Sunday, April 26, 2009

Derby trainers begin plotting tactics


With less than a week to go before the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1), trainers of this year’s probable starters have begun to shift their focus from their charges’ final preparations for the race to how they want their horses to run the race.

All trainers said that they would not have an exact idea for the trips they are hoping their horses get until post positions are selected on Wednesday.

“The owner [David Lanzman] really likes handicapping, so I’ll be discussing things with him and [jockey] Joe [Talamo] after the post draw,” said Jeff Mullins, trainer of I Want Revenge. “You always need a game plan, but you need some luck, too. The Derby is not always a race where the best horse wins.”

Saeed bin Suroor, trainer of Godolphin Racing’s Regal Ransom and Desert Party, who finished first and second, respectively, in the S & M al Naboodah United Arab Emirates Derby (UAE-G2) on March 28, called the Kentucky Derby the most difficult race in the world to win.

Regal Ransom is likely to be on the front part of the pace with Desert Party racing in midpack on May 2. Florida Derby Presented by Blackberry (G1) winner Quality Road’s participation, which depends on a Monday workout, could aid Regal Ransom’s chances on the front end, leaving questions about whether horses like Arkansas Derby (G2) winner Papa Clem or Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner Pioneerof the Nile might be closer to the early pace than they were in their most recent races.

“We just want to be in front at the finish,” said Bob Baffert, who trains Pioneerof the Nile for Zayat Stables.

“We thought we’d be in front in the Arkansas Derby, but [jockey] Rafael [Bejarano] didn’t make his move until the turn,” Papa Clem’s trainer Gary Stute said. “Then I was just praying that he wouldn’t hang.”

Kelly Breen, who trains Wood Memorial Stakes (G1) runner-up West Side Bernie, said that his horse would benefit from an outside post position and a clear run turning for home.

This year’s post position draw will follow a similar format as in recent years with an initial pill pull determining the order in which a starter’s connections will select their post position in a draft-style format. The draw begins at noon EDT on Wednesday.