LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Gwen Rynkiewicz, assistant trainer at Laurel Race Course for Bob Camac, plucked two roses off the garland thrown over the neck of Kentucky Derby winner Lil E. Tee.
"These are for Larry Littman," Rynkiewicz said.
Littman, who owns a farm in Pennington, N.J., bred Lil E. Tee and is one of Camac's regular clients.
"In fact, we had a real nice filly for him, Graceful Lil, that we ran in Maryland," Rynkiewicz said. "Howard Wolfendale claimed her off us. But then she cracked a sesamoid, and Howard gave her back to Mr. Littman, for free."
All of Littman's horses have "Lil," the initials of Lawrence I. Littman, somewhere in their names.
"Mary told me that Lil E. Tee was so ugly and gangly when he was a foal that they named him after E.T. [the extraterrestrial creature in the Steven Spielberg movie].
"He was prone to colic and had several feet of his intestine removed after one serious colic bout," Rynkiewicz said.
Littman apparently thought Lil E. Tee didn't have much of a future and sold the colt as a yearling in Florida for $2,000.
That background bears little resemblance to the Lil E. Tee that trainer Lynn Whiting knows.
"This is a big, scopey colt, and, when we bought him last fall as a 2-year-old, we thought he could be any kind of horse," Whiting said.
Whiting stood outside Barn 18 on the Churchill Downs backstretch yesterday, savoring his Kentucky Derby victory.
"Mr. [W. Cal] Partee is always looking for quality horses," Whiting said, referring to the principal owner. "We heard about a colt in Florida named I'm Big Leaguer. He broke his maiden at Calder Race Course in 1:11 2/5, which is a fast time over that track.
"I had sent the chart of the race to Mr. Partee, and he noticed that Lil E. Tee, who finished second in the race, is sired by his stallion At The Threshold.
"I trained At The Threshold [who was third in the 1984 Kentucky Derby], and Mr. Partee still owns 100 percent of him. He stands at Airdrie Stud near Lexington.
"Anyway, Mr. Partee asked me to find out if Lil E. Tee was for sale. The only thing wrong with him was that he had problematic shins."
Partee bought the colt for $200,000 and shipped him to Whiting at Churchill Downs.
"I used a strong firing paint on his shins for 15 days and then repeated the procedure," Whiting said. "I also used cold boot therapy for 60 days. I haven't had a problem with his shins since."
Whiting said the colt wasn't mentally prepared to run in stakes as a 2-year-old. He won and finished second in two allowance races at Churchill Downs last fall.
Whiting took the colt to Fair Grounds in New Orleans for the first part of the winter, then had him ready to run at Oaklawn Park in February.
"Mr. Partee is from Arkansas, so we race there every winter and spring," Whiting said.
Lil E. Tee won a sprint allowance, finished third in the Southwest Stakes, then won the Jim Beam Stakes at Turfway Park and finished second in the Arkansas Derby before his victory Saturday.
Whiting said the colt peaked last week in Louisville.
"But winning the Kentucky Derby is not going to change my style," Whiting said. "I'm going to stay focused on the horse and let the chips fall where they may."
* At the same time Whiting was meeting with reporters at Churchill Downs, Allen Paulson, co-owner of Arazi, was consulting with trainer Francois Boutin at his Brookside Farm in Versailles, Ky.
Paulson later released a statement at the track. He said it isn't likely that Arazi will try for the Epsom Derby, but might point for the French Derby, which is run in Paris in mid-June.
A veterinarian at the horse's barn yesterday injected Arazi's knees with an anti-inflammatory agent and gave him "a jug," a vitamin mixture administered intravenously.
The horse was examined after the Derby, and it was determined he did not bleed. The attending veterinarian also said Arazi is sound and that the knee injections are strictly precautionary.
Arazi was scheduled to leave Standiford Field in Louisville last night and return to Boutin's training headquarters in France.