LOUISVILLE — Favored Creme Fraiche, who broke last as part of trainer Woody Stephens' plan, overtook Fast Account in the stretch at Churchill Downs Saturday to win the $58,900 Kentucky Derby Trial by a half-length in sloppy going, but the 3-year-old gelding is still a problematical starter in the Derby itself next Saturday.
Stephens, who has won the Trial three straight years, this victory coming after wins by Caveat and Devil's Bag, also trains Stephan's Odyssey, a definite Derby starter. Stephens said after Saturday's win that he wouldn't make up his mind about Creme Fraiche until entry day for the Derby this Thursday.
Fast Account, second to Skywalker in the Santa Anita Derby in his last start, is scheduled to run in the Derby, according to owner William R. Hawn and trainer Patty Johnson.
"It was a good prep for the Derby," said Chris McCarron, who will ride Fast Account again next Saturday. "It's a shame he had to lose, because he ran so hard."
It's likely that none of other starters in the Trial will return for the Derby, which may have a field of about 15, one of the smallest turnouts in recent years.
Nordic Scandal finished third Saturday, three lengths behind Fast Account and, after that, the order was Tiffany Ice, Red Attack, Tajawa, Patcandoit, Mickeydamoke, Put Away, Sky Command and Alariva.
Before 23,369 on opening day at Churchill Downs, Creme Fraiche ended a run of three straight seconds--to Derby favorite Chief's Crown in the Swale Stakes at Gulfstream Park, to Rhoman Rule, another Derby contender, in the Everglades at Hialeah and to Violado in the Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds.
Creme Fraiche, who thrives on off tracks, was timed in 1:37 3/5 for the mile and paid $5.20, $3 and $2.60. Fast Account returned $3.60 and $3.20, and Nordic Scandal's show price was $4.40. Creme Fraiche earned $38,285 for his owner, Elizabeth Moran, who bought him at a yearling auction for $160,000.
Fast Account, close behind the leaders all the way, passed Tiffany Ice on the final turn, but then lost the lead to Creme Fraiche just outside the sixteenth pole.
"He finished strong," said Randy Romero, who rode Creme Fraiche for the first time, replacing Eddie Maple. "You don't know if the Derby horses can run a mile and a quarter, but I think this horse can go all day long. The last 70 yards, he just kept fighting back."