- Horse Racing - Notes from the Kentucky Derby trail

Bill Finley

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Monday, April 9
Notes from the Kentucky Derby trail

With so many races and so many horses all taking center stage on the same day, something special figured to happen Saturday, but few could have imagined how special. Point Given was so sensational in his 5 1/2-length Santa Anita Derby win that some are daring to suggest that he may win the Triple Crown. That remains to be seen, but he's certain to head into the Kentucky Derby as a solid favorite. With a good pedigree, a great trainer, a great jockey and two excellent performances this year, there simply are no flaws with or knocks on the son of Thunder Gulch.

"He was just traveling so easy up underneath me," jockey Gary Stevens said. "It was like he was in a high gallop, just like in the San Felipe. It was like I had a loaded cannon and all I had to do was pull the trigger when it was time."

Bob Baffert reported that Point Given came out of his facile win in good order and is bound for Churchill Downs.

"Now the pressure really begins," said Richard Mulhall, the racing manager for the Thoroughbred Corp.

It appears that Point Given has scared off all of the competition from the West Coast. He may be the only horse from the Santa Anita Derby field to compete in the Kentucky Derby. At least one trainer wants no part of him.

"Point Given is pointing toward winning the Triple Crown," said Howard Zucker, the trainer of runner-up Crafty C.T. "He'd have to be unlucky not to win the Triple Crown. He's the type of horse that can do it and there's not another horse I would have said that about since Secretariat."

Zucker said Crafty C.T. will be given time off and may point for the Swaps Stakes.

One trainer who won't have to worry about Point Given any time soon is Bernie Flint. The Flint-trained Outofthebox was a badly beaten favorite in the Flamingo at Hialeah, but there was a reason for his performance. Assistant trainer Steve Flint reports that the colt came back with a foot problem.

"He got stepped on going into the first turn and tore his foot up pretty good," he said "He'll be out 6 weeks to two months. Somebody hit him across the heel going into the first turn and it was pretty nasty. There's a three-inch gash and he tore his shoe off. We're probably going to have to build the foot back up and let it grow out."

Meanwhile, Flamingo winner Thunder Blitz is considered a likely Kentucky Derby starter. If he makes it, there will be plenty of ironies involved. Trainer Joe Orseno and owner Frank Stronach are the team behind Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Macho Uno, a grey son of Holy Bull. He will miss the Kentucky Derby, but could be replaced by Thunder Blitz, a grey son of Holy Bull.

From the Illinois Derby, winner Distilled is a likely Kentucky Derby starter, but he may have a stop in between. Trainer Todd Pletcher revealed that his colt may start next in the April 21 Lexington at Keeneland.

"With Distilled, (syndicate head) Cot Campbell and I will kick things around for a few days," Pletcher said. "There's a possibility we will run him back in the Lexington. He's such a high-energy horse and he kept moving forward in Florida when we raced him every couple of weeks. The other option is to go right to the Kentucky Derby or go to the Lexington and from there to the Preakness or use the Lexington as a last prep for the Kentucky Derby."

Pletcher also announced that his Spiral Stakes winner Balto Star will run next in the Arkansas Derby. By going there instead of the Blue Grass or Lexington, Pletcher is foregoing a chance at a $1 million bonus given to any horse that wins the Spiral, the Blue Grass and/or the Lexington at the Kentucky Derby.

"Any time you try to factor a $1 million bonus into winning the Kentucky Derby, your priorities are misplaced," he said. "The Kentucky Derby is just too tough a race to win. One might as well buy a lottery ticket."

From the Lone Star Derby, second-place finisher Fifty Stars is a certain Derby starter, while the status of winner Percy Hope remains up in the air.

"Everything is under consideration," trainer Tony Reinstedler said. "The thing we have to take into consideration is what's right for the horse. I'm leaning more towards the Preakness, but that's just me. We've got to see how the horse is and take it from there."


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