"Then there was one."
That's how Bob Baffert summed up his prospects for the Kentucky Derby on May 4 after War Academy was pulled up in Saturday's Arkansas Derby under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who at press time Sunday, was still in search of a mount in the Run for the Roses.
"The one" would be Sunland Derby winner Govenor Charlie, who has 50 points on the Derby's new qualifying system that limits the field to 20 starters with the highest point totals, earned by the top four finishers in designated Derby prep races.
"He's fine," Baffert said of War Academy on an overcast Sunday morning interspersed with occasional sprinkles of rain.
"Mike Smith said the horse's hind end kept going out on him a little bit down the backside, so he didn't feel comfortable and pulled him up. But when he got back to the barn he looked fine. We're shipping him today to Kentucky. We'll monitor him, but he looked fine."
Only one can win it
The chart comments on War Academy read, "War Academy backed out of the gate prior to the start, reloaded, broke in good order, raced midpack toward the front, broke stride just after a half, pulled up gradually, walked off."
Baffert trainees Super Ninety Nine, Den's Legacy (sixth in the Arkansas Derby) and Code West have 30, 20 and 20 points, respectively, but Baffert said last week that how his horses were training, and not points, would be the determining factor in whether they run in the Kentucky Derby, which he has won three times.
His erstwhile top prospect, Flashback, was knocked off the trail by injury following his runner-up effort in the Santa Anita Derby. He exited the April 6 race with a knee chip that required surgery, but should be back in action later this year.
As for Baffert's Kentucky Derby number seemingly down to one, the Hall of Famer was philosophical.
"Only one can win it," he said.