Dehere fails to break Derby hex

March 06, 1994|By Ross Peddicord | Ross Peddicord,Sun Staff Writer

When Dehere fractured a hind leg last week and was forced out of action, he became the 15th straight 2-year-old champion to either miss the Kentucky Derby or fail to win the race.

During the past decade and a half, such preciosity as a young horse has meant almost certain failure at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.

The last juvenile title holder to win the Kentucky classic was Spectacular Bid, 2-year-old champion in 1978 and eventual Derby winner the next year.

Since then the best a 2-year-old champion could do was finish second -- Forty Niner in 1988 and Easy Goer in 1989.

In fact, eight of the 15 most recent 2-year-old champions didn't make it to the Derby, including Lord Avie, Deputy Minister, Roving Boy, Devil's Bag, Tasso, Rhythm, Gilded Time and now Dehere.

In Dehere's case, history repeats itself. His sire, Deputy Minister, suffered a similar injury after his 1981 2-year-old championship season. He missed the classics, but came back at 4 and won the Donn Handicap, the Tom Fool Stakes and the Gulfstream Sprint Championship before being retired and becoming a leading sire.

Like his son, Dehere, Deputy Minister is owned by Robert Brennan's Due Process Stable, which means the New Jersey financier has struck out twice on the road to the Triple Crown with a juvenile champion.

Only a handful of the 30 major Derby preps listed in an accompanying chart, have been run this year. The 1993 Derby winner Sea Hero won none of them. But he is a recent exception. During the past five years, other future Derby winners scored in the Jim Beam Stakes (Lil E. Tee), Blue Grass Stakes (Strike the Gold), Florida Derby (Unbridled) and Santa Anita Derby (Sunday Silence).

The Florida Derby, run on Saturday, is expected to bring together such horses as Holy Bull, Go For Gin, Ride The Rails, Crary, Halo's Image, Canaveral and Robannier.

After that, action swings to four different circuits -- Kentucky (Jim Beam and Blue Grass Stakes), Midwest (Remington Park and Arkansas derbies), New York (Gotham and Wood Memorial Stakes) and California (Santa Anita and California derbies).

So far, no dominant star has emerged although Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner, Brocco, is the Las Vegas winter book favorite to win the race. Like last year, the Derby picture appears wide-open.

Locals eye preps

Trainer Carlos Garcia thought he had seen everything.

But even he admitted that when his Triple Crown nominee, Can't Be Denied, fell in a sinkhole last Thursday and scraped a heel at Laurel Race Course, it was one of the more bizarre incidents he had experienced.

The horse was jogging around the barn area when the ground collapsed beneath him. One of the horse's legs fell into the hole, but he quickly snapped it out.

"There was a tunnel about a foot and half deep underneath where the ground caved in," Garcia said. "It was filled with water that had to be pumped out. Then the area was filled back in with dirt."

The horse was scratched from the Cherry Hill Mile on Friday night, but the race later was canceled.

Garcia plans to work Can't Be Denied either tomorrow or Tuesday. "Then if he comes out of that OK, we'll ship him to Kentucky and run him in the Battaglia Memorial [at Turfway Park on March 19]," Garcia said.

Trainer Dick Small has indicated that he will also run his double Laurel stakes winner, Looming, in the same race. But his assistant, Brenda Jordan, said yesterday that the horse might go directly to the April 2, $600,000 Jim Beam Stakes. "He's feeling so good, I just hope we can hold him on the ground until then," she said.

Jerry Robb, trainer of Run Alden, who missed the Cherry Hill Mile when it was canceled, said he has no Kentucky aspirations for his horse.

"I'll keep him in Maryland-bred company and plan to run him on the 19th [of March] in the Goss Stryker Stakes at Laurel," he said. The Stryker is a sprint for state breds.

Small has two other Triple Crown hopefuls, Concern and Barge In, at Oaklawn Park. Concern could go in a series of 3-year-old stakes at Remington Park in Oklahoma City or compete at Oaklawn in a similar series leading up to the April 23 Arkansas Derby. Barge In, who bled in his past race in the Maryland Juvenile Championship at Laurel, has yet to start this year. But he could also be an Arkansas Derby possibility.

Forry Cow How sidelined

Maryland Million Classic winner Forry Cow How has torn cartilage in his knee and will be out for much of the rest of 1994, said his owners, Eddie and Binnie Houghton.

The horse worked at Laurel about two weeks ago, but came back sore.

He was examined at New Bolton Center in Kennett Square, Pa., where the injury was diagnosed. The Houghtons said the horse might return to training in the fall.

Steeplechase reeling?

Charlie Fenwick Jr., Maryland's leading steeplechase trainer, said he doesn't feel the demise of the $250,000 Breeders' Cup Steeplechase is necessarily "a death knell" for the sport.

"To me, the race was always a square peg in a round hole," Fenwick said.

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