Trainer Doug O’Neill said Monday night there is a “slight chance” that Merv Griffin’s Cobalt Blue would not be entered in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
One of several Derby trainers who discussed their horses’ Derby prospects during the annual Woodford Reserve Derby Preview dinner and silent auction at John E’s Restaurant in Louisville, O’Neill cited the colt’s seventh-place in the Illinois Derby (gr. II) and a recent workout as reasons why Griffin may decide not to run in the classic.
“He did not work that well,” O’Neill said of the six furlong work in 1:11 4/5 over Keeneland’s Polytrack.
Considering the questions about Cobalt Blue’s readiness, O’Neill said he would send the Golden Missile colt on a “two-minute lick” (gallop around the track) at 7 a.m. (ET) Tuesday. Based on what he relays to Griffin from that exercise regimen, a decision will be made by 10 a.m. Tuesday on whether to enter the Derby.
"Even though Merv would love to have a Derby starter, he is going to do what is best for the horse," O'Neill said.
Cobalt Blue has won three of five lifetime starts, including the San Felipe Stakes (gr. II).
The defection of Cobalt Blue would open the door for Teuflesberg, who is 21st on the graded stakes earnings list that serves as the preference list for the 20-horse starting field in the Derby, to go forward in the season’s first classic.
Jamie Sanders, Teuflesberg’s trainer who gambled that her colt would get into the Derby starting gate when she scratched out of the Derby Trial on Churchill’s opening day card Saturday, reiterated that she was continuing to train her horse as if he was going to run in the Derby, with the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) as a backup alternative.
If Cobalt Blue does not make the Derby, it would mark the second year in a row that Griffin has had a Derby contender not run due to a setback. Last year, Griffin’s Stevie Wonderboy dropped off the Derby trail early in the season due to an injury.