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Derby Picks: Challenging the General
Posted: Wednesday April 28, 1999 07:10 PM
By William Nack
Late last Saturday afternoon trainer Bob Baffert watched his leading Kentucky Derby contender, General Challenge, stride in slow circles around the crowded paddock ring at Churchill Downs. The giant gelding had just begun his final week of schooling, a series of daily training sessions in which he would get accustomed to the paddock where Baffert will saddle him for Saturday's race.
An easy winner of the April 3 Santa Anita Derby, General Challenge is expected to go off as one of the favorites in a field of as many as 20 horses, the Derby maximum. The General is a fractious, high-strung sort, and Baffert's job this week will be to keep him mentally straight as well as physically fit. "I'll school him in the paddock every day," Baffert said. "By Derby day he'll be used to the place and the crowds."
The 125th running of the Derby will be wide open, with as many as 10 horses having a shot to win, including the General's stablemate, Prime Timber, who finished second in the Santa Anita Derby; Florida Derby winner Vicar; Adonis, hero of the Wood Memorial; Adonis's stakes-winning stablemate Stephen Got Even; the Blue Grass winner, Menifee; the always threatening Cat Thief; and Dubai-trained mystery horse Worldly Manner.
This Kentucky Derby is so rich in mystery that it defies rational analysis. Still, the bet here is that General Challenge holds off Vicar and Cat Thief down the lane to win it.
Issue date: May 3, 1999
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