Silver Medallion Aims For Derby
SILVER MEDALLION AIMS FOR DERBY
Eighty miles separate Keeneland and Churchill Downs -- but for Silver Medallion, who runs Saturday in the Coolmore Lexington Stakes in an effort to make the field for the 137th Kentucky Derby, the more apt measurement is in dollars.
With $184,334 in graded earnings, Silver Medallion is on the outer fringes of the Derby bubble, which, in this particularly wide-open year, is coming under intense scrutiny as the May 7 race nears. He is the only one of the six 3-year-olds entered in the Grade 3, $200,000 Lexington with a chance to move on to Louisville, and he would easily make the 20-horse cutoff by earning $120,000 with a win. As things stand now, however, even if he earns $40,000 for running second, he would still be short of Santiva and Watch Me Go, who are 20th and 21st on the list with $242,397 and $235,500, respectively.
'Obviously the earnings come into play,' said Asmussen, who otherwise probably would not have put Silver Medallion in the Lexington if the colt had fared better than fourth when racing two Saturdays ago in the Santa Anita Derby.
Silver Medallion, with Javier Castellano to ride, is the 8-5 morning-line favorite for the Lexington, a 1 1/16-mile, 'short-stretch' Polytrack race that begins and ends at what otherwise is the sixteenth pole. It goes as the ninth of 10 Saturday races, with post time set for 5:20 p.m. Eastern.
Charismatic is by far the most renowned winner in 29 prior runnings of the Lexington, having wheeled back in the spring of 1999 to capture the Kentucky Derby, then the Preakness.
Meanwhile, in Louisville, Thursday marked the third straight morning of training at Churchill for Uncle Mo, the reigning divisional champion and still one of the Derby favorites despite his third-place finish in the April 9 Wood Memorial. With trainer Todd Pletcher watching from the frontside, Uncle Mo was among the first group of horses on the racetrack at 6 a.m. Eastern. Regular exercise rider Hector Ramos was aboard for a routine gallop.
'He's settled in like the professional he is,' Pletcher said upon returning to Barn 34 afterward. 'He seems to be galloping over the track well.'
Days after the Wood, Uncle Mo was diagnosed with a gastrointestinal infection for which he is undergoing regular treatment. The colt arrived Monday at Churchill following a morning flight from New York.
'It seems like he has responded favorably to the treatment so far,' said Pletcher, who arrived in Louisville on Monday night. 'His appetite has improved. It's a little hard to tell how much better he's getting on the racetrack, because he's never had a bad day on the racetrack in his life.'
Uncle Mo had breezed regularly on Sundays this winter at Palm Meadows in Florida, and Pletcher initially had hoped to resume that schedule by having the colt work on the next two Sundays before the Derby. But he has tentatively revised that plan in deference to the ongoing treatment of the infection.
'I'll probably work him Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday,' he said. 'I definitely want him to have two works before the race. Obviously we've got a little leeway on the first one, and the timing of the second one will depend on that. I'm basically buying a day or two to see how we go from there.'
Pletcher, who had the victorious Super Saver among his four Derby starters last year, has Stay Thirsty as his only other Derby prospect this year. He said Stay Thirsty will work Sunday at Churchill.
In other Derby developments:
*A wet weather forecast for this weekend has led the planned Saturday workout for Animal Kingdom to be switched from Churchill to Keeneland, according to Barry Irwin, who manages the Team Valor International partnership that owns the colt.
Animal Kingdom, winner of the March 26 Vinery Spiral at Turfway Park, has never raced on dirt, and Irwin and trainer Graham Motion had hoped to get a better read by working the colt at Churchill. Animal Kingdom still would have time to have a final work at Churchill before the Derby.
As usual, weather is a factor here. The long-range forecast from the Weather Channel calls for possible rain in Louisville every day but one during an eight-day span from April 22-29. The last two Derbies have been run over off tracks.
*Soldat drilled five furlongs in 59.07 seconds over a fast surface Thursday morning at Palm Meadows, much to the delight of trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
Soldat won the Fountain of Youth before finishing fifth as the favorite in the April 3 Florida Derby. He is scheduled to be flown to Louisville on April 30.
'He hasn't missed a day of training,' said McLaughlin. 'I probably don't even have to work him again, but he'll come back once more next week and we'll try to slow him down a bit.'
*Besides the Lexington, two other ostensible Derby preps also remain, although it appears unlikely that the Grade 2, $150,000 Jerome at Aqueduct on Saturday or the Grade 3, $200,000 Derby Trial at Churchill on April 30 will produce a Derby starter.
Astrology, Rattlesnake Bridge, and Justin Phillip are the top names entered in the Jerome.
*Starting Saturday, Churchill is limiting the first 15 minutes of the regularly scheduled harrow break in mid-morning (about 8:15-8:30) to horses being pointed to the Derby and Kentucky Oaks. The practice began last year as a means to minimize traffic during what is often a hectic time of morning.
Churchill also continues to use its lights system to illuminate the track before dawn and when needed, with one in every three stanchion being lit.
by Marty McGee
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