Kentucky Derby Postscript: From 1st to 18th, Here's a Rundown

Kentucky Derby Postscript: From 1st to 18th, Here's a Rundown
Photo: Associated Press
Smarty Jones, yawned from boredom while in his stall at Churchill Downs on Sunday.
By Margaret Ransom and
Kathleen Adams

Smarty Jones-1st

Trainer John Servis said Smarty Jones emerged from his Kentucky Derby (gr. I) victory in fine fashion and that the Elusive Quality   colt will now return to his stable base at Philadelphia Park and be aimed toward the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) on May 15.

"I'm not going to do a whole lot with him, unless he gets to the point where I have to," said Servis. "He loves to train and trains hard and, in two weeks time, I don't think there's a lot to be done."

Servis said it is unlikely he would ship Smarty Jones very early to Baltimore for the Preakness.

"I don't know," he said. "I'll see how my horse is training at home. We won't be at Pimlico very long, I can tell you that."

Servis, who won the Kentucky Derby in his first attempt, said he still had not fully let the reality of feat sink in.

"I think it's starting to sink in, but it hasn't totally sunk in," Servis said. "It'll probably be sinking in for the next week. I don't know. I keep pinching myself to make sure that I'm really here."

Lion Heart -- 2nd

Patrick Biancone was thrilled with Lion Heart's gritty second place effort and dismissed all notion that track condition aided his horse's front-running style. The conditioner said he was leaning toward running the son of Tale of the Cat in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) at Pimlico on May 15, but that a final decision won't likely come for the next couple of days.

"They all had to run over the same track," Biancone said. "I don't believe the track played a role. As far as I'm concerned the two best horses finished first and second. I could not be any more pleased for Smarty Jones and his connections. He is a very good horse and I've said it all year. I told him (John Servis, trainer of winner Smarty Jones) a few days ago (at Tuesday night's trainers' dinner) that our horses would finish first and second or second and first and it's exactly what happened."

Biancone said too much pre-Derby emphasis is placed on pedigree as a factor in why some horse's may or may not be able to win the race.

"What I've learned after three years participating in the Derby is that it's not a horse's pedigree that matters – it's his heart. Smarty Jones and Lion Heart showed that. Maybe we'll turn it around next time..."

Imperialism -- 3rd

Twenty-one-year-old trainer Kristin Mulhall, her first Derby behind her, was thrilled with Imperialism's third-place finish, but thought with a cleaner trip the Langfuhr   colt might have fared better.

"Passing the wire the first turn a horse ran up on him and clipped him. Kent (Desormeaux) looked back because he thought someone got dropped. It nearly knocked the hair off (Imperialism)."

Desormeaux said Imperialism's chances were compromised after he became trapped down near the rail, according to the trainer.

"Kent said he never got to ask him because he was trapped down on the rail. I don't think he'd have beaten Smarty, but I definitely think he'd have had Lion Heart. Once (Imperialism) got out he was flying. Turning for home, at about the quarter pole, Kent had nowhere to go and he said, 'forget this I'm going to take him out wide and hope for the best‚ and that's what he did.

Mulhall, who relished the Derby experience, said Imperialism will not run in the Preakness and will be given some time off. "I'm happy, no matter what," she said. "Just to make it here was unbelievable."


Limehouse -- 4th
Pollard's Vision -- 17th

When exercise rider Michelle Nihei saw the odds on Limehouse were 39 -1 at the start of the Kentucky Derby, she was more than a little surprised. She'd been galloping the chestnut son of Grand Slam for nearly a year and didn't feel the high odds reflected his abilities.

"I knew he would try his very best," Nihei said.

But she also knew colt, who is not a front-runner, had been racing approximately every three weeks throughout the spring. "That's a lot to ask of the little guy."

Still, she wasn't disappointed with Limehouse's fourth-place finish in Louisville on Saturday.

The Derby distance of 1 1/4 miles may have been somewhat of a challenge for Limehouse, but Nihei said the horse has shown in previous races that he can run two turns.

Meanwhile, stablemate Pollard's Vision wound up finishing a disappointing 17th.

"I think he thought he had experienced a lot more traffic than in the past," Nihei said of the Carson City colt. "Pollard has shown he can get a mile and an eighth pretty handily and he's proved he's a fighter."

And Nihei said sloppy track conditions also affected Pollard's Vision.

"He seems to handle the slop okay. But this was different. The track was heavy, sticky and shallow. And when you hit bottom here (Churchill Downs) there's no bounce."

Both Limehouse and Pollard's Vision were scheduled to fly back to New York on Sunday. They'll be stabled at Belmont Park. But just where and when the two might reappear on the racing scene is yet to be determined.

"It's a hard question to answer," Nihei said. "They'll cold walk for three days and then jog a day, and then gallop. It takes a day or two of galloping to know how a horse really comes out of a race."

The Cliff's Edge -- 5th
Birdstone -- 8th

A sloppy racetrack proved to be an advantage for trainer Nick Zito in 1994 when he ran Go For Gin in the 120th Kentucky Derby. The colt's victory that day gave Zito his second Derby win. But this year, the same track conditions ruined the trainer's chances to bring home the coveted garland of roses for a third time.

That's because both of Zito's entries, Birdstone and The Cliff's Edge managed to lose front shoes during the big race. While clearly disappointed by the odd turn of events, Zito seemed unfazed by the glitch the racing Gods threw his way.

"You put everything in perspective especially when you have been blessed with two wins. If you can compete, that's good enough," he said matter-of-factly.

But assistant trainer Reynaldo Abreu said both performed well, given the circumstances. "It's a huge excuse. You cannot run a mile and a quarter with no shoes."

Abreu believes if The Cliff's Edge hadn't thrown both of his front shoes, the race would have played out much differently for the Gulch colt.

Zito seemed to agree.

"He's a gallant horse and tries as hard as he can."

While Birdstone only lost his left front shoe, Abreu said it's obvious the Grindstone colt doesn't enjoy running on a sealed track. The colt finished a well-beaten fifth at Turfway Park after the racetrack was sealed.

"They're like people," Abreu explained of some horse's preferences for certain kinds of racetrack conditions. "It's like people who prefer chicken to fish."

Zito said both horses appeared to come out of the race in good condition, and if everything still looks okay several days from now, he'll make a decision regarding the Preakness.

"Both of my owners want to do what's right by the horse," he said referring to Marylou Whitney the owner of Birdstone and Robert LaPenta owner of The Cliff's Edge.


Action This Day -- 6th
Minister Eric -- 16th

Three days before the Kentucky Derby, trainer Richard Mandella stood outside of barn 41 on the backside of Churchill Downs and told a group of reporters that anyone in his line of work had, "better be ready for defeat and failure."

On Saturday, an hour or so after his horses, Action This Day and Minister Eric finished sixth and 16th, respectively, in the big race, the veteran trainer spotted Kentucky Derby winner Smarty Jones and his groom.

As the victorious pair walked the gravel path outside of barn 41, Mandella graciously congratulated them. Then he joked, "I'm only 53. I can try for another 40 years."

The California-based trainer acknowledged he was disappointed with the performances turned in by his both horses, but added that during the race, Minister Eric got his soft palate stuck.

"He was moving well," Mandella said. "It looked like he was going somewhere and then he stopped. He had never done that before."

Essentially, Minister Eric couldn't catch his breath during the race and Mandella said it will be a few days before he decides whether or not the son of Old Trieste will undergo surgery to correct the problem.

In the case of 2003 champion 2-year-old male Action This Day, Mandella said he felt the Kris S. colt ran a pretty good race.

"My horses have never run in the mud," Mandella said referring to the sloppy track conditions. "He (Action This Day) was struggling with the track at first, but was leveling off pretty well."

As far as any soundness issues, Mandella said both horses came out of the race in good shape, but he wasn't willing to speculate as to when either horse would run again.

Read the Footnotes -- 7th

Rick Violette was one of the few trainers who didn't consider the off track his colt's undoing on Saturday.

"He broke sharp and was in good position heading into the turn," Violette said. "Smarty Jones just got away from us at that part and he was just grinding from there. There are no real excuses. (Smarty Jones) is a good horse and I‚m very happy for his connections. He's an exceptional racehorse."

Violette noted Read the Footnotes, a son of Smoke Glacken, emerged from the Derby with some "crude in his lungs" that will have to be cleared up for him to consider the Preakness.

Tapit -- 9th

Trainer Michael Dickinson is pointing to track condition as a probable reason for Tapit's poor performance.

"Ramon (jockey Dominguez) said he was never handling the track. In the Wood (Memorial, gr. I), he took himself to the lead. He just cruised to the lead. I never thought at any stage (in the Derby) that he would win. He did make a run on the turn, but he couldn't sustain it. The track was a bit too sticky and a bit too muddy, but he came out as good as can be. Smarty Jones gave a terrific performance and I'm very happy for the connections."

Dickinson said the Pulpit colt will likely pass the Preakness and run in the Belmont Stakes (gr. I).

"The Preakness and the Belmont are both under discussion, but the Preakness is a bit too quick back so I'll likely fight very hard against it. I couldn't say never, but the Belmont is most likely."


Borrego -- 10th

Trainer Beau Greely was disappointed with Borrego's tenth-place finish, but thankful Borrego returned to the barn in good shape. The trainer also leaned toward track condition as the most likely reason the chestnut wasn't a factor. The El Prado colt will remain in Kentucky while a decision on the Preakness is made over the next couple of days.

"He was in a great spot," Greely said. "I'd have to watch the race again but it looked like the two that were up front stayed there. That's one of the things, (that) when you have a track like this, you don't really know what will happen. He's still a nice horse. We just have to regroup and figure it out from there."

Song of the Sword -- 11th

One of only four horses to arrive at Churchill Downs late, Song of the Sword appeared in good shape following his 11th-place finish. Despite what his connections considered a strong pedigree for a wet track, the colt never gained his footing.

"He didn't run his best race," trainer Jennifer Pedersen said. "We have no excuses. With the track playing how it was and knowing that his dad (Unbridled's Song) loved the slop, we were hoping that he'd take to it. But the jock (Norberto Arroyo Jr.) said he didn't take to it. He told me that he made a nice run but that he just kind of stopped. But I'm happy for the connections of Smarty Jones. He's a very talented horse."

Master David -- 12th

Jose Cuevas, assistant to trainer Bobby Frankel, reported Master David (by Grand Slam) came out of the Derby a little tired, but otherwise fine.

Pro Prado -- 13th

If Pro Prado had run more competitively, he probably would be on his way to Baltimore to run in the Preakness. But Lee Lockwood, assistant to Louisville-based trainer Bob Holthus, said he's now not sure where or when the son of El Prado will make his next start.

"There are no excuses," Lockwood said. "He came back really tired. We got out run by a few really good horses."

The colt went off at 52-1 odds and came to the Derby with no graded stakes wins listed in his past performances. But nonetheless, Lockwood said he was confident going into the race that Pro Prado could easily cover the Derby distance of a mile and a quarter.

"I still think he might be able to get the distance against lesser horses," Lockwood explained. "I think he's going to be a fun horse to have later in the year."

Lockwood gallops Pro Prado, and said the gray horse can be handful in the morning on the track. "I don't mean that he does stupid things, but he definitely trains forwardly."

Castledale -- 14th

Jeff Mullins was a bit reserved a day after his colt finished 14th in the Derby. The California-based horseman said the bay son of Peintre Celebre would return to his home base of Santa Anita "as soon as possible" and would not be considered for the Preakness in two weeks.

"He ate up, so that's a good sign," Mullins said. "He floundered all the way around there. Jose (jockey Valdivia Jr.) said that after about the fifth jump he knew he was done. We're going to take him home, give him some time and let him tell me when he's ready to run again. The Preakness is definitely out."

Mullins said he would not second-guess his decision to ship to Churchill Downs late.

"I wouldn't change a thing (about shipping in late). I'd do it again in a minute. I had good weather and a good track to train over (in California, before shipping). That Smarty Jones, he's a monster. I'm happy for his connections; couldn't happen to nicer people and it's a good story."

Friends Lake -- 15th

Friends Lake emerged from his 15th-place finish in good order, trainer John Kimmel reported, but was another who never got his feet underneath him on the sloppy main track at Churchill Downs.

"I was proud of him up to the running of the race," Kimmel said of the A. P. Indy colt. "He was great in the paddock. He was great loading in the gate, he didn't hesitate at all. He broke running, but really had a hard time with the footing. Every time he tried to get position or maintain position he could not."

Quintons Gold Rush -- 18th

Ttrainer Steve Asmussen said of Quintons Gold Rush (by Wild Rush): "He came out of the race fine. Now he is going to spend some time at the Padua Farm in Ocala, Fla."

Ron Mitchell and the Kentucky Derby Notes Team also contributed to this article.

Most Popular Stories