And come the homestretch, horses like Silent King and Gate Dancer should be collecting it. Gate Dancer is the sleeper of the Derby. While he has ability, he also has a tendency to run up alongside horses and lean on them. So there is this possible scenario: Althea has shaken off all front-runners at the eighth pole when Gate Dancer drives up next to her, as if about to take the lead, then suddenly hears the crowd on the right, veers left and starts leaning on her, pushing the filly toward the rail. You can't miss Gate Dancer. He'll be the one wearing a strange purple hood with earmuffs. Trainer Van Berg outfits him with those to muffle the crowd noise. With the enormous number of people that show up at Churchill Downs on Derby Day, you can mute the noise, but you can't shut it out entirely.
Van Berg is certain Gate Dancer can go the distance. Throughout the 1? miles of the Arkansas Derby, in which Gate Dancer finished third behind Althea and Pine Circle, beaten seven lengths, he ran wide on both turns. "Four horses wide the whole way," Van Berg says. "I know he can go a mile and a quarter because he already did it."
Gate Dancer is but one piece of a Derby puzzle that has grown more and more exasperating to figure since the bottom fell out of the Bag at Hialeah. The heart leans toward Althea, that daughter of America's darling, Alydar, but the head says Woody is right. Swale's the one.