- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 7, 2006

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Throughout the early part of the year, Bluegrass Cat was one of the Kentucky Derby favorites. But sub-par efforts in the Tampa Bay Derby and Blue Grass Stakes — second and fourth, respectively, as the favorite — made him a 30-1 long shot yesterday.

But in what could be a sign of things to come this spring/summer, Bluegrass Cat had his best race since winning the Remsen last fall, finishing second to Barbaro in the Derby.

Bluegrass Cat, with rider Ramon Dominguez aboard for the injured John Velazquez, stalked the leaders. He was eighth after the opening quarter mile and made his biggest move around the turn, advancing from fifth to second.

“I couldn’t get a better trip than I got today,” Dominguez said. “He came out running and put himself within four or five lengths of the leaders. He got himself a lot closer than I anticipated. I was hoping Barbaro wouldn’t kick in the way he actually did.”

It was trainer Todd Pletcher’s second runner-up finish. Invisible Ink took second in 2001.

“One of these days we’re going to come over here with the right horse and get it done,” said Pletcher, whose other horse, Keyed Entry, finished last. “I know we had Bluegrass Cat prepared the right way.”

Closers fare well

Steppenwolfer and Jazil showed that closers still rule over speedsters at the Derby. The two horses combined to gain 23 positions over the final half of the race to finish third and tied for fourth, respectively.

The opening quarter time of 22.63 seconds helped the chances of the closers and doomed the front-runners. Early leaders Sinister Minister and Keyed Entry ended up 16th and 20th.

“He ran the race I thought he was going to run,” Steppenwolfer trainer Danny Peitz said. “We saved all the ground but we just couldn’t reel Barbaro in.”

Said Jazil trainer Kiaran McLaughlin: “We ran fourth against a very good horse and maybe a star horse.”

Early favorites labor

The two horses who were the morning-line favorites were never a factor. Brother Derek had a wacky race and finished tied for fourth; Lawyer Ron was a distant 12th.

Ninth after a half-mile, Brother Derek was 16th entering the final quarter-mile but passed 12 horses.

“He ran a real credible fourth,” trainer Dan Hendricks said. “I think we’ll have a lot better chance in the Preakness, where we can utilize our speed a little bit.”

Lawyer Ron, who entered with six consecutive wins, was never better than sixth in the Derby.

“He just didn’t have any punch turning for home,” trainer Bob Holthus said. “That’s the first time he has ever run that way.”

Sharp Humor doesn’t fire

Throughout the week, trainer Dale Romans said his horse, Sharp Humor, would be on the lead early. But the colt was third after the first quarter mile and quickly fell to ninth. He finished 19th.

“He just wasn’t himself today,” Romans said. “We were in good position coming down the lane [at the start of the race]. But around the first turn, he started moving out a little bit and he was never really back in the race.”

Late run at the window

Sweetnorthernsaint was the post-time favorite at 5.50-1. Because so much money is wagered on-track at the Derby, new odds are posted every hour starting at noon. Sweetnorthernsaint was 10-1 on the morning line and closed Friday at 7-1, the co-second choice. His price was 6-1 from noon to 2 p.m. and 7-1 from 3 to 5 p.m. before he was bet down in the hour leading up to the race. The longest shot in the field was Deputy Glitters (60-1) and he finished eighth. … Trainer Bob Baffert remains in search of a fourth Derby victory. His three horses finished out of the money: Point Determined was ninth, Sinister Minister 16th and Bob and John 17th. “We weren’t going to beat the winner — he was awesome,” Baffert said.

Trainers John Shirreffs and Barclay Tagg couldn’t make it 2-for-2 in their Kentucky Derby careers. Shirreffs, who won with 50-1 long-shot Giacomo, saw A.P. Warrior finish a distant 18th. Tagg won the ‘03 Derby with Funny Cide and his undefeated Showing Up finished sixth. …

The record for largest Derby victory is eight lengths and held by four horses: Old Rosebud (1914), Johnstown (1934), Whirlaway (1941) and Assault (1946).

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