05/03/2014 7:54PM

For Stewart, a second straight Derby runner-up

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John Bambury
Trainer Dallas Stewart (white suit) with Commanding Curve at Churchill Downs on Saturday. The horse has won once in seven career starts but was the runner-up to the favored California Chrome in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – For the second straight year, trainer Dallas Stewart was second to one in the Kentucky Derby.

One year after finishing second to the favored Orb with 34-1 shot Golden Soul, Stewart was again second-best to the favorite, this time with 37-1 Commanding Curve, whose furious late rally in the stretch Saturday fell 1 3/4 lengths short of California Chrome in Kentucky Derby 140 at Churchill Downs.

“I wish I was out there,” Stewart said, nodding to the infield of Churchill Downs, where the connections of California Chrome were about to be presented with the Derby trophy. “But I thank God for everything the way it is. That’s what keeps us going for next year. Hopefully, we’ll be back here next year.”

Asked if he was frustrated or elated, Stewart left little doubt as to which emotion he was feeling.

“I would never get frustrated over that,” he said. “There are lots of things to be frustrated over. Getting beat in a horse race isn’t one of them.”

Commanding Curve was one of the last horses to make it into the Kentucky Derby field. Like Golden Soul a year ago, Commanding Curve had just one win entering the Derby. That win came last November at Churchill Downs. In two starts this year, Commanding Curve ran sixth in the Risen Star Stakes and a troubled third in the Louisiana Derby, both at Fair Grounds.

“His last race, he got bothered,” Stewart said, adding that jockey Robby Albarado, who rode Commanding Curve that day, “got off him and said, ‘This horse is nice. He’ll be right there.’ ”

With the uncertainty over whether Commanding Curve would get into the field, Albarado chose to ride Blue Grass Stakes runner-up Medal Count in the Derby. Medal Count finished eighth.

Shaun Bridgmohan, who rode Commanding Curve in his maiden victory, rode the horse in the Derby. Bridgmohan let Commanding Curve settle in the back of the pack – he was second to last early – before launching his bid leaving the three-furlong pole. He had to come six to seven wide in the stretch, but Commanding Curve didn’t stop persevering in the stretch.

“I looked up and saw the wire coming, I said, ‘No, I need a little bit more ground,’ because I was eating ‘em up,’ ” Bridgmohan said.

Bridgmohan said he was farther back than he wanted, “but that’s how he runs. Midway down the backside, he started picking at them. Top of the stretch, I kicked him to the outside. I’m telling you, he really finishes nice. His future is ahead of him.”

Commanding Curve is a son of Master Command who was purchased for $75,000 as a 2-year-old at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. April sale by the West Point Thoroughbred partnership. Terry Finley, the president of West Point, said he thought the horse had a chance to win in the stretch.

“At the eighth pole, I thought he had a shot to hit the board,” Finley said. “A hundred yards to go, I thought we were in position to win it. I hope I experience that feeling again.”

Finley said Commanding Curve would challenge California Chrome again in the Preakness at Pimlico on May 17.

“We’ll be there,” Finley said.