Saturday, May 05, 2001

Kentucky Derby Notebook


Startac trainer glad to be here

The Associated Press

        LOUISVILLE — Far from the media frenzy outside Bob Baffert's barn, Startac quietly munched on grass as trainer Simon Bray stroked the bay colt's mane.

        The last-minute entry to today's Kentucky Derby is a 50-1 longshot. He galloped 1 1/2 miles on the Churchill Downs track Friday morning and returned to Barn 17 without anyone giving him a second glance.

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        Few reporters have bothered with Startac all week, but Bray doesn't mind the lack of attention.

        “With all that goes on here, it looks like you could get easily distracted from what you're doing training the horse,” said Bray, a former assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott.

        Bray, a native of England, admits Startac's chances on Saturday are remote at best. He said the turf specialist would have been better suited to run in Friday's Grade III Crown Royal at Churchill.

        But last week, the executors of the Allen Paulson Trust, which owns the horse, asked Bray if the horse could possibly run in the Derby.

        “They said if the horse is doing good enough, they would like to run him,” Bray said. “You look at horses like Point Given and Millennium Wind and you think, "Wow, maybe we'd be overmatched.' But I slept on it and thought, "Hey, why not give it a shot?'”

        Bray also saw an opportunity for himself. Today's Derby will be his first as a trainer or a spectator.

        “I've heard the walk over from the barn to the paddock is amazing. I'm looking forward to it,” Bray said. “He's a long shot, but there's only one Kentucky Derby.”

        TRAINING TIDBITS: First-time trainers have won the Derby 26 times and eight will take their shot today.

        The last first-time trainer to win was Cam Gambolati in 1985 with Spend A Buck.

        With D. Wayne Lukas out of the Derby for the first time in 20 years, Bob Baffert will hold the longest streak with a Derby starter, at five straight. Baffert trains Congaree and Point Given.

        The last trainer to saddle the first- and second-place finishers was Ben Jones, with Citation and Coaltown in 1948. Baffert and Todd Pletcher, who trains Balto Star and Invisible Ink, are the only trainers with a chance to do that this year.

        GOOD SIGN? Mark Guidry, an 18-time champion on the Chicago circuit, is Balto Star's jockey. “The two times I rode him I never asked him to be on the lead—he went there automatically,” Guidry said. “I know what kind of horse he is. If we have three horses knocking heads the first three quarters, some thing has to give. I think he can go on.”

        BAD SIGN? Millennium Wind has been afflicted with hoof problems all spring, and now he has a severe skin rash that has left the area above his hooves pink. Although he is being treated daily with a cream medication, the colt has been bleeding through his bandages when he has returned to the barn following light morning exercise on the track.

        STAR-CROSSED? Seven geldings have won the Derby, but none since Clyde Van Dusen in 1929.

        Balto Star is the lone gelding in Saturday's field.

        FATHERS AND SONS: Twelve Kentucky Derby champions have sired future race winners.

        Invisible Ink and Point Given are sons of 1995 winner Thunder Gulch.

        WANDERING POST: The latest Kentucky Derby in history will now start even later.

        NBC Sports and Churchill Downs announced Thursday the post time has been moved from 6:04 p.m. to 6:07 p.m.

        The Derby post had been 5:30 p.m. since 1969.

        The network, which will broadcast the Triple Crown races for the first time, moved back the post time to accommodate its NBA playoff schedule. However, only the first game of the Dallas-San Antonio series is set for Saturday and it is scheduled to start at 6:30 p.m.

        CELEBRITY WATCH: Television stars Dana Delany and Wendie Malick and TV weatherman Al Roker mingled with patrons on the backside Friday morning. Legendary auto racer A.J. Foyt was entertaining guests in his hospitality suite on the paddock level.

        Nick Zito, who trains A P Valentine, had a brush with fame he'll remember for a while.

        “Bo Derek kissed me. That's a 10,” he said.

        WEATHER WATCH: The National Weather Service has forecast partly cloudy skies with a 30 percent chance of rain for Derby Day. Temperatures were expected to reach the mid-70s.

        DERBY RETURN: Two starters from last year's Derby will run on today's undercard. Trippi and Exchange Rate, who finished 11th and 12th in last year's Run for the Roses, will be in the $150,000 Grade II Churchill Downs Handicap.

       



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