The trainer of Masterful Advocate believes his colt deserves another chance after running second, 5 1/2 lengths behind Temperate Sil, in the Santa Anita Derby Saturday.
"I would just have to throw the race out," Joe Manzi said. "The race was lost in the first three-sixteenths of a mile. He broke OK, but he got bumped a couple of times from horses outside him.
"Then the jockey (Laffit Pincay) had to snatch up approaching the first turn when the horses in front backed up into him. He nearly clipped a horse's heels and almost blew the turn. He's better than the race shows."
Masterful Advocate, who won three straight stakes as a 3-year-old before Saturday, will get a chance to redeem himself in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs May 2. Manzi considered running the colt in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland April 23, but Sunday he said that Masterful Advocate would be shipped directly to Churchill Downs sometime during the week of the Blue Grass.
"I was disappointed Saturday but not unhappy," said David Leveton, the Century City attorney who owns 50% of Masterful Advocate. "After what happened on the first turn, he had every excuse not to run, every reason to chuck it in, but he didn't."
Manzi said there's nothing physically wrong with Masterful Advocate, even though he repeatedly tried to get out on Pincay, which is sometimes a sign that a horse is ailing.
"He came out of the race fine," Manzi said. "There were no aftereffects."
The Kentucky Derby, then, will be a rematch of Saturday's race and will mark the fourth meeting between Temperate Sil and Masterful Advocate. Temperate Sil won the Hollywood Futurity last December when Masterful Advocate had another difficult trip and finished third, only two necks behind the winner. Then, on an off track--the kind Temperate Sil can't seem to handle--Masterful Advocate won the San Rafael Stakes March 7 at Santa Anita, with Temperate Sil a well-beaten fifth.
Trainer Charlie Whittingham is using the same plan that worked for Ferdinand and jockey Bill Shoemaker in their Kentucky Derby win a year ago. Ferdinand ran third in the Santa Anita Derby, then didn't run again until he scored his $37.40 upset at Churchill Downs.
"A month before his next race is just right for this horse," said Whittingham, referring to Temperate Sil. "A man who leaves California before he has to has to be goofy.
"This horse trains well, better than Ferdinand wanted to. I had to use up my filly (Hidden Light) in the mornings to get Ferdinand fit for the Derby."
There hasn't been an off track for the Kentucky Derby since Dust Commander won over a racing strip labeled "good" in 1970. But even if it were to rain this year, Whittingham is not especially concerned.
"Churchill Downs is a good track to run on even if it's wet," Whittingham said. "It dries real quick. Santa Anita's track gets slick when it's muddy, and that's what bothered this horse in a couple of his races before Saturday."
With Temperate Sil, Shoemaker has a chance to win his fifth Kentucky Derby and tie a record shared by Eddie Arcaro and Bill Hartack.
Although Ferdinand was 17-1 and Temperate Sil might possibly be favored this year, Shoemaker can't see much difference in his chances.
"I knew Ferdinand had a good chance, because he was a genuine mile-and-a-quarter horse," Shoemaker said. "This colt has been like Ferdinand--he ran some disappointing races early in the year before he's going to Kentucky."
The difference between Ferdinand and Temperate Sil is in the mornings.
"Temperate Sil is real precocious," Shoemaker said. "He does 58 (seconds for five furlongs) real easy, and you can't hold him to make him run any slower."
Something Lucky, who at 47-1 was the longest price in the six-horse field, finished third and was barely beaten by Masterful Advocate in the Santa Anita Derby. Something Lucky was not nominated for the Triple Crown races. He is likely to run next in the $300,000 California Derby at Golden Gate Fields on April 18.
Chart the Stars, who beat Temperate Sil by 3 1/2 lengths in winning the San Felipe Handicap on March 22, ran last in the Santa Anita Derby and, like Masterful Advocate, may get his next chance in Kentucky. An option under consideration is the Blue Grass.