- Horse Racing - Chief Seattle drops out of Derby with a fever

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Friday, April 28
Chief Seattle drops out of Derby with a fever

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Chief Seattle, the only member of the Godolphin Racing trio of Kentucky Derby hopefuls who was assured of making it into the field, will be forced to miss the race after spiking a fever.

Chief Seattle, last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile runner-up, stayed behind in Lexington on Thursday morning while four stablemates -- including Derby candidate China Visit -- vanned to Churchill Downs following their release from quarantine. The first Godolphin shipment arrived in Kentucky on Tuesday night, 12 hours later than scheduled after mechanical problems with the plane caused a delay. It included Kentucky Oaks contenders Dignify and Farrfesheena, as well as Woodford Stakes starter Rhythm Band.

Although Chief Seattle has yet to run in a recognized race this year, he was 11th on the graded-stakes race earnings list by virtue of second-place finishes in the Champagne and Breeders' Cup Juvenile while a member of John Kimmel's barn.

Chief Seattle was sold earlier this year to Sheik Mohammed and shipped to Dubai in mid-February. He finished fifth behind China Visit in a trial race at Nad al-Sheba Race Course on April 21.

Tom Albertrani, an assistant trainer for Godolphin, said from Dubai on Thursday that Chief Seattle would campaign in the U.S. this year. Albertrani said he could be pointed to the Belmont Stakes on June 10 with a likely prep race -- possibly the Peter Pan at Belmont on May 27 - before then.

Godolphin is not assured of having a starter in the Derby. Its remaining two potential runners -- China Visit and Curule -- do not have any graded earnings and are currently on the outside looking in. The Derby is limited to 20 starters based on graded-stakes earnings.

Of the 24 horses still under consideration, it is highly unlikely Snuck In, True Confidence, and Exchange Rate would all run, meaning at least China Visit could get in. Godolphin's horses would get in ahead of Lexington Stakes winner Unshaded, who would have to be supplemented into the Derby and cannot be entered ahead of an original nominee.

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas plans to run True Confidence in Saturday's Derby Trial and would only bring him back the following Saturday if "he blew them away." Lukas said he would make a Derby decision regarding Exchange Rate early next week.

What impact Godolphin will have on this year's Derby is anyone's guess. Last year, Worldly Manner -- who Godolphin bought for $5 million from Golden Eagle Farm -- had a slight lead at the three-sixteenths pole before fading to seventh. Like Chief Seattle, Worldly Manner had established U.S form as a 2-year-old.

China Visit has only made two career starts, proving so far only that he is the best 3-year-old in Dubai, winning a six-furlong maiden turf race by six before taking the UAE Derby by 4 1/4 lengths over the highly-regarded Bachir.

"I think he's a nice horse, I think he'll run a good race but if you asked me if he can win I couldn't tell you," said Albertani, who confirmed that Frankie Dettori would ride.

Curule, a son of 1994 Kentucky Derby winner Go For Gin, has more experience than China Visit, but he has finished behind China Visit the two times they've met. Curule is not expected to ship from Dubai until Sunday night.

"He ran third in the UAE Derby and he was finishing strong at the end of the race,"' Albertrani said. "Until we run them against the American horses we don't know where we stand."

Despite the delayed trip, China Visit is doing "extremely well," said Eric Coatrieux, a Godolphin assistant. "He seems happy since he got here and he's eating well."

China Visit was expected to go to the track for the first time on Friday morning.

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