04/25/2013 3:43PM

Kentucky Derby: Must-win situation for Titletown Five in Derby Trial


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The days until the big race have dwindled into single digits, and with most of the major players having settled in comfortably at Churchill Downs, only a few things are left to be done toward the Kentucky Derby.

One of those finishing touches may or may not be applied Saturday night with the Derby Trial, the last stop on its anagram, the Derby trail. Titletown Five, having played catch-up for months, is the only one of the nine Trial runners with designs on cracking the 20-horse Derby field by earning sufficient points toward eligibility.

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

As the 10th of 11 races on a Downs After Dark program that opens the 38-day Churchill spring meet, the Trial will not be run until 10:42 p.m. Eastern, a time when Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas is usually well into his REM cycle before rising a few hours later. In any case, Lukas is hoping the result will be something worth losing sleep over.

“We’ve been trying all winter to give this colt a shot at making the Derby,” he said. “This is his one chance. We’d love to see him make the most of it.”

Titletown Five, with Gary Stevens to ride, will break from the outside post in the one-turn-mile Trial.

Not many horses would bring a more alluring storyline to the Derby – which will be run next Saturday for the 139th time – than Titletown Five. The colt is owned by a multi-way partnership that includes Lukas and Paul Hornung, who as a retired football legend and lifelong Louisvillian surely would lend a higher degree of fun to the pre-race proceedings.

Still, there are good stories, and there are real stories, and with Titletown Five being a 5-1 chance on the morning line for the 89th running of the Trial, the odds favor the Grade 3, $175,000 Trial being no factor whatsoever toward the Derby. In an unofficial straw poll of the connections of the other logical contenders, none was remotely close to having Derby leanings, even if their horse were to earn the 20 points that almost certainly would get them into the race if so desired.

“You can rule him out of the Derby,” said Justin Zayat, who helps manage Zayat Stables, owner of the speedy Zee Bros (post 3, Mike Smith, 5-2).

“Zero percent chance,” said Ian Wilkes, who will saddle Ruble (post 5, Alan Garcia, 6-1), fresh off back-to-back wins at Gulfstream Park for owner-breeder Jan Whitham.

“No,” said Lynn Whiting, trainer of Officer Alex (post 1, Robby Albarado, 8-1), already a four-time winner.

“We haven’t really discussed this race as a Kentucky Derby prep,” said Todd Pletcher, who will send out the uncoupled duo of Forty Tales (post 4, Joel Rosario, 3-1) and Capo Bastone (post 6, Garrett Gomez, 5-1).

Even in case of a victory by Titletown Five, the colt still would need several things to unfold in his favor to actually start in the Derby. As things stood Thursday, 20 others still would maintain preference over him, although No. 20 on that list is Winning Cause, the Coolmore Lexington Stakes winner who is unlikely to run, according to Pletcher, although the trainer has not completely ruled him out as a sixth Derby runner for his prodigious stable.

“We’ll probably work him Sunday and talk it over after that,” Pletcher said.

Winning Cause, with 20 points on the new eligibility system that serves as a first tie-breaker into the Derby field, would have a slight edge over Titletown Five in non-restricted stakes earnings, the next criteria for preference. But even considering all that, Derby entries will not be taken until Wednesday morning, and, furthermore, Churchill will once again employ an also-eligibles list (up to four horses, Nos. 21-24) in case the race is oversubscribed.

◗ While the Derby is set for a three-hour broadcast (4-7 p.m. Eastern) next Saturday on NBC, another 6 1/2 hours of airtime has been scheduled before and after the race on its sister network, NBC Sports Network.

One-hour airings include the draw show on Wednesday, the Kentucky Oaks broadcast Friday, and three episodes of “Derby Classics,” as well as a half-hour wrap immediately after NBC signs off on the Derby.

pennyandy More than 1 year ago
while the golden boy's colt is the sentimental choice for the 20th spot in derby, its looking like golden soul will fill that slot.
Mr. Ed More than 1 year ago
With apologies to the connections of Titletown Five. Doesn't look like he'll finish in the top three. In fact, when it's over, there might be more horses in front of him than behind him. Blessing in disguise, there are better races for him where he'll have a better chance than the Derby.
michael stapler More than 1 year ago
Forty Tales looks like he should win easy in this spot. Certainly set up to finish well with the projected pace. Capo should be coming late for 2nd, 3rd, 4th. to use in the supers. A one-turn mile also looks like it is right in his wheelhouse.
Charles Sakach More than 1 year ago
Forty Tales wins this one; only Tour Guide (who beat I've Struck a Nerve at 6 furlongs) has an outside shot. (The 46-and-change-breezing bullet work makes Tour Guide a dangerous pony; the distance is the question with him.) Ruble has also won at the distance, but will probably not have the stored energy it takes to get the win. Use Forty Tales over the other 2. For a saver, box Tour Guide with Forty Tales in the exacta.
R. Carlos Nanez More than 1 year ago
. In the first place, none of those horses in the Derby Trial are not even close to be considered Derby material, Titletown Five is a nice horse and probable wins the race, enough for Lukas to throw him in the Derby and ruining another good one after another like he's done the last ten years.
michael stapler More than 1 year ago
I could see Forty Tales in a stretchout as a good two-tirn horse. The overall quality of the 3 yo crop is weak. Most need slow opening fractions to post good Beyers. None really run fast from start to finish.
Thomas Cook More than 1 year ago
Ruble wins here for wilkes making Lukas late night a mute point. Thank god for titletown's sake.
Ann Ferland More than 1 year ago
Moot point, not mute. Lukas is rarely mute. They aren't even pronounced the same. Moot like 'moo', mute like 'cute'.
Bobby Lee More than 1 year ago
The rules should be taken away from the clowns at Churchill. The Illinois Derby with a purse of 750,000 gets stiffed and the Derby Trial with a purse of $175,000 is worth 20 points. Huh? Go back to graded earnings.instead of forcing everyone to vie at the end with trainers altering what they wanted their schedule to be.
John More than 1 year ago
I agree,what a crock this new system is.Trying to get more racing fans.Don't think so.Stick to Normalcy,which is the way it's been done for so many years.Departing,the Illinois Derby should Be in this Kentucky Derby.I am sick,with the way this point system works.Don't care who wins now.Just Another Way to FIX a Horse Race.
Timothy DeTillio More than 1 year ago
You are absolutely right. This 2013 not 1913 where 3 year olds prepped in the Derby Trial and won the Derby 4 days later. Also, if the point system stays as is ten the Illinois Derby should be moved to the fall.
Zombie Birdhouse More than 1 year ago
The points system is something NASCAR would dream up. There should be a "win-n-in" format for 17 slots, starting with the BC Juvenile and having 16 graded stakes for 3yo's, with a wild card for the top 3yo earner outside of NA and a pair of top NA 3yo earners who didn't qualify in. Any open slots due to multiple winners or qualifiers off the trail will be filled with additional NA wild cards. Even the most casual sports fan could follow the action on one "scorecard", which can only help market the trail from the BC to Derby Day.
Mark Scheider More than 1 year ago
michael stapler More than 1 year ago
Yes. really. NO ONE should be able to decide (force) a horse/trainer/owner to run in certain races to be able to compete on Derby Day. .....And if they do do (i said do-do!!) it that way, it should be on a sliding scale of G1 points G2 points G3 points and any other stakes as a sliding FAIR scale of points. Why is the Wood worth more than another stake? or vice versa.