Arkansas Derby (gr. II) winner Gayego is to be flown to Louisville, Ky., on April 14, to prepare for the May 3 Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). He will be joined on the flight by second and third-place finishers, Z Fortune and Tres Borrachos.
Gayego, who earned the $600,000 first prize, and Z Fortune, who got $200,000 for second, have sufficient graded stakes earnings to make the Derby field, but Tres Borrachos, whose third-place finish was worth $100,000, needs some defections to make the cut.
Also set for the Tex Sutton 727 flight are Arkansas Derby competitors King's Silver Son, My Pal Charlie, Liberty Bull, Blackberry Road, and Jazz in the Park, who do not have the graded earnings to make the Derby field.
The Arkansas Derby, which attracted a crowd of 56,326 on a clear, windy afternoon, capped a remarkable hat trick for Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith. Smith won the three biggest races of the Oaklawn meet -- the Derby on Gayego, the Apple Blossom Handicap (gr. I) on Zayetta, and the Oaklawn Handicap (gr. II) on Tiago -- all-California-based horses.
Gayego, who made the successful transition from the California synthetic surfaces to Oaklawn Park's standard dirt strip, came out of the Derby in fine shape.
"He's doing good," assistant trainer Martin Morales said the morning after, "and he's ready for the next one."
Paulo Lobo, who won with his only starter at Oaklawn, caught a pre-dawn flight out of Little Rock to California, and will reunite with Gayego this week at Churchill Downs.
Z Fortune also came out of his strong second in the Arkansas Derby in good shape, according to assistant trainer Kristin Crawford.
Fourth-place finisher Indian Sun returned to Southern California by plane April 13 to be rejoin the stable of trainer Dan Hendricks.
Gayego, named by his owners, Cuban immigrants Carlos Juelle, a California-based accountant, and Jose Prieto, for a region in northern Spain, was the fifth straight favorite to win the Arkansas Derby. The previous four -- all champions -- were Smarty Jones, Afleet Alex, Lawyer Ron, and Curlin, the reigning Horse of the Year.