Trainer Billy Boniface yesterday ruled out any possibility of running Oliver's Twist, winner of the Federico Tesio Stakes, in the Kentucky Derby next week.
But he is aiming the horse for the Preakness on May 20.
The Derby was eliminated, Boniface said, because "of the track [at Churchill Downs]. There's not enough time to ship there and acclimate him to the surface."
Oliver's Twist is one of about five 3-year-olds who are skipping the Derby, but could be Preakness-bound. Others include the Nick Zito-trained pair of Star Standard and Mr. Greeley; Mystery Storm, second choice in Saturday's Arkansas Derby, who finished fifth; and Houston Sunrise, winner of the San Pedro Stakes at Santa Anita Park on April 12.
Each of Zito's colts has won a stakes at the current Keeneland, Ky., race meet. Star Standard won the Lexington Stakes on Sunday and Mr. Greely won the Lafayette Stakes earlier in the meeting.
Zito, however, does have a Kentucky Derby starter -- Suave Prospect, runner-up in both the Florida Derby and Blue Grass Stakes.
Bud Delp, trainer of Tesio runner-up Western Echo, said he has had no thought of running his horse in the Preakness.
"He's going right to the Illinois Derby [May 13]," Delp said. "Kent Desormeaux is going to ride him. He told me to take the horse's blinkers off. He thinks that's what cost him the race in the Tesio. So, of course, the blinkers are coming off."
Boniface said he is also nominating Oliver's Twist to the Illinois Derby. "Heck, it only costs $100 to nominate and it's a $500,000 race," Boniface said. "But running there would rule out coming back in a week's time for the Preakness, and that's the race we really want to go for."
NOTES: Burk's Charger, the horse who ran into a rail at Pimlico more than a week ago and hurt jockey Allen Stacy, has been barred from racing by the Pimlico stewards. He was examined by veterinarians and found to have "acute bilateral visual impairment," meaning he is partially blind. . . . Heartful Star, the dam of Oliver's Twist, is in foal to Private Terms. Longtime Maryland horseman Jim Lewis owns the mare. . . . Churchill Downs officials now list 19 possible starters for the May 6 Kentucky Derby. No new prospective starters emerged over the weekend from the Arkansas Derby, Federico Tesio and Lexington stakes. Arkansas Derby disappointments Mystery Storm and Rich Man's Gold and Lexington Stakes runner-up Royal Mitch have come off the Kentucky Derby list, but Knockadoon, second in the Wood Memorial, has been added. . . . Trainer Ken McPeek said he plans to train his Kentucky Derby starter, Tejano Run, at Keeneland and won't ship him to Churchill Downs until Derby Day.