Pletcher starts with a full cup; Lukas protege goes mentor one better with four entries in classic; Derby notebook


LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Todd Pletcher learned more than horsemanship during his 6 1/2 years as assistant to Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Pletcher also learned math.

In his first appearance on his own in the Kentucky Derby, Pletcher, 32, will train four of the expected 20 starters. That's one more than Lukas, who has started more horses in the Derby, 35, than any other trainer.

Pletcher's four:

More Than Ready, last year's 2-year-old sensation who tailed off in the fall after a long campaign. He finished a strong second April 15 in the Blue Grass Stakes to Lukas' High Yield.

Trippi, the only undefeated horse in this year's Derby. Unraced as a 2-year-old, Trippi reeled off three impressive sprint victories in January, February and March at Gulfstream Park, and then won the 1 1/8-mile Flamingo Stakes April 8 at Hialeah.

Graeme Hall, surprise gate-to-wire winner of the Arkansas Derby. He romped by nearly four lengths at 18-1 odds after having won only an allowance and maiden race in seven previous starts.

Impeachment, third in the Arkansas Derby and second in the Tampa Bay Derby. He has won only once in six tries.

Because of common ownership by Bob Lewis and Dogwood Stable of Pletcher's Trippi and Impeachment and Lukas' Commendable and High Yield, the four horses will be one betting entry. That means you can't bet one separately. If you bet one, you have to bet them all.

Yesterday, three of Pletcher's entrants executed their final Derby workouts. More Than Ready and Impeachment covered five furlongs in 1: 00 45, and Graeme Hall five furlongs in 1: 01. Sunday, Trippi blazed five furlongs in 59 35 seconds.

"If you'd have asked me three months ago if I'd have four Derby starters, I'd have said no," said Pletcher, who trains 80 horses. 'That's just the way it's worked out. ...

"If you want to operate at the highest levels, this is the kind of thing you shoot for. This is the biggest event there is in racing. I've got friends from college calling me for tickets. None of them call when I've got one in the third at Aqueduct."

Putting in work

Yesterday's other Derby workouts: Anees five furlongs in 1: 00 25, Deputy Warlock four furlongs in 49 15 seconds, Globalize five furlongs in 1: 02, Harlan Traveler five furlongs in 1: 01 35, War Chant six furlongs in 1: 13 45 and Unshaded five furlongs in 1: 01 35.

Derby blackout?

The stretch run of ABC's 26 years of Triple Crown coverage could be off-limits for millions of viewers.

A dispute between the Walt Disney Co. and Time Warner Inc. over transmission rights left seven Disney-owned ABC stations off local cable systems as of yesterday.

If the sides don't settle their differences by Saturday, 3.5 million cable viewers in seven markets, including New York City and Los Angeles, won't be able to see the Kentucky Derby unless they rig their TVs to get an ABC station the old way -- through an antenna.

"It's something we have no control over," said Karl Schmitt, senior vice president of Churchill Downs Inc., which owns the track and the Derby itself. "We're hopeful it all will be resolved before Saturday at 4: 30, when the show goes on the air."

About 1.5 million cable customers in New York were without ABC programming yesterday. Other areas affected include Los Angeles; Houston; Raleigh-Durham, N.C.; Toledo, Ohio; Fresno, Calif., and Philadelphia.

Prado easy choice

Lukas said he selected Edgar Prado, the former Maryland jockey who has excelled in New York and Florida, to ride Commendable because "his confidence level is sky high right now. Sometimes, you get jockeys like that, and they feel invincible. They think they can do anything, and then they go out and make it happen."

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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