- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 1, 2002

LOUISVILLE, Ky. The largest Kentucky Derby field in 18 years might prevent one of the top contenders from entering.
Sunday Break needs two withdrawals before today's post position draw to enter Saturday's 128th Derby. Considered one of the top choices after a narrow loss in the Wood Memorial on April 13, Sunday Break would be the first colt denied entry because of a filled gate since 1984.
Although the nation's most prestigious race often flirts with the limit, the lack of a strong favorite has caused the first maximum field since Swale's 1984 upset.
Mayakovsky might withdraw pending a morning workout at Churchill Downs. The 40-1 long shot's elimination would permit Windward Passage to enter, but Sunday Break would still miss. Trained by Neil Drysdale, whose Fusaichi Pegasus won the 2000 Derby, Sunday Break may opt for the Preakness Stakes on May 18 at Pimlico Race Course if denied.
Starters are based on graded stakes earnings, with no also-eligible list to compensate for potential late scratches. Sunday Break's dramatic late run for third in the Wood behind Buddha and Medaglia d'Oro, respectively, left Drysdale encouraged following three modest victories.
The trainer was uncharacteristically excited over Sunday Break's brisk workout yesterday despite knowing that the colt's chances of entering are slight. Still, Drysdale will pay the $15,000 entrance fee.
"He bounced around the track," Drysdale said. "If [entering] happens, it happens. There seems to always be some horses drop out as the race draws near."
Mayakovsky trainer Patrick Biancone said how the colt handles a short workout will determine his decision. Mayakovsky was withdrawn from the Derby Trial on April 27 because of a wet track, and the rain forecast for today could cancel the workout.
Harlan's Holiday is the expected favorite following strong victories in the Blue Grass Stakes on April 13 and Florida Derby on March 16. However, the lackluster group of contenders has resulted in many long shots seeking an upset. After all, Fusaichi Pegasus is the only winning favorite since 1979.
"It's a wide-open race," said Blue Burner trainer Bill Mott. "There's going to be a lot of traffic out there at a distance [1[1/4] miles] that many of these horses will never try again."
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas returns after a one-year absence with late-blossoming Proud Citizen, who won the Lexington Stakes on April 20. Lukas won his fourth Derby in 1999 with Charasmatic, who also took the Lexington.
"I think we went from 200-1 to a horse they're going to watch a little bit now," Lukas said. "We're going to get a little following."
Trainer Bob Baffert also was a surprise late entrant following his stable's April 23 purchase of War Emblem for $1million. Baffert's entrants have fared poorly since his victories with Silver Charm in 1997 and Real Quiet in 1998, but War Emblem's Illinois Derby victory on April 6 rates him among the top contenders.
"If this horse wins the Derby, it will be the best and shortest training job ever," Baffert said jokingly. "He's blooming now, and that reminds me of the way Real Quiet came up to the Derby. He's tough, but smart and has his little quirks. Whether he's good enough, you can't predict in a 20-horse field."
Meanwhile, Maryland trainer Bud Delp was elected to the Thoroughbred Racing Hall of Fame. The former conditioner of 1979 Kentucky Derby-Preakness winner Spectacular Bid has won 3,533 races worth $37.5million since his 1962 debut at Laurel Park.
"To be elected is truly overwhelming," Delp said.
Former Maryland jockey Kent Desormeaux was beaten out by Jack Westrope, who died in the 1958 Hollywood Oaks after a standout 26-year career. Maryland-bred Cigar, Serena's Song and Noor also were elected.


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