Zucker just says no to Derby for Crafty C.T.

Mar 20, 2001 5:54 AM

Future book bettors should not break into a sweat trying to get down on Crafty C.T. in the Kentucky Derby.

At a time when Derby Fever is sweeping the country, trainer Howard Zucker is reacting to the Run for the Roses like it’s the Black Plague.

In Crafty C.T., Zucker trains the most hyped 3-year-old in California this side of Point Given and Congaree. The 52-year-old conditioner has steadfastly maintained that Crafty C.T. won’t run in the Derby May 5, even after the son of Crafty Prospector rolled to a four-length victory on a speed-favoring track in the March 3 San Rafael Stakes.

As Zucker prepares Crafty C.T. for the April 7 Santa Anita Derby, he remains unwavering in his anti-Kentucky Derby stance for the Kentucky-bred chestnut.

"If he tied his tail around my neck and dragged me to Kentucky, I might enter him," Zucker said. "But I’d put the odds of me going to Kentucky at 1 in 100,000. To project that he’s going to run in the Santa Anita Derby, do well and bounce out of it like a horse that needs to go on and run again is just too much to imagine.

"He’s impressed me so far in that respect, because race to race he seems to get better. He came out of the San Rafael better than he went into it. He acts like he’s improving in every race. But it would be going to the well once too often to think that he’s going to run well right back off of the Santa Anita Derby. It’s quite a stretch out from going a mile (the San Rafael distance) to a mile and an eighth (of the Santa Anita Derby) with a horse that’s never been there before."

Crafty C.T. was unraced as a 2-year-old. That presents a major Derby deterrent for Zucker. The last horse to win the Kentucky Derby that didn’t race as 2-year-old was Apollo in 1882!

"Woody Stephens or somebody like that would have sent the horse to the Laurel Futurity, called it a season, gone to Hialeah, freshened him up, grazed him a little bit, then brought him back for one of the early Florida preps," Zucker said. "That’s the classic way of going to the Derby.

"Now, because of the Breeders’ Cup, guys race a little later — but you’ve got a horse like Point Given, who’s been there, done that and has come back twice as strong as he was as a 2-year-old. They have that chance to mature. My horse went through a lot of maturing even while he was racing. I can’t believe how much he’s changed for the best. But to think he’s going to keep doing it and project past the Derby would be asking a lot.

"I’m telling future book bettors not to bet on him. I told the guys who already bet on him to sell their tickets. I’m going to take that month from April 7 through the first week in May and not even work him, just gallop him and give him a day off every week and lighten up on the gallops, because we do gallop him hard. We’ll let him gain some weight, fill out and point maybe to the Affirmed or the Swaps (at Hollywood Park)."

Sending a horse across country is another reason Zucker cites to skip the Derby.

"Shipping adds a ton of stress to a horse. That’s part of the reason for not going to Kentucky," Zucker said. "If the Kentucky Derby were run at Santa Anita, I’d probably be looking forward to it. There’d be 50 percent more chance of a horse being right for the Derby if he didn’t have to go across country and acclimate to an entirely new situation.

"Sure, some horses do it, but they’re much more experienced than Crafty C.T. Some horses I’ve trained have at least shipped across town and run. Crafty C.T. made his first start, and it wasn’t even the first week of the meet. Now, for the Santa Anita Derby, he’s going to be making his fourth start in one meeting. You can count on one hand horses that start four times at one meet, especially the good ones. How many of them make that dance? I wouldn’t hold it against him if he didn’t even run in the Santa Anita Derby, but he just seems to be improving every day. Maybe he’s the super horse everybody’s looking for."

Zucker blames the media as another reason to forego the Derby.

"The media puts on the pressure to run in the Derby," Zucker said. "I’ll tell you the truth: you guys want to have a super horse, but you don’t want to let a guy develop one. You want to press him into doing all the stupid things year after year that people do to ruin their bleeping horses, just because the press and the public would like to see that horse bash his head against the wall in one race or another.

"The Derby is the biggest race you push for. If I don’t think it’s the right thing to do with my horse, the public can watch him for another year and a half or two years and enjoy him, and you guys can write about him. You’ll have a lot more left, and so will I."


The Homestretch

What Congaree lacks in experience, he makes up for in talent. The son of 1991 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion Arazi had what amounted to a paid workout in winning a 11/16-mile allowance race by eight lengths at Santa Anita Saturday, the same day Kentucky Derby favorite Point Given made his 2001 debut with an authoritative 2¼-length victory in the San Felipe Stakes. "Point Given is still the No. 1 horse," said Bob Baffert, who trains both colts. "Congaree (with only three starts) has some catching up to do, but he’s a freak of nature and horses like that can overcome a lot," said Baffert. He calls Congaree "this year’s Indian Charlie." …

One of D. Wayne Lukas’ major Kentucky Derby prospects, Gold Trader, was euthanized after suffering a fractured cannon bone in his right hind leg during the stretch run of the San Felipe. The $400,000 son of Storm Cat was owned by William Young’s Overbrook Farm, whose Grindstone won the 1996 Derby…

Veteran trainer George Williams on 18-year-old jockey Tyler Baze: "He reminds me of Pat Valenzuela. When the gates open, he gets the horse right into the race." Baze did just that for his major sponsor, red-hot trainer John Sadler, when he piloted first-time starter Heisman to a front-running $98.80 payoff in Saturday’s eighth race…

Trainer Jim Cassidy reports that Jamaican Rum’s sire, Exemplary Leader, died at age 14 of an aneurysm in the breeding shed. "He got off the mare and keeled over," Cassidy said. "That’s the way we’d all like to go, isn’t it?"


So-Cal sophs on Derby trail
Comprehensive and current status of Southern California’s leading 3-year-olds
Horse Trainer Next Start Comment
CONGAREE Baffert Probably the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 14 after son of Arazi scored a smashing eight-length allowance win at 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.16. Baffert says he’s this year’s Indian Charlie.
CRAFTY C.T. Zucker Santa Anita Derby on April 7, but Zucker says chances of running in Kentucky Derby are one in 100,000. Breezed a half-mile Sunday in: 49.80.
DR. PARK Sadler Undecided.
D’WILDCAT Hess Jr. Lafayette Stakes at seven furlongs on April 11 or Derby Trial at one mile on April 28. Hess says no Kentucky Derby for smashing 10 ½-length winner of Swale Stakes.
EARLY FLYER McAnally Santa Anita Derby or Arkansas Derby. Hopped at break, went four-wide before running third, beaten five lengths, in San Rafael.
FLAME THROWER Baffert Undecided. Worked half-mile in: 48 1/5 on March 15. Not nominated to Triple Crown.
GLOBAL GAIT Baffert Rushaway Stakes or Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park on April 24. Recovering from quarter crack. Well-beaten fourth in Fountain of Youth.
GOLDEN BALLET Sahadi Ashland Stakes at Keeneland on April 7. Nation’s top filly won Santa Anita Oaks for fifth straight victory.
GOLD TRADER Lukas Euthanized after suffering fracture of right hind leg during stretch run of San Felipe.
I LOVE SILVER Greenman Closed well for second in San Felipe Stakes behind Point Given, called by Greenman "the best horse in the world, right now."
JAMAICAN RUM Cassidy Lexington Stakes at Keeneland April 21, but Cassidy pondering Santa Anita Derby and Lone Star Derby. Third, beaten 3 ¾lengths in San Felipe despite five-wide trip.
MACABE Craig Lewis Undecided. Worked five furlongs Friday in: 58.60.
MILLENNIUM WIND Hofmans Santa Anita Derby or Blue Grass Stakes on April 14 for runner-up in roughly run Louisiana Derby.
NEW PROGRAM Sahadi Undecided, but stays on grass. Won downhill turf race Feb. 8.
PALMEIRO Sadler Santa Anita Derby after finishing game second in San Rafael on speed-favoring track. Worked five furlongs March 14 in 1:00.40.
POINT GIVEN Baffert Santa Anita Derby. Made 2001 debut with powerful 2 ¼-length San Felipe win. Baffert says he’s still "the No. 1 horse," ahead of Congaree.
SKIP TO THE STONE Mitchell Undecided after rating tactics failed and he finished sixth, beaten nearly 19 lengths in San Felipe.
SPECIAL TIMES Baffert Undecided. Dull fourth behind Congaree in allowance race, beaten 10 ½-lengths.
STARTAC Bray Santa Anita Derby. Owners are leaning that way, Bray says.
SWORDFISH Craig Lewis Undecided. Worked five furlongs Friday in 1:00.
TURNBERRY ISLE Lukas Undecided but ran well on grass in Europe, could return to turf after finishing 10th in Florida Derby.
WILD AND WISE Baffert Undecided. Worked half-mile in: 49 1/5 on March 13. Not nominated to Triple Crown.