Trainer Woody Stephens brought Creme Fraiche to Churchill Downs just in case the track was muddy for the Kentucky Derby. He got his wish a week early.

On a racing strip that had been saturated by morning rain, Creme Fraiche rallied strongly to score a half-length victory over Fast Account in today's Derby Trial Stakes.

Both the first two finishers ran strong races, but probably not strong enough to suggest that they can have an impact on the Derby itself on Saturday.

In fact, Creme Fraiche is not certain to run. Stephens has the colt Stephan's Odyssey as his main Derby hope, and he said he wouldn't decide Creme Fraiche's status until later in the week.

Creme Fraiche and Fast Account laid off the fast early pace, as the swift Tiffany Ice fought with three other sprinters though a half mile in a hot 45 2/5.

As the leaders began to weaken, Fast Account made what appeared to be a winning move on the turn and took command.

This was not exactly what jockey Chris McCarron wanted. Fast Account had given a classic sucker-horse performance in the Santa Anita Derby, giving up as soon as he had taken the lead.

"He has that habit of waiting when he gets in front," McCarron said. "I certainly didn't want to make the lead when I did but he just dragged me up there."

Fast Account wasted little time displaying his bad habits. Creme Fraiche was accelerating behind him, and in midstretch jockey Randy Romero drove him through a narrow opening between the leader and the tiring Tiffany Ice.

Fast Account yielded the lead without offering much resistance, and Creme Fraiche maintained his advantage to the finish line, covering the mile in 1:37 3/5, respectable time considering the condition of the track.

Nordic Scandal rallied from far back to be third, and Tiffany Ice faded to fourth.

The outcome of the Trial served to pare down the Derby field and to clarify the race a bit.

Tiffany Ice showed he can't go a mile, let alone a mile and one quarter. He's out of the Derby. So, too, is Sky Command, whose owners should finally be persuaded after his 47-length defeat that he doesn't belong in stakes company.

The failure of Fast Account to win today confirms the widespread belief that this year's crop of California 3-year-olds was mediocre. Fast Account missed by only a nose in the West's premier race, the Santa Anita Derby. Neither he nor the horse who beat him at Santa Anita, Skywalker, figure to be serious contenders Saturday.

With at least two horses knocked out of contention by the Trial, a manageably sized field of 15 or 16 is taking shape for the Derby. Creme Fraiche Wins Derby Trial On Muddy Track By Andrew Beyer Washington Post Staff Writer

LOUISVILLE, Ky., April 27 -- Trainer Woody Stephens brought Creme Fraiche to Churchill Downs just in case the track was muddy for the Kentucky Derby. He got his wish a week early.

On a racing strip that had been saturated by morning rain, Creme Fraiche rallied strongly to score a half-length victory over Fast Account in today's Derby Trial Stakes.

Both the first two finishers ran strong races, but probably not strong enough to suggest that they can have an impact on the Derby itself on Saturday.

In fact, Creme Fraiche is not certain to run. Stephens has the colt Stephan's Odyssey as his main Derby hope, and he said he wouldn't decide Creme Fraiche's status until later in the week.

Creme Fraiche and Fast Account laid off the fast early pace, as the swift Tiffany Ice fought with three other sprinters though a half mile in a hot 45 2/5.

As the leaders began to weaken, Fast Account made what appeared to be a winning move on the turn and took command.

This was not exactly what jockey Chris McCarron wanted. Fast Account had given a classic sucker-horse performance in the Santa Anita Derby, giving up as soon as he had taken the lead.

"He has that habit of waiting when he gets in front," McCarron said. "I certainly didn't want to make the lead when I did but he just dragged me up there."

Fast Account wasted little time displaying his bad habits. Creme Fraiche was accelerating behind him, and in midstretch jockey Randy Romero drove him through a narrow opening between the leader and the tiring Tiffany Ice.

Fast Account yielded the lead without offering much resistance, and Creme Fraiche maintained his advantage to the finish line, covering the mile in 1:37 3/5, respectable time considering the condition of the track.

Nordic Scandal rallied from far back to be third, and Tiffany Ice faded to fourth.

The outcome of the Trial served to pare down the Derby field and to clarify the race a bit.

Tiffany Ice showed he can't go a mile, let alone a mile and one quarter. He's out of the Derby. So, too, is Sky Command, whose owners should finally be persuaded after his 47-length defeat that he doesn't belong in stakes company.

The failure of Fast Account to win today confirms the widespread belief that this year's crop of California 3-year-olds was mediocre. Fast Account missed by only a nose in the West's premier race, the Santa Anita Derby. Neither he nor the horse who beat him at Santa Anita, Skywalker, figure to be serious contenders Saturday.

With at least two horses knocked out of contention by the Trial, a manageably sized field of 15 or 16 is taking shape for the Derby.