04/18/2010 11:00PM

Last Derby spots not nailed down

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Barbara D. Livingston
Dublin solidified his Kentucky Derby standing Monday by working five furlongs in 59.13 seconds under Terry Thompson at Churchill Downs.

The 136th Kentucky Derby is now less than two weeks away, but the final 20-horse field for the race won't be solidified until at least Saturday, when two horses trying to make Hail Mary attempts to get into the Derby field run in the Grade 3, $200,000 Derby Trial on opening day at Churchill Downs.

That, combined with the unsettled nature of a couple of horses currently among the top 20 in terms of graded stakes earnings, has left several jockeys and trainers in a holding pattern, waiting to see how the dominoes fall before proceeding.

The Derby field is limited to 20 horses, and, as of Monday, there were approximately 30 3-year-olds whose connections would run in the Derby if they could. If more than 20 horses are entered when entries are taken for the Derby on April 28, graded stakes earnings will determine the starting field.

Both Eightyfiveinafifty and Pleasant Prince are currently on the outside looking in, but a victory in the Derby Trial, worth $120,000, would vault either into the top 20.

There is great irony should that play out. The Derby Trial's purse was boosted to $200,000 because of the sponsorship of Robert LaPenta, who owns the stallion The Cliff's Edge. One of the horses who could be kept out of the Derby based on earnings is Jackson Bend, currently 21st on the money list. Jackson Bend is owned by LaPenta.

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A couple of riding assignments were nailed down on Monday. Ramon Dominguez picked up the mount on Rule, according to Elliott Walden, the racing manager for WinStar Farm, which owns Rule and several other Derby runners.

Rule most recently finished third in the Florida Derby with John Velazquez, but Velazquez will ride favored Eskendereya in the Derby.

WinStar will also have Endorsement (Robby Albarado the rider), American Lion (David Flores), and Super Saver (Calvin Borel) in the Derby.

Another WinStar runner, Drosselmeyer, will await the Preakness Stakes on May 15, Walden said. He is not running in the Derby Trial.

Homeboykris, one of the longshots in the Derby, will be ridden by Joel Rosario, trainer Rick Dutrow said Monday. Edgar Prado had ridden Homeboykris in his recent races, but Prado will skip Derby Day at Churchill Downs and instead ride at Belmont Park on May 1.

Other riding assignments are still undecided. Rafael Bejarano, the runaway leading rider at Santa Anita this winter, would ride Setsuko in the Derby, but it is looking increasingly unlikely that Setsuko, the Santa Anita Derby runner-up, will get in with his $180,000 in graded earnings.

That frustrates Richard Mandella, the trainer of Setsuko, who dearly wants to run. He has Setsuko tentatively scheduled to fly to Kentucky on Saturday.

No riders have yet been named for Noble's Promise or Interactif, in large part because their status for the Derby has yet to be determined.

Noble's Promise, who came out of the Arkansas Derby with a lung infection, was scheduled to work on Tuesday at Churchill Downs, with jockey Willie Martinez aboard.

"We still have a few more hoops to jump through" in order to run in the Derby, Ken McPeek, the trainer of Noble's Promise, said Monday. Martinez is one of several riders under consideration for Noble's Promise if he runs in the Derby, McPeek said.

Interactif has been listed as "doubtful" for the Derby by trainer Todd Pletcher, but Pletcher has yet to officially take him out of the Derby because he wanted to see how Interactif trained on the dirt at Churchill Downs. Interactif is owned by Alain and Gerard Wertheimer, who own Setsuko.

Pletcher on Monday said no decision would be made until after Interactif works at Churchill Downs this weekend.

Pletcher also said he is "not planning" on running Exhi, the Lexington Stakes winner, in the Derby. Exhi got a Beyer Speed Figure of 94 in the Lexington. He likely will fall short on graded earnings anyway.

At Churchill Downs on Monday, Dublin, the third-place finisher in the Arkansas Derby, worked five furlongs in 59.13 seconds, according to Daily Racing Form, with his Derby jockey, Terry Thompson.

Dublin, working in company with his D. Wayne Lukas-trained stablemate Buzzin and Dreamin, broke off about 1 1/2 lengths behind his workmate, edged clear after a furlong in 11.76 seconds, pulled away leaving the turn and drew well clear. He was caught galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.38.

"I was very pleased," Lukas said. "The thing I wanted to see was how he'd get over a new surface. I know he handled the track here last year, but it's a different surface now. It looks like they added a little more clay and made it a little more glib and firmer.

"The work didn't go as I'd planned, but I'm really glad it turned out like it did. I wanted the two to go together until the last eighth, but the way he was going, if he'd done that he'd have gone too fast. As it turned out he virtually worked by himself. I told Terry to take a hold of him after the wire, because I had a hunch he would go a little quick and I didn't want him to gallop out too fast."

Lukas said Dublin would work again Sunday or Monday.

Discreetly Mine, Eskendereya, Mission Impazible, and Rule - all trained by Pletcher - along with Homeboykris were scheduled to fly to Kentucky on Tuesday from Florida.

"We're not on a flight with Pletcher's horses. He's on a flight with our horses," Dutrow said, laughing.

- additional reporting by David Grening, Marty McGee, and Mike Welsch