchill Downs to determine the Derby field if more than 20 enter will not need to be invoked, nor would the old system – based on graded stakes earnings – have been invoked if it was still in force.

The biggest smiles on Monday morning were worn by Shug McGaughey, the trainer of Orb, and Dallas Stewart, the trainer of Golden Soul, who moved up the depth chart and into the Derby field because all the defections came from horses ranked higher on the points list than Golden Soul, who has a mere 14 points.

Mike Maker, the trainer of Fear the Kitten, announced his intention to run late Monday. Fear the Kitten most recently was fifth in the Blue Grass Stakes. He has 6 points. Alan Garcia has the mount.

Orb had looked well in the days leading up to his work, and he gave every indication he is thriving with his drill. He went a half-mile in 47.89 seconds, according to Daily Racing Form, while effortlessly leaving a workmate in his wake, and then galloped out strongly another quarter-mile under exercise rider Jenn Patterson. The work was reminiscent of what both Barbaro (2006) and Street Sense (2007) did in their final drills before their Derby victories.

[KENTUCKY DERBY WORKOUTS: Video analysis, news, and times]

“I was a little surprised he left his work horse as quickly as he did,” McGaughey said. “The plan was to sit back and go by him at some point. Jenn came back all smiles.”

McGaughey said Orb has continued to make progress all year.

“This horse has taken me every step,” McGaughey said. “He’s done everything we’ve asked, even a lot more. He’s kept going in the right direction. I’m going into the Derby with the attitude, today, that as of Monday, April the 29th, we’ve done everything possible to make it right, and I think we’ve done everything right. If he draws a bad post, we might have to change our plan. If he has a bad trip, then what will be will be.

“I’m excited. I know I’ll get nervous as the week goes on, but I decided I was going to come here excited, try to enjoy the week. I want to enjoy the whole experience.”

McGaughey, a native of Kentucky, already is in the Hall of Fame, but, like the late Charlie Whittingham, he only shows up at the Derby when he thinks he has a chance. McGaughey has had just six starters in the Derby, and only one since 1989, when he was second with Easy Goer to the Whittingham-trained Sunday Silence.

“The Derby’s at the top of my list. Always has been,” McGaughey said. “And until I win it, it always will be.”

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

Two other Derby runners – both trained by D. Wayne Lukas – worked Monday, both going five furlongs in solo drills. Oxbow was timed in 59.82 seconds, Will Take Charge in 1:00.82.

Winning Cause, the Lexington winner, also worked, going a half-mile in 48.46, but trainer Todd Pletcher stuck to his original plan and said Winning Cause would not run back in the Derby, even though he has the points to participate. Pletcher still has five in the race, headed by Verrazano.

“He’s 3 for 3 on synthetics, and 0 for 4 on dirt,” Pletcher said of Winning Cause, “and it seemed a lot to ask him to run for the third time in four weeks against what I think is a good Derby field.”

Winning Cause is expected to make his next start on Polytrack at Woodbine.

Code West and Govenor Charlie also were formally ruled out of the Derby on Monday by trainer Bob Baffert, who had said as much on Sunday. That leaves Baffert without a Derby starter.

Tiz a Minister also was removed from consideration for the Derby. The defections Monday at Churchill Downs put Tiz a Minister in the top 20 for points, but his owner, Stephen Young, said Tiz a Minister had emerged from the Snow Chief Stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park on Saturday with “a little bit of a sore foot,” and thus would not travel from California on Tuesday.

“We can’t get him ready in time,” Young said.

Those defections moved Golden Soul all the way up to 19th on the points list. Stewart was desirous of running in the Derby and welcomed the news, but didn’t want to jinx himself.

“I’m a realist,” he said. “I don’t want to be disappointed if someone changes their mind.”

It was a cool, cloudy, but dry morning here Monday, and while the Weather Channel forecast is for warmer weather midweek, with highs in the 80s, the long-range forecast for Derby Day is for showers, a 50 percent chance of rain, and a high of just 56 degrees.
– additional reporting by Byron King and Mike Welsch

lfc1963 More than 1 year ago
We're in it to win it Shug.Go Orb.........
Karl More than 1 year ago
A 20 horse field, as we've witnessed in the past, creates traffic issues for even the top ranked entries-it's unavoidable! A wet track will spell doom for those stuck behind what will be a modest pace. with the likely winner sitting in the top 5 lead positions. A fast track however, will ensure a quickened pace. with considerable late movement benefitting the true closers. The draw on Wednesday weeds out a lot of pretenders, and gives our handicapping skills a more compact field to evaluate.
michael stapler More than 1 year ago
Yeah.. That muddy track was havoc on Mine that Bird. Luckily he was sitting SO CLOSE...LOL
Sol Rivera More than 1 year ago
Same Goes for Super Saver. What it boils down to is who is the best Three Year Old going a mile and a quarter, on the first Saturday in May on the dirt despite the condition of the dirt surface. That's the way its always been, and that's the way it will always be. Complain all you want. It will NEVER change
Karl More than 1 year ago
Thank you for the feedback-I have the 11K triactor with Barbaro to console myself;-)
Jay Friedman More than 1 year ago
what does that have to do with anything
Shibbley More than 1 year ago
It lets us all know he is good at the game. At least it was supposed to.
Cover2 More than 1 year ago
Love that Orb is projected favorito, (remember when Orb had a name in front, Travel Orb ? Verrazano, faaagettttaboooouuut the rest.......will box under, frac dad, vyjack, overanalyze Orb....ex-tri-sup.......if a 5.....ALL.......derby-oaks dbl.....ALL...also as hunch, all pletcher boxes under Verrzno......Oh almost forgot........FIRST TC WINNER IN WHAT 34 years ?
John Pfeiffer More than 1 year ago
Golden Soul Statistics: 2013 Statistics: •Starts: 3 •Firsts: 0 •Seconds: 1 •Thirds: 0 •Earnings: $84,000 •Earnings Per Start: $28,000 •Highest 104 Career Statistics: •Starts: 5 •Firsts: 1 •Seconds: 2 •Thirds: 0 •Earnings: $117,400 •Earnings Per Start: $23,480 •Highest 104
Billy Spathanas More than 1 year ago
104 beyers ! Tops quite a few in this group dont you think. Sounds like you like this horse John..
L.S. Heatherly More than 1 year ago
That 104 is not a beyer. I have the drf PPs for Golden Soul. His best Beyer(I don't use Beyer figs much) is 89, 2-3 lenghts behind I've Struck a Nerve, Code West, and Palice malice in La Derby But I like the hosre alot off his 1st Maiden Race(troubled trip-- he would have won easily) and his 2nd race that he won easily. I'll put $2 to win as a cover; then put him under my top picks.
Robert Letofsky More than 1 year ago
Yes, Almost here one more day and derby draw. Then, we can determine who the winner is going to be.
FMeatball More than 1 year ago
I'M just so Fricken excited that 8 of my future bets made it into the Derby !! The Lowest Odds are 49/1 !! Gotta Love It !!
Perl More than 1 year ago
You're in great shape. Will you try to insure? I remember in 2011 me and a pal were alive to 7 horses in a gigantic Pic 4, but of course we didn't use Animal Kingdom. That stung.
Wathen More than 1 year ago
who you got Meatball ??? I bet: Pool 1 Capo Bastone :(, Revolutionary(13-1), Will Take Charge(61-1).....Exacta Boxed the 3 as well.......(potential $1600.00-plus payoffs) Pool 2 Code West :( Pool 3 Code West :( and Palace Malice(42-1)
michael stapler More than 1 year ago
Don't forget. He has a big bet on LiarLrPantsonfire
Lise McLain More than 1 year ago
Hi! Fear the Kitten has ONLY 6 points, and ONLY about $122,000 in earnings. I cannot believe this as it is so ridiculous. I hope that the "powers that be" examine this whole point system after the Derby since, in my opinion, it degrades the Kentucky Derby to a lower level race. By doing so, it is a farce. Thank you! Lise from Maine
Perl More than 1 year ago
Not sure I understand. The Derby is a unique race. Is this a "reduce-the-field' argument? Part of the charm of the Derby is that it can be won by low price horses with obscure connections who harbor nothing more than a few grand and a dream. I wouldn't want to change that. Keep it at 20 horses and if the horse makes the field under the qualifying system, which is far from perfuct but adequate, then so be it.
Ed Bullens More than 1 year ago
I also do not understand the complaint, which I think is the point system. Fear the Kitten having ONLY $122k in earnings gives him more than Winning Cause (120k), West Hills Giant (90k), Code West (90k) and Tiz a Minister (81k) all of whom have 20 Derby points which earns a Derby berth and a few of the horses mentioned were still being considered up until yesterday. It appears the $122k would have put Fear the Kitten in under the old system.
Rachel Harding More than 1 year ago
its having only 6 points and still getting to get into the derby that has that person ticked off. it doesnt make sense to me either
Bryan E More than 1 year ago
I don't understand your point either. It's no different from previous years except that it's points instead of graded earnings. There was no minimum for earnings before so if the field was not full, a horse with very low earning could have entered in previous years just like a horse can now enter with very few points. The only difference is now the points have to be in a race that Churchill Downs feels qualifies the horse for the Kentucky Derby (as opposed to graded earnings in sprints, turf races and a lot of juvenile races). If oyu disagree with some of the races that they chose or left out, that's one thing. But I don't see why it is worse for a horse to get in with 6 points than in previous years when a horse could have theoretically gotten in with $50,000 in graded earnings from a sprint race as a 2-year olds (if only 19 horses entered with more earnings).
Lawrence More than 1 year ago
All Derby Starters should have at least 30 points. This rule needs to be applied in the point system for next year.
commenting More than 1 year ago
Or just lower the field maximum to 14...
David LaKari More than 1 year ago
The only thing good about a 20 horse field is that the payoffs get inflated because of the number of starters and the betting public (many of them only bet 1 race a year) which only knows that a horse has 4 legs and not much of anything else. I've been behind people in line that will give ticket sellers the names of the horses they want to bet...that really cracks me up but that is what you put up with on Derby Day. I remember going to the Derby at Churchill Downs my 1st year was 1977. The fields were smaller and horses ran much truer to form. The race is like a Circus anymore and will continue to be this way until they limit the field size to 14. Why don't they run 20 horses in any other race in this country...sometimes you will see as many as 22 horses listed for a turf race.
Bob Fritz More than 1 year ago
A mutuel clerk once told me that a bettor pointed to a bank of 10 TV monitors and said, "I want to bet that track over there!"
Lori Schwartz More than 1 year ago
I agree. 14 horse fields work great for the Breeder's Cup. Why not the Derby?
Sol Rivera More than 1 year ago
Twenty horse fields increase the betting pools. Leave it the way it is.
Paul Gibb More than 1 year ago
agree with everything you said!!!!!!
JoyJackson21 More than 1 year ago
I think a 20 horse system in the Derby works out fine. It makes for exciting racing and adds interest to the race for the general public. Most people in this country are only interested in watching and participating in the Kentucky Derby, and maybe the Preakness and the Belmont when there are exciting match races involved as with I'll Have Another/Bodemeister, Real Quiet/Victory Gallop, Affirmed/Alydar, etc., or if there is a Triple Crown on the line in the Belmont Stakes. The general public doesn't mind having a chance at winning a decent return, either, for a modest wager. That's all part of what makes the race fun for most people. The best horse in the race, with the best racing luck, and being able to take advantage of the best opportunities available to them on the first Saturday in May, always wins the Kentucky Derby - no matter whether there are 14 entrants in the race or 20 entrants.
jttf More than 1 year ago
in last years derby. liason only would have had 15 points and he finished 6th. mine that bird would have had only 15 points. eight belles (zero points) ran 2nd. also in 2008, denis of cork who ran 3rd, had only 10 points. make music for me (3 points) ran 4th in 2010. this proves that the very weak derby prep finishers just need a clean trip in a 20 horse field. to finish in the top 4. if you have smaller fields. you will have more consistant results for the quality horses. the kentucky derby is just one race out of a series of 3 races. just like the ncaa march madness field. it has been expanded to 68 teams and it is very successful event with 7 rounds in a series. now, the ncaa football will expand to a 4 team playoff to better prove who really is number 1. expansion sells tickets. we want the best teams to be involved with a championship. so why not have 4 weeks in between each triple crown race. so we will have even better fields with well rested contenders so they will preform better and with less injuries. 4 weeks in between the derby and preakness should get more kentucky oaks fillies involved in the preakness.
Randy Baker More than 1 year ago
It makes sense,however I believe they're afraid the big gap would affect the general publics waning interest.honestly ,for today's speed bred horses it would be more sensible and better for the welfare of the horse
Kurt K More than 1 year ago
More Kentucky Oaks fillies in the Preakness? It's the Triple Freaking Crown people. Why not bring the fences in 50 feet at every major league ballpark? And let's just use 3 bases while we are at it and increase each run to 2 pts. And put the nets at 9 feet in Basketball, And you get 5 downs for a first down..., etc. etc. You must be a Soccer fan...nothing like a great Tie!
John Roselli More than 1 year ago
Football (or soccer, as you call it - maybe we can agree to call it futbol), is the only major sport that hasn't screwed around with creating more, easier offense and more playoff qualifiers - which seems to be you dislike. So I'm not sure why you're criticizing futbol.
Kurt K More than 1 year ago
Call it whatever you want. Yaay! We tied.
jttf More than 1 year ago
the fillies handle the dehydration of lasix better than the boys. this is why we have so many girls winning horse of the years and triple crown races lately.
sharon gima More than 1 year ago
There is something called tradition and there are few of those left that haven't been diddled with and turned into a farce. How about leaving this one alone. Horse breeding has changed the nature of the beast and that, not the time between races, is the main factor in not having a Triple Crown winner for a number of years. Let the time between the KD, P and B remain and try for a single horse to rise to the top of the mediocre heap again.
Sol Rivera More than 1 year ago
The reason there hasn't been a Triple Crown Winner in over thirty years is because there are more horses foaled now than in the seventies. There always seems to be a fresh horse waiting in New York fresh and ready to spoil dreams of a Triple Crown.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The horse wouldn't be here if not for injuries and Horses not good coming in. Point system is great