Judge's ruling on purse earns a spot for Valhol

$300,000 qualifies gelding

May 5 hearing still set

Kentucky Derby notebook

April 28, 1999|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- A judge's ruling yesterday that the owner of Arkansas Derby victor Valhol must be paid his $300,000 winner's purse means that Valhol will qualify for the expected 20-horse field for the Kentucky Derby.

Valhol's earnings in the April 10 race had been withheld pending the Arkansas Racing Commission's investigation into allegations that Valhol's jockey, Billy Patin, had carried an illegal electrical device.

The gelding's owner, James D. Jackson, argued before an Arkansas judge that withholding the money would deny his horse a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity of running in the Kentucky Derby.

Without the money, Valhol probably would not have gotten into the race. The field is limited to 20 based on earnings in graded-stakes races. The horse who probably won't get in now is Etbauer, who finished sixth in the Arkansas Derby.

"There's a smile on my face, for the time being," said Jackson, a longtime horse owner from Texas. "The true vindication will come when Valhol gets to run on the first Saturday in May and shows why we worked so hard to get him into the race."

Jackson said he had decided not to let Patin ride Valhol in the Derby. The owner said he'd likely go with Willie Martinez.

Arkansas racing officials will still conduct a hearing May 5 into the charge against Patin. If they determine he used the device to shock the horse in an effort to make him run faster, they could petition for return of the money.

But that would come too late to affect the Kentucky Derby. Horses will be entered today and post positions selected from 5 to 6 p.m. The draw will be broadcast live by ESPN.

With the Valhol case resolved, the one remaining question -- unless the unexpected occurs -- is whether Bob Baffert enters the filly Excellent Meeting in the Derby.

Yesterday, he entered her and Silverbulletday in Friday's all-female Kentucky Oaks. Baffert wants to cross-enter Excellent Meeting in the Derby and then pick her race based on Derby post positions. He was to have eaten dinner last night with Excellent Meeting's owners, Betty and John Mabee. They want Excellent Meeting to run in the Oaks.

"My job is to convince the Mabees to run the filly in the Derby," Baffert said.

If Baffert persuades the Mabees and enters Excellent Meeting, here are the 20 horses expected for the Derby: Adonis, Answer Lively, Aljabr, Cat Thief, Charismatic, Desert Hero, Ecton Park, Excellent Meeting, First American, General Challenge, K One King, Kimberlite Pipe, Lemon Drop Kid, Menifee, Prime Timber, Stephen Got Even, Three Ring, Valhol, Vicar and Worldly Manner.

If Baffert doesn't enter Excellent Meeting, Torrid Sand would get in. He finished third in the Arkansas Derby. If Baffert does enter Excellent Meeting and then decides on the Oaks, no horse would replace her in the Derby because no additions are allowed after the post-position draw. The field would be 19.

Certain won't run

Trainer Leo Azpurua Jr. withdrew Certain from Derby consideration because of the colt's missed training due to illness. Certain spiked a fever three days after finishing second in the Arkansas Derby.

Vicar gives pause

As rain fell for a second straight day at Churchill Downs, five Derby horses breezed over a "sloppy" track: Vicar, five furlongs in 59 4/5; General Challenge, five furlongs in 1: 00; Prime Timber, five furlongs in 1: 00 3/5; Adonis, five furlongs in 1: 02 2/5; Valhol, four furlongs in 48 1/5.

Baffert's horses, General Challenge and Prime Timber, always work fast, but Vicar's bullet work under jockey Shane Sellers turned heads.

"He should hit the feed tub good tonight," said his trainer, Carl Nafzger. "He's blowing good and pulled up good, and that's what we're looking for."

Pub Date: 4/28/99

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