04/22/2013 4:25PM

Kentucky Derby: Trial's 20 points can mean entry

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Barbara D. Livingston
Winning Cause (1) wins the Lexington Stakes but is likely to pass on a start in the Kentucky Derby.

While a full, 20-horse field looks likely for the 139th Kentucky Derby on May 4 at Churchill Downs, just who will obtain those coveted final spots remained in doubt Monday, and likely will remain so through this weekend, when the final race worth points, the $175,000-added Derby Trial, is run.

Last Saturday saw Winning Cause take the Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland, earning 20 points, the same value for a win in the Derby Trial this Saturday at Churchill. That’s enough to place Winning Cause 22nd on the current Derby points list, inaugurated this year by Churchill Downs to determine the Derby field if more than the maximum 20 horses are entered.

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

However, being as trainer Todd Pletcher is looking to run five other horses in the Derby – Charming Kitten, Overanalyze, Palace Malice, Revolutionary, and Verrazano – and since all of Winning Cause’s success has been on synthetic surfaces, and since the Derby would be his third start in four weeks, the chances of his running are practically zero, though Pletcher on Monday said he “would give it a week” to make a final decision.

If Winning Cause passes the Derby, as expected, Pletcher said a race like the $150,000 Marine Stakes, on Polytrack at Woodbine on May 26, is under strong consideration.

Departing won the Illinois Derby on Saturday at Hawthorne, a race that offered no points toward the Derby, but since Departing – who earned 20 points when third in the Louisiana Derby – wasn’t being aimed to the Derby anyway, that mattered not compared with the lucrative, $750,000 purse.

As of Monday, there were at least 25 horses still under consideration for the Derby, but at least two currently in the top 20 are uncertain to run, giving hope to those behind them and on the bubble. Super Ninety Nine, currently 18th on the points list, and Den’s Legacy, currently 20th, are both scheduled to work Wednesday at Santa Anita, according to their trainer, Bob Baffert. The quality of those works will determine whether they even get on a plane for Kentucky on Thursday. Though both are unlikely to run, Baffert does not want to make a definitive Derby decision until as late as possible.

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

If at least one of those horses does not participate in the Derby, Charming Kitten is in. If both come out, Winning Cause could get in, but that likely wouldn’t matter. Next on the list is Code West, who worked five furlongs in 1:01.06 at Churchill Downs on Monday morning, according to Daily Racing Form . He too is uncertain to run, even if he could get in, but Baffert will not decide his status until seeing him in person later this week.

Next, currently ranked 24th, is Tiz a Minister, but he is “99 sure to run” in the $300,000 Snow Chief Stakes for California-breds on Saturday at Betfair Hollywood Park, according to his trainer, Paul Aguirre. Aguirre, however, said he and owner Stephen Young were keeping an “eye on Derby developments.”

So, a horse as far down the list as Golden Soul, currently ranked 25th with just 14 points, still has a shot to get in.

But any Derby Trial winner whose connections are desirous of running would immediately be no worse than 23rd on the current list. A Derby Trial victory is worth, in addition to 20 points, at least $108,500 in unrestricted stakes earnings, the tie-breaker under the points system. Titletown Five is among those expected for the Derby Trial, and he is co-owned by Paul Hornung, the former Green Bay Packers great who lives in Louisville and has repeatedly expressed a desire to run in the Derby.

D. Wayne Lukas, trainer of Titletown Five, sent out Oxbow for a workout Monday at Churchill Downs, and he traveled five furlongs in 1:00.95 under Gary Stevens, who is to ride him in the Derby.

“He actually got a pretty strong run at the pole and a pretty strong gallop out, too,” Lukas said. “He’s the type of horse you could have him make three turns around the barn, put Gary on him and send him back out, and he’d do it again within a fifth. The fitness is not a thing. I think it’s getting the trip.

“The big thing with a work like this is getting Gary to get to know him. Gary realized that it was the wrong thing to do in the Arkansas Derby – you can’t grab him like that. You have to finesse him. When you take hold of him, he grabs the bit and goes.”

Lukas’s other Derby runner, Will Take Charge, worked a mile Sunday in 1:41.75. He has not raced since winning the Rebel at Oaklawn March 16.

“That was his second mile coming off the seven weeks,” Lukas said. “When you breeze a mile off a long layoff it’s just a barometer of where you’re at with your conditioning. The first one, in Arkansas, I thought he could use that and it helped him. This one yesterday, I thought he was well within himself and I liked that. We’re on target.”

Other Sunday workouts at Churchill were Revolutionary (four furlongs, 48.73 seconds), Verrazano (five furlongs, 59.95), Normandy Invasion (four furlongs, 48.12), and Mylute (four furlongs, 47.80).

Orb worked five furlongs at Payson Park in Florida in 1:02.20 on Sunday and arrived at Churchill Downs on Monday.

Govenor Charlie, who has jogged every morning at Churchill Downs since returning Thursday from a precautionary checkup at a local veterinarian clinic, was scheduled to gallop Tuesday, according to Baffert.

– additional reporting by Mike Welsch