- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 5, 2009

Pioneerof the Nile and I Want Revenge are headed to next month’s Kentucky Derby as early favorites. The Pamplemousse won’t be joining them in Louisville.

The colt with the three-race winning streak will be sidelined indefinitely because of a lesion in his left front leg, which will keep him out of the May 2 Derby.

The Pamplemousse was scratched hours before Saturday’s $750,000 Santa Anita Derby, in which he was the 9-5 morning line favorite. Pioneerof the Nile went on to win by a length in Arcadia, Calif.

A pre-race examination showed heat in The Pamplemousse’s front left leg, and more exams Sunday revealed the lesion on the tendon.

“He has a small lesion and we’ll do the best thing by the horse,” said Alex Solis II, one of the colt’s co-owners. “The Pamplemousse will run again. His time off will be indefinite, but it will be longer than six months.”

Solis, whose father Alex rides The Pamplemousse, said the colt will run again.

“He’s not finished, but he will not run in the Kentucky Derby. We’ll evaluate and see how much time he needs,” the younger Solis said.

The Pamplemousse had three wins in five career starts, including victories in the San Rafael and Sham stakes that had made him a leading Kentucky Derby contender.

For the time being, Solis said the horse would remain with trainer Julio Canani at Santa Anita.

Things looked much more promising Sunday for Pioneerof the Nile and I Want Revenge, who each came out of their preps in good shape.

Trainer Bob Baffert said Pioneerof the Nile will depart for Louisville on April 14. Baffert is a three-time Derby winner, but he hasn’t saddled a starter in the opening leg of the Triple Crown since 2006.

“It’s exciting to be back on the road to the Derby,” the white-haired trainer said. “It puts a spring back in your step.”

Pioneerof the Nile gave Baffert his record fifth Santa Anita Derby victory, breaking a tie with Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

With both front-running The Pamplemousse and rabbit Z Day scratched, Pioneerof the Nile didn’t have a target to run at in Saturday’s race. The colt that favors a come-from-behind style briefly charged to the lead on the backstretch before giving it up and then regaining it in the stretch.

“I’m figuring out his style as we go along,” Baffert said. “I learned a lot from that horse yesterday. You get a little bit out of each race, and it prepares me for the Derby, so I’m really happy with my situation right now.”

Garrett Gomez has ridden Pioneerof the Nile in each of his four victories, but he’s also ridden Florida Derby runner-up Dunkirk for trainer Todd Pletcher, who hopes to make the 20-horse Derby field despite marginal graded stakes earnings.

Baffert said he hasn’t thought about whether Gomez will be his Derby jockey.

The trainer caught I Want Revenge’s performance in Saturday’s $750,000 Wood Memorial, in which the colt got caught flat-footed at the start, trailed the field and then got through a wall of horses to win by 1 1/2 lengths.

“That horse ran a really great race,” Baffert said. “It just shows you the quality of horses in California is very strong. This is a tough (Kentucky) Derby field. There are six or eight strong contenders. I’m just glad I’m part of the top five.”

Santa Anita Derby runner-up Chocolate Candy came out of the race well and is headed to Louisville, although a departure date hasn’t been set, according to Dan Ward, assistant to trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.

Take the Points, Pletcher’s horse who finished fourth in the Santa Anita Derby, will join the rest of the trainer’s Southern California string in heading back East for the spring. Pletcher’s assistant, Mike McCarthy, said there are no immediate plans for Take the Points.

At New York’s Aqueduct, California-based I Want Revenge showed no ill effects of his troubled trip in the Wood.

“He came out of the race real well,” trainer Jeff Mullins said. “We had him out this morning, went over him from head to toe, and everything looks good.”

I Want Revenge is headed to Churchill Downs on Monday, and Mullins plans to join him there after returning to California for two days.

West Side Bernie, second behind I Want Revenge, is headed to Kentucky, but fourth-place finisher Atomic Rain may be pointed toward the Preakness on May 16.

Like Baffert, trainer Jimmy Jerkens was impressed by how well I Want Revenge handled adversity in the Wood under 19-year-old jockey Joe Talamo.

“That kid rode that horse the only way you can ride them when they get left like that: He saved every inch of ground, didn’t rush his horse and let him put himself back in the race,” Jerkens said. “They were both impressive.”

Jerkens will saddle his first Kentucky Derby starter with Florida Derby winner Quality Road, who will arrive in Louisville on April 28.


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