05/05/2005 12:00AM

Tabor's presence shows faith in Bandini


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Since winning the 1995 Kentucky Derby with Thunder Gulch, Michael Tabor's quest for a second blanket of roses has proven futile. He has run eight horses since, either by himself or in partnership, with Lion Heart's second-place finish last year his best result.

Tabor did not believe Lion Heart could get the Derby distance and stayed in England to watch his runner in the English 2000 Guineas, rather than attend the Derby. This year, having already won the English 2000 Guineas and 1000 Guineas, Tabor is back at Churchill Downs because he believes Bandini, the Blue Grass winner he owns in partnership with Derrick Smith, can win the Derby. The two partners also run longshot Spanish Chestnut.

"Bandini has a realistic chance and Spanish Chestnut, as you know, the morning line puts it at 50-1," Tabor said. "You would be hard to argue he would have a fantastic chance, but he goes there on merit."

Bandini is the first Derby starter Tabor has had with trainer Todd Pletcher, who coincidentally was a D. Wayne Lukas assistant the year Thunder Gulch won. Pletcher was based in New York and south Florida back then and oversaw the training of Thunder Gulch, who won the Remsen at 2 and the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby at 3. Despite those credentials, Thunder Gulch was sent off at 24-1 in the Kentucky Derby as Lukas also ran Timber Country and the filly Serena's Song.

Unlike 1995, Tabor's horse is the more highly regarded of his trainer's three Derby runners. Pletcher also starts Coin Silver and Flower Alley.

"Much as I would like Todd to win it, I would like it to be with our horse," Tabor said.

Pletcher, winless with nine Derby starters, said he believes Bandini is the most qualified horse he has ever brought to this race.

"This is definitely the one horse I feel confident is going to get the distance," Pletcher said. "We certainly haven't had a horse come into this race off as powerful a performance as he had in the Blue Grass."

Dentistry helps High Limit

Just after the Blue Grass Stakes, in which High Limit suffered his first career loss when finishing second to Bandini, trainer Bobby Frankel became concerned because the colt was leaving some of his feed in the tub each night. It turned out that High Limit hadn't lost his appetite. Rather, he was dealing with the pain of wolf teeth, which Frankel equated to wisdom teeth in a human.

"He had been leaving a handful of grain. He was better after we pulled his wolf teeth," Frankel said.

Wolf teeth also can cause a horse discomfort when a bit is placed in his mouth. In High Limit's first work after having his wolf teeth pulled, he worked evenly with Ghostzapper, the 2004 Horse of the Year. He had one final breeze this past week in preparation for the Derby.

Seven horses started elsewhere

Seven of the 20 horses entered in the Kentucky Derby began their careers in other barns. Either through private sale or owner's prerogative, those horses have changed trainers.

Race favorite Bellamy Road went 2 for 3 with Michael Dickinson while High Fly went 3 for 4 when in the care of Bill White. Their owners moved the horses to two-time Derby winner Nick Zito. Gary and Mary West transferred High Limit from Anthony Dutrow to Bobby Frankel after his second win.

Wilko, who was trained in Europe by Jeremy Noseda, was sold prior to his win in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and was transferred to Crag Dollase immediately after that race.

Buzzards Bay was sold privately after winning his maiden at Calder in his third start and moved from Rodolfo Garcia to Jeff Mullins. Stonerside Stable purchased majority interest in Sort It Out after he won the Whirlaway in February and moved him from Allen Iwinski to Bob Baffert.

Shirreffs agrees to rare photo

John Shirreffs, the trainer of Giacomo, prefers to do things from the background, putting his horses at the forefront. It extends even to winner's circle celebrations. Back home in California, Shirreffs rarely gets into a winner's circle photo. He usually stands off to the side, even while those associated with the horse implore him to join them.

"I kind of like to watch, I guess," Shirreffs said Thursday morning at Churchill Downs. "I like watching the horse and the owners."

Giacomo, who finished fourth in the Santa Anita Derby in his last start, is the first Derby starter for Shirreffs. He said he would make an exception for a Derby winner's circle photo if he were fortunate enough to win the race.

"But they might have to get a net to catch me," he said, laughing.

"He might be flying over Churchill Downs," said his wife, Dottie.

Dance Away Capote out of Oaks

Dance Away Capote, one of nine 3-year-old fillies entered for Friday's Grade 1 Kentucky Oaks, was scratched from the race early Thursday after trainer H. Graham Motion discovered she had a temperature of 103 when he arrived at the barn that morning.

"We took her temperature several times to make sure it was correct," said a dejected Motion. "It's hard to believe because she had been doing so well here this week. We sent out some bloodwork to be checked but I guess she just came down with a virus."

Guidry returning to Kentucky

Jockey Mark Guidry, who rode last winter in Southern California, is returning to Kentucky on a regular basis, according to Guidry's new agent, Fred Aime.

Guidry is returning to ride at Churchill Downs primarily to be with his wife and children, who remained behind in Louisville while he worked in California. Guidry, whose tenure in California was highlighted by an upset aboard Buzzards Bay in the Santa Anita Derby, again has the mount on that longshot colt Saturday in the Kentucky Derby.

- additional reporting by Marty McGee, Jay Privman, and Mike Welsch