B. Wayne Hughes' Don't Get Mad blew past favored Vicarage at the eighth pole to register an eye-catching seven-length victory Saturday in the $113,100 Derby Trial, the finale on opening day of Churchill Down's spring-summer meeting.
Hughes could have an interesting decision to make. He wants to supplement nine-length Illinois Derby (gr. II) winner Greeley's Galaxy to the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) May 7 at a cost of $200,000. But he could also run Don't Get Mad, who has now won all three of his starts at Churchill, if there is room in the 20-horse field.
Hughes might have to decide between them. He couldn't say which he would select after watching Don't Get Mad's strong closing win.
"I want to get both of them in," Hughes said. "I hope I'm not on the bubble."
The Ron Ellis-trained Don't Get Mad was last down the backstretch after breaking sharply from his outside post and falling back in the one-mile event. He was flying on the turn, however, and jockey Gary Stevens was forced to steady as he made contact with the field. Stevens angled at least six wide coming off the turn, and he inhaled the opposition to win going away. The final time on a track upgraded to fast after earlier rains was 1:36.
The victory was the first in four starts as a 3-year-old for Don't Get Mad, a bay son of Stephen Got Even
-Class On Class (Jolie's Halo) who was a $350,000 Ocala sale in March of 2004. He was sixth in the April 9 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I).
"He's a very good horse, and he really ran well," Ellis said. "Now we have to see what happens with Greeley's Galaxy. Hopefully both of them can get in. This guy is a fresh horse, and I think it would be okay to bring him back in a week. If only one of Mr. Hughes' horses gets in, I have a feeling it will be Greeley's Galaxy."
The 5-2 second choice has $60,000 in graded stakes earnings coming from a second-place finish in the Santa Anita's San Vicente (gr. II) and a third in the San Felipe (gr. II). That ranks him 19th on the list of likely Derby starters. Overall, Don't Get Mad has three wins in six starts and earnings of $190,412. Saturday's win was worth $70,122.
Milton and Beth Hendry bred the winner in Kentucky.
Gallardo, who broke his maiden for trainer Bob Baffert in his sixth start April 1, rallied for second as the longest shot in the field at 24-1. The winner overpowered him after they moved together on a wide path into the stretch, but Gallardo finished gamely under Brice Blanc, three-quarters of a length better than Vicarage.
The 2-1 favorite, ridden by Robby Albarado, took the lead coming off the turn and was in command by about three lengths in mid-stretch but wearied.
"He kind of inherited the lead at the five-sixteenths pole, and he put his ears up and I thought it would be fun," Albarado said of Vicarage. "He gave me a nice surge when I called on him, but he just kind of gave way about the eighth pole."
Following those three were Miracle Man, Ultimate, Santana Strings and Big Top Cat, who led at the half-mile but gave way quickly with three furlongs to go and was eased in the lane.
Fractions were the quickest of the day – :22 2/5, :45, 1:10 2/5 and 1:23 3/5.
The second choice in the field of seven, Don't Get Mad paid $7, $4.20 and $2.60. Gallardo returned $13.40 and $4.80. Vicarage was $2.80 to show.
Stevens won three races before a crowd of 15,394 on opening day. the Hall of Fame rider is committed to ride Noble Causeway in the Kentucky Derby.
Addressing the Derby situation, Hughes said, "The thought I'm keeping right now is running an entry. If both get in, Kent Desormeaux is the top choice to ride Greeley's Galaxy. As for Don't Get Mad, all I'll say is that Tyler Baze should keep an open date for next Saturday."