Victor Martinez’s colt out of Kentucky Derby because of fever

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The Kentucky Derby dream of Victor Martinez is over.

The retired five-time All-Star catcher owns King Guillermo, who was set to run in Saturday’s 146th Derby. But Martinez and trainer Juan Carlos Avila decided Thursday to scratch the colt because of a fever.

“It’s just the sad part about this game,” said Martinez, whose Florida-based stable is called Victoria’s Ranch.

Named for Martinez’s father, King Guillermo moved into the Derby picture in March with a victory in the Tampa Bay Derby at 49-1 odds. The colt finished second in the Arkansas Derby in early May.

Martinez was on hand to watch King Guillermo work out before dawn at Churchill Downs, where the colt has been training for a month.

“I sort of had that awe-inspiring feeling when I walked into Yankee Stadium for the first time as a player, but Churchill Downs is better,” he said.

Martinez, 41, spent 16 years in the majors, playing for Cleveland, Boston and Detroit. He retired in 2018 and founded his cattle ranch in Florida.

King Guillermo could return for the Preakness on Oct. 3.

“To race in a race like the Derby we need him at 100 percent,” Avila said. “We aren’t going to be able to demonstrate how good he is like this. We are going to have plenty of time to show his quality. He’s going to be a great horse and everybody knows we have to take care of the horse first.”

The defection of King Guillermo leaves the Derby field at 17. Art Collector was knocked out by a minor injury before he could be entered.

Kentucky Derby modifies qualifying, elevates prep races

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Churchill Downs has modified paths to the Kentucky Derby and Oaks, awarding points to the top five finishers in qualifying races and increasing significance for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and late prep season events.

Most Derby prep races during the qualifying series for 3-year-olds will award points on a 10-4-3-2-1 sliding scale after using a 10-4-2-1 system since 2013. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, run during the season-ending championships on Nov. 4 at Keeneland in Lexington, Kentucky, will increase points from 20-8-4-2 to 30-12-9-6-3 to differentiate the Grade I event from others during prep season.

Select prep races for the 20-horse Derby field have elevated points from a 10-4-2-1 scale to 20-8-6-4-2 to increase their importance and motivate hopefuls to begin their 3-year-old campaigns earlier in the season, track officials stated in a release.

“We believe these modifications adhere to and amplify our goal of assembling the finest group of 3-year-olds in the starting gate for a race at the classic distance of 1\ miles on the first Saturday in May,” Churchill Downs vice president/general manager Mike Ziegler said.

The 149th Kentucky Derby and Oaks for fillies will be held on May 5-6, 2023. Derby qualifying season begins with Saturday’s $300,000, Grade III Iroquois for 2-year-olds at Churchill Downs.

The point changes apply to Oaks qualifiers.

Elevated Derby preps include the Lecomte at Fair Grounds in Louisiana; Southwest at Oaklawn Park in Arkansas; Withers at Aqueduct in New York; Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park in Florida; Robert B. Lewis at Santa Anita in California; Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs; and John Battaglia Memorial at Turfway Park in Kentucky.

Bob Baffert wins record 16th Del Mar Futurity with Cave Rock

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DEL MAR, Calif. — Cave Rock won the $302,000 Del Mar Futurity by 5 1/4 lengths, giving Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his record 16th victory in the Grade 1 race in which he finished 1-2.

Ridden by Juan Hernandez, Cave Rock ran seven furlongs in a stakes-record time of 1:20.99 on closing day at the seaside track north of San Diego. He lowered the old mark of 1:21.29 set by Declan’s Moon in 2004.

Baffert tied Phil D’Amato for the trainers’ title with 19 wins each at the 31-day summer meet. It was Baffert’s eighth title at Del Mar, but his first since 2003.

Hernandez won the jockeys’ title.

Havnameltdown, also trained by Baffert, finished second in the race for 2-year-olds. Skinner was another 4 1/4 lengths back in third.

Longtime Baffert clients Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman own the first and second-place finishers.

Cave Rock paid $2.80 to win as the 2/5 favorite. He earned $180,000 for the win.