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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, May 1, 2013 at 12:00 AM

Kentucky Derby: Giant Finish joins field on eve of draw

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Talk about Derby fever.

Less than 24 hours before entries were to close for Saturday’s $2 million Kentucky Derby, the connections of the New York-bred and Maryland-based Giant Finish announced they would enter the race.

Due to his third-place finish in the Grade 3 Spiral Stakes on March 23 – his most recent start – Giant Finish has 10 qualifying points under the system used this year by Churchill Downs for Derby qualification and thus would knock Fear the Kitten to the also-eligible list. Fear the Kitten, whose connections announced Monday their intention to run when it looked like only 19 would enter, has only six points.

Entries for the Derby were due by 10 a.m. Eastern on Wednesday, with the post-position draw scheduled for 5 p.m. during a one-hour show broadcast on the NBC Sports Network. The field is limited to 20 starters, but 24 can enter, with four being placed on the also-eligible list.

Another horse, Carving, was being considered for the Derby as well, but after hearing that he would likely be relegated to second on the also-eligible list, his trainer, Mike Puhich, said he most likely would not enter.

Giant Finish, a son of Frost Giant trained by Tony Dutrow, won two of his first three starts, all against New York-bred competition at Aqueduct. Thereafter, he finished second in the John Battaglia Memorial Stakes at Turfway Park and third there behind Kentucky Derby longshot Black Onyx in the Spiral. Both of those races were run on a synthetic surface.

Andrew Cohen, the breeder and part-owner of Giant Finish, owned part of 2008 Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown. Cohen said he was thinking about the Derby when he ran Giant Finish in the Spiral, but when the colt finished third, he didn’t think he would have enough points to get in.

“He’s by Frost Giant, I bred him, and it seems like these horses have a little special something,” said Cohen, who races under the name Sunrise Stables and owns Giant Finish along with Gary Tolchin, Aubrey Flanagan and Bob Smith. “They’re very competitive. They don’t quit. He’s improved each race. I know we’re going to be a longshot in there, but it’s horse racing.”

As of Tuesday, the horse was based at the Fair Hill training center in Maryland. He worked four furlongs in 49.40 seconds over the dirt track there last Thursday. Dutrow said Giant Finish was scheduled to leave Fair Hill by van Wednesday night and be at Churchill Downs on Thursday morning, making the deadline for Derby horses to be on the grounds.

“My clients wish to race, and obviously I’m going to honor their decision,” said Dutrow, who said he had been pointing the horse to an allowance race at Belmont and then perhaps the Belmont Stakes.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Cohen had not yet lined up a rider. Cornelio Velasquez had ridden Giant Finish in both of his victories, and Jose Espinoza rode him in the Spiral.

Before learning of the addition of Giant Finish, the connections of Carving were planning to ship their horse from Washington on Thursday with hopes of running in the Derby. Carving had only two points and would have been first on the also-eligible list.

Mark Dedomenico purchased that horse from Jill Baffert and Bode Miller after he ran sixth in the San Felipe Stakes in March. According to Puhich, who now trains Carving, a deal to sell a 50 percent stake in that horse to an undisclosed client was in the works Monday but was contingent on getting into the Derby, which is now unlikely.

“We’re leaving everything open till entry time,” Puhich said by phone Tuesday afternoon. “It’s not completely dead, but I’m pretty certain we’re not going to enter to be on the also-eligibles.”

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