An equine flight from California on Tuesday brought B. Wayne Hughes' Don't Get Mad back to Churchill Downs, the track at which he launched his career last fall.
The Ron Ellis-trained son of Stephen Got Even, who appeared to have been knocked off of the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) trail by a disappointing sixth-place finish behind Buzzards Bay in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), is being pointed toward a run in the $100,000 Derby Trial on April 30, the opening day of Churchill Downs' spring meet.Ellis would not discount a run by the colt in the Kentucky Derby a week later should the colt return to form in the one-mile Trial.
"Who knows?," said Ellis, speaking by telephone from Keeneland's 2-year-olds in training sale in Lexington. "For now we're just looking at the one race, because he could always go to the Preakness (gr. I) off that race if he were to win that. But I wouldn't rule anything out until we see how he runs."
Ellis said Don't Get Mad came out of his dull effort in the Santa Anita Derby well, but he remains mystified as to why the colt ran so poorly.
"It was such a dull race that I ran him through a nuclear scan and nothing showed, so I don't know why he ran so flat," said Ellis. "I'm hoping that was just a bad day, but after that I didn't think we could go to the Derby."
Don't Get Mad is unbeaten in two races at Churchill Downs and is back in the barn of his former trainer Paul J. McGee, who is Ellis' brother-in-law. He finished second in the San Vicente (gr. II) and third in the San Felipe (gr. II) at Santa Anita before his poor run in Santa Anita Derby.
Hughes has another Derby 131 contender in Illinois Derby (gr. II) winner Greeley's Galaxy, who is not nominated to the Derby and Visa Triple Crown Challenge and would have to be supplemented to the race at a cost of $200,000.
Even with a strong run in the Derby Trial, Don't Get Mad would seem unlikely to get into the Kentucky Derby field. The Derby is limited to 20 horses with the highest total of graded stakes earnings. This year's Derby Trial is not a graded event for the first time in several years. Don't Get Mad's graded earnings stand at $60,000, a total that would place him in 21st place on the latest list of graded earnings for Derby 131 hopefuls.