HOT SPRINGS, Ark. - It was getaway day on Sunday at Oaklawn Park, with the top finishers from the Arkansas Derby moving up the road to Louisville, Ky., and Zenyatta heading home to Southern California.
The first three finishers from the Arkansas Derby - Line of David, Super Saver, and Dublin - all are en route to Churchill Downs for the May 1 Derby.
But while Noble's Promise, who finished fifth in the race after a horrible trip, is also headed to Kentucky, his status for the Derby is questionable. Ken McPeek, who trains Noble's Promise, on Sunday said he was "not sure" if Noble's Promise would run.
"He came out of it with several cuts and scrapes [that] happened at the start," said McPeek, who added that Noble's Promise had a "slight lung infection."
McPeek said there would be "no decision until he gets these issues resolved."
Noble's Promise is currently second on the earnings list, so whether he runs in the Derby will be keenly followed by those currently on the outside but looking to get in.
Also of interest will be the status of Uh Oh Bango, who finished fourth in the Arkansas Derby and now finds himself near the bubble. As with Noble's Promise, whether Uh Oh Bango goes to the Derby, and whether some horses above him drop out in the next 2 1/2 weeks, will be a hot topic.
"I'm going to wait until the end of the week to decide, but the Derby is not really our number one pick," Kory Owens, who trains Uh Oh Bango, said at his barn at Oaklawn Park on Sunday morning. "We may take a look at it."
A maximum of 20 horses can run in the Kentucky Derby. If more than 20 enter, the field is determined by earnings in graded stakes races. Uh Oh Bango is currently 21st on the list, with $237,952 in graded stakes earnings. Right behind him is Jackson Bend, with $230,000.
There are a few horses in the top 20, though, who are question marks, besides Noble's Promise. For instance, Homeboykris, currently 20th with $250,500, has raced just twice this year, and not very impressively, and is coming into the Derby off a lengthy layoff.
Several horses moved down a few pegs on Saturday because of the wins by Stately Victor in the Blue Grass and Line of David in the Arkansas Derby. Both vaulted into the top 20, as did the second-place finishers in both races, Paddy O'Prado and Super Saver. Those four horses pushed runners such as Jackson Bend and Backtalk ($225,916) out of the top 20.
And there will be more shake-ups following the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland this Saturday, because the race's winner could move into the top 20, knocking more horses out.
As for Zenyatta, who was stabled just a few stalls down from Uh Oh Bango, she boarded a horse van at 7:45 a.m. Sunday for a brief ride to the airport and a flight back home to California, where she is based at Hollywood Park. Zenyatta won her 16th straight race on Friday in the Apple Blossom. No decision has been made on where she will race next.
Zenyatta looked magnificent on Sunday morning, with large dapples on her bay coat. Her weight appeared good, too, as though the race on Friday took absolutely nothing out of her.
- additional reporting by Marty McGee