David Carroll, trainer of Kentucky Derby (gr. I) hopeful Denis of Cork.

David Carroll, trainer of Kentucky Derby (gr. I) hopeful Denis of Cork.

Alexander Barkoff

Denis of Cork to Skip Rebel Stakes

Denis of Cork, the undefeated winner of the Southwest Stakes (gr. III) who was expected to vie for favoritism in Saturday’s Rebel Stakes (gr. III), will not run in the race, and instead will await either the Wood Memorial (gr. I) or Illinois Derby (gr. II) the same day.

After discussing the matter with owner William K. Warren, trainer David Carroll said Tuesday it was decided that spacing Denis of Cork’s races would set him up better for the May 3 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I)

“Mr. Warren and I felt that he needs only one more race before the Kentucky Derby,” Carroll said. “He’s sitting on a big race, but it’s the one after that we feel he’s going to really explode. He’s a big horse, but he doesn’t carry a lot of weight. So, although he’s clean-winded, he’s not robust by any means. If he were a green horse and we felt he needed another race we would have run him, but he’s very professional; he can do different things on different tracks. We just feel he’s one race away his career best and we want that race to come in the Kentucky Derby.”

Denis of Cork ran a big number on the speed sheets in the Southwest, and Carroll said that weighed heavily on their decision. The son of Harlan's Holiday jumped from a “6 3/4” in his 3-year-old debut to a “0” in the Southwest Stakes on the Thoro-Graph figures.

“We do things as a team and throw things on the table,” Carroll said. We did look at the speed sheets, and took into consideration the horse’s disposition and conformation. As I said, he doesn’t carry an excess of flesh, and I’m always I’m trying to keep the weight on him. Because of his body weight and conformation I want t space his races. I think he runs better that way.”

Carroll said Denis of Cork likely will run in the Wood Memorial, with stablemate Blackberry Road heading for the Illinois Derby, but that could be reversed, depending on how the races shape up.

 Blackberry Road came out of the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) very, very tired, the most tired I’ve ever seen him,” Carroll said. “ He was a little closer to the pace than he wanted to be. Robby (Albarado) put him in the race early to get a clean trip. He had a chance to go for it turning for home, but got tired. Still, he was only beaten 1 1/2 lengths for second. I still feel like he’s sitting on his best race, today (Tuesday), he’s had the most energy since the race.”

As for Denis of Cork, Carroll, who used to work for Shug McGaughhey, said the colt “still has a lot to prove. He hasn’t done anything wrong so far. But I’m a believer in seeing is believing.”

In regard to tackling War Pass in the Wood, Carroll said, “War Pass is the champion, but we’re hoping there’s a chink in his armor. He’s an exciting horse to watch run. He runs them off their feet and dares them to go with him, so it’s damned if you do damned if you don’t. Our best chance of beating him would be at a mile and a quarter. He’d have an advantage in the Wood, but it’s the one after that we’re interested in. This next one is more for conditioning. We don’t have to win.”