REMARKS: Chris McCarron, who has never won a Kentucky Derby, seemed to have a good chance with three 3-year-olds this year, but all of them are injured and the jockey will have to go shopping for a mount.
Storm Cat, who gave McCarron a second-place finish behind Tasso in last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Stakes, underwent knee surgery and will miss the Derby.
McCarron then gained the mount on Meadowlake, who was brilliant as a 2-year-old, but that colt has yet to get to the races this year because of foot problems and is out of the Triple Crown series.
Finally, McCarron's mount in Sunday's Santa Anita Derby, Variety Road, bruised a foot in the race and has been sidelined indefinitely. The injury may explain why Variety Road was such a disappointment, running sixth in the seven-horse field and finishing 14 lengths behind the victorious Snow Chief.
Pat Day, who has also never won the Derby, is a jockey with a surplus of horses that may run at Churchill Downs on May 3. Day rode Country Light to victory in the Louisiana Derby; he has replaced Mike Smith as the rider on Rare Brick, the likely favorite in the Arkansas Derby on April 19; and on Monday he rode Clear Choice to an easy 4 1/2-length victory at Oaklawn Park. Although that win was Clear Choice's first in eight starts, he was second to Rare Brick in the Rebel Stakes and will also run in the Arkansas Derby.
Clear Choice is trained by Wayne Lukas, whose Badger Land moved up to second place in the ratings with a win in the Flamingo Stakes at Hialeah. Tasso was dropped to third, even though his second in the Gotham at Aqueduct was not a true bill. Several yards out of the gate, Tasso was caught in a chain reaction that started with Groovy bearing in from the outside. Groovy ran second behind Mogambo but was disqualified and moved down to fifth.
Tasso was moved up from third to second and Zabaleta, who finished fourth, got third as a result of the foul.
"All things considered, I was pleased with his race," said Neil Drysdale, Tasso's trainer. "Tasso got knocked sideways when Groovy came over. The contact came after they had really started running, which made it more traumatic.
"At the top of the stretch, Tasso had only one horse beaten, so he closed well. He came out of the race with only a slight nick on his hock, so it sets him up perfectly for the Wood Memorial (at Aqueduct on April 19)."
John Gosden, who trains Zabaleta, thought Tasso was the best horse in the Gotham. "He ran a tremendous race," Gosden said. "He looked as good as he did in winning the Breeders' Cup last year."
Zabaleta, who is not bred to go distances, will skip the 1 1/8-mile Wood. "We just haven't been able to get him to relax," Gosden said. "We'll look for some other spots, possibly in New Jersey."
There is also some question about Groovy's stamina, although his sire, Norcliffe, won the 1 1/2-mile Queen's Plate at Woodbine. Most of the Kentucky Derby candidates, it seems, have holes in their credentials, which is why the future-book odds have dropped to 7-2 on Snow Chief after his six-length win in the Santa Anita Derby.
Snow Chief does not run bad races. His only off-the-board finish in 13 starts was when he suffered shin injuries while running sixth in his second career start at Hollywood Park last June.
Career Horse S 1 2 3 Earnings 1.Snow Chief 13 9 2 1 $1,719,040 2.Badger Land 12 9 2 1 533,825 3.Tasso 9 6 2 1 863,174 4.Mogambo 10 4 1 1 552,296 5.Ferdinand 9 2 3 3 340,900 6.Country Light 5 4 1 0 174,259 7.Icy Groom 6 2 3 0 157,305 8.Rare Brick 7 7 0 0 179,820 9.Broad Brush 8 6 1 0 386,943 10.Groovy 8 2 3 0 206,267
Advisory panel for The Times' Triple Crown Ratings: Lenny Hale, racing secretary at Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga; Frank (Jimmy) Kilroe, vice president for racing at Santa Anita; and Tommy Trotter, director of racing at Hollywood Park and racing secretary at Gulfstream Park.