DERBY PREPS: Little-known 3-year-olds get a Derby chance


Mohaymen, check.

Nyquist, check.

Both unbeaten colts are already qualified for the Kentucky Derby thanks to previous victories, but the Florida Derby on Saturday is likely a last chance for the other eight horses in the field to earn a shot at the Run for the Roses.

A total of 170 Derby qualifying points are at stake — 100 to the winner, 50 for second, 20 for third and 10 for fourth.

In the weekend’s other prep, the Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park, 85 points are on the line. None of the 12 3-year-olds entered, including favorite Airoforce, have enough points to qualify for the Derby entering the race.

Mohaymen is a slight favorite over Nyquist in the most anticipated Derby prep of the season. Mohaymen has 70 points; Nyquist 30. In the past, 20 points usually has been enough to qualify for a Derby field limited to 20 starters.

Trainer Dale Romans is sending out 20-1 long shot Takeittotheedge in the Florida Derby in just the second start of his career. He won his debut a few weeks ago at Gulfstream Park, and a third-place finish could make him Derby-eligible.

“This is the time of year, and this is a really good horse,” Romans said. “It’s a strong Florida Derby field — you’ve got the two best horses in the country. They usually all wait until they get to Kentucky, so it’s going to be very interesting.

“But we have a horse with a lot of talent. It’s the time of year — you’d hate to have him run big in just an allowance race.”

And you never know. In the 2005 Belmont Stakes, Romans’ winless Nolan’s Cat finished third behind Afleet Alex and Andromeda’s Hero.

As for the much anticipated Mohaymen-Nyquist showdown, both trainers are eager to see what happens. There’s added incentive for Nyquist owner J. Paul Reddam, who purchased the colt at the 2015 Fasig-Tipton Florida sale. In addition to the $600,000 winner’s share of the $1 million purse on the line, there’s a $1 million bonus for any horse winning the Florida Derby that came out of that sale.

“Bonuses are great anytime,” Mohaymen trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “I think it’s great that we have the two best colts in the country racing against each other Saturday. It’s something that doesn’t happen very often. It’s a plus for the industry and it’s a plus for the owner and trainer, if they happen to win it Saturday.”

The Florida Derby field, from the rail out, is Sawyers Mickey, Fellowship, Majesto, Nyquist, Copingaway, Chovanes, Takeittotheedge, Fashionable Freddy, Mohaymen and Isofass.

Airoforce, with 10 Derby qualifying points, comes into the Spiral off a 10th place finish in the Risen Star in his only 3-year-old start. Trainer Mark Casse is hoping for a return to form that saw his colt run second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and then win the Kentucky Jockey Club.

The field for the Spiral, from the rail out, is That Makes Sense, Surgical Strike, Jensen, Don’t Be So Salty, Oscar Nominated, Two Step Time, Strike Up the Band, Kasseopia, Swagger Jagger, Airoforce, Ralis and Azar. Also eligible, in case any in the full field are scratched, are Crescent Drive and Diplodocus.

The biggest Derby prep weekend is April 9, with three races — the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, the Blue Grass at Keeneland and the Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita Park.

Forte works out, waits for Belmont Stakes clearance

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NEW YORK — Forte, the early Kentucky Derby favorite who was scratched on the day of the race, worked out in preparation for a possible start in the Belmont Stakes on June 10.

Under regular rider Irad Ortiz Jr., Forte worked five-eighths of a mile for Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher. It was the colt’s second workout since being scratched from the Derby on May 6.

“It seems like he’s maintained his fitness level,” Pletcher said. “It seems like everything is in good order.”

Forte was placed on a mandatory 14-day veterinary list after being scratched from the Derby because of a bruised right front foot. In order to be removed from the list, the colt had to work in front of a state veterinarian and give a blood sample afterward, the results of which take five days.

“There’s protocols in place and we had to adhere to those and we’re happy that everything went smoothly,” Pletcher said. “We felt confident the horse was in good order or we wouldn’t have been out there twice in the last six days, but you still want to make sure everything went smoothly and we’re happy everything did go well.”

Pletcher said Kingsbarns, who finished 14th in the Kentucky Derby, will miss the Belmont. The colt is showing signs of colic, although he is fine, the trainer said.

Another Pletcher-trained horse, Prove Worthy, is under consideration for the Belmont. He also has Tapit Trice, who finished seventh in the Derby, being pointed toward the Belmont.

Judge grants Churchill Downs’ request for summary judgment to dismiss Bob Baffert’s lawsuit

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — A federal judge has granted Churchill Downs’ motion for summary judgment that dismisses Bob Baffert’s claim the track breached due process by suspending the Hall of Fame trainer for two years.

Churchill Downs Inc. suspended Baffert in June 2021 after his now-deceased colt, Medina Spirit, failed a postrace drug test after crossing the finish line first in the 147th Kentucky Derby. The trainer’s request to lift the discipline was denied in February, keeping him out of the Derby for a second consecutive May.

U.S. District Court Judge Rebecca Grady Jennings ruled in a 12-page opinion issued Wednesday that Churchill Downs’ suspension of Baffert did not devalue his Kentucky trainer’s license. It cited his purse winnings exceeding $1 million at Keeneland in Lexington and stated that his argument “amounts to a false analogy that distorts caselaw.”

Jennings denied CDI’s motion to stay discovery as moot.

The decision comes less than a week after Baffert-trained colt National Treasure won the Preakness in his first Triple Crown race in two years. His record eighth win in the second jewel of the Triple Crown came hours after another of his horses, Havnameltdown, was euthanized following an injury at Pimlico.

Churchill Downs said in a statement that it was pleased with the court’s favorable ruling as in Baffert’s other cases.

It added, “While he may choose to file baseless appeals, this completes the seemingly endless, arduous and unnecessary litigation proceedings instigated by Mr. Baffert.”

Baffert’s suspension is scheduled to end on June 2, but the track’s release noted its right to extend it “and will communicate our decision” at its conclusion.