Updated on 09/17/2011 10:18AM

Ocean Terrace after vindication

Email
Horsephotos
Santa Anita-based Ocean Terrace and shipping handler Mike Payne arrive Tuesday at Blue Grass Airport in Lexington, Ky.

He did not get tired. He did not displace his palate. He did not bleed; a little, maybe, but nothing that should have caused him to stop. He did not get hurt. He underwent all kinds of diagnostic tests. Still nothing. Ocean Terrace's performance in the Santa Anita Derby remains a mystery.

But absent any compelling reason not to go on, trainer Bob Hess Jr. has decided to give the Saint Ballado colt a chance to redeem himself in Saturday's $325,000 Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland.

"Without sounding desperate, this is an effort to try and vindicate the horse," Hess said Tuesday on a conference call. He had just accompanied Ocean Terrace on a flight from California to Kentucky.

Before the Santa Anita Derby, Ocean Terrace - a $700,000 yearling purchase by the Fog City Stable of owners Bill Bianco and David Shimmon - was considered one of the rising stars of this 3-year-old crop. He had won all three of his starts, including the El Camino Real Derby. He was the third choice, behind Atswhatimtalknbout and Kafwain, in the Santa Anita Derby.

Ocean Terrace led for the first half-mile, but after six furlongs, Ocean Terrace stopped badly.

He was eased by jockey Kent Desormeaux, and finished 47 1/2 lengths behind the victorious Buddy Gil.

Hess was at Keeneland briefly last week, and while there he explained why Desormeaux was being taken off the colt for the Lexington. Hess's dissatisfaction with Ocean Terrace's ride created tension between Desormeaux and Hess, who are the best of friends.

They have since smoothed things over, but Shane Sellers will ride Ocean Terrace on Saturday. Desormeaux, however, believes his actions in the Santa Anita Derby saved Ocean Terrace to fight another day, and allowed the colt to race just two weeks after the Santa Anita Derby.

"I love horses. I've been riding all my life. I know when a horse is in distress," Desormeaux said. "One day they might realize that the reason they can make the Lexington is because I took care of their horse."

Hess echoed that sentiment Tuesday.

"Had Kent not wrapped up and eased him up, we wouldn't be talking about the Lexington," Hess said. "Kent took care of him."

Hess is going into the Lexington cautiously optimistic. He is convinced, based on the first three starts of Ocean Terrace's career, that the colt's performance in the Santa Anita Derby was a gross aberration. However, absent a compelling excuse for the poor race - other than being caught in an early speed duel while drawn inside - Hess described himself as "comfortable, but not overly confident, based on what happened."

Hess said it was "easier to throw the race out" because Ocean Terrace was beaten such a long way, rather than trying his best and losing by a few lengths.

"But you have to wonder what it may or may not have done to his psyche," Hess said.

So, Hess has watched, looked, and listened.

"We're searching," he said. "We took X-rays, did a nuclear scan, scoped him, and all we found was a touch of blood."

Hess said Ocean Terrace bled, "on a scale of one to five, a one."

"We've looked him over thoroughly, and everything's thumb's up," Hess said. "He's doing everything well."

Ocean Terrace will be attempting to follow in the footsteps of Proud Citizen, who won last year's Lexington after running poorly in the Santa Anita Derby. Proud Citizen then went on to finish second in the Kentucky Derby, behind War Emblem.

In other Derby developments Tuesday:

* With Midas Eyes out of the Lexington, Domestic Dispute has been added to the roster of rivals for Ocean Terrace. Domestic Dispute had originally been pointing for the Derby Trial. Other prominent 3-year-olds scheduled to run in that race are Ministers Wild Cat, Scrimshaw, and Trust N Luck.

- Buddy Gil, Domestic Dispute, Indian Express, and Ministers Wild Cat were among the horses who traveled with Ocean Terrace to Kentucky on the flight from California. Not on the plane was Kafwain, who will await a flight on Thursday.

Kafwain "got a little sick on me" following the Santa Anita Derby, according to his trainer, Bob Baffert, who said he wanted to give Kafwain a couple extra days to recover before putting him on a plane.

- Eugene's Third Son, described as a "remote possibility" for the Derby on Monday by trainer Patrick Byrne, is now off the Derby trail after undergoing surgery late Monday for a fractured splint bone.

- additional reporting by Marty McGee