Lukas presence will be felt at Derby again
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Just last weekend, D. Wayne Lukas was still looking for a horse to enter in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.
Now he has two — Scrimshaw and Ten Cents a Shine.
“I never felt any pressure. I’m supposed to get here,” said Lukas, back at the Derby for the 22nd time in the past 23 years. “I’m not surprised. We’ve stayed pretty positive.”
So has Bob Baffert, the winning trainer in three of the past six Derbies. While an injury to 2-year-old champion Vindication knocked his best prospect off the trail in February, Baffert will still have two Derby starters — Indian Express and Kafwain. He could have a third in Senor Swinger, but the colt is likely to start in a grass race Friday at Churchill Downs.
“Losing Vindication was very tough — he was my star,” said Baffert, who won the Derby and Preakness with Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998 and War Emblem in 2002. “But you can’t look back. If the Bulls lost Michael Jordan, they’d go on and keep playing. You deal with it and hope you get there.”
Bobby Frankel is here, too, with perhaps the strongest pair of 3-year-olds since Calumet Farms sent out Citation and Coaltown to a 1-2 finish in the 1948 Derby. The Hall of Fame trainer looking for his first Derby win will saddle expected favorite Empire Maker, winner of the Florida Derby and Wood Memorial, and Peace Rules, winner of the Louisiana Derby and Blue Grass Stakes.
“I think we’re in really good shape,” said Frankel after both colts put in final workouts Sunday morning.
Even though three of the most well-known trainers are Derby bound, a likely field of up to 19 will be missing some familiar names — both equine and human.
Besides Vindication, other Derby contenders knocked off the trail due to injury include Badge of Silver, the filly Composure, Man Among Men, Sky Mesa and Toccet.
On the trainers side, two-time Derby winner Nick Zito will miss the race for the second year in a row. Zito ranks eighth on the Derby starters list with 12 — two behind Baffert (14 after Saturday) and 29 behind all-time leader Lukas (41 after Saturday).
“We’ll just do a better job of recruiting for next year,” said Zito, who won the 1991 Derby with Strike the Gold and the ’94 Derby with Go For Gin.
Todd Pletcher won’t have a starter, either, despite leading all trainers with 28 early Derby nominations. Three of his colts — Aristocat, Indy Dancer and Lion Tamer — didn’t run well enough in their final preps to merit a Derby start.
Out of the Derby picture for the first time in five years is Dubai’s Sheik Mohammed, who led all owners with 19 Derby nominations. Inamorato was his best hope, but the colt finished third in the UAE Derby on March 29.
On Derby day, though, it’s who’s in that counts. So here’s a brief look at the definites (as of Sunday):
Atswhatimtalknbout — A son of 1992 Horse of the Year A.P. Indy partly owned by movie directors Steven Spielberg, Gary Ross and Frank Marshall, the colt will try to become the second unraced 2-year-old to win the Derby.
Brancusi — With only a maiden win in seven starts, the son of Deputy Commander will be ridden by 23-year-old Tony Farina, trying to become the first rider to win in his Derby debut since Ronnie Franklin aboard Spectacular Bid in 1979.
Buddy Gil — Comes into Derby off three straight wins, including the Santa Anita Derby. One of two geldings; Funny Cide is the other. The last gelding to win the Derby was Clyde Van Dusen in 1929.
Domestic Dispute — Would Baffert let a Derby contender leave his barnâ¢ The colt moved into Paddy Gallagher’s care Sunday after being sold for an undisclosed amount. A winner of the Santa Catalina on Jan. 18, the chestnut has finished fifth, fifth and third in his last three races.
Empire Maker — The class of the field may go off as the shortest price favorite since Arazi in 1992. The son of 1990 Derby winner Unbridled out of a mare who produced four Grade 1 stakes winners also has Hall of Fame connections in Frankel and jockey Jerry Bailey.
Funny Cide — The gelding will attempt to become the first New York-bred to win the Derby.
Indian Express — The bay colt may be the first Utah-bred to run in the Derby. His first two starts were sprint wins in Panama before he was moved to Baffert’s barn. He finished second in the Santa Anita Derby.
Kafwain — One of the most consistent horses in the race, the son of Cherokee Run has four wins in 11 starts.
Offlee Wild: Trained by T.V. Smith, the son of 1984 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Wild Again was third in the Blue Grass behind Peace Rules and Brancusi.
Outta Here: California-based colt was fourth in the UAE Derby on March 29, his only start this year. The last horse to win the Derby off one 3-year-old race was Bold Venture in 1936.
Peace Rules: Frankel made a brilliant call to take the chestnut colt off the grass and run him in the Louisiana Derby. He won that and then took the Blue Grass for his fifth win in eight starts.
Scrimshaw: With a win in the Lexington Stakes on April 19, the son of Gulch gave Lukas a Derby starter.
Sir Cherokee: Earned his Derby shot with a win in the Arkansas Derby at odds of 55-1.
Supah Blitz: Finished second in the Aventura on April 5, and will be ridden by Rosemary Homeister Jr., the fifth female to ride in the Derby.
Ten Cents a Shine: Despite finishing eighth in the Blue Grass, the colt’s workout Sunday convinced Lukas to enter him. Formerly trained by Ken McPeek, the colt will be ridden by Cornelio Velasquez.
Ten Most Wanted: The Illinois Derby winner is trained by Wally Dollase and will be ridden by Hall of Famer Pat Day.