LOUISVILLE KY. — LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Alydavid won the $88,875 Derby Trial at Churchill Downs yesterday, but his move may have been symbolic of his bid to enter the ranks of elite 3-year-olds: impressive, but late.
The Alydar colt, making just the fourth start of the career, overcame a troubled start and won by 2 1/2 lengths over Honor Grades. To Freedom, the even-money favorite, faded to seventh.
Trainer Phil Hauswald said before the race that a good effort in the 1-mile Trial might lead to a Derby berth. Hauswald got what he was looking for, then declined to fully commit himself to Saturday's 117th Kentucky Derby.
"I'll have to see how he comes out of it," said Hauswald. "We've sure got it in mind. It looks like a lot of what we've been thinking is coming to pass. We'll probably know something by Wednesday."
Alydavid was banged soundly by Big Al's Express soon after the start, then recovered quickly before rallying to win.
Pat Day rode Alydavid, who is now 3-for-4. But Day is committed to ride Corporate Report in the Derby, so Hauswald will be seeking another rider if Alydavid is to run Saturday.
Hauswald recognizes Alydavid's inexperience, which means the colt won't rank with the favorites if he runs in the Derby.
"That's sure something that obviously works against a young horse like this," said Hauswald.
Alydavid paid $9.80 as second choice in a field of 11. He finished in 1 minute, 36 2/5 seconds on a fast track.
The presence of Big Al's Express lent the Trial something of a circus atmosphere. The Maryland-bred colt, making his first start after a 2,600-mile van ride from California earlier in the week, drew the loudest cheers from the crowd as the field was led out of the paddock.
There was little, however, for trainer Thomas Allen to cheer about during the race. The colt showed brief speed while racing greenly, then dropped back to last halfway through the race. He continued to drop, finishing 14 lengths behind the 10th horse and 31 1/2 lengths behind Alydavid.
After the race, Allen was confused about what actually transpired. Because of similar jockeys' silks, he believed Big Al's Express was Discover, who rallied strongly to finish fourth.
Reality set in later -- for everyone but Allen, it seemed -- when Churchill officials quoted Oscar Swanstrom, the colt's attending veterinarian, as saying he treated the colt for "stress exhaustion" and had given him a dose of immediate-acting, anti-shock cortisone soon after the Trial.
"You can't let them go into shock when they exert this much," Swanstrom said.
Allen, however, said he "couldn't really say" about running Big Al's Express in the Derby -- although there is virtually no chance the colt will be allowed to start.
With Alydavid probably in, and Big Al out, this is how the Derby is shaping up: four favorites, two sleepers and 10 or so others, depending on what develops.
Mike Battaglia, Churchill oddsmaker and announcer, said yesterday that he will make Fly So Free the 2-1 program favorite. Battaglia has tentatively made Hansel 5-2, Strike the Gold 7-2 and Best Pal 4-1. Then comes Corporate Report and Sea Cadet (both 12-1), and the rest are big prices.
"It's a tough line to make, as far as putting the top four in order," said Battaglia. "But after those four, there's a big drop."
Barring injuries, the only thing that would significantly alter the Derby outlook would be the late and unexpected entry of Olympio, the Arkansas Derby winner who is more highly regarded than his stablemate, Sea Cadet.
Trainer Ron McAnally, scheduled to arrive tomorrow, will have both colts stabled at Churchill but apparently plans to enter only Sea Cadet, third in the Santa Anita Derby in his last start, with Olympio waiting for the Preakness.
NOTES: Rodney Rash, 31, saddled runner-up Honor Grades -- who won't go in the Derby -- in his training debut. Rash worked for Hall of Fame trainer Charlie Whittingham for 16 years before going out on his own several weeks ago. Rash is from Woodbine in Carroll County. . . . Hauswald, 32, has run 2 horses in the Derby: Bachelor Beau (14th in 1986), and Demons Begone, who failed to finish when bleeding from the nostrils as the favorite in 1987. . . . A decision on Green Alligator's Derby status is due today after a 7-furlong workout, trainer Murray Johnson said. . . . The Trial was run in a light rain. Precipitation is forecast for the next 2 days. . . . Nick Zito, trainer of Strike the Gold, should be the Mr. Quote of this Derby. After Strike the Gold worked 5 furlongs in 1 minute on Friday, Zito said: "Everybody sees how good the horse is. It's just up to the Man upstairs now." . . . You want big fields? On yesterday's 10-race Churchill program, the fields numbered 12, 10, 12, 12, 9, 9, 10, 9, 11 and 10.