Though it is billed "The year's first derby," Calder's traditional Jan. 1 feature, the grade III Tropical Park Derby for freshly-minted 3-year-olds, rarely produces Triple Crown contenders--a runner-up finish in 1983 by Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winner Caveat notwithstanding--owing largely to the race being contested at 1 1/8 miles over the turf. Similarly, though heavy rains washed the 2002 edition onto the main track, John Hennig thinks that winner Political Attack is a turf horse. "He ran a good time and he was able to finish, but I still think he's a grass horse," the trainer opined after the homebred of former Kentucky Gov. Brereton C. Jones, Guidry in tow, wired his seven rivals by 4 1/2 lengths, timed in a lively 1:51.71. In his previous start, in the $100,000 Mecke Stakes, the son of Hawk Attack became a stakes winner over the grass in a similar front-running fashion. That, coupled with an unplaced finish in his only prior dirt start, led Hennig to consider scratching Political Attack from the Derby. "I was a little concerned when it came off, but the governor said go ahead and run him," he said. He said graded stakes-placings on the dirt by half-siblings Miss Jennifer Lynn and Zillah the Hun also gave him some confidence
Though Jones proved prescient and a rich series for 3-year-olds just across town at Gulfstream is tempting, Hennig would not budge. "He's a nice grass horse," repeated the veteran, careful to keep his comments close to the vest. "I'll see how he comes out of it, talk to the governor, and we'll consider our options."