04/25/2007 12:00AM

A year later, long layoffs are common

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Funny, trainer Michael Matz was saying, what a difference a year and a horse make.

A year ago, just about everywhere Matz went all anyone wanted to know was how he could possibly be thinking Barbaro could win the Kentucky Derby off a - gasp - five-week layoff, which had not been done in 50 years.

All Barbaro did was go out and win the Derby here at Churchill Downs by 6 1/2 lengths.

Now, a year later, the success of Matz and Barbaro has made the lengthy layoffs of several contenders for this year's Derby seem not quite so questionable.

Circular Quay will try win the Derby despite not having raced since the Louisiana Derby eight weeks earlier at Fair Grounds. Hard Spun will come into the race off a six-week layoff, since his victory in the Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park. And, like Barbaro, the horses exiting the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, including the victorious Scat Daddy and fourth-place finisher Stormello, will come into the race despite not having raced in five weeks.

"Everybody said I was so unorthodox, but now you don't hear it," Matz said the other day at Keeneland. "If anything, I don't think anyone would call me unorthodox. I was just trying to do the right thing by the horse."

He laughed. "Now all of sudden these guys are geniuses," Matz said.

Matz said those words with no malice, just a shrug of the shoulders at the moving line that is conventional wisdom. He has different concerns this year, namely hoping he can try to win the Derby with another horse off a five-week layoff.

Matz trains Chelokee, whose third-place finish in the Florida Derby currently leaves him too low in terms of graded stakes earnings if more than 20 horses, as expected, are entered on Wednesday for the Derby on May 5.

And even though Slew's Tizzy, the Lexington Stakes winner, is now increasingly unlikely to run in the Derby, and Xchanger is questionable, Chelokee still needs further defections to make it. Matz had the option of running Chelokee in the Lexington - and trying to add to his bankroll - but believed running there would not have left Chelokee in optimum condition for the Derby. So, he is waiting and hoping, while realistic about his small chance of getting in.

"If we don't get in, we knew we were taking a chance," Matz said. "I didn't think it was best to run him again to try and get in. If he doesn't make it, we'll just have to find another spot."

Chelokee was making his stakes debut in the Florida Derby after five starts against maidens and first-level allowance runners.

"The way he ran when he finally got off the rail, I thought he was best in the Florida Derby," Matz said.

The connections of two other horses on the bubble are examining their options. Teuflesberg, 21st on the earnings list, was entered on Wednesday in Saturday's $100,000 Derby Trial Stakes at Churchill Downs. Jamie Sanders, the trainer and co-owner of Teuflesberg, is fearful Teuflesberg could get excluded from an oversubscribed Derby. If there are defections from the Derby field before Saturday, he would be scratched from the Derby Trial in favor of the Derby, Sanders said.

"If I can get into the Derby, I'm going to run him," Sanders said.

The Derby Trial, an ungraded, 7 1/2-furlong race that comes a week before the Derby, is a fallback race that would serve as a prep for the May 19 Preakness Stakes if Teuflesberg seems unlikely to get into the Derby, Sanders said.

Imawildandcrazyguy, who is 22nd on the earnings list, is entered in the Unbridled Stakes on Saturday at Calder, but trainer Bill Kaplan on Wednesday said he would scratch from the Unbridled if it looks like Imawildandcrazyguy will get into the Derby.

Bwana Bull, who also was entered in the Derby Trial, has enough graded stakes earnings to leapfrog past both Teuflesberg and Imawildandcrazyguy, but his trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer, said he would not run back in the Derby.

If Slew's Tizzy does indeed skip the Derby, that would open a spot. Greg Fox, the trainer of Slew's Tizzy, said Wednesday morning that he and owner-breeder Joe LaCombe were "very much leaning toward not running" the colt in the Derby.

"The horse is doing great, but unless something radically changes in the next day or two, we have pretty much decided against running," Fox, a licensed veterinarian, said from his farm adjacent to the Thoroughbred Training Center in Lexington. "We expect to make a firm decision by Friday."

Friday is also the day the connections of Xchanger, the Tesio Stakes winner, are expected to make their decision on whether to run in the Derby.

- additional reporting by Chuck Dybdal, Byron King, Marty McGee, and Mike Welsch


WHO'S HOT, WHO'S NOT

Who's hot: There are two newcomers to the final 2007 version of , though they might best be described as lukewarm, rather than hot. Imawildandcrazyguy,

currently on the bubble to make it into the May 5 Kentucky Derby field based on , is on the list as an 80-1 shot on the future line set by Mike Watchmaker, Daily Racing Form's national handicapper. His status may be determined by the connections of Slew's Tizzy, who are now leaning against running in the Derby. Nevertheless, Slew's Tizzy has yet to be ruled out, so based on his victory in last Saturday's Lexington Stakes at Keeneland, he has been added to the list. As with Imawild-andcrazyguy, Watchmaker pegged Slew's Tizzy at 80-1.

Who's not: Joe Got Even and Soaring By were removed from Derby consideration and dropped from the list following their disappointing efforts in the Lexington.

On the bubble: The connections of Delightful Kiss and Starbase want to run in the Derby, but they are well down the , the criteria used if more than 20 enter the Derby on Wednesday, which is expected to happen.

- Jay Privman