Hess Catching Up With Ocean Terrace

(from track report)
Knowing that the last horse to win the Kentucky Derby who did not race at 2 was Apollo in 1882, trainer Bob Hess Jr. admits he might have rushed Ocean Terrace to make his debut.

Currently, the $700,000 Kentucky-bred chestnut son of Saint Ballado owned by the Fog City Stable is undefeated in three starts, including the El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) at Golden Gate on March 8, and is on course for the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) on April 5.

"His first race might have been his toughest, but not really due to the horse," Hess said. "All last fall and last winter we'd been thinking Derby, Derby, Derby with this horse, because we knew he had a world of ability, but I was a little behind the eight ball, because he had gotten sick at Saratoga. Then I had him in a race late November at Hollywood Park but he had some mucous in his throat and I had to scratch him.

"It got to the point where we weren't real fit, but we checked the records and learned that since Apollo, no horse has won the (Kentucky) Derby that didn't run as a 2-year-old. So I decided to run the horse and get a race under him, and at least he'd have run as a 2-year-old. He dead-heated (on Dec. 26) but he was exhausted after the race. That's why he didn't run (again) for about seven weeks.

"He's been rushed twice in his career thus far, first time out and then in the El Camino. He came back in 20 days (for the El Camino), ran long (1 1/16 miles) and shipped. They were three huge obstacles, and he passed with flying colors. He's doing excellent. He's held his weight beautifully, he's extremely fit, and for a horse that's only run three times, he has a tremendous foundation. He's going to come into this race the best he's ever come into a race, and time will tell how good he is."

A bulldog on the track, Ocean Terrace conducts himself nicely around the barn.

"He's really calm, very focused and not any sort of a hell-raiser," said Hess, a 37-year-old Los Angeles native. "He takes it all in and I've never seen him sweat a drop. He'll jump around and get playful, but he's also quite stoic, if you will, at times."

Hess plans to work Ocean Terrace five furlongs on Saturday.

The colt got his name from David Shimmon, who races as Fog City Stable along with William Bianco.

"Mr. Shimmon has a house in San Francisco on a street called Sea Cliff that overlooks the ocean," Hess said. "His next door neighbor is Sharon Stone. We had a fund-raiser there once for Sen. John Kerry. From the back of the house, you can see the Golden Gate Bridge, and the Pacific Ocean is right beneath you. I believe that's where he got the name from, Ocean Terrace."

Ocean Terrace is expected to have Kent Desormeaux riding in the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I), a horse he chose over Ministers Wild Cat, conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Neil Drysdale, for whom Desormeaux piloted Fusaichi Pegasus to victory in the 2000 Kentucky Derby.

"It was Kent's decision to ride Ministers Wild Cat (in the El Camino Real Derby)," Hess said. "After Ocean Terrace won the El Camino with Mike Smith, we wanted him back (for the Santa Anita Derby) but couldn't get him because he is committed to Azeri the same day in the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park. First and foremost, we wanted Kent, but when Smith won on our horse, we had to stick with what worked. But with Smith staying with Azeri, we asked Kent (to ride Ocean Terrace) and he said, 'Absolutely.'"

Like most horsemen with an eye on the Kentucky Derby and beyond, Hess ranks Florida Derby (gr. I) winner Empire Maker No. 1 among current 3-year-olds.

"Empire Maker is a standout," Hess said, "and I think Peace Rules is next, with Atswhatimtalknbout a close third. I think we're fourth best. That's just my biased opinion, my subjective opinion. But you haven't seen the best of our horse, and while he will have to improve to be able to beat Atswhatimtalknbout, I think he has improvement in him."

Elsewhere, During worked five furlongs Friday on Santa Anita's fast main track in 1:01 under Dana Barnes. Trainer Bob Baffert said afterward that the son of Cherokee Run "won't be in the Santa Anita Derby."

Ministers Wild Cat worked six furlongs Friday on Hollywood Park's fast main track in 1:13.40.

Trainer Gary Mandella said Man Among Men, seventh in the San Felipe, bled from his lungs in the race and "from this point on, it's a day-to-day thing. Not that he won't run in the Santa Anita Derby; he's just not definite. X-rays showed he bled from his lungs, but it wasn't like he had bled in his last five races."

Probable for the Santa Anita Derby: Atswhatimtalknbout, David Flores; Buddy Gil, Gary Stevens; Domestic Dispute, Corey Nakatani; Kafwain, no rider; Ministers Wild Cat, Victor Espinoza; and Ocean Terrace, Kent Desormeaux.