04/24/2009 11:00PM

Silver City best suited to one turn

Jeff Coady/Coady Photography
Silver City will shorten up to 7 1/2 furlongs for Saturday's Derby Trial.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - For a while there, trainer Bret Calhoun was hoping he could get owner Clarence Scharbauer back to Churchill Downs. Silver City, a highly impressive winner in three of his first four career starts, was just the horse to take them to the Kentucky Derby.

They're at Churchill, all right - but they're here for the opening-day feature, the Grade 3, $100,000 Derby Trial, and not the Derby itself. The harsh realities of the Derby trail set in when Silver City faded badly to finish sixth in his most recent start at Oaklawn Park, the March 14 Rebel Stakes at 1 1/16 miles.

"He just couldn't do the two-turn thing," said Calhoun. "We've kind of abandoned two turns with him, at least for now. Maybe with time and maturity, he'll be able to handle a distance, but for now we're going to keep him going a mile or shorter."

At 7 1/2 furlongs, the Grade 3 Trial figures in the wheelhouse of Silver City, who will break from post 1 in a field of eight when ridden by Julien Leparoux. Having recorded several sharp workouts since the Rebel, including a sizzling five-furlong breeze in 57.80 seconds before leaving Oaklawn, Silver City, a gray Unbridled's Song colt, seems to have regrouped in fine fashion.

Scharbauer and his late wife, Dorothy, won the 1987 Derby with Alysheba, trained by Jack Van Berg. After being relatively inactive in the horse business for some years, Scharbauer took a rekindled interest in the game in recent years by buying several well-bred yearlings, including Silver City, a $700,000 purchase at the 2007 Keeneland September sales.

Although Silver City will be favored, the Derby Trial shapes up fairly competitively, as all seven of his opponents enter in good form. Of those, Tintim Por Tintim and Santana Six come off particularly sharp victories going a mile at Gulfstream Park.

:: (DRF Plus)

'Candyman' has trouble running straight

Capt. Candyman Can's half-mile workout on Thursday didn't go exactly as trainer Ian Wilkes had planned. But it wasn't anything that should keep the Bay Shore winner from his next scheduled start in the Matt Winn Stakes here on May 16.

Capt. Candyman Can worked four furlongs in 49.71 seconds but did so while trying to get out much of the way and finishing up near the middle of the racetrack.

"He's always done that a little bit," said trainer Ian Wilkes. "Sometimes they just get a bee up their bonnet. He wasn't washed out and came back just fine. No problems."

Capt. Candyman Can is coming off one of the best performances of his career, an easy 3 3/4-length victory over Taqarub in the seven-furlong Bay Shore at Aqueduct on April 4.

Macho Again and Thorn Song also prepped for upcoming stakes.

Macho Again worked five furlongs in 1:01.44 shortly after the renovation break, posting fractions of 36.38 and 48.44 along the way. Macho Again is coming off a come-from-behind one-length tally in the Grade 2 New Orleans Handicap at Fair Grounds on May 14. Macho Again is expected to make his next start in the Grade 3 Alysheba here on Oaks Day.

Thorn Song, a nominee for the Grade 1 Woodford Reserve on the Kentucky Derby undercard, went five furlongs in 1:01 over a firm turf course.

Seven probable for Oaks

Although a couple of possible additional starters have been mentioned for the 135th Kentucky Oaks, a core of seven 3-year-old fillies remains likely for the race next Friday.

With riders, this is the prospective Oaks lineup: Rachel Alexandra, Calvin Borel; Justwhistledixie, Leparoux; Fitz Just Right, Ramon Dominguez; Gabby's Golden Gal, Victor Espinoza; Be Fair, Rafael Bejarano; Flying Spur, Garrett Gomez; and Nan, Corey Nakatani.

Two who kept classy company on card

A couple of runners who have had brushes with racing excellence will be on display here opening day.

Unbridled Express, who defeated eventual Derby winner Street Sense when they were 2-year-olds, will make his second start following a lengthy layoff in the eighth race. Trainer Bernie Flint said the 5-year-old Unbridled Express has completely healed from a couple of physical setbacks that kept him away from the races for 2 1/2 years.

One race later, Keep the Peace will be a huge favorite in an allowance sprint for fillies and mares. Among the standouts with whom Keep the Peace has knocked heads in her eight-race career are Bsharpsonata, Ariege, Golden Doc A, Acoma, Secret Gypsy, Game Face, and Any Limit - all of them graded stakes winners.

Track still searching for a president

The Churchill spring meet is starting with no one in the position of president of the racetrack. Steve Sexton, who had served in that capacity since 2002, was named in January to head up a new entertainment subsidiary for Churchill Downs Inc., the corporation that owns and operates its Louisville flagship track and three other racetracks.

Churchill officials said this week that an executive search to find Sexton's successor is ongoing. In the meantime, some of Sexton's previous duties have been assumed by various officers in the company, including CDI president Robert Evans and chief operating officer William Carstanjen.

Big moment for small stable

Troy Newton hopes to be the leading trainer at the Churchill spring meet - at least for a little while.

Newton, who has about 20 horses in training at nearby Trackside and a local farm, will saddle On My Dime as the heavy favorite for the meet opener, a $19,000 starter-allowance route. On My Dime recently was sent to Newton from Arizona.

"It certainly looks like a good spot for him," said Newton. "If he wins, it'll probably be the only time I'll ever win the first race at a meet. I'd gladly accept it and appreciate it."

- additional reporting by Mike Welsch