REMARKS: The only winner of the Kentucky Derby who didn't run as a 2-year-old was Apollo in 1882.
On that score, J.T.'s Pet barely avoided the stigma. He ran the first race of his career last New Year's Eve, beating maidens at the New Orleans Fair Grounds.
And, J.T.'s Pet has done nothing but win this year. His 1 1/2-length victory over Faster Than Sound in the Jim Beam Stakes at Turfway Park Sunday was his fifth straight and just two weeks after his winning effort in the Louisiana Derby.
Owner Cal Partee, one of about 11,000 people who live in Magnolia, Ark., and trainer Lynn Whiting also won the Jim Beam with At the Threshold in 1984. After running fourth in the Arkansas Derby, At the Threshold was laughingly dismissed at 37-1 odds in the Kentucky Derby, but he finished third and went on to earn almost $600,000.
Partee paid $150,000 for At the Threshold, and in J.T.'s Pet, who cost only $35,000 at a yearling auction, he has more of a bargain.
Whether J.T.'s Pet can continue winning once he's introduced to top-flight opposition is questionable. There were no major winners running in the Jim Beam and J.T.'s Pet and Faster Than Sound, who broke from the two inside post positions, benefited from an extraordinary track bias that prevented outside horses from winning at Turfway all day.
Although Partee won his home state's biggest race, the Arkansas Derby, with J.R.'s Pet in 1974, it is likely that J.T.'s Pet will skip this year's Arkansas Derby April 18 and train up to the Kentucky Derby May 2.
One reason for many horsemen to skip the Arkansas Derby is Demons Begone, who has won two races this year at Oaklawn Park by a total of 12 lengths. Pat Day rode Demons Begone to a four-length win over Fast Forward last Saturday in the Rebel Stakes.
Day also rides J.T.'s Pet, and should Whiting decide to run his gelding in the Arkansas Derby he would have to find another jockey, since Day is committed to Demons Begone. Day said Monday that if Demons Begone wins in Arkansas, he would ride the colt back in the Kentucky Derby.
Day will also be riding Capote in his 3-year-old debut this Saturday in the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct. Day's Kentucky Derby dilemma has been one that every jockey in the country wouldn't mind having.
"It's not a difficult decision," Whiting said after the Jim Beam Sunday, before he and Day boarded a plane back to Arkansas. "We'll ask Pat to make it when we get to 10,000 feet."
The Gotham, which is a renewal of last year's rivalry between Capote and Gulch, is just one of three important races for 3-year-olds this Saturday, the others being the Santa Anita Derby and Florida Derby.
At Santa Anita, Masterful Advocate will try to live up to his billing as the Kentucky Derby favorite, with Chart The Stars, Alysheba and Temperate Sil--who has dropped out of the ratings--also in the field.
In Florida, the big horses are Flamingo winner Talinum and Bet Twice, with Cryptoclearance and Conquistarose also in the field. Trainer Woody Stephens is hoping for a muddy track, which would move Conquistarose up.
TRIPLE CROWN RATINGS
Career Horse S 1 2 3 Earnings 1.Masterful Advocate 8 5 1 1 $409,425 2.Capote 4 3 0 0 645,680 3.Bet Twice 9 6 0 1 799,047 4.Talinum 8 3 1 1 365,116 5.Demons Begone 7 4 2 0 186,874 6.Cryptoclearance 9 4 1 1 220,750 7.Gulch 9 6 1 0 564,710 8.Alysheba 9 1 5 1 400,236 9.Chart The Stars 6 2 4 0 165,100 10.J.T.'s Pet 5 5 0 0 392,460
Advisory panel for The Times' Triple Crown Ratings: Lenny Hale, vice president for racing at Aqueduct, Belmont Park and Saratoga; Frank (Jimmy) Kilroe, vice president for racing at Santa Anita; and Tommy Trotter, racing secretary at Gulfstream Park.