After long trip, stumbling isn't trainer's worry

To prepare for Kentucky Derby, Currin wants to face best in Fla.

March 29, 2007|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,SUN REPORTER

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. -- Anyone training a top 3-year-old looking for a "good" spot, someplace his horse can win or at least hit the scoreboard, might think twice about Saturday's $1 million, Grade I Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.

But trainer Bill Currin, who sends Stormello, the second choice in the morning-line odds at 3-1, said coming to the Florida Derby was an easy choice.

"I'm not looking to duck anyone," he said. "I [have] one objective, and that is to win the Kentucky Derby, and you're not going to win the Kentucky Derby by picking and choosing soft spots. This is not a claiming race, hoping to get in and get out and keep your horse.

"This is about champions, and that's why I went to Florida in the first place. I thought I'd sort out the biggest one, Nobiz Like Shobiz, first. We did [helping to hand Nobiz his first loss in 2007]. We succeeded. I consider it having a successful trip to Florida. I hope to have another one."

In Stormello, Currin has a chestnut colt with a flaxen mane who is big - a little more than 16 hands tall, 1,200 pounds (the average thoroughbred is 14 hands and 1,000 pounds) - and possesses a strong, wide rear end. Stormello will start from the No. 5 post in the nine-horse field. He'll be on the outside of Adore the Gold, Scat Daddy, Imawildandcrazyguy and Notional, most of whom show up on top 20 prospects lists for the May 5 Kentucky Derby.

Outside of him will be the Michael Matz-trained Chelokee, Boogie Boggs, Johannesburg Star and Birdbirdistheword.

In his last race, Stormello broke from the Gulfstream gate "like his tail was on fire," despite having had a long trip just to get to the race. With a traditional horse plane unavailable, Currin "FedExed" him cross-country from California, via Dallas, where a repair problem extended an already long flight. This time, he's flying nonstop.

But from the time he got out of the gate, Stormello led the Fountain of Youth field, which included many of the same horses who will run here Saturday, until just before the finish line, where he was beaten by a nose by Scat Daddy.

"I thought we had that race won," Currin said. "But Scat Daddy caught me without seeing him on the outside. I hope I can get a little slower early pace [this time]. ... But mainly I'd like to run him a little closer, so I keep my eye on Scat Daddy to make sure he's not outside on the 50-yard line and I'm on the 5-yard line. I've got to keep my eye on him - as well as Doug O'Neill's horse, because Notional looks like he's coming up strong. And another horse I'm concerned about is Adore the Gold. I see he worked him 57 and [4/5] the other day."

Currin also might want to keep an eye on Imawildandcrazyguy in the No. 2 post, who, like Notional in No. 1, has drawn to the inside of him. Bill Kaplan, trainer of "Crazyguy," believes they have the perfect stalking positions.

"I love my draw," Kaplan said. "The closer to the rail the better."

ABC will continue its NTRA Racing to the Kentucky Derby programming Saturday with same-day broadcasts of the Dubai World Cup from Nad Al Sheba Racecourse. The broadcast, from 2:30 to 4:30 p.m., will feature a showdown between Horse of the Year Invasor and Discreet Cat, who has won all six of his races, including last year's UAE Derby in which he handed Invasor his only career loss. ABC also will show tape of the $2 million UAE Derby.

The Florida Derby, meanwhile, will make history when HorseRacing TV (HRTV) teams with NBCSports.com to bring television and broadband viewers the first live streaming Webcast of a Grade I stakes race on the Web site of a major broadcast network from 5:15 to 5:40 p.m. The race also can be seen on HRTV and via simulcasting at racetracks, including Laurel Park and Pimlico.

For those who get to see the Florida Derby, it should be a tremendous confrontation.

"I'd almost predict a Triple Crown winner to come out of this field," Currin said. "I think it's a good herd of horses."

sandra.mckee@baltsun.com

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