Smaller-name Derby hopefuls go to gate Bay Meadows, Turfway, Laurel take spotlight

March 07, 1998|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

As we rush headlong down the path to the Kentucky Derby, we were going to pause today and praise a pair of older horses, Gentlemen and Silver Charm. Their showdown in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap would have been one of the great horse-racing duels in recent years.

But yesterday, Silver Charm was scratched because of a bruised foot. The great showdown between Silver Charm, the 4-year-old who won last year's Kentucky Derby and Preakness, and Gentlemen, the 6-year-old Argentine-bred many believe is the best horse in the world, will have to wait.

What a pity. Both horses are genuine sports stars. But if we're lucky here in Maryland, they will join Skip Away on May 9 for the Pimlico Special in what would probably be the race of the year.

As for the scramble for berths in the Kentucky Derby, the frantic game of musical chairs continues today with heats at Bay Meadows, Turfway Park and, lest we overlook it, Laurel Park. But none contains the caliber of prospects we'll see in the major Derby preps next weekend on both coasts.

Today, the El Camino Real Derby at Bay Meadows showcases a three-horse entry of top Northern California trainer Jerry Hollendorfer (Event of the Year, Post a Note and Clover Hunter) and a D. Wayne Lukas-trained colt trying to recover from a bleeding episode and last-place finish last month (Skeaping).

The John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway Park lost its main contender, Laydown, in the unsightly turmoil over who's training the colt. His new conditioner, the former Marylander now in Kentucky, Steve Moyer, abruptly quit this week.

"They just wanted a puppet trainer," Moyer told the Daily Racing Form about the colt's owner, Jim McIngvale, and the racing manager, McIngvale's sister-in-law. "I had no input at all, and I couldn't stand it any longer."

Until his connections can get their act together, we have dropped Laydown from the "Derby Dozen."

At Laurel, Just Call Me Carl, the Dale Capuano-trained colt who has won three straight, resumes his pitch for the Derby in the $50,000 Herat Stakes. At 1 1/16 miles, this will be his first race longer than 6 1/2 furlongs. The Gotham and Wood Memorial Stakes at Aqueduct would be next.

Finally, notice anything unusual about this week's "Derby Dozen"? We ranked four horses who come from off the pace ahead of the three speed blazers, figuring that when Lil's Lad, Artax and Orville n Wilbur's burst from the gate in the same race, something's got to give. When it does, watch for a stalker or closer to blow past like a semi passing hitchhikers on the interstate.

The new kid on the block is Hot Wells, whose last-to-first rally in last weekend's one-mile Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park was the kind of performance from which Derby dreams grow. A Go and Go gelding who required five races to break his maiden (he even lost a $12,500 claiming race at Ellis Park), Hot Wells may be, as our "Derby Dozen" comment points out, the Cinderella story of this year's Kentucky Derby.

Pub Date: 3/07/98

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