Coronado's Quest perches atop "Derby Dozen" as precariously as a tufted titmouse clings to a pine tree during a hurricane.
And the Forty Niner colt owned by Stuart S. Janney III and trained by Shug McGaughey will probably remain there, barring a training setback, until the Florida Derby on March 14 at Gulfstream Park. But then, Coronado's Quest must flash Kentucky Derby promise -- or fall by the waste-side as many of those wonderfully bred, high-priced, faltering 3-year-olds trained by D. Wayne Lukas.
No, no, Coronado's Quest could never sink that low. But the message here is clear: If McGaughey believes the colt's temper tantrums are in the past, then let him begin the task of training the horse for the future. And the future, if we're not mistaken, is nine weeks from today, May 2, in the Kentucky Derby.
Coronado's Quest did not win the Fountain of Youth Stakes last Saturday at Gulfstream Park. But his improved deportment (McGaughey's word) and adequate performance (second place) in less-than-prime condition punched his ticket to the next round. And there, in the Florida Derby, the task becomes tougher.
Lil's Lad, dazzling winner of the Fountain of Youth, may find that out. Cape Town may have discovered it already. The Lukas-trainee ran last in the Fountain of Youth, and another Lukas colt, Time Limit, who has already run 11 times, faded to third in last weekend's Risen Star Stakes at the Fair Grounds.
Those two are Lukas' best in the East. His other potential first-stringers run in the West: Grand Slam, who continues his comeback from injury; Skeaping, slated for the El Camino Real Derby next Saturday at Bay Meadows, and Late Edition, who joins several Derby contenders tomorrow in the $200,000 San Rafael Stakes at Santa Anita Park.
In the one-mile San Rafael, trainer Bob Baffert saddles one of his top prospects, Souvenir Copy. The Mr. Prospector colt ran second to Artax in his 3-year-old debut, the Santa Catalina Stakes on Feb. 1 at Santa Anita. Others contesting the San Rafael -- all Derby contenders -- are Orville n Wilbur's, Mr. Fortune, Futuristic and Mantles Star.
Baffert lost the promising Pleasant Drive, a long shot No. 3 last week in "Derby Dozen," when the late-running colt suffered a condylar fracture of his right hind leg during a recent workout.
With the San Rafael tomorrow, the El Camino next Saturday and the San Felipe Stakes on March 14 at Santa Anita, the logjam of Derby hopefuls in the West should begin to sort itself out. How does that group rate?
"California has not been very impressive so far," said Janney. "On the other hand, this time last year people were saying the same thing. And lo and behold, the top horses came from California."
Tom Keyser's Derby Dozen
Horse, Trainer, Jockey, Next start, Comment, Odds*
1. Coronado's Quest, Shug McGaughey, Mike Smith, Fla. Derby, March 14, Calmer before Youth, but behavior still major obstacle, 8-1
2. Lil's Lad, Neil Howard, Jerry Bailey, Fla. Derby, March 14, Is he second coming of Seattle Slew, or flash in pan?, 6-1
3. Comic Strip, Neil Howard, Shane Sellers, La. Derby, March 15, No joke this one, won Risen Star with ease, 10-1
4. Artax, Randy Bradshaw, Chris McCarron, San Felipe, March ** 14, Must wait to see the one they say is best in West, 10-1
5. Souvenir Copy, Bob Baffert, Gary Stevens, San Rafael, tomorrow, One of four "dual qualifiers" battling for Derby berths, 15-1
6. Halory Hunter, Nick Zito, Pat Day, Fla. Derby, March 14, In search of closer to win Derby? May be your ticket, 10-1
7. Favorite Trick, Bill Mott, Pat Day, Swale Stakes, March 14, Mission: Transform Horse of Year into powerhouse, 8-1
Indian Charlie, Bob Baffert, Gary Stevens, allowance, Replaces another Baffert long shot, Pleasant Drive, 25-1
Laydown, Steve Moyer, Shane Sellers, Battaglia Mem., March 7, After trainer change, taking back road to Derby, 20-1
10. Prosperous Bid, Wally Dollase, Corey Nakatani, San Felipe, March 14, Faces Pulpit-like task, didn't race as 2-year-old, 25-1
11. Cape Town, D. Wayne Lukas, Kent Desormeaux, Fla. Derby, March 14, Nearly flipped out of "Derby Dozen" after flop in Youth, 15-1
12. Grand Slam, D. Wayne Lukas, Gary Stevens, undecided, Is Lukas really thinking of Santa Anita Derby?, 12-1
Daily Racing Form odds
Pub Date: 2/28/98