LAUREL -- "Should I zig, or should I zag?"
That is how Bill Donovan sums up the next few weeks, when he will be mapping out a stakes campaign for Dash For Dotty, a 3-year-old gelding.
The Richmond, Va.-born horseman trains the Triple Crown prospect for the family of well-known Baltimore businessman Henry Rosenberg.
Should they go for the Kentucky Derby on May 2 or avoid it?
The horse returns to Baltimore today after a four-month campaign in Florida, where the Calumet Farm-bred horse won three races in seven starts and placed in two stakes. He now has earned nearly $100,000 and will be stabled with the rest of Donovan's horses at Pimlico Race Course.
Dash For Dotty left Maryland in November as a maiden.
"We went down hoping to prove he is a nice horse, and I think we did," Donovan said. "We ran him pretty hard, found out he can run on anything from a fast track to the slop or on the grass and earned the respect of a nationally ranked jockey like Craig Perret."
Donovan said Perret told him: "Run this horse 1 1/8th miles anywhere in the country and I'll be there to ride him."
Dash For Dotty ran Monday in the $150,000 Ocala Breeders Sales Company Championship Stakes, and finished second, beaten by a nose, Donovan said. The 1 1/16th-mile race was carded for horses that had been purchased out of the Ocala sales and was run on the one-mile track at the OBS sales complex.
It was pretty restrictive company, but "he came from dead last and just got beat [by Greinton's Dancer]," Donovan said. "He doesn't want to start running until the half-mile pole, and then it's a question if he can get up in time."
That's the one persuasive point in considering a trip to the Derby: Dash For Dotty should love the 1 1/4 -mile distance.
"We are going to freshen him up, get him sharp, and then decide what's next," Donovan said. "We're nominated to the Jim Beam [at Turfway Park March 28] and the Blue Grass [at Keeneland April 11]. But, we're also eligible for a non-winners of three condition allowance race. We are going to take it step by step, not get too high on this horse and be realistic.
"I think Mr. Rosenberg wants to run in the Derby, and we want to keep our owners happy. But the main thing in racing is the horse. You have to do what's right for the horse."
Donovan will be augmenting his stable this week with six 2-year-olds being shipped from South Carolina. All are sired by Lost Code, the Donovan-trained runner that earned more than $2 million.
Donovan also has four other 2-year-olds, including two sired by Lost Code, in training at Helmore Farm in Lutherville.
NOTES: "We continue to be optimistic," track operator Joe De Francis said yesterday after the off-track betting bill passed the state Senate, 27-18. Two senators abstained. The bill now goes to the House of Delegates, where the Ways and Means committee could hold a hearing as early as next Tuesday. . . . Owner-trainer Nancy Alberts has been fined $500 by the Laurel stewards. Her horse, Jazema, tested positive for an excessive amount of Butazolidin after she won the ninth race last Thursday. Alberts originally bought the filly for $1. She was claimed out of the race by Elaine Bassford for $25,000. . . . A bill that eliminates workmen's compensation coverage for jockeys during morning training hours under the Maryland Jockey Injury Compensation Fund has been recommended for passage by a subcommittee of the House Judicial and Administrative Law committee. The jockeys will still be covered during the races in the afternoons by the Fund but will be covered in the mornings by an individual trainer's insurance policy. The move is expected to reduce blanket premiums now assessed to owners. . . . Ken and Diana Carlson, breeders of champion Maryland-bred Wide Country, were at Laurel yesterday to see their filly, Miss Carter, finish second to Broadway's Sister in the feature race. The Carlsons are breeding Bazooka Babe, the dam of Wide Country, to Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner, Alysheba, in Kentucky this spring.