04/27/2009 11:00PM

Square Eddie pulled from field

Email
Barbara D. Livingston
Derby favorite I Want Revenge works at Churchill Downs on Tuesday under Joe Talamo.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - A range of emotions rolled through the Churchill Downs stable area on Tuesday morning for trainers associated with this year's Kentucky Derby, from a dejected Doug O'Neill, who announced Square Eddie was injured anew, to the quiet confidence of Jeff Mullins after I Want Revenge turned in his final workout, to the joy of trainer Kelly Breen, who through a surprising confluence of events looked like he would have a second runner in the race.

Square Eddie had the potential of being the comeback story of the 135th Derby, but his Derby dreams came to an abrupt end on Tuesday. O'Neill said that Square Eddie re-aggravated a cannon bone injury, forcing him to miss the race on Saturday.

"He's got heat in the shin," O'Neill said shortly after 6 a.m. Tuesday. "We X-rayed it, and it looks good, but the heat is the first sign of some activity. He's going to be fine. He was hiccup-free until yesterday. That shin had been cold since early March. It's terrible timing."

Square Eddie sustained a minor cannon bone fracture in February. With an aggressive rehabilitation, including swimming and time spent in a hyperbaric chamber, he was back in training a month later and returned to the races 1 1/2 weeks ago, finishing a gallant third in the Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland.

"We've just got to back off," O'Neill said. "I'm bummed. It's disappointing. On his best day, I think he's as good as any colt. He belongs with this group."

Square Eddie's defection left jockey Corey Nakatani without a mount. Nakatani switched to Square Eddie last week, abandoning Mr. Hot Stuff, whom John Velazquez picked up when Quality Road was withdrawn on Monday.

When Quality Road came out, that left I Want Revenge, the Wood Memorial winner, as the likely favorite for the Derby. I Want Revenge solidified that position on Tuesday with a sharp half-mile workout in 47.34 seconds with his regular jockey, Joe Talamo, aboard.

"I feel we accomplished what we wanted to," Talamo said. "The last two times he worked the track was deep and soggy. The track was great today."

The track was fast for Tuesday's work, but I Want Revenge just did beat the rain. It began pouring just as he left the track, about 8:45 a.m. The track was rated muddy for the afternoon's races.

Mullins said he was obviously desirous of winning the Derby - "It's really important to me. As important to me as any man who trains a racehorse," he said - but then raised the stakes, saying he hoped I Want Revenge would be good enough to become the first Triple Crown winner since Affirmed in 1978.

"I'm hoping we can produce a Triple Crown winner," Mullins said. "Everyone wants to see another Triple Crown winner. It's been a long time. Winning the Derby would be great. Winning the Triple Crown would be really great."

The only other Derby runner to work on Tuesday was Atomic Rain, who went a half-mile in 47.20 seconds at Monmouth Park. He then was placed on a van for an overnight ride from New Jersey to Churchill Downs.

Barbara D. Livingston
Florida Derby runner-up Dunkirk arrives at Churchill Downs on Tuesday with trainer Todd Pletcher.

Atomic Rain, trained by Breen, got into the race because trainer Todd Pletcher decided to run only three of the four horses he had been considering for the Derby. Dunkirk, the Florida Derby runner-up who arrived here on Tuesday from Florida, always was in. On Tuesday, though, Pletcher said Advice, the Lexington winner, and Join in the Dance, who was fifth in the Blue Grass, would run, but Take the Points, fourth in the Santa Anita Derby, would await the Preakness Stakes, the second leg of the Triple Crown, on May 16 at Pimlico.

Advice will be ridden by Rene Douglas, while Chris DeCarlo will ride Join in the Dance, Pletcher said.

A maximum of 20 horses can run in the Derby. If more than 20 enter the race, the field is determined by earnings in graded stakes races. The withdrawal of Square Eddie moved Take the Points into the 20th spot on the graded stakes earnings list. But when Take the Points also came out, that allowed Atomic Rain to move into the final spot, assuming there were no unforeseen entries to the race on Wednesday.

Breen also trains the late-running West Side Bernie, who was second in the Wood Memorial in his last start. Atomic Rain, who races close to the pace, was fourth in the Wood.

"Now we'll have a one-two punch," said Breen, who trains both colts for George and Lori Hall. "One in the front of the pack and one in the back of the pack is not a bad strategy for the Kentucky Derby."

Breen said Joe Bravo would ride Atomic Rain.

Entries for the Derby were due on Wednesday morning. Post positions were to be selected at noon Eastern at Churchill Downs in a two-step process that was to be seen live on HRTV. At first, a traditional blind draw was to be held to determine a draft order. Then, a representative from each horse was to select a post position. The Derby is the only race in the country that uses this system.

The rain that arrived on Tuesday was expected to continue at least through Friday, according to weather.com, with the worst day Thursday, when the chance of rain, including thunderstorms, was predicted to be 70 percent. By Saturday, though, the forecast was for a mere 10 percent chance of rain, and a high temperature of 71 degrees.