Blue Grass, Wood start '95 Derby countdown


Talkin Man was flown from Lexington, Ky., to New York yesterday to run in today's Wood Memorial, where he is the 4-5 favorite.

Thunder Gulch, who arrived in Louisville, Ky., from California last Tuesday with trainer D. Wayne Lukas and his stablemates, Timber Country and Tabasco Cat, will ship by van today to Lexington, where he is the 8-5 favorite to win the Blue Grass Stakes.

And, amid all this traveling, Suave Prospect galloped yesterday morning at Keeneland and waited for the final dress rehearsals for the Kentucky Derby. They are the Wood at Aqueduct and the Blue Grass at Keeneland, both worth $500,000, both at 1 1/8 miles and both major springboards to Churchill Downs, where today's winners and some losers will gather May 6 for America's most prestigious horse race.

Neither weather nor post position was considered likely to affect either race. A clear and cool day was forecast, and Talkin Man was assigned the No. 2 stall in the starting gate for the Wood; Suave Prospect drew No. 2 and Thunder Gulch No. 4 in the Blue Grass.

But something has been added since Thunder Gulch edged Suave Prospect by a nose in the Florida Derby last month, three weeks after he had nipped him by a head in the Fountain of Youth Stakes. Both times, Mike Smith won the homestretch duels against Jerry Bailey.

This time, both jockeys will be absent: Smith to ride Maryland-bred Concern and Bailey to ride another Maryland-bred, Cigar, in Hot Springs, Ark., in the $750,000 Oaklawn Handicap for older horses.

Concern and Cigar are expected to race next in the Pimlico Special on May 13.

Smith's place aboard Thunder Gulch will be taken by Pat Day, but only for the day; Smith will return for the Kentucky Derby. But Bailey's place aboard Suave Prospect will be taken by Julie Krone, who will return for the Derby.

Trainer Nick Zito has been upset because Bailey similarly defected from Go for Gin last year in favor of Irgun, three weeks before Go for Gin won the Derby and Irgun broke down with an injured ankle.

As a result, Krone has vaulted back from her latest injuries (fractured ankle followed by broken finger) and suddenly is riding toward the Kentucky Derby.

In 120 years, no female jockey has won the Derby. In fact, none had won any Triple Crown race until Krone took the Belmont two years ago aboard Colonial Affair. Now, she is adding a another element way to Zito's stable, which has won the Derby twice in four years.

She was reminded the other day that she had given the colt Mr. Greeley a hug and kiss after winning the Lafayette Stakes, and that she had done the same in the stable area to Bill Greeley, the president of Keeneland. She replied smartly: "Well, it's better than hitting him with a stick."



Site: Keeneland, Lexington, Ky.

Post: 3:40 p.m.


Purse: $500,000.

Grade: Grade II.

Distance: 1 1/8 miles.

Field: (6) Thunder Gulch, Suave Prospect, Jambalaya Jazz, Tejano Run, Gadzook, Wild Syn.

Favorites: Thunder Gulch (8-5), Suave Prospect (2-1).

Last year's winner: Holy Bull.


Site: Aqueduct, New York.

Post: 5:07 p.m.

TV: Chs. 2, 7.

Purse: $500,000.

Grade: Grade II.

Distance: 1 1/8 miles.

Field: (8) El Alpino, Talkin Man, Knockadoon, Moonlight Dancer, Key Guy, Is Sveikatas, Candy Cone, Kresa.

Favorites: Talkin Man (4-5); Key Guy (4-1).

Last year's winner: Irgun.

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