LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The first defection of Derby week came late Tuesday morning, when trainer Larry Jones announced he will not enter Mark Valeski this afternoon for Saturday's Kentucky Derby. That created an opening for long shot Optimizer, trained by 76-year-old D. Wayne Lukas, a four-time Derby winner.
Jones said his colt is healthy but decided he wasn't up to taking on a very strong field. Mark Valeski's 5-furlong workout in 1:00.20 Monday didn't dazzle Jones. "We really were looking for a 'wow' work, and we don't think he gave us that feeling," he said. "When you go in the Derby, you've got to be ready to tackle the bears."
Jones said Mark Valeski would run in the Peter Pan Stakes on May 12 at Belmont Park.
A maximum field of 20 is expected to be entered, but the Derby has an also-eligible list for the first time since 1984. If another horse is pulled out, My Adonis would run. The colt is owned by 1978 Chaminade High School graduate George Hall and his wife, Lori, residents of Rumson, N.J.
The Halls won the Belmont Stakes last year with Ruler On Ice. They are 0-for-3 in the Derby with trainer Kelly Breen -- Pants on Fire (ninth last year), West Side Bernie and Atomic Rain (ninth and 16th, respectively, in 2009). My Adonis ran second in the Gotham before finishing seventh in the Wood Memorial. After Breen learned of the scratch, he put My Adonis on a van at Monmouth Park. The horse is expected to arrive Wednesday at Churchill Downs.