- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 6, 2006

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — At the other end of Barn 42 this week, the trainers for Barbaro, Brother Derek and Sweetnorthernsaint were drawing attention and rightly so. Each horse won his final prep race and are considered serious contenders in today’s Kentucky Derby.

Not getting as many requests was Steppenwolfer trainer Danny Peitz. But those who did visit his end of the barn found a relaxed conditioner confident things could go exactly his way.

In a race that on paper features a ton of early speed, Steppenwolfer is a closer.

“Other trainers have questions about their horses’ pre-race demeanor, how they’re going to get them relaxed when they’ve shown early speed and if they can make the distance,” Peitz said. “I don’t have any of those questions in my mind. It’s nice. I don’t have to worry about that stuff. I just have to get him over there and hope he runs the same race he’s been running.”

Steppenwolfer — named after the band — hasn’t won since Feb.3, finishing second, third and second in his last three races — all won by Lawyer Ron. But he has gained 11 combined positions in the last half of those three races, suggesting that the extra furlong today will be right up his alley.

“Will he be good enough to win? I don’t know,” Peitz said. “But I think he’ll get a big piece of things.”

Owner having blast

Baltimore resident Ted Theos, co-owner of the Laurel-based Sweetnorthernsaint, has owned thoroughbreds since 1985. Today will be his first Kentucky Derby.

“It’s a thrill,” he said earlier this week. “It cannot be explained. You have to be in the race to feel what I’m feeling.”

Theos drove with his wife, Linda, to Louisville on Monday. Co-owner Joseph Balsamo also will be in attendance.

Theos and Balsamo have five horses in training and five 2-year olds at a farm in Ocala, Fla.

Theos, 58, was born in Cephalonia, Greece, to an American father and Greek mother. He came to the United States in 1966 and earned his living in real estate and restaurants.

Desormeaux seeks No. 3

If Sweetnorthernsaint wins today, Kent Desormeaux will become the eighth jockey in Derby history with three or more wins. Desormeaux won with Real Quiet in 1998 for trainer Bob Baffert and Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000 for trainer Neil Drysdale.

“Real Quiet would run all day — he was a one-pace, steady run-for-you-all-the-time horse,” Desormeaux said. “Fusaichi Pegasus would go from 0 to 100 anytime I asked. He was a multiple-geared horse. He’s probably still the most talented horse I’ve ever rode.”

Real Quiet came within a photo finish of winning the Triple Crown.

Jockeys with at least three Derby wins: Eddie Arcaro and Bill Hartack (five apiece), Bill Shoemaker (four) and Angel Cordero Jr., Gary Stevens, Isaac Murphy and Earl Sande (three).

Down the stretch

Trainers Barclay Tagg (Showing Up) and John Shirreffs (A.P. Warrior) can join Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons and Henry Forrest as the only trainers to win the Derby with their first two Derby starters. Tagg won with Funny Cide in 2003, Shirreffs last year with Giacomo. …

Trainer Bob Baffert (Point Determined, Sinister Minister and Bob and John) can become the fourth with four or more wins, joining Ben Jones (six) and D. Wayne Lukas and Dick Thompson (four). …

A win by Sweetnorthernsaint would make him the second winner, joining War Emblem in 2002, to use the Illinois Derby as a final prep race. Since 1980, only nine horses have run in the Illinois and Kentucky events.

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