Steve Haskin's Derby Report: PVal to Ride Coin Silver, General John B Out

Steve Haskin's Derby Report: PVal to Ride Coin Silver, General John B Out
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Lexington Stakes winner Coin Silver will be ridden by Pat Valenzuela in the Kentucky Derby.
An ugly, rainy morning, and no Kentucky Derby (gr. I) works made for a funky Friday. The action, however, should be hot and heavy on Saturday with several Derby workers, including Nick Zito's threesome of Bellamy Road, High Fly, and Noble Causeway. But if the track hasn't dried sufficiently, those works could be postponed until Sunday.

The Derby lost one prospective starter when it was announced Friday that Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) runner-up General John B will not run due to a tendon injury to his left front leg.

The big news on the jockey front is the announcement that Pat Valenzuela will ride Coolmore Lexington (gr. II) winner Coin Silver, who will definitely be one of the live longshots following his impressive score at Keeneland. The addition of PVal moves him up even more.

One of the main topics has been the status of Greeley's Galaxy, who has been right on the bubble in regard to making it into the field. Right now, he is sitting at number 20, with the defection of General John B. But will any late comers pop into the picture? Owner B. Wayne Hughes also has Don't Get Mad running in Saturday's Derby Trial Stakes, and a victory would earn him a berth in the Derby field.

Hare Today, Gone Tomorrow

Many people are convinced that Spanish Chestnut's new role in life is to ride shotgun for Bandini, who is not exactly Silky Sullivan and in need of a rabbit. The son of Horse Chestnut helped take down High Limit in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I), by making him chase a horse for the first time in his career, and do it through rapid fractions. Now, it's been announced by trainer Patrick Biancone that a workout Sunday will determine whether Spanish Chestnut runs in the Derby. So, are owners Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, who own both Spanish Chestnut and Bandini, stirring up another Hasenpfeffer stew for likely favorite Bellamy Road on May 7?

Biancone says if Spanish Chestnut does run in the Derby, it will have nothing to do with Bandini, and nothing to do with the owners, who have left the decision strictly up to him.

"Number one, it's the Kentucky Derby," Biancone said. "Number two, the horse is qualified to run on his own merits. He hated the ground at Turfway and his race in the Blue Grass wasn't that bad. And number three, he will only run if I find him in great form. I want to see how he moves over the track. When I ran Lion Heart last year, everyone said he couldn't stay a mile and a quarter."

So, although it looks as if Spanish Chestnut is heading for the Derby, we'll have to wait until Monday to find out for sure. If he does run, you can bet people will still think he's in there to torpedo George Steinbrenner's big, bay battleship and anyone else planning to wing it out on the lead.

"We're not hiding anything," Biancone said. "Everyone knows my horse is going to the front. He's a fast, tough horse with plenty of seasoning, and you don't need to be the best horse, only the best horse on May 7. It's like the cat and the rat. Sometimes the cat wins and sometimes the rat wins."

When asked which one Spanish Chestnut was – the cat or the rat -- Biancone replied, "I'll have to think about that one."

Another decision that likely will raise more than a few eyebrows is D. Wayne Lukas' plan to run Going Wild, a one-time promising colt whose career has suddenly veered off course following two dreadful performances. But he, like Spanish Chestnut, has a date with the Churchill Downs starter on May 7, even though his owners, Bob and Beverly Lewis, have a legitimate shot with Consolidator, who is always on or near the lead.

Lukas said Going Wild was inexplicably listless in the Wood Memorial (gr. I), in which he was beaten 41 lengths, and couldn't handle the sloppy Keeneland surface in the Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II). So, he likely will give him another chance to redeem himself. That will add yet another horse with speed to the mix, one who interestingly has a similar running style to his stablemate. Lukas has always been a big believer in this colt's ability, and he obviously has totally discarded those last two races. How the decision will affect the outcome of the Derby, and the colt's future, is anyone's guess.

In Other Derby News

-- Thursday's two wild workers, Greater Good and Greeley's Galaxy, both came out their unusual moves in good shape. Exercise rider Mikki Fincher, who was aboard Greeley's Galaxy, said the son of Mr. Greeley/sr> was feeling good this morning, but she was still sore from the one-mile-plus ordeal.

Bob Holthus, trainer of Greater Good, said the son of Intidab   also was in excellent shape this morning following his bout with pre-work rankness. "After watching the work on TV last night, he still went the last quarter in :26, so he got something out it," Holthus said. "I think we'll just gallop him into the race. He's (jockey John McKee) just gonna' have to grab hold of him coming out of the gate. Before, he didn't have to do that. But we'll get him figured out."

-- Today's rain forced Nick Zito to bring out his three Derby horses, Bellamy Road, High Fly, and Noble Causeway, later than usual (Sun King and Andromeda's Hero worked yesterday). When the rain finally stopped around 7:30, Bellamy Road came out for a good gallop, giving a couple of little slips on the slick track. It was good to finally see this grand-looking colt in daylight. He has such long, powerful strides, Zito said all he wants is for him to have a clear run in the Derby and not get stopped. High Fly has been tough in some of his gallops, and should be pretty sharp coming off a five-week layoff, as will Noble Causeway.

-- Afleet Alex returned to his dual-training schedule, coming out a little after 6 o'clock for an easy jog, then returning following the renovation break for a once-around gallop. He skipped over the slop as if he'd been running on it all his life, showing once again that there is nothing that bothers this horse. Whatever you want him to do, he does, pure and simple. There is no doubt they found a gem when they picked out this horse.

-- Bandini and Coin Silver again came out in the first set at 6 o'clock, as did Consolidator. For the past two days, the horses have had to circle for several minutes, waiting for the track to open, and Bandini has not raised a hair. Judging from his races and his behavior, it looks as if this one-time juvenile delinquent has finally grown up into a mature professional.

-- Wilko is scheduled to work at Hollywood Park Saturday, then fly to Louisville on Sunday. He will take up residence in the barn of Wally Dollase, whose son, Craig, trains the son of Awesome Again  .

-- Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner Buzzards Bay will work six furlongs at Santa Anita Monday, then ship to Churchill on Wednesday.

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