In recent years, the Derby Trial Stakes (gr. III), despite its name, actually has had little to do with 3-year-olds that compete in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). This year, however, there are at least a pair of horses, should they win the event, that could go on to America’s biggest race.
The connections of Pleasant Prince and Eightyfiveinafifty have both said recently that they would consider running their horses in the May 1 Kentucky Derby if they win and collect enough graded earnings to make the top 20.
Pleasant Prince and Eightyfiveinafifty lead a field of 10 entered for the one-mile event at Churchill Downs, which this year carries a $200,000-added purse and is sponsored by Robert LaPenta’s grade I winner The Cliff's Edge, who currently stands at Margaux Farm near Midway, Ky. The Derby Trial, which was restored as a grade III event in 2009, carried a $100,000 purse a year ago and was run at 7 1/2 furlongs.
The April 24 Derby Trial headlines opening day of the 42-day Churchill spring meet and is one week before the Kentucky Derby.
Don't Get Mad, who won the Derby Trial in 2005 and went on to finish fourth in the Kentucky Derby, was the last horse to compete in both races.
Pleasant Prince’s owner, Ken Ramsey, said last week he would likely send his horse on to the Kentucky Derby if he won the Derby Trial. Currently with $162,500 in graded earnings, the son of Indy King would almost certainly crack the top 20 if he won this weekend’s race, which will net the winner at least $120,000.
Pleasant Prince, trained by Wesley Ward, missed by a nose in the Florida Derby (gr. I) March 20 and finished seventh in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland April 20 in his last two starts. He is 1-2-1 from eight lifetime tries. Julien Leparoux will have the mount and they will break from post 4.
Eightyfiveinafifty won the seven-furlong Bay Shore Stakes (gr. III) at Aqueduct April 3 by 2 1/2 lengths in his first graded stakes try. Trainer and co-owner Gary Contessa said the speedy son of Forest Camp, who broke his maiden by 17 1/4 lengths in January, is still a possibility for the Derby. But with only $120,000 in graded earnings, Eightyfiveinafifty would likely need a couple of defections to get in, even if he won the Derby Trial. Contessa said he would evaluate everything after the race.
Ramon Dominguez will be aboard Eightyfiveinafifty, who had a razor sharp work at Aqueduct April 14, clocking five furlongs in :58.09. The tandem drew the far outside post, which could compromise their chances of making the early lead.
Other contenders for the Derby Trial are Aikenite, who enters off a disappointing eighth-place finish in the Blue Grass; Game on Dude and Soaring Empire, the seventh and eighth-place finishers, respectively, in the Florida Derby; and Wow Wow Wow, who was 10th in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) last out.
Game On Dude will be making his first start for Bob Baffert, who recently took over training duties from Michael Mareina.
$200,000 Cliff's Edge Derby Trial (gr. III, Race 10, 5:17 p.m.), 3YO, 1 Mile (Dirt) PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Game On Dude (KY), R Albarado, 117, B Baffert
2 Soaring Empire (KY), E Castro, 117, C M Gambolati
3 Privilaged (FL), R Maragh, 117, J W Sadler
4 Pleasant Prince (FL), J R Leparoux, 117, W A Ward
5 Hurricane Ike (FL), C H Borel, 117, J W Sadler
6 Miner's Reserve (KY), J Lezcano, 117, N P Zito
7 Wow Wow Wow (KY), T J Thompson, 117, D W Lukas
8 Hear Ye Hear Ye (FL), C S Nakatani, 117, D L Romans
9 Aikenite (FL), G K Gomez, 117, T A Pletcher
10 Eightyfiveinafifty (KY), R A Dominguez, 121, G C Contessa