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Kentucky Derby news and notes

A ceremony for Eight belles

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Members of the U.S. Navy tolled eight bells — signaling the end of watch — as the track fell silent and owner Rick Porter, above, was presented a U.S. flag along with a portrait of his late filly, Eight Belles.

The ceremony took place before the renamed La Troienne Stakes, now the Eight Belles Stakes in honor of the talented horse that one year ago suffered a fatal breakdown after becoming just the fifth filly to crack the top two spots in the Derby.

The seventh race almost had a storybook ending for Eight Belles trainer Larry Jones and wife Cindy. Favorite Just Jenda — owned by Cindy and trained by Larry — led heading into the stretch before being overtaken by Four Gifts, who pulled away for a 3-length win in the 7½ furlong race for 3-year-old fillies.

Smartest winner

Einstein beat Cowboy Cal by a head at the end of a thrilling stretch battle in the $557,600 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, becoming the first horse to repeat in the stakes.

Bad family ties?

Mark Allen, owner of Derby winner Mine That Bird, is the son of Bill Allen, a key figure in the corruption trial of former U.S. Sen. Ted Stevens of Alaska. The Anchorage Daily News reported that Mine That Bird was bought by Mark Allen and a partner for $400,000 and that the money came from the sale of the now-defunct oil field services business VECO Corp., founded by Bill Allen. He pleaded guilty in 2007 to bribing Alaska politicians but in a plea deal won immunity for Mark Allen and other family members.

Still not a winner

Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher is 0-for-24 in the Derby after his three horses — Join in the Dance, Dunkirk and Advice — finished seventh, 11th and 13th. Dunkirk stumbled out of the gate and never seemed at ease in the slop. "When a horse does that, you know you're in trouble," Pletcher said. "I think he just wasn't comfortable out there."

Safe, for now

Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore and Magna Entertainment Corp.'s other horse racing assets in Maryland are off the auction block, for now. In a filing submitted late Friday in its bankruptcy case, the company said it has dropped Pimlico, along with Laurel Park and a training center in Bowie, from the list of assets subject to a proposed sale.

Tampa Bay Downs

Dinner in Odem rallied in the final yards to pull off a stunner in the $75,000 Chris Thomas Turf Classic in Oldsmar. Part of an entry for owners Sharyn and Peter Wasiluk (Peter also trains), the 5-year-old Quaker Ridge gelding beat Sir Dave over 11/8 miles in a track-record 1 minute, 46.68 seconds under jockey Phil Teator. The Florida-bred paid $31.40 to win. Sporting Art, the 6-5 favorite, was a neck behind. … Daniel Centeno, who has wrapped up his third straight riding title, got his 1,000th career victory aboard Kathleen O'Connell-trainee Taylors Irish ($3) in Race 8.

Don Jensen, Times correspondent; Times wires

Upcoming Triple Crown races

• 134th Preakness Stakes, 13/16 miles, 6:05 p.m. May 16, Pimlico Race Course, Baltimore, Ch. 8 2008 winner: Big Brown

• Belmont Stakes, 11/2 miles, 6:30 p.m. June 6, Belmont Park, Elmont, N.Y., Ch. 28 2008 winner: Da'Tara

A history of slop

The most recent Derby run in the slop was 2004 when Smarty Jones splashed to a 2¾-length victory. The first recorded wet Derby was 1890 when Riley prevailed by 1¾ lengths in the mud. The soggiest Derby was 1918 when more than 2 inches of rain hit Churchill Downs. That didn't stop Exterminator from pulling off a 29-1 upset.

Number of the day

15 Scratches on the 13-race program Saturday at Churchill Downs. Track conditions were listed as sloppy on the dirt and good on turf when the races began at 10:30 a.m., with Calvin Borel riding Raposa to a 5-length victory along the rail in the 6-furlong maiden special weight for fillies and mares 3-year-olds and up, paying $13.20.

Kentucky Derby news and notes 05/02/09 [Last modified: Saturday, May 2, 2009 11:19pm]
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