Sky Mesa faded off the Kentucky Derby trail after sustaining a series of odd leg injuries, becoming another casualty in a spate of lost talent.
No one will try to convince trainer John Ward that a win on Sunday in The Dwyer, a Grade II stakes at Belmont Park, will assuage the loss of that run at history, but progress is progress.
"Right now, everything is going forward," Ward told the Daily Racing Form. "I hate to make a first start back in a Grade II, but it looks like that's what we'll do."
Sky Mesa, who could face Derby third-place finisher Peace Rules on Sunday, finally has a chance to improve or shatter his aura as the ultimate prospect of the current 3-year-old class. A son of Pulpit, Sky Mesa is unbeaten in three starts but missed the two biggest races of his life because of injury. A sprain forced him to skip the 2002 Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and a bruised foot put him off the Derby trail.
His long, slow return could land him in the Breeders' Cup Classic on Oct. 25 at Santa Anita Park and provide a chance to meet the current class of his generation _ Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner Funny Cide and Belmont winner Empire Maker.
"After you've watched Funny Cide and Empire Maker," Ward said, "it makes you doubt your position somewhat, but I think it's interesting for racing fans because you've got a new horse to throw in the mix. We're walking into two horses who are top class and at the top of their game."
RANKINGS: Moon Ballad, winner of the Dubai World Cup, led the Classic Division in the first of eight world thoroughbred rankings released on Monday by the National Thoroughbred Racing Association and Breeders' Cup. The top 14 horses in the Classic, Distaff, Filly & Mare Turf, Mile, Turf, Sprint, Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies lists will be given preference in oversubscribed fields.
The rankings are produced by an international committee of racing officials and will take into account performances in graded and group stakes races through Oct. 7.
Moon Ballad, a 4-year-old owned by Godolphin Racing and trained by Saeed bin Suroor, was given an initial rating of 125, two better than Funny Cide, Empire Maker and Oaklawn Handicap winner Medaglia d'Oro, also 4.
Rankings for juvenile and juvenile filly divisions will be released later in the summer, after the 2-year-old class begins racing.
COMEBACK: Toccet, another former hot Derby property recovering from injury, is being pointed toward the Sept. 1 Pennsylvania Derby and ultimately, the Breeders' Cup Classic, said trainer John Scanlan. But the son of Awesome Again must have a flawless preparation, Scanlan said.
Toccet, winner of the Hollywood and Laurel futurities, had such a workout on Tuesday when he breezed 3 furlongs in 37 seconds at Colonial Downs.
"He's doing as good as ever, if not better," Scanlan told Bloodhorse.com. "Let's just say time did him well."
Toccet was turned out in a paddock for 60 days after injuring a right hind cannon bone while training for the Fountain of Youth Stakes.
BEHIND THE LEGEND: Seabiscuit: The Making of the Movie is scheduled to air 11 times between Sunday and the July 25 release of the movie about the legendary thoroughbred.
The 60-minute program features interviews with director and screenwriter Gary Ross and stars Tobey Maguire (who plays jockey Red Pollard), Chris Cooper (trainer Tom Smith), and Jeff Bridges (owner Charles Howard).
The complete schedule for the show, airing on ESPN Classic: Sunday, 7 p.m.; July 13, 7 p.m.; July 20, 7 p.m.; July 21, 2 a.m.; July 25, 7 p.m.; July 26, 2 a.m.; July 26, 5 a.m.; July 26, 9 a.m.; Aug. 10, 7 p.m.; Aug. 11, 12 a.m.; Aug. 24, 7 p.m.; Aug. 29, 7 p.m.
_ Information from other news organizations was used in this report.