Tom Pedulla is interviewing prominent owners, trainers, and jockeys for America’s Best Racing as they travel the Road to the 147th Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve on May 1 at Churchill Downs.
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Trainer Brendan Walsh is featured this week. He will ask 2-for-2 Prevalence, a highly-regarded Godolphin homebred, to make the leap into graded-stakes company when he sends him into the $750,000, Grade 2 Wood Memorial Stakes presented by Resorts World Casino on Saturday at Aqueduct.
The Medaglia d’Oro colt was unraced at 2. He exploded onto the scene with an 8 ½-length romp going seven furlongs in his Jan. 23 debut at Gulfstream Park. He developed a slight fever after that auspicious start but recovered to deliver an authoritative three-length allowance win in a one-mile race on March 11, also at Gulfstream.
Prevalence can secure a Kentucky Derby berth with a win or a runner-up finish in the 1 1/8-mile Wood since the top four are awarded qualifying points on a 100-40-20-10 scale.
Walsh hopes Prevalence can emerge as his second starter in the run for the roses. He saddled Plus Que Parfait to an eighth-place finish in 2019 after that colt qualified by winning the United Arab Emirates Derby in Dubai.
Tyler Gaffalione, aboard for each of Prevalance’s first two starts, will again ride the colt in the Wood.
PEDULLA: What kept Prevalence from competing at 2?
WALSH: He never really got to me until the end of his 2-year-old year. I think there were a couple of minor issues, just usual 2-year-old stuff.
PEDULLA: Is it a big disadvantage when a horse that was unraced at 2 is trying to make the Derby?
WALSH: We were lucky enough that we got him on the racetrack early in the year. But it does put you in a position that, if they haven’t run at 2, they can’t miss a beat at 3.
PEDULLA: Were you surprised by the winning margin in Prevalence’s debut?
WALSH: Yeah. We did think he was a pretty nice horse. He had done some seriously good work at home. It didn’t surprise me that he won. To go and win the way he did, I don’t think there are many people who have had first-timers win like that.
PEDULLA: He developed a slight fever after his first race. Was that a significant setback?
WALSH: It put us out of any chance of running in the Fountain of Youth [Stakes on Feb. 27]. It messed up our chances of making the Florida Derby as well. Obviously, the horse likes Gulfstream. When you have a horse that likes a track, you’d like to prep him for the Derby at that track, if you could.
PEDULLA: What did you learn about Prevalence with his allowance win?
WALSH: I wouldn’t have felt as comfortable putting him in the deep end off of one run. It was important that he went out and got a second race. He kept company a bit longer, but he confirmed what we thought of him and won easily enough in the end. It made it easier to go on to the next step.
PEDULLA: What does it mean to you to train for Godolphin?
WALSH: It’s huge for me, personally. I started working for these guys 25 years ago back in Ireland at one of their farms. I spent a lot of time in Dubai in the late 90s, early 2000s. We were always privileged to work for them with the best horses all over the world. It’s just a dream come true. Every young trainer dreams of training horses of that caliber.
PEDULLA: Are you concerned that Prevalence might not be bred for distance?
WALSH: Medaglia d’Oro has bred plenty of horses that can go a route of ground. The Ghostzapper mare, there’s plenty of stamina in the pedigree. I don’t think we’ll know until we try. A mile and an eighth, I don’t think is going to be a problem.
PEDULLA: Are you encouraged that Tyler Gaffalione is willing to come to New York to stick with Prevalence?
WALSH: Tyler and I have a great relationship. He’s ridden a lot of horses, a lot of winners for me. I think it’s a big endorsement of the horse that Tyler is willing to give up Blue Grass Saturday at Keeneland, or wherever else he might be, to go up to New York and ride the horse in the Wood.
PEDULLA: How is Maxfield doing?
WALSH: Great. He’s due to go to Kentucky this week. We’ll get another work or two into him and decide where to go from there.
PEDULLA: Do you have any idea where he might run next?
WALSH: We’re looking forward to a full campaign with the horse this year. We want to get a full body of races into him and he can realize his true talent.
PEDULLA: What would it mean to you if you could win the Derby?
WALSH: Anybody who trains in the United States, it would be a dream. I live in Louisville and I know what it means to Kentucky. It’s just a massive race. Need I say more? The Derby is the Derby.