They don’t race Sundays at Churchill Downs.
Which, to trainer Dallas Stewart, is a good thing.
“We’re all really whacked right now,” Stewart said Sunday morning, the day after Commanding Curve gave the New Orleanian his second straight Kentucky Derby runner-up finish. “I think we all need some rest.”
For Commanding Curve though, there may not be as much rest time as Stewart would normally like.
The Preakness is less than two weeks away — on Saturday, May 17. And Stewart is usually conservative with his horses. Last year, under identical circumstances, he held Golden Soul out of the Preakness only to see him finish ninth in the Belmont and no better than fifth in any of his four subsequent races.
Stewart also delayed Commanding Curve’s debut as a 3-year-old until the Feb. 22 Risen Star at the Fair Grounds, skipping the Lecomte, which was held a month earlier.
However, Terry Finley, president of West Point Thoroughbred partnership that owns Commanding Curve, said Saturday that the horse, who went off in the Derby at 37-1 and earned $400,000 for coming in second, will enter the Preakness to challenge Derby winner California Chrome.
On Sunday, Stewart wasn’t so definitive.
“This is a really nice horse who can win a lot of big races,” he said. “I don’t what to do anything to jeopardize those chances for the partnership.
“He seems to be in good shape, and we’ll take him out in a few days to jog him and see where his energy level is. But we’re not going to rush into anything at all.”
Stewart added that he will not make a decision until early next week.
As for the rest of the Louisiana-connection contingent that made it to the Derby, only Ride on Curlin appears headed for Pimlico.
And that apparently will be with a different jockey.
Trainer Billy Gowan, who had his first Derby qualifier in Ride on Curlin, and Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel appeared to have a Hollywood-worthy story going into the Derby.
But Ride on Curlin finished seventh. And Sunday, Gowan blasted Borel, a three-time Derby champion.
“It was a pretty bad ride in my opinion,” he said. “A terrible ride.”
Gowan was particularly incensed that Borel, who made his reputation as a master of coming up on the rail, broke for the inside too early from his No. 19 pole position and found himself with too much ground to make up, finishing seventh.
“He didn’t have to go for the rail right away,” Gowan said. “When he got to the turn, there was nowhere to go.
“I sure didn’t tell him to do that. I wasn’t very impressed with him at all. It was pitiful.”
And then Gowan really unloaded.
“That’s what aggravates me about jocks,” he said. “They just do what they want to do.
“I wish you could run the races with no jocks and just put chickens on ’em.”
Borel on Saturday acknowledged it has been a rough ride. He could be reached for comment Sunday.
Jerry Hissam, Borel’s longtime agent, speculated that Gowan was just blowing off steam.
“If he thinks he can do better, let him find somebody else,” Hissam said. “I know Calvin was trying to get through every hole he could get to, and there weren’t any.
“Sometimes you get through, and sometimes you don’t. But when things go wrong, you’re not going to change their minds, no matter what you say.’
Gowan said he wasn’t sure if he would return to Jon Court, who rode Ride on Curlin in the Arkansas Derby, or look elsewhere.
“We’ll just sit here and try to figure things out,” he said.
If it was a bad day for Ride on Curlin, it was worse for Louisiana Derby champion Vicar’s in Trouble and jockey Rosie Napravnik.
The first-Louisiana bred entry in the Derby since 1996, starting from the No. 2 pole position, Vicar’s in Trouble was bounced around early in the race, seemed to recover with a half mile to go, but then came to a stop and finished last, 38 1/2 lengths back.
“I’d rather say we finished 19th instead of last,” said three-time Eclipse Award-winning owner Kenneth Ramsey, who has never had a Derby winner. “I thought he got a perfect ride for the first 300 yards.
“But then he got shuffled around. And when he had nothing but a steady stream of dirt in his face, it took all of the heart of him.”
Ramsey, whose other entry, We Miss Artie, finished 10th, said he had no criticism of Napravnik or trainer Mike Maker. But he added that Vicar’s in Trouble will not go on to the Preakness and will probably next run in the Belmont Derby, a new 1-mile race scheduled for Belmont Stakes Day, June 7.
“He’s got a couple of good-sized cuts, and the race took a lot of him,” Ramsey said. “I think that the Belmont Derby suits him best for now, and then we’ll look at races like the Ohio Derby, the Indiana Derby or the Oklahoma Derby.
“It was a disappointment, but we still had a lot of fun. After it was over, we just drank beer instead of champagne.”
Vicar’s poor performance leaves Napravnik, who last year became the first female jockey to ride in all three Triple Crown events, without a mount in the Preakness.
There had been speculation that Untapable, who Napravnik rode to victory in the Kentucky Oaks on Friday, would challenge the males in the Preakness, but trainer Steve Asmussen said that would not happen and did not commit to the Black Eyed Susan as well.
Likewise, Stewart said his Unbridled Forever, who finished third in the Kentucky Oaks, would skip the Black Eyed Susan and aim for the Acorn at Belmont instead.
“This was a pretty good weekend,” he said. “We had faith in our horse all along, and Shaun (jockey Shaun Bridgmohan) gave him a beautiful ride.
“Second two years in a row is great, and it was a great day in general with all of the energy there. But now we’ve got to get back to work.”