The 108th Kentucky Derby may be most distinguished by the horses who won't be there.
Timely Writer was knocked out of the race by an illness earlier this week. Linkage won the Blue Grass Stakes, but trainer Henry Clark decided not to bring him to Churchill Downs. And today the Derby Trial was won by Listcapade, a colt who was not even nominated to the Derby.
This is an omission that trainer Dewey Smith now regrets. But after his horse had posted a $115.40 upset, he said, "We didn't nominate him for the Derby because at the time we didn't think he was that kind of colt. He's a late developer and he just started to come around in the last month or so."
Listcapade raced in Arkansas this winter, winning a couple of allowance races of moderate quality. Since coming to Kentucky, jockey Darrel Haire said, "He's been training really well. He loves the race track." Not only was Listcapade rounding into peak condition for the first stakes race of his career, but the Trial developed perfectly for him.
Star Gallant, the 3-to-10 favorite, engaged in a hard and destructive duel for the early lead with Good N' Dusty, whizzing through the first six furlongs of the mile event in 1:09 3/5. Haire had Listcapade sitting about a half-dozen lengths behind the leaders, in perfect position to catch them if they collapsed. The strongest stretch runner in the field, Royal Roberto, was much farther behind; his jockey was more interested in tuning him up for the Derby than in winning today.
Star Gallant disposed of Good N' Dusty and looked momentarily as if he were going to draw away and establish himself as the clear Derby favorite, but after he turned into the stretch he began to tire and drift wide, and Haire said, "My horse was really covering some ground and just ate him up."
Listcapade drew away from Star Gallant to win by 1 1/4 lengths, covering the mile in a respectable 1:36 1/5. Royal Roberto was a neck farther behind. The performance would have established Listcapade as at least a marginal contender in a wide-open race on Saturday.