LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) – Derek Ryan may be the most relaxed rookie trainer heading into the Kentucky Derby.

The sport’s biggest race can be a nerve-racking experience before 150,000 fans and an international television audience Saturday. Not for Ryan, who seems to be taking it all in stride as he prepares Musket Man, the Tampa Bay and Illinois Derby winner.

The Irishman spends a good portion of the morning doing what he normally does, cracking jokes – no different than at his home base of Monmouth Park. The bicycle, Ryan’s preferred method of backstretch transportation, is parked outside the barn so he can easily tool around.

Pressure? What pressure?

“There’s no difference,” Ryan said. “I still have to get up early in the morning, unfortunately. And I’m still looking for a rich woman with a bad heart.”

While Ryan kids around, his horse is a serious runner. Musket Man is 5-for-6, making him one of the better values on the Derby morning line at 20-1.

Ryan, who has been known to a make a wager, already locked in a bet on his colt – $100 at 150-1 in a Derby futures bet made in Las Vegas in January.

“You know what they say: what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas,” Ryan said. “I’d love to go back to cash it. I might not come back with much of the money after I get there.”

The ticket is stashed in a safe place.

“It’s in the ashtray in my pickup truck at Monmouth,” Ryan said. “I don’t smoke, so it’s safe.”

BEATING THE RAIN: Papa Clem and Nowhere to Hide logged their final Derby workouts before conditions deteriorated at Churchill Downs on Thursday morning.

The showers that started shortly after 8 a.m. turned into a deluge by 9 a.m. By then Papa Clem and Nowhere to Hide were already back in their barns.

Papa Clem, the Arkansas Derby winner, hasn’t generated much buzz during Derby week. He is 20-1 on the morning line, a fair price for a colt who is only 2-for-6. And his previous workouts were no better than average.

That all changed Thursday with a sharp three-furlong drill in 34 seconds, as trainer Gary Stute followed the family tradition. His dad Mel specialized in sharpening winners with very quick works only days before a race.

To use an expression coined by trainer Bob Baffert, Papa Clem was “Melvinized”.

“You see me smiling, don’t you?” said Gary Stute. “Everyone has been criticizing his works. I would have been worried if he didn’t work well today.”

This is the first Derby runner for Gary Stute. His dad, who was on hand for the workout, trained Snow Chief, the champion 3-year-old of 1986 who captured the Preakness, the Florida Derby, the Santa Anita Derby and the Jersey Derby.

Nowhere to Hide had a quarter-mile tightener in 25.20 seconds.

Trainer Nick Zito planned to keep the colt in reserve for the Belmont Stakes on June 6. Those plans changed suddenly when a Derby spot opened up on only hours before entries closed on Wednesday.

“He’s been in training all winter,” Zito said. “If you’re ready, you never know.”

Nowhere to Hide is 50-1 as Zito goes for a third Derby winner to join Strike the Gold (1991) and Go for Gin (1994).



GETTING SOGGY: The rain Thursday could be a preview of Derby Day conditions. The forecast calls for a 60 percent chance of thundershowers with temperatures in the mid 60s.



PETA PROTEST: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals plans a protest Friday and Saturday on the sidewalk outside Churchill Downs. The centerpiece will be the laying of a garland of roses bearing the photo of Eight Belles, the filly who suffered a fatal breakdown while galloping out after finishing second in last year’s Derby.

AP-ES-04-30-09 1622EDT


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