The crushing defeat of early-book favorite Cure the Blues in the Wood Memorial has thrown the Kentucky Derby so apparently wide open that Highland Blade, Noble Nashua and Truly Bound, horses that might have figured strongly, will not run for the roses May 3.

Seems a non sequitur until the trainers explain:

David Whiteley, whose Highland Blade ran second Saturday to Pleasant Colony in Aqueduct's Wood: "I can't see any sense in shipping him to Louisville and finding he can't race becuase of the earnings rule." The field for the Derby will be limited to 20, based on highest money winnings, and Whiteley expects a stampede to the post.

Bud Delp, handler of the unbeaten Maryland filly Truly Bound, said owner Edward P. Taylor likewise foresees a big field, doesn't want her jounced around that mob scene, so will run her in the Kentucky Oaks the day before the Derby.

Joe Martin, whose Noble Nashua wore out Cure the Blues with six furlongs of speed in the Wood before finishing fourth to Blue's third, says he'll pass the 1 1/4-mile Derby and build his charger's strength for the 1 1/2-mile Belmont in June. Or is that still a non sequiture?