04/21/2014 1:13PM

Kentucky Derby: Hope remains for final spots

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Barbara D. Livingston
Tapiture, in his first work since finishing fourth in the Arkansas Derby, drills five furlongs in 1:02.80 on Monday at Churchill Downs.

With Cairo Prince out of the 140th Kentucky Derby with an injury and Midnight Hawk removed from consideration following his second-place finish in the Illinois Derby on Saturday, spots opened in the prospective field for Vinceremos and Harry’s Holiday, and more scoreboard watching will be done as horses begin to arrive at Churchill Downs for their final works for the May 3 Derby.

A trio of prospects worked Monday, and their status will affect the final lineup for the Derby, for which entries will be drawn April 30. A maximum of 20 horses can run, with up to four also-eligibles.

Tapiture, the winner of the Southwest Stakes but fourth in the Arkansas Derby in his most recent start, worked five furlongs in 1:02.80 on Monday at Churchill Downs. It was his first drill since the Arkansas Derby.

“I thought he worked really well,” said trainer Steve Asmussen. “He was nice and relaxed early. Being as he ran just nine days ago, we weren’t looking for anything quick. I was very pleased with it.”

Asmussen said Tapiture will work again next Monday, but that as of Monday, “all systems were go” for a start in the Derby.

Like Tapiture, Chitu – the Sunland Derby winner – is among the top 20 in Kentucky Derby qualifying points, so those with horses on the bubble are keeping a keen eye on their progress. Chitu worked in company with his Bob Baffert-trained stablemate, Bayern, on Monday, and each received a time of 47.60 seconds for a half-mile.

Bayern appeared best at the wire and galloped out stronger, though Chitu is a notoriously indifferent workhorse.

“He always gets outworked. That’s him,” Baffert said.

Baffert, who was in California on Monday, said he would not make any Derby decisions regarding either horse until he sees them in person Wednesday. However, he said Chitu would run in the Grade 3, $150,000 Derby Trial, a one-turn, one-mile race Saturday, the opening night of the Churchill Downs meeting. Joel Rosario has the mount. Baffert said there was still the possibility that Chitu could come back a week later in the Kentucky Derby.

As for Bayern, Baffert said he had come forward noticeably since the Arkansas Derby.

“He needed that race badly,” Baffert said.

Bayern is 23rd on the points list. He earned 20 points for his third-place finish in the Arkansas Derby but ranks behind Vinceremos, Harry’s Holiday, Commanding Curve, and Pablo Del Monte – all of whom have 20 points – due to the tie-breaker, earnings in nonrestricted stakes races.

Bayern is ahead of Social Inclusion, who was third in the Wood Memorial, which was worth 20 points, but who earned $10,000 less for that race than Bayern did for his third in the Arkansas Derby.

As of Monday, all those with 20 points were still under consideration for the Derby. Wesley Ward, the trainer of Pablo Del Monte, said, “It would be unbelievable if he could get in.”

Baffert’s top Derby contender is Hoppertunity, the runner-up to California Chrome in the Santa Anita Derby last time out. Both Hoppertunity and Candy Boy, third in the Santa Anita Derby, flew to Kentucky on Monday. California Chrome is not scheduled to travel until April 28 on a flight that also will include Dance With Fate.

Vinceremos, 19th on the points list owing to the tie-breaker, has been training at the farm of his owner, WinStar Farm, since a poor try in the Blue Grass, his first start on a synthetic surface. Trainer Todd Pletcher said Vinceremos was scheduled to come to Churchill Downs on Wednesday and was scheduled for a workout Sunday, after which Pletcher said he and Elliott Walden, the former trainer who is the president and chief executive of WinStar, would discuss whether to run in the Derby.

Pletcher’s other Derby prospects – Danza, Intense Holiday, and We Miss Artie – also are scheduled to have their final Derby works Sunday at Churchill Downs.

Trainer Mike Maker could send out three in the Derby. Maker has General a Rod, Vicar’s in Trouble, and Harry’s Holiday, who slipped into the top 20 after Cairo Prince and Midnight Hawk came out.

Maker on Monday said he was scheduled to meet with the owners of Harry’s Holiday that afternoon to discuss whether to run in the Derby and, if so, which rider to employ.

Maker’s horses are stabled at Churchill’s Trackside Training Center, eight miles from Churchill Downs, but were scheduled to move to Churchill itself this week and then remain there through the Derby. General a Rod is scheduled for a workout Wednesday, while Harry’s Holiday and Vicar’s in Trouble are scheduled to have their final drills Saturday, Maker said.

– additional reporting by Marcus Hersh and Marty McGee