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Derby Favorites Looking To Buck History

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This Kentucky Derby is all about bucking tradition.

In less than two weeks, several trainers will attempt to win the Derby having defied long-held ideas on what it takes to prepare top contenders for the race.

Street Sense is sure to be among the favorites, yet he is among four horses in this week's final Run to the Roses' top 10 with just two preps this year.

Conventional wisdom calls for three.

``If we can't get there in two preps, I don't think we'd have gotten there with three preps,'' says Street Sense trainer Carl Nafzger, noting his 2-year-old champion ran five times last year.

The last Derby winner with two preps as a 3-year-old was Sunny's Halo in 1983; before that it was Jet Pilot in 1947.

Also coming into the May 5 Derby off two preps are Louisiana Derby winner Circular Quay, Robert Lewis winner Great Hunter and Blue Grass winner Dominican.

Street Sense has a lot more going against him: No Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner has gone on to take the Derby (0-for-23) and the last 2-year-old champ to win was Spectacular Bid in 1979.

``Hopefully we can get rid of all those jinxes,'' says Nafzger.

Then there's the unwritten rule that says you can't win the Derby off a long layoff. Last year, Barbaro junked that notion when he became the first horse since Needles in 1956 to win after more than four weeks off.

Four of this week's top 10 are in the long-layoff category: Scat Daddy and Chelokee (5 weeks); Hard Spun (6 weeks), and Circular Quay (8 weeks).

Todd Pletcher, who trains Scat Daddy and Circular Quay, says many of his horses run better with more time between races. It's tough to argue with the nation's leading trainer, who plans on sending out a record-equaling five Derby starters.

There's also the unraced-as-a-2-year-old theory. Curlin, No. 4 this week behind the top three of Nobiz Like Shobiz, Scat Daddy and Street Sense, is 3-for-3 but did not run last year.

The last Derby winner unraced as a 2-year-old was Apollo in 1882, yet Curlin _ off his 10 1/2-length romp in the Arkansas Derby _ might end up as the favorite on Derby day. By the way, the last horse to win the Derby with three career stars was the filly Regret in 1915.

The only change in this week's top 10 was Hard Spun dropping two spots to No. 7.

Top-ranked Nobiz Like Shobiz will continue training for the Derby at Belmont Park, and plans call for the colt to be shipped to Louisville on May 2.

In weekend preps, 40-1 shot Slew's Tizzy won the Lexington Stakes at Keeneland and Xchanger took the Federico Tesio Stakes at Pimlico.

Slew's Tizzy trainer Greg Fox indicated the Preakness on May 19 was more likely than the Derby. Mark Shuman, who trains Xchanger, was undecided but leaning against the Derby.

___

1. Nobiz Like Shobiz (Barclay Tagg, trainer; Cornelio Velasquez, jockey): Blinkers worked well in Wood. ... Brings four wins in six starts to Churchill Downs. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby (May 5). ... Derby Future Odds: 10-1.

2. Scat Daddy (Todd Pletcher, Edgar Prado): Florida Derby was fourth stakes win. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 11-1.

3. Street Sense (Carl Nafzger, Calvin Borel): Won Tampa Bay Derby by a nose, lost Blue Grass by a nose. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 6-1.

4. Curlin (Steve Asmussen, Robby Albarado): Arkansas Derby winner could be the favorite. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 7-2.

5. Circular Quay (Pletcher, John Velazquez): Louisiana Derby continues solid workouts at Keeneland. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 9-1.

6. Any Given Saturday (Pletcher, Garrett Gomez): Never worse than third in all six starts. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 14-1.

7. Hard Spun (Larry Jones, Mario Pino): Took to dirt at Churchill. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 13-1.

8. Great Hunter (Doug O'Neill, Corey Nakatani): No aftereffects following rough finish in Blue Grass. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 15-1.

9. Chelokee (Michael Matz, Ramon Dominguez): Chances of making field look promising. ... Next start: Kentucky Derby (pending). ... Odds: 26-1.

10. Dominican (Darrin Miller, Rafael Bejarano): Blue Grass winner has yet to win on dirt (0-for-4). ... Next start: Kentucky Derby. ... Odds: 17-1.
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