ARCADIA, Calif. -- Purveyors of cheap wine in Louisville, Ky., will be happy to know that business will be improving. Heading their way as a new customer is The Deputy, the hard-working, wine-slurping winner of Saturday's Santa Anita Derby.
The Deputy, ridden by Chris McCarron for Jenine Sahadi, the first woman ever to train a Santa Anita Derby winner, didn't weave through the stretch or anything. He only drinks a quarter-cup of red wine a day, mixed into his late feeding, and seems to handle the grape well. When it comes to the Kentucky Derby, which will bring The Deputy to Churchill Downs on May 6, whatever works is the best plan.
''It's the $5.99 stuff,'' Sahadi said. ''A veterinarian (Helmut Von Bleucher) suggested that I try it with my horses a number of years ago. I gave it to Lit De Justice (her Breeders' Cup Sprint winner in 1996). I think horses appreciate a little variety, and this changes the taste a little bit. Hey, these horses eat the same thing, day after day, and you know that if people were put on a diet of nothing but hamburger, we'd get tired of it in a hurry.''
The Deputy couldn't beat trainer Neil Drysdale's No. 1 Kentucky Derby prospect, Fusaichi Pegasus, in the San Felipe Stakes last month, but Sahadi's Irish-bred colt outfinished another Drysdale runner, War Chant, on Saturday before 41,222.
War Chant, who had been unbeaten in three starts before Saturday, went off a slight favorite over The Deputy and finished second, beaten by one length. Captain Steve, for the third consecutive time this year, finished third, beaten this time by three lengths. Anees was fourth, the filly Surfside fifth and Cocky last in the six-horse field. All but Cocky could run in the Kentucky Derby, although by now Surfside's trainer, Wayne Lukas, may be thinking about an easier spot, the Kentucky Oaks at Churchill on May 5.
After he had won one of five starts in England, The Deputy was syndicated for $500,000 and brought to the United Sates. He races in a partnership that includes 12 members of the Team Valor group and Gary Barber, the South African moviemaker whose 1999 film ''The Sixth Sense'' was nominated for a best-picture Oscar.
''Nominations are great, but this is a win,'' said Barber, who owns 50 percent of The Deputy. ''They're both great honors. On to Kentucky!''
Barry Irwin, the president of Team Valor, had a Kentucky Derby horse in 1997, with Captain Bodgit losing by a head to Silver Charm .
''The only thing similar between that horse and this one,'' Irwin said, ''is that they were both 3 years old and they're both bay (in color)) Captain Bodgit was a big, hulking horse who needed the right pace factor because of his late running style. This horse is actually a bit on the smallish side, but there's nothing he can't do. There isn't anything he can't handle, and there aren't many horses like that.''
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