Updated on 09/17/2011 10:01AM

Sky Mesa's Derby quest 'on hold'

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Lou Hodges Jr.
Badge of Silver (above) will face current Kentucky Derby favorite Kafwain in the Louisiana Derby at Fairgrounds on Sunday.

The battle between the nation's two leading Kentucky Derby candidates, Kafwain and Badge of Silver, is on for Sunday's $750,000 Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds following strong workouts for both colts in the past two days, but the status of the third-ranked colt, Sky Mesa, is growing increasingly uncertain.

Sky Mesa has missed a significant amount of training in the past week because of a foot bruise, according to his trainer, John Ward Jr. Sky Mesa, who has been training at Florida's Palm Beach Downs, had been scheduled to make his 3-year-old debut the weekend of March 15-16, in either the Swale Stakes at Gulfstream Park or the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct.

Asked Monday if Sky Mesa could make either race, Ward took the issue a bit wider, saying, "The Derby trail has been put on hold."

Already this spring, the two top 2-year-old colts from last year, champion Vindication and Toccet, have been pulled from consideration for the Kentucky Derby. Sky Mesa finished third in voting for the Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old colt, behind Vindication and Toccet. He has not run since winning the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland last October and was scratched from the Breeders' Cup Juvenile with an ankle injury.

The marquee match to date of the Derby preps promises to be the Louisiana Derby, in which the unbeaten Badge of Silver will face Kafwain, the current favorite for the Kentucky Derby.

Kafwain worked Monday morning at Santa Anita, zipping six furlongs in 1:11.40 with exercise rider Dana Barnes.

"He went nice. He went off real slow," Bob Baffert, who trains Kafwain, said from Santa Anita. "We're ready for the Cowboy," Baffert added, referring to his good friend Ronny Werner, who trains Badge of Silver.

Kafwain is scheduled to fly to New Orleans on Thursday. He will be accompanied by the filly Atlantic Ocean, who runs in Saturday's Fair Grounds Oaks.

Badge of Silver had his final workout for the Louisiana Derby on Sunday, when he flew through six furlongs in 1:12.60 at Fair Grounds with his jockey, Robby Albarado.

"He looked good this morning," Werner said Monday from his barn at Fair Grounds. "I took him to the gate, and let him jog a little. I like to do that after a work. It's like you or me stretching after a hard workout instead of laying in bed. I'm happy with what I saw today."

The other nationally ranked colt scheduled to run in the Louisiana Derby is Funny Cide, who was fifth in the Holy Bull Stakes at Gulfstream Park in his last start.

Peace Rules, who has been under consideration for the Louisiana Derby, might instead go to Golden Gate Fields for Saturday's El Camino Real Derby, trainer Bobby Frankel said Monday from his barn at Hollywood Park. Frankel said he would make a definite decision by Tuesday, but he seemed to be leaning toward going to Golden Gate.

Peace Rules worked six furlongs in 1:12.40 on Sunday at Hollywood Park. His stablemate Empire Maker, who is scheduled to make his next start in the March 15 Florida Derby, worked six furlongs in 1:12 on Sunday; his time equaled the best of 25 at the distance.

The El Camino Real Derby is also scheduled to include the highly regarded Ministers Wild Cat, who won the Golden State Mile at Golden Gate on Feb. 9. He worked Monday morning at Hollywood Park, covering six furlongs in 1:14:40 with exercise rider Marcelino Olguin.

"He worked very well. He did just what we asked him to do," his trainer, Neil Drysdale, said from Hollywood Park.

There were five stakes races for 3-year-olds this past weekend, all for horses heretofore considered a cut below the top. Great Notion might have been the most impressive of the five winners. He scored a nine-length victory in Saturday's Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park while earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 104 in his first start around two turns.

Darrin Miller, who trains Great Notion, said his colt might come back in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn on March 22, ship to Turfway Park for that day's Lane's End Stakes, or wait for the Arkansas Derby on April 12.

Champali, who beat Great Notion in the Turfway Prevue on Jan. 4, retained his title as the heavyweight champion of Turfway Park with a 3 1/4-length victory in Saturday's John Battaglia Memorial. He got a Beyer Speed Figure of 88. Champali has now won six times in seven starts. His trainer, Greg Foley, said Champali will run next in the Lane's End Stakes.

Rojo Toro, a last-minute entrant, remained unbeaten by capturing Saturday's San Rafael Stakes at Santa Anita, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 94. He was making his first start around two turns.

Cherokee's Boy was a 7 1/2-length winner of Saturday's Deputed Testamony Stakes for Maryland-breds at Laurel Park. He got a Beyer figure of 88.

And at Sunland Park on Sunday, Mr. Decatur got up in the final strides to beat odds-on favorite Excessivepleasure by a neck in the Borderland Derby, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 93.

In other Derby developments:

- Domestic Dispute, the winner of the Santa Catalina Stakes, worked seven furlongs in 1:24.20 for Baffert on Sunday at Santa Anita. The time was the best of six at the distance. Domestic Dispute is scheduled to make his next start in the March 16 San Felipe Stakes.

- Atswhatimtalknbout, scheduled to challenge Domestic Dispute in the San Felipe, worked a half-mile in 46.40 seconds on Monday at Santa Anita for trainer Ron Ellis.

- Ten Cents a Shine, the beaten favorite in the Fountain of Youth Stakes, had his first workout since being transferred to trainer D. Wayne Lukas and moved to California. He covered five furlongs in 1:01.60 on Sunday at Santa Anita.

- Additional reporting by Marty McGee, Mary Rampellini, and Mike Welsch