Scotty Schulhofer's got the horse right here. And here. And here.
The day after Fly So Free won the Florida Derby March 16 -- maintaining his role as solid favorite for the Kentucky Derby -- two other Schulhofer-trained colts enhanced their status for the May 4 classic.
Scan finished second in the San Felipe Stakes. And Cahill Road won an allowance race at Gulfstream Park in fast time, moving jockey Craig Perret to say, "He's a Derby horse."
With less than six weeks before the Derby, Schulhofer, 64, finds himself in an enviable position. In polls conducted among turf writers across the country, Fly So Free is virtually everyone's No. 1, and Cahill Road and Scan have become entrenched in top 10s.
It's because things have workedout beautifully for the three Schulhofer runners. Fly So Free is 3-for-3 this year, with one more start before the Derby.
Cahill Road, a full brother to 1990 Derby winner Unbridled, is untested against stakes company, but his 3-for-4 record in conditioned races has him right on schedule. His pre-Derby agenda is two more starts -- in the Preview Stakes and a yet-to-be-determined race at Keeneland.
Scan started slowly after shipping to California for a winter campaign, but his latest effort was his best. His last race before going to Churchill Downs will be the Santa Anita Derby.
The Santa Anita Derby on April 6 is probably the most critical steppingstone. A respectable race from as many as six horses could yield a ticket to Louisville. The race has been the final prep for three of the past five Derby winners, and the top threats to Fly So Free should emerge from it.
One California runner, Apollo, is avoiding the Santa Anita free-for-all and has left for Turfway Park in Northern Kentucky. Apollo is one of the favorites in Saturday's $500,000 Jim Beam Stakes, the biggest Derby prep this weekend. The colt would have been ridden by Kent Desormeaux, but after Desormeaux suffered a broken wrist in a spill March 17, Chris McCarron was named to replace him.
McCarron, like Schulhofer, is enjoying a bountiful pre-Derby period. He rode Dinard, Sea Cadet and Excavate to victory in each of their most recent respective outings. But, unlike fTC Schulhofer, McCarron will have to make a choice among his horses. After winning on Sea Cadet in the San Felipe, he said he loved having to make such decisions, then said he would defer a decision on a Santa Anita Derby mount as long as possible. Dinard is McCarron's likeliest choice, with Eddie Delahoussaye the probable replacement on Sea Cadet.
April 6 should be the most conclusive day for Derby preps. The Santa Anita Derby, Preview and Gotham Stakes will be contested that day.
Schulhofer, meanwhile, is holding the strongest hand. If he runs all of his colts in the Derby, however, don't look for a three-ply entry -- they are owned by separate entities. After the 1988 Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs, where trainer D. Wayne Lukas ran a five-filly entry in a race, Kentucky state law was revised to allow horses with the same trainer but separate owners to run uncoupled in the wagering.