Updated on 09/16/2011 7:11AM

Nothing to be scared of

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Adam Coglianese/NYRA
Buddha edges Medaglia d'Oro (4) and Sunday Break in Wood. All 3 are going to Churchill.

Harlan's Holiday is heading into the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs off an emphatic victory in Saturday's Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, but he is scaring away few challengers who prepped in other jurisdictions, which means a field at or near the Derby's limit of 20 runners is in the offing for the 128th Derby on May 4.

At or en route to Churchill Downs for the Derby are the first four finishers from Saturday's Wood Memorial at Aqueduct; three of the first four finishers from Saturday's Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park; the winner of Saturday's California Derby at Bay Meadows; four of the first five finishers in the Santa Anita Derby; two of the first three finishers in the Spiral Stakes; and the winner of the United Arab Emirates Derby.

DERBY CONTENDERS
The following 31 horses are being considered for the Kentucky Derby. Horses are listed according to graded stakes earnings, the determining factor if more than the race's limit of 20 horses are entered.

Horse Earnings
Essence of Dubai $1,518,000
Harlan's Holiday $1,286,060
Johannesburg $1,006,489
Came Home $844,440
Buddha $450,000
Booklet $406,500
Private Emblem $300,000
War Emblem $300,000
Perfect Drift $300,000
Medaglia d'Oro $300,000
Saarland $235,000
Blue Burner $234,500
Easy Grades $190,000
Easyfromthegitgo $166,500
Castle Gandolfo $130,035
Request For Parole $129,672
Lusty Latin $120,000
Ocean Sound $107,000
Windward Passage $100,000
Wild Horses $100,000

Ethan Man $90,000
U S S Tinosa $83,750
Sunday Break $82,500
Flying Dash $57,370
Stright Gin $52,500
Tails of the Crypt $40,000
Tracemark $26,444
Holdthehelm $22,288
Proud Citizen $3,234
One Tuff Fox $0
Royal Gem $0

Sixteen horses are confirmed for or likely to start in the Derby, with another 15 whose status is in various degrees of uncertainty. Among the uncertain is Booklet - who was second to in the Blue Grass - along with several of those scheduled to run in Saturday's Grade 2, $325,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. If more than 20 are entered in the Derby, the field is determined based on earnings in graded stakes races.

With less than three weeks to go until the Derby, racing's focus is now squarely on Kentucky. The only remaining Derby prep races - the Lexington and Churchill's Derby Trial Stakes on April 27 - are in Kentucky, and Derby runners are starting to arrive in droves.

shipped to Churchill Downs on Sunday, one day after his Arkansas Derby victory. Also arriving Sunday was Easy Grades, the runner-up in the Santa Anita Derby. Wood Memorial runners Medaglia d'Oro and Sunday Break were scheduled to be flown to Kentucky on Tuesday, and Essence of Dubai, the UAE Derby winner, was scheduled to arrive in Kentucky from Dubai on Wednesday.

The owners of Essence of Dubai, Godolphin Racing, have decided not to send the maiden Ibn Al Haitham to the Derby.

Essence of Dubai, along with Oaks runners Imperial Gesture and Tempera, are scheduled to be in a quarantine facility adjacent to Keeneland for 48 hours, then go to Churchill Downs on Friday, according to Simon Crisford, Godolphin's racing manager.

Churchill does not have a year-round on-track quarantine facility, and that has been cited by trainer Aidan O'Brien as a factor in considering whether to bring champion Johannesburg and stablemate Castle Gandolfo to the Derby from Ireland. Churchill erects a temporary United States Department of Agriculture quarantine facility when it plays host to the Breeders' Cup, but not for the Derby.

Harlan's Holiday solidified his position as the Derby favorite with his Blue Grass victory. He has now won six times and finished second four times in 10 starts. His Beyer Speed Figure of 98 for the Blue Grass, however, marked the first time he earned less than 100 in four starts this year. Harlan's Holiday trains regularly at Churchill Downs, which trainer Ken McPeek thinks will be an advantage.

"This horse is very calm, cool, and collected," McPeek said. "He's got tactical speed if you want it. You can make a couple of moves with him. That will make him dangerous Derby Day."

Blue Grass runner-up Booklet is "going to stay in the mix for the time being," trainer John Ward Jr. said Monday. He said the May 18 Preakness Stakes at Pimlico, the second leg of the Triple Crown, was a likely option.

, the lightly raced Wood Memorial winner, will have two workouts at Belmont Park and then leave for Kentucky the week of the Derby, trainer James Bond said. Buddha got a Beyer Speed Figure of 105 for his thrilling victory over Medaglia d'Oro and Sunday Break. Bond said he would bypass the Derby if Buddha regresses in his training.

"If anything is the least bit not right, I will pull the plug in a second," Bond said, adding Buddha "very possibly has a great future. I just don't want to take it away from him for one Saturday in May."

Saarland, the fourth-place finisher in the Wood, also is headed to the Derby. Blue Burner's status is uncertain. Trainer Bill Mott called Blue Burner's fifth-place Wood finish "a very mediocre effort," and said he wanted to wait another week to decide.

Private Emblem got a Beyer Speed Figure of 100 in the Arkansas Derby. His trainer, Steve Asmussen, also sent out Windward Passage, who finished in a dead heat for third.

"We were coming in here with very high hopes for both of them," Asmussen said. Asmussen said he thought Private Emblem "ran a very dominating race."

"It was very encouraging to see how he galloped out, and how well he seemed to come back," Asmussen said. "I'm hoping that we can turn him around in three weeks now and he'll still be as strong."

Wild Horses, the Arkansas Derby runner-up, is owned by the Peachtree Stable partnership headed by John Fort, which had Kentucky Derby runner-up Invisible Ink one year ago. Another owner keen to run in the Derby is Barry Irwin, president of Team Valor, which owns Windward Passage. Irwin said a decision will be made after Windward Passage trains for another week.

Tracemark entered the Derby picture with his victory in the California Derby.

Came Home, the Santa Anita Derby winner, was scheduled to work Tuesday at Santa Anita.

Lusty Latin, who was third in the Santa Anita Derby, worked four furlongs in 49.40 seconds on Monday morning at Santa Anita.

Also working on Monday at Santa Anita was Officer, who is scheduled to run in the Lexington against the likes of Ethan Man and Easyfromthegitgo. Officer breezed four furlongs in 47.80 seconds. Officer is not considered a Derby possibility at this point, according to trainer Bob Baffert.

Baffert's new acquisition, Illinois Derby winner War Emblem, is scheduled to work Wednesday at Churchill Downs. Also scheduled for a Wednesday work at Churchill is Request for Parole, who was third in the Spiral.

Spiral winner Perfect Drift breezed five furlongs in 1:02.40 on Saturday at the Trackside Louisville training center, the former Sports Spectrum, and will work again on Friday, trainer Murray Johnson said.

U S S Tinosa, who finished fifth in the Santa Anita Derby, will work once more in northern California before he leaves for Kentucky. He worked four furlongs in 48.60 seconds on Sunday at Bay Meadows.

The unbeaten Royal Gem is running in Wednesday's ungraded Forerunner Stakes on turf, rather than the Lexington, and thus will not have any graded stakes money prior to the Derby. Bobby Frankel, Royal Gem's trainer, said he was hoping the graded stakes money would not come into play. He said he opted to keep the stretch-running Royal Gem on the turf for now, rather than switch to the dirt, because Keeneland's main track tends to favor speed, and the 1 1/16-mile Lexington has a short stretch run, ending at Keeneland's first finish line.

Turf standout Flying Dash could make his main-track debut in the $100,000 Derby Trial, and use that as a prep for the Kentucky Derby, trainer Neil Drysdale said.

- additional reporting by Chuck Dybdal, David Grening, Marty McGee, and Mary Rampellini