Here are some Derby notes from Tuesday, April 26
*** The Derby picture is getting a little more clear, as two horses dropped out of contention today, but it remains one of the most wide-open Derby fields in many years. Here is the Trib’s story from Sunday on the craziness of the Derby pursuit this year, who’s hot, who’s not and some developing storylines.
*** First off, here are the daily notes from Churchill Downs, posted by John Asher, one of the best in the business.
*** Reigning Eclipse award-winning jockey Ramon Dominguez will ride Stay Thirsty, according to owner Robert LaPenta.
*** Uncle Mo owner Mike Repole spoke on a national teleconference and said his star 3-year-old is “50-50″ to run in the Derby after a strong workout on Tuesday morning, but he added that every Derby hopeful is about 50-50 right now.
“ The work was very Mo-like,” Repole said. “Very, very excited about the gallop out. We couldn’t have been more pleased. I haven’t had much sleep in the past 17 days. Today was a really, really big step in him getting into the starting gate. …I feel much better today than I did a week ago.”
*** With the connections of The Factor and J.P.’s Gusto dropping their horses out of Derby contention on Tuesday, that punches the ticket for Twinspires and Shackelford, who moved into the top 20 in earnings.
The Factor was coming off throat surgery and J.P.’s Gusto didn’t look Derby worthy with his eighth-place finish in the Arkansas Derby.
*** The news of The Factor’s defection wasn’t good news to the deep closers in the race. The Bob Baffert-trainee was one of the likely early-speed horses in the race, along with J.P.’s Gusto, who showed early speed before fading at Oaklawn Park.
That leaves Soldat, Shakleford and Comma to the Top as the main speed horses to set the pace in the Derby.
What looked like a drag race to the first turn a couple of weeks ago is starting to look like more sensible fractions — which really hurts the closing types, such as Dialed In, Archarcharch, Nehro.
*** Somehow in the NTRA teleconference, the St. John’s basketball team was brought up. Repole was asked multiple questions about disclosure of horse’s injuries and ailments in the wake of Uncle Mo’s third-place flop in the Wood Memorial.
Repole spoke of the difficulty of noting every bump and bruise on a horse leading up to Derby week. He talked about being in the St. John’s locker room after a game this season and how there were ice packs on shoulders, knees, necks, etc.
Something about the grind of the Derby trial does remind one of Big East basketball.
*** The industry lost a great one when Tom Durkin said he will step down as the Triple Crown announcer following this year. Fortunately, Durkin, who cited stress as the reason to step down, will continue to call races for the New York tracks, Aqueduct, Belmont and Saratoga.
The new Triple Crown announcer could be Larry Collmus, who calls races at Gulfstream and Monmouth, including this memorable race last summer.