Challengers fall by the wayside against Barbaro
LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Alex Solis walked up to Dan Hendricks and kneeled before the trainer's wheelchair in the tunnel leading to the Churchill Downs track.
The jockey was fresh off riding Brother Derek to the second Kentucky Derby tie -- for fourth.
"I never had a chance," Solis said, his hands resting on Hendricks' knees.
At that, Hendricks tapped fists with his 10-year-old son and Solis, concluding a Derby week in which he had been besieged as a first-time trainer of the pre-race favorite.
"It was a little anticlimactic," Hendricks said after Barbaro put away the field with a 6½-length victory.
The 2-minute stampede of 20 horses in Saturday's Derby also did in highly touted Lawyer Ron and Bob Baffert's trio of Bob and John, Point Determined and Sinister Minister.
"We weren't going to beat the winner," said Baffert, a three-time Derby winner. "He was awesome."
Point Determined finished ninth; Lawyer Ron, 12th; Sinister Minister, 16th; and Bob and John, 17th.
Aware of Barbaro's perfect record on the turf in the colt's first three career races, Baffert said, "I was hoping he was a turf horse."
Brother Derek was compromised by two factors: taking on 19 other horses and starting from the 18th spot in the gate.
"Down the backside, he got into a lot of dirt and you could see him jumping around, kind of looking for a clear spot," said Hendricks, who watched the race on TV in the tunnel rather than from the owners' and trainers' box seats.
He was paralyzed from the waist down in a motocross accident nearly two years ago.
"We thought the 20-horse field would interfere with our strategic abilities and it did," the trainer said. "It just looked like it was a bit much to overcome the 18 hole, the little bit of wide trip and the dirt."
But Hendricks was anything but glum about Brother Derek losing by 9½ lengths. In fact, he was already looking ahead.
"I was real happy with him," he said. "We'll have a lot better chance at the Preakness with the tight turns and we'll utilize our speed a little more."
Surrounded by his three young sons, Hendricks caught his first long breath of Derby week.
"It's been a little surreal," he said. "My boys are with me and we're having a lot of fun. Everyone has been standing behind me that's been there from the beginning."
Baffert's trio gave him the most chances in the race. But none of them threatened.
Point Determined never got closer than sixth before falling away. Bob and John briefly held eighth before dropping back.
"Just when I'd get to a spot where I could be comfortable, something would come and bang me again," said Garrett Gomez, Bob and John's jockey. "It was wild out there. I never had a fair chance."
As expected, Baffert's speed demon Sinister Minister was hot on Keyed Entry's feverish pace through the early stages. But by the mile-pole, Sinister Minister was cooked.
"We went to the front, but the horse inside me [Keyed Entry] wouldn't leave me alone," jockey Victor Espinoza said.
By the three-eighths pole, Arkansas Derby winner Lawyer Ron was tuckered out, too.
"He just didn't have any punch turning for home," trainer Bob Holthus said. "That is the first time he had ever run that way."
Lawyer Ron came into the Derby undefeated this year, having won all five of his starts.
"You feel let down, but you'll live to battle another day," Holthus said. "It's been a good trip, maybe the next time it'll come out better."
Back in the tunnel, Solis rose and prepared to walk away.
Hendricks told him, "You'll have to win the Preakness."
"We will," Solis replied.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press