By Richard Rosenblatt
There may not be a full field of 20 horses in the Kentucky Derby, after all.
A pair of Derby probables, Attachment Rate and Rushie, are also nominated to the $500,000 Pat Day Mile (G2) on Derby Day, Sept. 5.
On Wednesday, news from Saratoga Race Course was that Dr Post, trained by two-time Derby winner Todd Pletcher, is more likely to skip the Run of the Roses in favor of the Jim Dandy (G2) at the Spa, also on Sept. 5, or wait for the Preakness (G1), on Oct. 3.
That could leave the Derby with 17 starters, with Belmont Stakes (G1) and Travers (G1) winner Tiz the Law the likely favorite. Dr. Post was second in the Belmont and third in the Haskell (G1), and could be a live long shot.
Pletcher, who trains Dr Post for St. Elias Stable (Vinnie and Teresa Viola), told the Daily Racing Form: “We haven’t made a final decision yet. Wait and see how things go this week. I would say it’s leaning more towards not going than going.”
The Derby post-position draw is Monday (Sept. 1); Dr Post is scheduled to work on Friday at the Spa.
What may be more concerning was Wednesday’s news that of 1,823 COVID-19 tests administered to the Churchill Downs staff, vendors and horsemen, there were 47 positives (a 2.83 percent positivity rate). The tests were given Aug. 19-24.
Guidelines issued by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and Louisville Public Health call for those testing positive to quarantine.
Less than a week ago, Churchill Downs reversed a decision to allow a limited number of fans (less than 23,000) attend the Derby and said no fans would be allowed. There has been a recent increase in COVID-19 cases in Louisville.
The Kentucky Oaks (G1) on Sept. 4 features a showdown between Swiss Skydiver and Gamine, along with listed probables Speech, Bonny South, Shedaresthedevil, Project Whiskey, Donna Veloce, Hopeful Growth, Tempers Rising, Dream Marie, and Bayerness.
Swiss Skydiver, winner of the Alabama (G1) at Saratoga in her most recent start, put in a routine gallop over Churchill Downs on Wednesday. The 3-year-old filly will be ridden by Tyler Gaffalione.
“Tyler got her ready as a 2-year-old and rode her twice to start her career,” trainer Kenny McPeek said. “Through different circumstances – either he was zigging or we were zagging – he didn’t get to ride her back. Brian Hernandez is my regular rider and he has a commitment in the Derby aboard Art Collector and our thought was if she ran well in the Oaks that we would try the Preakness (G1).”
Speech, winner of the Ashland Stakes (G1), went for an easy 1 ½-mile gallop on Wednesday.
A regular 57-day meet with 33 stakes races worth $11 million, highlighted by the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) on April 10 — has been set, pending approval from the Arkansas Racing Commission.
The meet is scheduled to from Jan. 22-May 1. A total of four $1 million races are on tap – the other three are the Rebel Stakes (G2), the Oaklawn Handicap (G2) and the Apple Blossom Handicap (G1).
The 2021 season will feature the opening of a multi-purpose event center and a 200-room hotel overlooking the track.
The Arkansas road to the 2021 Kentucky Derby includes the $150,000 Smarty Jones on Jan. 22; the $750,000 Southwest (G3) on Feb. 15, the Rebel on March 13, and the Arkansas Derby.
With the COVID-19 pandemic ongoing, and opening day more than fourth months away, there was no mention whether spectators would be allowed to attend the races.
|Tiz the Law||Barclay Tagg||Manny Franco|
|Authentic||Bob Baffert||John Velazquez|
|Art Collector||Tom Drury||Brian Hernandez, Jr.|
|Honor A.P.||John Sherriffs||Mike Smith|
|Ny Traffic||Saffie Joseph, Jr||Paco Lopez|
|King Guillermo||Juan Carlos Avilla||Samy Camacho|
|Thousand Words||Bob Baffert||Florent Geroux|
|Dr Post||Todd Pletcher||Tyler Gaffalione|
|Max Player||Steve Asmussen||Ricardo Santana, Jr.|
|Caracaro||Gustavo Delgado||Javier Castellano|
|Enforceable||Mark Casse||Adam Beschizza|
|Major Fed||Greg Foley||James Graham|
|Storm the Court||Peter Eurton||Julien Leparoux|
|Attachment Rate||Dale Romans||Joe Talamo|
|Sole Volante||Patrick Biancone||Luca Panici|
|Finnick the Fierce||Rey Hernandez||Martin Garcia|
|Winning Impression||Dallas Stewart||Joe Rocco, Jr.|
|Necker Island||Chris Hartman||Miguel Mena|
|Shirl’s Speight||Roger Attfield||Corey Lanerie|
Over the years while working at The Associated Press, Rich Rosenblatt became a familiar name to legions of the horse racing fans and industry insiders with his award-winning articles on horse racing and his stories from the backstretch.
In addition to being an astute observer of sports, Rosenblatt is the co-author of The All-American Chili Cookbook. His work has been seen in just about every publication in the world, including The New York Times, The Washington Post and Time Magazine.