<
>

Derby top three doing fine

The top three finishers in the Kentucky Derby were doing fine the morning of May 4 at Churchill Downs.

Winner American Pharoah and third-place finisher Dortmund walked the shedrow at trainer Bob Baffert's barn, and runner-up Firing Line did the same a few barns away for trainer Simon Callaghan.

All three are being aimed for the Preakness Stakes on May 16 at Pimlico Race Course.

Firing Line had an easy Monday morning. He came out of his stall for a bath at 8 a.m. and then walked the shedrow for a half-hour with assistant Carlos Santamaria.

Housed in Barn 42, Firing Line's stall has not been the home to any recent Kentucky Derby winners, but in the early 1990s, it was the place to be for the Preakness. Hansel had the stall in 1991, and Pine Bluff was there one year later for the Derby. Both lost in the Derby but won two weeks later in Baltimore.

"Hmmm," Santamaria said with a smile, "and 2015, more history."

It has already been a magical ride for the 37-year-old Santamaria, who was hired by Simon Callaghan as his assistant less than two months ago.

"I never thought I would be here. This is a race that you dream about," said Santamaria, who started his career with trainers Charlie Whittingham and David Hofmans before spending the past 19 years with Jack Carava.

And Firing Line is a dream horse to work with.

"He is a total professional. He does what you want him to do," Santamaria said. "You want to jog, he'll jog. You want to stand for 10 minutes, he'll stand."

In the Derby, Firing Line finally got the best of his nemesis, Dortmun, a colt he had twice lost to in photo finishes. However, he could not take down race favorite American Pharoah and finished a length back.

"After the race, I felt bad for him because he didn't deserve to lose," Santamaria said. "It is too bad there couldn't have been two winners."

While his boss, Bob Baffert, was enjoying a fourth Kentucky Derby victory with American Pharoah, exercise rider Jorge Alvarez was finally able to savor his first.

"I was the exercise rider for Lookin At Lucky, Pioneerof the Nile and Bodemeister," said Alvarez, who attended his first Derby in 2001, as the exercise rider for Jamaican Rum, trained by Jim Cassidy. "Pioneerof the Nile and Bode, I thought, were the two best horses in the race, but sometimes the best horse doesn't win. A 50-1 shot [Mine That Bird] beat Pioneerof the Nile."

Interestingly, Pioneerof the Nile is the sire of American Pharoah, who delivered the goods Saturday.

"I tried not to get too confident [leading up to the race]," Alvarez said, "because I know things can happen in a race."

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said he hoped a Preakness run would be in the cards for Mr. Z, who finished 13th in the Derby. The colt is owned by Zayat Stables, which also owns American Pharoah.

"I haven't talked to Mr. [Ahmed] Zayat, but we will get together," Lukas said. "My vote would be to go [to the Preakness]. He never got a chance to run [in the Derby, after being checked repeatedly in the run to the first turn]. We were the whipping boy, but you get that in an 18-horse field."

Lukas plans to be in Baltimore for Preakness weekend, with runners of his expected in several undercard stakes both days.