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Quality Road a no-go for Preakness
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Quality Road, who was forced to miss the Kentucky Derby due to a quarter crack in his right front foot, has not yet returned to the track and will not be ready to run in the Preakness on May 16.
"If we could get him back [training] early enough, we wouldn't rule the Belmont out, but he has to get going pretty quick that's for sure," trainer Jimmy Jerkens said Thursday by phone from Belmont Park.
Equine hoof specialist Ian McKinlay put in a new set of laces to secure the crack on Thursday, and Jerkens said Quality Road would be equipped with a bar shoe. Since Monday - when the horse was ruled out of the Derby due to soreness in the foot - Quality Road has been walking under tack in the shed row.
"Once he gets the bar shoe on and he's good and sound, we'll jog him," Jerkens said.
Quality Road, impressive winner of both the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby, would most likely have been the favorite for the Kentucky Derby. Jerkens, who will watch the race from New York, said I Want Revenge and Friesan Fire would be his top picks.
Porter selects Jones's replacements
Owner Rick Porter has made it to three consecutive Kentucky Derbies with trainer Larry Jones. But if Porter is to make it back here next year, it will be with somebody else.
With Jones expected to retire at year's end and not accepting 2-year-olds this year, Porter has retained trainers Barclay Tagg and Tony Dutrow to train his young horses. Porter said he interviewed multiple trainers but decided to give Tagg five 2-year-olds and Dutrow nine juveniles.
"They are the two that I've been able to feel like I'm on the same page with philosophically as far as medication," Porter said Thursday morning outside of Jones's Churchill Downs barn.
Another thing Porter said was important to him was the tenure of the key personnel that both trainers employ.
"Every business is a people business," Porter said. "If you keep turning people over, something's wrong."
Porter said Thursday that he spoke with Tom McGreevy, his racing manager, who just spent two days with Webb Carroll, who broke the babies at his farm in South Carolina.
"He called me and said Rick, 'This could be the best crop yet,' " Porter said.
Among the most interesting horses is Laus Deo, a son of Medaglia d'Oro that is with Dutrow. According to Porter, the words Laus Deo, which is Latin for Praise Be to God, are written on an aluminum cap atop the Washington Monument.
Other 2-year-olds Porter noted were Bach, a 2-year-old son of Medaglia d'Oro and Maga's Daughter, a filly by A.P. Indy.
Iavarone: No worries this year
Forty-eight hours before he was to watch Big Brown run in the Kentucky Derby last year, owner Michael Iavarone had several things to worry about. Forty-eight hours before Saturday's 135th Derby, Iavarone is much more carefree.
"It's too early to say I Want Revenge is better than Big Brown, but if you're going to pick a horse that is better suited for this race, I've got to hear some pretty good reasons why it's not him," said Iavarone, co-president of the IEAH Stables, which owns 50 percent of I Want Revenge along with David Lanzman. "This horse has overcome adversity, especially in his last race where he missed the break, had dirt in his face, got bumped, all the things you worry about. I don't think there's going to be a lot in this race that he hasn't seen before."
Last year, Iavarone said he worried about post position, trip, and a horse like Colonel John, who had impressed in Southern California but had not run on dirt before. While Iavarone believes the competition is tougher than last year, he added, "Nobody in our camp would trade horses with anybody."
IEAH is attempting to become the first owner since Penny Chenery (1972-73) to win back-to-back Derbies.
Stute takes page from both mentors
Gary Stute, trainer of Kentucky Derby runner Papa Clem, comes from a training family. He is the son of Mel Stute and the nephew of the late Warren Stute. Mel and Warren, though brothers, could not have been more different in their temperament and their approach to training. This week at Churchill Downs, Stute borrowed a page from both mentors.
As Warren would have done, he gave Papa Clem a slow work last Saturday, seven furlongs in 1:29.12. Then on Thursday morning, emulating his father, Stute blew out Papa Clem with three furlongs in 34.47 seconds.
"I 'Melvinized' him," Stute said.
Stute came with his father for two previous Derbies. He was the traveling assistant with Bold 'n Rulling, who finished sixth in the 1980 Kentucky Derby as a 68-1 longshot, but never ran again, having bowed a tendon in the race.
"That was the first time I was anywhere east of Las Vegas," Stute said. "We went to the Louisiana Derby, but he never ran because he got a temperature. Then we went to the Arkansas Derby, and he ran second to Temperence Hill."
In 1986, Stute arrived just a few days before the Derby to watch Snow Chief, who was favored.
"I bet a lot. I thought he couldn't lose," Stute said.
Snow Chief sputtered and finished 11th. Two weeks later, he won the Preakness Stakes.
"I felt so happy for my dad after what happened at the Derby," Stute said.
Robertson deals with disappointment
Mac Robertson would have been one of seven trainers to run his first Derby starter Saturday. But when Win Willy had to be withdrawn early Wednesday after suffering a minor leg injury, Robertson was in for a big letdown.
"Of course it's disappointing for all of us," Robertson said. "But obviously you have to do what's right by your horses."
Like virtually all Derby newcomers, Robertson, 35, had intriguing stories to relate about how he made it here. The son of trainer Hugh Robertson, he dropped out of the University of Nebraska-Omaha just 12 credits short of a business marketing degree to make a career on the racetrack.
"My sister is a professor, my brother has a good job with the government, and both of them married doctors," he said, adding with a smile, "so I was just trying to please my mom by making it to the Kentucky Derby."
Derby Future Wager overlays
The three pools in the 2009 Kentucky Derby Future Wager have a smattering of bargains. Probably the best position is for whoever took 54-1 on I Want Revenge in Pool 1 in February, while other overlays include Papa Clem (44-1 in Pool 1, 65-1 in Pool 2, and 47-1 in Pool 3), Friesan Fire (18-1 in Pool 1), and General Quarters (80-1 in Pool 2).
Of the 20 Derby starters, all but five were part of the mutuel field in at least one futures pool. Those listed as separate interests in all three pools were Chocolate Candy, Friesan Fire, I Want Revenge, Papa Clem, and Pioneerof the Nile.
Clubhouse's Derby mural expanded
Fans returning to Churchill for the first time since the 2008 Derby may notice a slight revision to the spectacular Derby-winning jockey mural that Churchill commissioned the noted racing caricaturist Pierre "Peb" Bellocq to create for the second-floor clubhouse several years ago.
Peb came to Louisville last June to extend the mural by several feet so as to accommodate future jockeys. But because Kent Desormeaux, who already had won the Derby twice, won his third aboard Big Brown last year, there was no need for Peb to paint a face on the new empty space on the right side of the mural.
Peb also created a Derby-winning trainer mural that hangs close to the one for jockeys.
"Both have room for about 10 more years' worth," said Churchill general manager Jim Gates. "They're quite an attraction for our fans."
Plenty of longshots in this Derby
Churchill oddsmaker Mike Battaglia listed seven Derby starters at 50-1 on his morning line, and it could be interesting to see which of those actually ends up as the longest shot in the field of 20. Those horses are West Side Bernie, Mine That Bird, Join in the Dance, Atomic Rain, Summer Bird, Nowhere to Hide, and Flying Private.
Whoever it is, he surely won't be as big a price as the longest shot in Derby history. That was A Dragon Killer, who finished seventh of 14 starters at an amazing 294-1 in the 1958 Derby.
* Joe Talamo can only hope things unfold as successfully in the Derby as they did when he rode for the first time ever at Churchill. Talamo, who rides favored I Want Revenge in the 135th Run for the Roses, guided Sugar Baby Love to a half-length victory in the Wednesday feature, a $46,406 turf allowance.
* Garrett Gomez is hoping he has a better trip on Pioneerof the Nile in the Derby than he did on his flight here Wednesday night from California. "We were halfway across the country, but the radar went out, so the pilots couldn't use it to fly around the storms," Gomez said. "So, we had to go back and land in Phoenix."
* Derby fans who backed Perfect Drift in the 2002 running might notice that the gelding's full brother Ambergris Caye will make his career debut in the last race Saturday. The 3-year-old colt is by Dynaformer out of Nice Gal.
- additional reporting by Marty McGee and Jay Privman