The Derby Trial Stakes got off to a rousing start in 1924, when Black Gold cruised home to an eight-length victory. Four days later, the son of Black Toney was favored to take the 50th Kentucky Derby.
It was a rough trip on that May 3: Black Gold broke alertly from the inside post, tracked the pace early, had to check along the way and raced more than 4 1/2 lengths behind in sixth after a half-mile. But the colt, third when he hit the stretch, roared to victory by a half-length.
The Trial had its greatest success in the ’40s and ’50s. Citation was the first of five 3-year-olds to win both races in ’48 en route to the Triple Crown. Eight runners that failed in the Trial, but smelled the roses, included Triple Crown champs Whirlaway in ’41 and Assault in ’46.
However, the last double winner came in ’58: Tim Tam.
Saturday’s 86th renewal of the Trial on opening day at Churchill Downs could impact Derby starters, since several horses have a shot at making the field with a victory in the mile-long $200,000 Grade 2.
It’s win and you’re in for at least one horse. The lion’s share of the purse would boost the earnings of Florida Derby runner-up Pleasant Prince to more than $290,000. That would rocket him from 27th to 18th on the graded stakes earnings list, if there were no defections.
A victory by Caracortado would advance him from 29th to 19th with a graded bankroll of $277,000.
The latest possible setback for horses hoping to race on May 1 is the possible entry of another Todd Pletcher trainee: Devil May Care, 15th in earnings with $363,000.
The filly is coming off a convincing 2 3/4-length victory in Gulfstream’s Bonnie Miss on March 20, her third score in three outings against females.
If she goes in the Derby instead of the Kentucky Oaks, that would leave only one slot open for the 136th renewal. Pletcher, who could send as many as seven in the race, told BloodHorse,com this week the daughter of Malibu Moon would have to show she’s ready for the tough assignment by turning in a strong workout this weekend.
In addition to Devil May Care, all of his male horses are scheduled to work at Churchill Downs on Saturday or Sunday: likely Derby favorite Eskendereya, Discreetly Mine, Interactif, Mission Impazible, Rule and Super Saver.
Pletcher said the main reason he and owner John Greathouse are considering the Derby is because it’s an eighth of a mile longer than the Oaks.
“She acts like she wants to run beyond a mile and an eighth,” the trainer said. “We’ve worked her with a number of our colts that are being considered (for the Derby) and she has worked as well or better than most of them. It’s been a consideration for a while, but we won’t make any decisions until (after the workouts).
In fact, Pletcher said the weekend would determine the fate of several horses – particularly Interactif and Discreetly Mine. “It’s just going to depend on their works.”
However, he added, “Her status has nothing to do with all of the other horses. It will be determined on her own merits.”
Several withdrawals would open the door for a couple of next-in-line runners: Homeboykris is sitting at No. 21 with $250,500. Eightyfiveinafifty, at No. 22, would have to win the Trial to increase his earnings to $244,000 and a chance to return a week later in the Derby.