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Apr 24, 2009

Kentucky Derby on the horizon

By: By Don Agriss, Horse Racing Editor


Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - The preliminaries are completed. All the prep races for the 135th Kentucky Derby have been run and now we await the post position draw on Wednesday. April 29.

The shaking out has already begun with some of the contenders declared out of the Run for the Roses. Old Fashioned has been retired, The Pamplemousse is sidelined indefinitely, Mafaaz won't run and 2008 Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Midshipman is injured.

If the NTRA three-year-old poll is any indication the morning-line favorite will be Wood Memorial winner I Want Revenge. He has a one-point lead over Florida Derby champ Quality Road.

Close behind is Santa Anita Derby winner Pioneerof the Nile. The colt will be ridden by leading jockey Garrett Gomez. Gomez made the decision to ride Pioneerof the Nile over Dunkirk on Sunday. Dunkirk gains the services of Edgar Prado.

Louisiana Derby champ Friesan Fire, my Derby selection, sits fourth in the NTRA poll while Dunkirk is far behind in fifth. I've never understood the hubbub over Dunkirk.

Friesan Fire's trainer Larry Jones is after his first and probably only Kentucky Derby victory this year. After finishing second the last two renewals with Hard Spun and Eight Belles, Jones announced last year that 2009 would be his last as a trainer.

"I think he's much better suited to the distance (of the Derby) than any of the last two horses we had there," Jones said about Friesan Fire. "Pedigree- wise and just the way he acts, the distance is going to be more in his favor the farther he goes. He does have a good turn of foot. He's got the tactical speed that you really want to have. He's the total package, maybe better all the way around than what we've had there before."

Jones will give a leg up to Gabriel Saez on May 2. Saez received unwarranted criticism last year when Eight Belles was euthanized immediately following the finish of the Kentucky Derby.

No fillies are expected to run in the Kentucky Derby, though Fantasy Stakes winner Rachel Alexandra is sixth in the poll. Rounding out the NTRA poll are Arkansas Derby champ Papa Clem, General Quarters the Blue Grass Stakes winner, Illinois Derby victor Musket Man and Chocolate Candy, Santa Anita Derby runner-up.

The Kentucky Derby post draw will not be televised on ESPN and the network will not carry the Kentucky Oaks for fillies. The Oaks will be shown on Bravo.



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