The ever-changing Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) picture became a little clearer Wednesday morning when it was learned that Todd Pletcher would not enter Interactif in the race.
Along with the defection of Endorsement, who was injured during a workout earlier in the morning, it left the door open for Backtalk and Make Music for Me to get into the May 1 classic. The connections of both horses are expected to enter when the field for Derby 136 is drawn at Churchill Downs later in the day.
Gold Mark Farm’s Backtalk, winner of the Bashford Manor (gr. III) and Sanford (gr. II) stakes as a juvenile and a distant third last out in the Illinois Derby (gr. III) was the first to crack the graded earnings top 20 early Wednesday when it was learned that Pletcher would not enter Interactif, who he feels is better suited for turf. Tom Amoss, trainer of Backtalk, had said earlier in the week that he would like to run his horse if eligible.
Miguel Mena, who rode Backtalk in his last two races, will have the mount on the son of Smarty Jones—Apasionata Sonata, by Affirmed. He was bred in Florida by Clover Leaf Farms II.
Later in the morning after it was learned that Endorsement suffered a non-displaced right front condylar fracture during his breeze, the door was left open for Peter and Ellen Johnson’s Make Music for Me, who began the morning No. 22 on the graded earnings list with $218,750. Trainer Alexis Barba, who was planning on running the Bernstein colt in the American Turf (gr. IIT) on the Derby undercard if her charge didn’t draw into the big race, confirmed that she has assigned Joel Rosario to ride in the Run for the Roses.
"I’m floating high," Barba said outside Barn 41 after she learned that the colt would run in the Kentucky Derby. "It’s unbelievable. To even get here is exciting."
Barba said she resisted suggestions that she run the colt in a graded race rather than the March 6 Pasadena Stakes in order to boost his graded earnings. "The journey takes its course. You have a plan and you stick with it. You can’t make it happen," Barba said. "I wanted a softer spot to run in to build his confidence."
Make Music for Me, who was bred in Kentucky by Richard Shultz and is out of the Carson City mare Miss Cheers, was second in both the Best Pal (gr. II) and Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) as a juvenile, and third earlier this season in the CashCall Futurity (gr. I) at Hollywood Park. This will be the colt’s first start on dirt.
If there is another defection before the noon draw, Pleasant Prince would be the next horse to get in.
Pletcher said he is looking forward to racing Interactif, a son of Broken Vow, this summer on turf.
"He's better on the grass,'' Pletcher said. "Even though he trained well here, we felt that at 1 1/4 miles on the dirt, that's probably not his specialty.'"