As usual, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has the racing world hanging on his every move leading up to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), even as he entered two of his sophomores in the April 26 Derby Trial (gr. III) at Churchill Downs.
On draw day for the $150,000 Derby Trial at one mile April 23, Baffert entered Tanma Corp.'s Sunland Derby (gr. III) winner Chitu, but confirmed he will run the colt in the Kentucky Derby instead. Chitu, by Henny Hughes, has 54 points and ranks 12th on the list of potential starters for the 20-horse field May 3.
Baffert would also like to get Kaleem Shah's Bayern into the Derby, but the Offlee Wild colt ranks 23rd on the list with 20 points and would need other contenders to defect in order to make the starting gate. He drew the rail in the Derby Trial and, should he start there, would have Rosie Napravnik in the irons. Bayern ran third in the Arkansas Derby (gr. I) in his third lifetime start Aprl 12.
Baffert has until 11 a.m. EDT on April 26 to scratch his runners. Scheduled as the eighth race on Saturday's 10-race "Downs After Dark" opening night program, the Derby Trial is set for a post time of 10:01 p.m. EDT.
With Chitu headed for the Kentucky Derby, Curtis Green's Swale Stakes (gr. II) winner Spot appears best of remaining 10 sophomores entered. Conditioned by two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Nick Zito, Spot finished seventh in the 1 1/8-mile Besilu Stables Florida Derby (gr. I) in his most recent start, but should relish the turnback in distance; he won the seven-furlong Swale by 2 1/2 lengths March 1 at Gulfstream Park.
Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez has the mount on the gray Pulpit gelding, who will break from post position 9 under 120 pounds.
Trainer Doug O'Neill sends Friendswith K Mill to this spot, his first start outside California, off a seventh in the April 5 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I). Prior to that outing, the Flashy Bull colt was second in a 1 1/16-mile allowance event at Santa Anita Park after breaking his maiden in his fourth try going a mile on the turf for a $75,000 tag. Kent Desormeaux has the mount from the 4 hole.
Also of interest is Brereton Jones' homebred Myositis Dan, a son of Istan who took a May 5 allowance on the Keeneland Polytrack but who also ran well over the winter at Gulfstream on dirt. Tom Proctor trains and Joe Rocco Jr. retains the mount from the outside post.
Kevin Jacobsen's Laddie Boy has been ambitiously placed after breaking his maiden by 13 lengths sprinting last year at Indiana Grand Race Course. He made a good accounting in a runner-up finish to Tapiture at odds of 19-1 in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (gr. II) at Churchill last November.
The War Pass colt needs to find his way back to better form, however, and perhaps will do so with a return to dirt. Laddie Boy's two starts since the Kentucky Jockey Club, in the March 1 John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park and in an off-the-turf edition of the Transylvania Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland April 4, were both on Polytrack, although it is a surface he won on for trainer Chuck Peery last October. Peery takes the blinkers off for this start; Stewart Elliott has the mount from post 7.
Trainer Mark Casse may find a softer spot here for John Oxley's Matador, who was sixth in the Florida Derby and fifth in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) after running fourth in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (gr. III). The Malibu Moon colt does have a stakes victory; he won the Cup and Saucer on the Woodbine Polytrack last October, his lone score from seven starts.
Completing the field are a trio of maiden winners: J. Kirk and Judy Robison's Big Sugar Soda for trainer Steve Asmussen; Martin Cherry's homebred Embellishing Bob from the barn of Steve Margolis; and Robert Land and Becky Brockway's Bitters 'n Bourbon for trainer Ron Moquett.
$150,000 Derby Trial Stakes (gr. III, Race 8, post time 10:01 p.m. EDT), 3YOs, one mile (dirt) PP, Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Bayern (KY), R. Napravnik,118,B Baffert
2. Chitu (KY), J. Rosario,123, B Baffert
3. Big Sugar Soda (KY), R. Santana, Jr., 118, S M Asmussen
4. Friendswith K Mill (KY), K. J. Desormeaux, 118, D F O'Neill
5. Matador (ON), J.R. Leparoux, 118, M E Casse
6. Embellishing Bob (KY), B.J. Hernandez, Jr., 118, S Margolis
7. Laddie Boy (KY), S. Elliott, 118, C Peery
8. Bitters 'n Bourbon (FL), C.J. Lanerie, 118, R Moquett
9. Spot (KY), J.R. Velazquez, 120, N P Zito
10. Myositis Dan (KY), J. Rocco, Jr., 118, T F Proctor Equipment Changes: 1—Bayern—Blinkers On; 7—Laddie Boy—Blinkers Off