Late on the afternoon of April 30, owner Andy Cohen humorously apologized for keeping members of the media working late with the 11th-hour announcement that Giant Finish would enter the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
"I think I did that to a lot of people," he laughed while looking forward to the May 4 Derby. "Hopefully it was worth it."
Cohen, who bred the 3-year-old son of Frost Giant in New York and whose Sunrise Stables races the big bay in partnership with Gary Tolchin, Aubrey Flanagan, and Bob Smith, was a co-owner through IEAH Stables with 2008 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes (gr. I) winner Big Brown . He sends Giant Finish, trained by Anthony Dutrow, to the Derby off a third-place finish in the Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes (gr. III) at Turfway Park.
Giant Finish has 10 points under the new qualifying system on the road to the Kentucky Derby, and bumped Fear the Kitten to the also-eligible list for the 20-horse Derby field. Carving, No. 22 on the list with 2 points, could also be entered for a chance to get in.
"We've been actually thinking about it since we were in the Spiral, thinking if we came in first or second, we'd have enough points to get in the Derby," Cohen said. "He came in third and we thought weren't going to make it, that we didn't have enough points. But with a lot of horses dropping out, we started thinking about it again."
The previous morning offered a bevy of abdications as trainer Bob Baffert eliminated Sunland Derby (gr. III) winner Govenor Charlie and Code West, Todd Pletcher said he wouldn't run Coolmore Lexington (gr. III) victor Winning Cause, and D. Wayne Lukas omitted Titletown Five. Tiz a Minister could have gotten in but also was withheld, at which point the connections of Fear the Kitten announced their intention to enter.
The field appeared set until Cohen and partners' late decision.
"He's been training well and you don't get a lot of chances to get to the Derby," the owner said. "He's got a really competitive nature. We know he's a longshot but Frost Giant throws that competitiveness; the horses battle back, they don't quit, and he's been improving. What can I say? You only live once."
"(Big Brown) was our only other Derby starter and IEAH was how we got into the horse game," Cohen said. "It was a little crazy at first, we were very lucky. I thought you just kept winning grade I races all the time, and I learned that's not really how it works."
Frost Giant, who stands at Keane Stud in Amenia, N.Y., for a 2013 fee of $7,500, is owned by Cohen.
"I thought I would become a stallion owner and a breeder," Cohen said. "The first few years were a struggle; I love to race them and I'm a very bad seller. I bred about 10 of my own mares to Frost Giant to kind of get him going, and we formed a little syndicate to race about eight of his horses. It's been a lot of fun and we've been really fortunate that he's been a busy guy; he got a full book by the middle of January this year."
Giant Finish, out of the Hickman Creek mare Apocalyptic, has a 2-1-1 record from five starts, with both wins coming on the dirt at Aqueduct Racetrack, once on the main track and once on the inner oval. He finished second in the John Battaglia Memorial on Polytrack prior to running third in the Spiral.