Trainer: Don't ignore `Footnotes'

With no races in April, colt has a 7-week break before Kentucky Derby

Horse Racing

April 19, 2004|By Dave Joseph | Dave Joseph,SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. - Just eight weeks ago, after a gut-wrenching victory in the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park, Klaravich Stable's Read the Footnotes was all the rage. The colt had won three consecutive graded races and was on top or close to the top on everyone's Kentucky Derby list.

But when he took to the track Thursday morning at Palm Meadows in Boynton Beach for one of his last major works before the May 1 Derby, there was little interest, with only four people in the clocker's stand.

Despite the lack of interest, and what many consider a dull fourth-place finish March 13 in the Florida Derby, trainer Richard Violette couldn't be happier with the Smoke Glacken colt, who breezed an effortless mile Thursday in 1 minute, 40 seconds over a deep track.

"That was as good as if you had him on remote control," Violette said after the workout.

Read the Footnotes has not been forgotten, coming in fifth in this week's edition of the Triple Crown rankings. The Cliff's Edge remained in the top spot but Smarty Jones and Tapit, switched positions. After Tapit's third-place ranking is Master David in fourth.

Violette has reason for his optimism. After winning the Fountain of Youth off a 10-week layoff, Read the Footnotes was expected to bounce in the Florida Derby. And he did, chasing the pacesetter, Value Plus, before coming up empty in the stretch and losing by four lengths to Friends Lake. But the Florida Derby, once dismissed as a weak race based on time, now appears to be a key prep heading to Kentucky. Not only did The Cliff's Edge win the Blue Grass off a third-place finish in the Florida Derby, but Tapit, sixth in Florida, also won the Wood Memorial.

The Blue Grass and Wood Memorial "validated the Florida Derby, that's for sure," said trainer John Kimmel, whose Friends Lake worked Saturday morning at Payson Park in 1:03.

"I guess I feel vindicated," Violette said. "Trainers can be right occasionally and Todd [Pletcher], [John] Kimmel and I were spot on that [the Florida Derby] was a very good race. Not just a good race, a very good race. The track was punitively slow [the day of the race], and I don't care the reasons behind it or if anyone can't understand it, but two of the three preps [on April 10] were won by horses that ran in the Florida Derby."

Violette, like Kimmel, decided immediately after the Florida Derby to train Read the Footnotes up to the Kentucky Derby rather than race him again in April, a strategy that has not been successful in the past. Although it's been 48 years since a colt won the Kentucky Derby without a race in April (Needles in 1956), Violette doesn't believe the seven-week layoff will hurt his colt's chances.

"I think we - knock on wood - made the right decision," Violette said. "He's battle-hardened, he's got plenty of experience, he's the fastest 3-year-old out there still, and he's training great."

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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