Belgravia auditions in Lexington
LEXINGTON, Ky. -- Patrick Biancone has trained major stables on three continents, so he knows all about having to make adjustments.
"When you miss one train, you have to take another train," he said.
This pearl of wisdom applies to what Biancone is doing this weekend with Belgravia. Widely regarded as a major contender for the 133rd Kentucky Derby, Belgravia incurred a setback when contracting what Biancone termed a "serious lung infection" while training at Hollywood Park in mid-February.
"I had to stop on him and treat him for about three weeks," said Biancone.
Although Biancone and the partners who own Belgravia have not ruled out the May 5 Derby, they are far more likely to bypass the race in favor of the Preakness or other races. Their decision will hinge largely on what transpires Saturday at Keeneland, where Belgravia will be one of the favorites in the Grade 2, $325,000 Lexington Stakes, a 1 1/16-mile race that drew 10 3-year-olds when entries were taken Wednesday.
"Everyone knows Belgravia was a Derby horse until he got sick," said Biancone. "We probably will still run in the Preakness, but owners and trainers, they change their minds. Everything can change with racing."
Biancone said Belgravia "is perfect now," and he expects the colt to return to form in the Lexington. Belgravia, owned by Michael Tabor, Susan Magnier, Derrick Smith, and Zayat Stables, made a name for himself last fall by winning the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue and finishing a close fourth as the favorite in the Grade 1 Hollywood Futurity.
With Julien Leparoux to ride, Belgravia was assigned post 8 in the Lexington, which will be televised on a delayed basis on ESPN2 on a one-hour show that begins at 6 p.m. Eastern.
From the rail out, this is the lineup for the 26th running of the Lexington is: Forty Grams, Boogiemanball, Soaring By, Joe Got Even, Moyer's Pond, Slew's Tizzy, Trust Your Luck, Belgravia, Sacrifice Bunt, and Starbase.
The weather forecast for Saturday is ideal, with sunny skies yielding temperatures in the low 70s.
Slim Derby hope for Lukas
The odds are very much stacked against it, but by running Starbase in the Lexington on Saturday, Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas still has a chance to have a starter in the Kentucky Derby.
Starbase, who will start from post 10, figures as perhaps the longest price in the Lexington field. By Tale of the Cat, the colt has won 2 of 9 starts, with his last two races resulting in a seventh-place finish in the Feb. 19 Southwest Stakes at 34-1 and a fifth-place finish in the March 24 Lane's End Stakes at 55-1.
Lukas, whose 42 Derby starters are the most in history, won the Lexington in recent years with Charismatic, the 1999 Derby winner, and Proud Citizen, the 2002 Derby runner-up. Like Proud Citizen, Starbase is owned by a partnership that includes Robert Baker and William Mack.
Lukas, a four-time winner of the Derby, did not have starter in the race last year.
Guidry ready to retire
Jockey Mark Guidry, who going into Thursday was just five wins shy of 5,000, said he is almost certain that he will retire in early August.
"There comes a time in an athlete's life, and certainly mine, that you know when it's time to quit," he said "I think it's about time for me to let the younger guys take over."
Guidry, 47, said he wants to eventually become a steward. "I love doing this," he said Wednesday after riding No Fault, a 17-1 shot, to a runner-up finish in the sixth race. "But I want to do something else."
Guidry plans to ride at the Churchill Downs meet before riding for several weeks at Arlington Park in Chicago. During a riding career of 31 years, he was a perennial leading rider on the Chicago circuit.
"I thought about quitting after the [Kentucky] Derby, but I really don't think it would be right for me to go out without saying goodbye to the people of Chicago," he said. "They've been so good to me through my whole career."
* Three berths in the 2008 National Handicapping Championship and cash prizes are at stake this weekend at Ellis Park in Henderson, Ky. The contest will be held on 30 designated simulcast races Saturday and Sunday.
* Tuesday was an enjoyable dark day for retired trainer Chris Crowe. He had a hole-in-one when golfing with clocker Billy Pettingill and clerk of scales David Heitzmann at the nearby Golf Course of the Bluegrass. Using a 6-iron, Crowe notched his ace on the par-3, 164-yard 16th hole.
* For the second year, Woodford Reserve is selling specially engraved Derby mint julep cups for $1,000 each. For more information, log on to woodfordreservemintjulep.com.