Smooth Air's Derby Start in Jeopardy

Smooth Air's Derby Start in Jeopardy
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Smooth Air with trainer Bennie Stutts on April 26.
By Steve Byk and
Steve Haskin
Mount Joy Stables' Smooth Air spiked a slight fever Thursday that prevented his going to the track for a scheduled gallop in preparation for the May 3 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).

The developing situation could result in his defection from the Derby starting grid, according to trainer Bennie Stutts, who at 70 is looking to run in his first Kentucky Derby. Stutts said the Florida Derby (gr. I) runner-up will not go to the track Saturday, having been treated with antibiotics for what Stutts suspects is a low grade infection.

During a press briefing Saturday morning, Stutts said the colt had improved and that his temperature was a normal 99.9 degrees. He said the colt is now scheduled to go to the track Sunday.

"Right now , he is doing much better," Stutts said. "He is bright and eating. "If he is not 100%, he will not run in the Derby. No one wants to run in the Derby more than me."

Because Smooth Air "is 100% fit" he does not need a breeze Derby week to be able to run in the classic, Stutts said.

"There's going to be a lot of disappointment if this little colt can't run." a concerned Stutts said Friday. "But if he's not right, I won't run him." Stutts added that if he could not get Smooth Air back to the track by Monday, he would likely be forced to not enter the son of Smooth Jazz in the 134th running of the Kentucky Derby.
Calder-based Smooth Air emerged as a viable Derby candidate with a win in the grade II Hutcheson in January. Though a troubled third in his two-turn debut at Tampa in the Sam F. Davis made many question the colt's route aptitude, Stutts persevered toward the Florida Derby with the bay via a series of old-fashioned mile workouts and long gallops. Smooth Air responded to the stamina-building efforts with a strong placement behind likely Derby favorite Big Brown.

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