Minister Eric, `This Day' back in form

Mandella expects colts to be at best Saturday

Derby notebook

Horse Racing

April 28, 2004|By Tom Keyser | Tom Keyser,SUN STAFF

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Richard Mandella won four Breeders' Cup races last fall at Santa Anita Park. He says he never had a group of horses whose training went so smoothly. Things haven't gone as well this year.

The California-based Mandella will send out Action This Day and Minister Eric on Saturday in the Kentucky Derby. They finished 1-2 in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. On Friday, he will saddle Halfbridled in the Kentucky Oaks. She won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies.

Action This Day has lost three straight races since winning the Breeders' Cup and being selected champion 2-year-old. He's sustained foot injuries and a sore back. Since finishing sixth in the Blue Grass Stakes, the colt has undergone ultrasound and therapeutic-blanket treatments as well as treatments by acupuncturists and chiropractors.

"He's responded very well," Mandella says. "I expect he'll be at his best here Saturday."

After finishing second in the Breeders' Cup behind his stable mate, Minister Eric underwent surgery for removal of bone chips from his left knee and right ankle. Mandella has brought him along slowly as a 3-year-old, running him in three non-stakes races.

He says he believes Minister Eric, too, will be at his best Saturday. He's not so sure about Halfbridled in the Oaks.

"Halfbridled was like a tomboy last year," Mandella says. "Nothing bothered her. Since she's turned 3, she's become more feminine, more sensitive. The cold bothers her. She doesn't want to get her feet dirty. ... I'm not quite sure I've got her back to where she was before the Breeders' Cup."

Halfbrided drew post 4 and was deemed the 9-2 third choice in the Oaks, the fillies' counterpart to the Derby. The undefeated Madcap Escapade drew post 6 and is the 3-1 favorite. Ashado, the 4-1 second choice, drew post 1.

Around the track

U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn II plans to rule today on two lawsuits filed by jockeys trying to overturn a Kentucky rule against wearing advertisements or union patches on their pants. The jockeys want to sign lucrative endorsement deals for the Kentucky Derby.

With no last-minute defections so far from the 130th Derby, it looks as if Eddington and Rock Hard Ten won't crack the field and will wait for the Preakness. Horses must enter the Derby by 10 a.m. today, and post positions will be drawn during a one-hour broadcast on ESPN beginning at 5 p.m. today.

Tapit is scheduled to arrive today by plane after training for the Derby at Michael Dickinson's Tapeta Farm in Cecil County. This will be the first Derby for Dickinson and Tapit's jockey, Maryland-based Ramon Dominguez.

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