A trainer of a rival horse says Sweet Catomine doesn't have "scary" speed, and no one else seems to be afraid of the champion filly in next Saturday's Santa Anita Derby, either. At least 12 horses may start, which would be the race's biggest field in 24 years.
The Santa Anita Derby and the Wood Memorial, which will be run at Aqueduct on Saturday, are expected to further whittle the list of contenders for the Kentucky Derby on May 7.
The favorite in a wide-open Kentucky Derby is not a horse but a trainer, Nick Zito, who could have four and possibly five starters at Churchill Downs on May 7.
Two of Zito's hopefuls, High Fly and Noble Causeway, ran 1-2 in Saturday's Florida Derby, and Zito said yesterday that they won't run again before the Kentucky classic.
Although Zito is a master at winning big races with horses returning from lengthy layoffs, the Kentucky Derby will severely test his approach. The last Derby winner with more than a four-week gap between races was Needles, who won in 1956 off a 40-day layoff.
Zito said he hopes to run Bellamy Road in the Wood. And Sun King, who might give him his best shot to win the Derby, is ticketed for the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland on April 16. Another Derby prep on April 16 is the Arkansas Derby.
Another Zito 3-year-old, Andromeda's Hero, must earn his way into the Derby in an upcoming race. The son of Fusaichi Pegasus, the 2000 Derby winner, will run in the Arkansas Derby or the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 23.
In California, Sweet Catomine will try to become the fourth filly - and the first since Winning Colors in 1988 - to win the Santa Anita Derby.
"Sweet Catomine might be the best filly we've had since Winning Colors," said trainer Nick Hines, who's running two horses, Allright and Customer in the Santa Anita Derby, "but she doesn't have Winning Colors' scary speed. A lot of guys feel she has to prove it. It's still an even playing field. There are no fear factors."
Marty and Pam Wygod, who bred and race Sweet Catomine, are not committed to the Kentucky Derby.
"We'll see how she does against the boys," Marty Wygod said. "If she's good enough, we'll consider the Derby."
The usual option for 3-year-old fillies is the gender-restricted Kentucky Oaks, run at Churchill the day before the Derby.
The Los Angeles Times is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.
Triple Crown ratings
Horse Jockey Trainer Starts Win Place Show Last race Next race Date
1. Sun King Edgar Prado Nick Zito 6 3 0 2 Tampa Bay Derby (1st) Blue Grass Stakes 4-16
2. High Fly Jerry Bailey Nick Zito 6 5 0 1 Florida Derby (1st) Kentucky Derby 5-7
3. Consolidator Rafael Bejarano Wayne Lukas 9 3 1 1 San Felipe Stakes (1st) Blue Grass Stakes 4-16
4. Greater Good John McKee Bob Holthus 7 5 0 1 Rebel Stakes (1st) Arkansas Derby 4-16
5. Noble Causeway Edgar Prado Nick Zito 6 3 3 0 Florida Derby (2nd) Kentucky Derby 5-7
6. Sweet Catomine Corey Nakatani Julio Canani 6 5 1 0 Santa Anita Oaks (1st) Santa Anita Derby 4-9
7. Survivalist Richard Migliore Shug McGaughey 5 2 2 0 Gotham Stakes (1st) Wood Memorial 4-9
8. High Limit Bobby Frankel Ramon Dominguez 3 3 0 0 Louisiana Derby (1st) Blue Grass Stakes 4-16
9. Rockport Harbor Stewart Elliott John Servis 5 4 1 0 Rebel Stakes (2nd) Arkansas Derby 4-16
10. Don't Get Mad Tyler Baze Ron Ellis 4 2 1 1 San Felipe (3rd) Santa Anita Derby 4-9
Triple Crown panel: Bill Christine, Los Angeles Times; Tom Keyser, The Sun; Dave Joseph, South Florida Sun-Sentinel; Liam Durbin, Chicago Tribune; Paul Moran, Newsday.