- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 3, 2006

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A maximum field of 20 horses is expected for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, leaving hopefuls Flashy Bull, Sunriver and Scared Light out of the race.

The field will be finalized during tonight’s post position draw. But even if a horse scratches out before Saturday, a replacement will not be allowed.

Only twice in the last 22 years — last year and 1984 — have 20 horses started the Derby. But the lure of the $2 million purse, the prestige of sipping a mint julep in the owner’s box and the depth of the 3-year-old division has produced a loaded field.

Trainer Todd Pletcher will have Bluegrass Cat and Keyed Entry in the Derby. But Sunriver has been away from the races since the Florida Derby on April 1.

“It isn’t looking good for him,” Pletcher said yesterday morning after the colt galloped 13/8 miles at Churchill Downs. “I’d love to get him in, but the way I see it right now, he’s not going to make it.”

When there are more than 20 Derby hopefuls, the field is decided by graded stakes earnings. Brother Derek leads with $1,114,980. Sunriver would need one horse to be removed from consideration because Mister Triester, who is 20th in earnings, has been removed from Derby consideration, opening a spot for Flashy Bull.

Brother Derek is expected to be the morning line favorite, followed by Lawyer Ron.

Draw key for Ron

Only the Triple Crown races feature strategy during the post position draw. A blind draw decides the order in which a horse’s connections can choose their starting position.

“The draw is especially key for us,” Lawyer Ron trainer Bob Holthus said. “I don’t want to be trapped down on the inside and I don’t want the 20 [post]. But if [we] get a bad draw, I won’t be throwing anything up in the air or against the wall.”

Most trainers prefer to start in the middle of the starting gate, so their horse won’t get pinched against the rail or have to try too hard to get from an outside gate to run a ground-saving trip.

“I don’t ever want the one hole — anytime, anywhere,” said Dale Romans, the trainer for Sharp Humor. “If you’re outside and break bad, you have time to recover. Inside, you have no shot to recover.”

Big jump for Cup

The eight-race Breeders’ Cup card Nov. 4 at Churchill Downs will have a combined purse of $20 million — a $6 million increase from last year.

Each race will be worth at least $2 million and the Classic — the showcase race of the day — had its purse increased from $4 million to $5 million.

The Breeders’ Cup, which attracts horses from around the world, was founded in 1984.

“We feel that these increases will further strengthen domestic and international participation in our races, which is vital for the expansion of the event,” said D.G. Van Clief Jr., Breeders’ Cup president.

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