The Derby Trial doesn't carry the importance it once did. As far as the Kentucky Derby is concerned, it now means virtually nothing.
From a bettors' standpoint, however, today's Trial at Churchill Downs in Louisville, Ky., is a good one. The one-mile race will be simulcast to Pimlico and the Laurel inter-track outlet, and although it attracted no true Derby contenders, it drew an interesting field of 12.
The most intriguing entrant is an unstarted colt Big Al's Express, whose co-owner is most hopeful. "The decision hasn't been made, but we are still looking to the [Kentucky] Derby," said Tommy Allen.
Since the colt hadn't passed a test out of the starting gate, he needed to be tested at Churchill Downs.
On Wednesday, Big Al's Express sat down in the gate stall. He passed his test Thursday and was allowed to be entered on the condition that he pass another test yesterday, which he did.
If there were last-place betting, Big Al's Express would likely be the pick. To Freedom is favored.
It has been eight years since a horse (Caveat) ran in the Trial, then finished in the money in the Derby and 17 years since a horse (Cannonade) won both.
Meanwhile, the Derby field should be about 14.
Trainer Ron McAnally apparently intends to play things day-to-day with his two Derby candidates. Jim Bolus, a Churchill spokesman, said yesterday that Sea Cadet will be flown from California on Monday and will join his stablemate, Olympio, in Kentucky. Bolus said McAnally appears to be leaning toward running Sea Cadet and waiting for the Preakness with Olympio.
NOTES: Turf racing at Pimlico was scheduled to begin two weeks ago but was rained out. So the $100,000 Gallorette Handicap kicks off the grass season today, with a solid field of eight fillies and mares entered. Miss Josh and Valay Maid are the favorites. . . . Par Halo, ridden by Mario Pino, led all the way to win the $22,000 Pimlico feature yesterday.