Mark Valeski out, Optimizer joins Derby field

Trainer Larry Jones removed Mark Valeski from Kentucky Derby consideration on Tuesday morning, opening a slot for the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Optimizer, who was waiting on the graded-earnings bubble for several days.

Trainer Larry Jones said that while Mark Valeski is in fine health, Monday's five-furlong workout in 1:00.20 did not convince him the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby and Grade 2 Risen Star runner-up was ready to face this year's especially talented Kentucky Derby field.

"We really were looking for a 'wow' work and we don't think Mark gave us that feeling that Believe You Can did," Jones said, referring to his Kentucky Oaks candidate. "When you go in you've got be ready to tackle the bears. This is the Derby.

"He's not coming in the way Hard Spun did. He's not telling me like (Eight Belles did that, 'Boy, this is going to be the best race of my career.' We feel like it could have been his best race so far, but we feel like he's going to have even better races coming up."

In other years, Jones said, Mark Valeski could have been competitive, but the 2012 group is just too talented.

"This is a very deep field. We feel like we belong with them, but there's going to be a horse that runs 15th that's a very good horse. It's not like you just go out there and hope that if Union Rags gets a bad trip then we win. What with Gemologist, Bodemeister, Alpha, Take Charge Indy, somebody's going to get a good trip other than just, say, Mark Valeski."

A Brereton Jones homebred, Mark Valeski will be rerouted to the Grade 2 Peter Pan at Belmont Park a week after the Derby, according to his trainer.

"Brereton is not eaten up with 'Derby Fever,'" the trainer noted. "He wants to win it, and that was one of the things he said with Proud Spell, that he wants to win the Oaks and the Derby. But we feel like we'll win the Derby a different year.

"We've opted that we're going to go to the (Grade 2) Peter Pan (at Belmont Park) next Saturday and give him a shot there. He hasn't won a prep -- he's been a neck and a nose from winning two major preps -- but we think it's in his best interest to go there."

The 1 1/8-mile Peter Pan could lead to a start in the third Triple Crown event, the $1 million Belmont Stakes on June 9.

"We want other things from Mark down the road," Jones added. "We do feel like he's a Derby horse, but we don't feel like he's a Derby horse this Saturday. Two weeks from now we may have that Derby horse and he may still show up at the Belmont.

It's just not worth it right now. I think he's going to get better.

Optimizer, a Bluegrass Hall homebred, will look to rebound from a disappointing ninth behind Bodemeister in the Grade I Arkansas Derby.

He placed in the Grade 2 With Anticipation on turf and the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity on Polytrack as a two-year-old, but he's raced strictly on dirt this season for Lukas, posting a sixth in the Smarty Jones Stakes and a ninth in the Risen Star before a fast-finishing second in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park March 17.

Multiple graded stakes-placed My Adonis is now 21st on the graded earnings list.

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