Skinner Works Towards Potential Start in Kentucky Derby

April 24, 2023

Ernie Belmonte Photo

Stable Notes By Victor Ryan

ARCADIA, Calif.—Skinner continued his preparations for a potential start in the Kentucky Derby when working six furlongs under Hall of Famer Victor Espinoza Sunday at Santa Anita.

Hitting the main track shortly after the 6:30 a.m. renovation break, Skinner broke off at the six-furlong pole and worked to the wire in an official time of 1:13.40.

“Victor worked him perfect,” said John Shirreffs, Skinner’s trainer. “He went the first furlong in 13 seconds and change and gradually picked it up at every pole. I got him the last eighth of a mile in 11 seconds. Could have been 11 and a tick. He finished full of run.”

Unfortunately for Shirreffs and owners Lee and Susan Searing of C R K Stable, Skinner is currently sitting on the outside of the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field. Following his third-place finish in the GI Santa Anita Derby April 8, Skinner has 45 qualifying points, which ranks 22nd on the leaderboard. He would need at least two defections to make the 1 ¼-mile classic on May 6.

On Sunday, Shirreffs said no travel plans have been made to ship Skinner to Churchill Downs.

“If we’re not in, why would we go?” said Shirreffs, who in 2005 won the Kentucky Derby with 50-1 long shot Giacomo. “It’s a tough decision to make to go all the way there and then not get in.”

In 2017, Shirreffs entered in the Kentucky Derby both Gormely, that year’s GI Santa Anita Derby winner, and Royal Mo, a Grade III winner who was tied for 20th in the standings with 30 points. Royal Mo did not make the race. Instead, the maiden Sonneteer, who also had 30 points thanks to running second in the GII Rebel, earned the bid based on having more graded stakes earnings.

“We’ll keep Skinner on his schedule. If we hear something early enough, we’d go,” Shirreffs said.

“But if we don’t, I don’t know. I’ve been there before sitting on the outside and didn’t get to run.”

Skinner (outside Yellow) ran a fierce race for a third place against Practial Move (inside Red) and Mandarin Hero who placed Second (Pink) in the Grade I, Runhappy Santa Anita Derby. (Benoit Photo)

Prior to the Santa Anita Derby, Skinner also ran third in the GII San Felipe. The Curlin colt, a $510,000 auction purchase as a yearling, has a record of 6-1-0-3 with $216,300 in earnings.

Skinner is not the only Santa Anita Derby alum who needs help to make the Kentucky Derby. Mandarin Hero, the Santa Anita Derby runner-up, currently ranks 25th. He is scheduled to work on Wednesday and then ship to Churchill Downs the following day. If the Japanese import does not make the Derby starting gate, the connections said they will await the Preakness on May 20 at Pimlico.

Also on Sunday, trainer Tim Yakteen reported his two expected Kentucky Derby starters, Santa Anita Derby winner Practical Move and Reincarnate, each exited their works this weekend in good order. They are scheduled to ship to Churchill Downs on Saturday along with stablemates Kangaroo Court and Fort Bragg, both ticketed for the GII Pat Day Mile, and Johannes, who will contest the GII American Turf.

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