04/06/2009 11:00PM

No surprises - on the track

Adam Coglianese
I Want Revenge rears at the start of the Wood Memorial, spotting his opposition several lengths before getting through heavy traffic to win.

ARCADIA, Calif. - The results of the three significant Kentucky Derby prep races run last Saturday all went as expected, with favorites I Want Revenge, Musket Man, and Pioneerof the Nile all keeping their winning streaks, and their Derby dreams, alive. But much surrounding the Kentucky Derby the past 48 hours wasn't quite as neat and efficient.

Quality Road, the Florida Derby winner, has developed a quarter crack in his right hind foot, an injury over which his trainer, Jimmy Jerkens, on Monday said he was "very concerned." Quality Road is doing better, though, than The Pamplemousse, whose Derby quest came to a screeching halt because of a significant injury to a tendon in his left front leg, which was first revealed on Saturday.

And though I Want Revenge admirably overcame a dreadful start and brutal trip in the Wood Memorial, his trainer, Jeff Mullins, was mired in controversy after another of his horses entered Saturday at Aqueduct, Gato Go Win, was scratched after being treated in the prerace holding barn, in clear violation of New York State Racing and Wagering Board rules.

I Want Revenge - who a New York racing board official said was not treated in the holding barn - got a Beyer Speed Figure of 103 in the Wood Memorial, which was superior to the figures of Musket Man (98) in the Illinois Derby and Pioneerof the Nile (96) in the Santa Anita Derby. I Want Revenge, previously based in California, has won two straight since moving to dirt. He was scheduled to travel by van from Aqueduct to Churchill Downs, site of the May 2 Derby, on Monday afternoon.

"When I left Sunday morning he looked excellent," said Mullins, who was vacationing with his children in California on Monday. "He had a few little nicks here and there, nothing real serious. He's in pretty good shape."

In addition to I Want Revenge, Wood runner-up West Side Bernie will move on to the Kentucky Derby, trainer Kelly Breen said.

Quality Road has been at Belmont Park since shortly after the Florida Derby. His injury was disclosed on Monday, though Jerkens said it happened nine days earlier, in the Florida Derby. Quality Road is being treated by Ian McKinlay, the noted foot specialist who managed to get Big Brown's problem feet through the first two legs of the Triple Crown last year. Big Brown won the Derby and Preakness Stakes before a flop in the Belmont Stakes.

The Pamplemousse, trained by Julio Canani, was scratched from the Santa Anita Derby on Saturday, and on Sunday his connections said that if he is to race again, he would need approximately a year to recover.

"He has a lesion on his left foreleg," said Alex Solis II, a bloodstock agent and a co-owner of The Pamplemousse. "We'll give him a significant amount of time. He's not done yet by any means. If Julio Canani wants to give him six months, he can give him six months. If he wants to give him a year, he can give him a year. I have full confidence in Julio Canani. We've had a great run with this horse and he's given us a lot."

The scratch of The Pamplemousse left Pioneerof the Nile the heavy favorite in the Santa Anita Derby, and he responded by scoring his fourth straight victory.

Bob Baffert, who trains Pioneerof the Nile, said he thought "a more realistic pace" in the 1 1/4-mile Kentucky Derby would suit Pioneerof the Nile. He was close to a slow pace in the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby, the result of The Pamplemousse and Z Day being withdrawn.

"It wasn't the way we were trying to get it done today," said Garrett Gomez, who rode Pioneerof the Nile. "We wanted . . . to try to make one solid run with him."

The lack of pace also affected the late runs of both Chocolate Candy, who finished second, and Mr. Hot Stuff, who was third.

Chocolate Candy has sufficient graded stakes earnings to make the Derby field, and his trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer, said he would go to Churchill Downs.

"The pace was slow," Hollendorfer said. "I think we ran well enough to try the Derby."

Mr. Hot Stuff, however, is in a precarious position. If more than 20 horses enter the Derby, graded stakes earnings determines the field. This year, only 19 spots will be available if Mafaaz, who won the Kentucky Derby Challenge Stakes at Kempton, utilizes a guaranteed berth bestowed upon the winner of that race. At present, Mr. Hot Stuff does not have enough earnings to get into the Derby. But his connections want to run if enough horses currently above him on the list defect.

"He was only getting warmed up at a mile and an eighth," Eoin Harty, the trainer of Mr. Hot Stuff, said Monday. "The race went from being chock-full of speed to no speed in an hour and a half. At a mile and a quarter, he'd be at his best. We're waiting to see if he gets a shot to run in the Derby. If he doesn't, he might go to the Peter Pan, and then the Belmont."

Take the Points, who was fourth, could run in the Grade 2, $325,000 Lexington Stakes on April 18 at Keeneland in a last-ditch effort to make the Derby, but is more likely to go to the Peter Pan or the Lone Star Derby, trainer Todd Pletcher said Monday.

Pletcher and Ron Anderson, the agent for Gomez, will be keeping close tabs on the graded earnings list over the next few weeks. Pletcher is hoping Dunkirk, the Florida Derby runner-up, has enough earnings to make the field. But if he does make it, that would put Gomez and Anderson in a tricky spot, because they would have to choose between Dunkirk and Pioneerof the Nile.

Musket Man, the Illinois Derby winner, was sent by van from Hawthorne to Churchill on Sunday. He has won two straight, having captured the Tampa Bay Derby in his previous start.

"We're already here," trainer Derek Ryan said Monday morning from Churchill Downs. "He looks very, very good so far. It's raining and miserable here. It's not like Tampa."

Ryan said Musket Man would have three or four works, all in company, leading up to the Derby.

Giant Oak, who was second in the Illinois Derby, is "a longshot" to run in the Kentucky Derby, trainer Chris Block said Monday.

"I don't want to say no and then change our minds," Block said. "We're probably leaning toward not running, but let's see how things shake out over the next week or so."

There are two important Derby preps this Saturday. At Oaklawn Park, Old Fashioned and Win Willy are expected to have a rematch of the Rebel Stakes in the Grade 2, $1 million Arkansas Derby. And at Keeneland, a large field, including Hold Me Back, Mafaaz, and the comebacking Charitable Man, is expected for the Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass Stakes.

- additional reporting by Steve Andersen and David Grening