When trainer John Kimmel announced after the Florida Derby (gr. I) that his upset winner Friends Lake likely would train up to the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), it was before he found out the colt was suffering from a viral infection, which has reinforced his decision.
"He came out of the race with an elevated white blood count and a cough, and he missed four days of training," Kimmel said. "Running him in another race before the Derby would be too much to throw at him. His soundness is excellent, and fitness is not to going to be the issue. It's about experience. He's just learning and is getting better all the time."
Kimmel said Friends Lake returned to the track for a mile jog last Friday and has been galloping every day since. He plans to work him next Monday.
"I think he was harboring that infection going into the Florida Derby, and that should be worth at least five extra Beyer points," Kimmel kidded, referring to the son of A.P. Indy's low Beyer Speed Figure of 92.
"Sure, I'd love to win the Kentucky Derby," he added, 'but that's not the pinnacle race of the year for him. I want a fresh horse for later in the year, and if I pushed him to make the Derby by running him again before then, he'd be toast."
With Friends Lake definitely out of the Wood Memorial (gr. I), it looks as if the for the 1 1/8-mile race will be headed by Value Plus, Master David, Eddington, The Cliff's Edge, Sinister G, and Tapit. A possibility is Royal Assault, another Nick Zito-trained colt who finished a fast-closing second to Suave in his first two-turn race, which was run faster that the Florida Derby the same day.