The Bob Baffert-trained Apalachian Thunder, who finished third in the $500,000 WinStar Derby on March 30, will run in the $100,000 California Derby at Bay Meadows Saturday.
Baffert is wheeling Apalachian Thunder back in just 13 days for the California Derby, a 1 1/8-mile race for 3-year-olds. It is the West Coast's final Kentucky Derby prep.
Apalachian Thunder set a blistering pace in the WinStar Derby at Sunland Park in New Mexico, running the opening half-mile in :44.30 and the first six furlongs in 1:08.49. Apalachian Thunder fought gamely in the stretch, but couldn't hold off Excessivepleasure and Spensive.
Apalachian Thunder, who was beaten a length by winner Excessivepleasure, exited the WinStar Derby in good order, according to the Baffert barn.
"He came out of the New Mexico race in excellent shape," said Jim Barnes, one of Baffert's top assistants, "and the California Derby looks like a good spot to try him in."
Hall of Fame jockey Russell Baze has the call Saturday on Apalachian Thunder, a Florida-bred colt by Wekiva Springs. Owned and bred by Donald Dizney, Apalachian Thunder has finished in the money in seven of his 10 career races and earned $159,713.
The California Derby lost a prospective starter Wednesday when trainer William J. Morey Jr. announced that Winning Stripes would pass Saturday's race and run instead in the $250,000 Citibank Snow Chief Stakes at Hollywood Park on April 26. The Snow Chief is a 1 1/8-miles race restricted to 3-year-olds bred in California.
"We've changed our plans," said Morey. "We're going to wait for the Snow Chief Stakes. It's tough not to run in the California Derby, but how many opportunities do you get to run in a Cal-bred race for a quarter of a million dollars. We thought about running in both, but that would be asking too much of the horse. If there were three weeks between races we could probably do it, but two weeks is just too quick."
$100,000 California Derby, 3-year-olds, 1 1/8 mile
PP. Horse, Jockey
1. Mr. Technique (KY), Roberto M. Gonzalez
2. Risk Reward (KY), Ronald J. Warren, Jr.
3. Excessive Barb (CA), Chance J. Rollins
4. Apalachian Thunder, Russell A. Baze
5. Tribe (KY), Ignacio Puglisi
6. Souvenir's Lad (KY), Chad Phillip Schvaneveldt
All carry 120 pounds.