Ring Weekend out of Kentucky Derby with fever; Commanding Curve in

It was a morning of conflicting emotions for the principals of West Point Thoroughbreds as their Tampa Bay Derby winner Ring Weekend was declared out of the Kentucky Derby after spiking a fever on Sunday.

“I got a text at 5:15 a.m. from my barn that he had a  temperature a little over 102 and it’s kind of fluctuated from there,” trainer Graham Motion said. “We did several different blood tests and everything confirms he has a pretty significant infection. It is unbelievable, people don’t realize how much you live on tender hooks especially with these big events because they are animals.

“If he gets over it very quickly, the Preakness is something we could talk about,” Motion added. “But if he ends up missing a week, it’s going to be unlikely obviously.”

Second in the Calder Derby last time out, Ring Weekend had worked six furlongs in 1:12.80 at Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland on Friday. His defection from the field clears the way for Commanding Curve, who is also owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, to crack the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field.

“It is kind of ironic that that happened,” said Terry Finley, founder of West Point Thoroughbreds. “But they are owned by two different partnerships so they are unrelated in that respect. It’s just bad timing (for Ring Weekend).

Commanding Curve ran third in the Grade II Louisiana Derby last time out and broke his maiden over the Churchill Downs track going 1 1/16-miles last November 30.

“We’re happy we’re in, but – let me say something, Terry Finley and Graham Motion are top class horsemen,” said Dallas Stewart, trainer of Commanding Curve. “I’ve worked for Terry for 20 years, and he always does right by the horse, no matter the circumstance. Terry always handled things the right way and with class. It’s unfortunate for him and for Graham, but I’m sure (Ring Weekend) will bounce out of it good. He’s in great hands.”

Stewart was in a similar position last year when his charge Golden Soul got into the field late due to defections and nearly pulled an upset, running second to Orb.

“I think he’s every bit as good as horse as (Golden Soul) is,” Stewart said of Commanding Curve last week. “He’s trained well, there is nothing I don’t like about the way he does things. He’s handled the crowd very good, he’s real easy to gallop.”

Shaun Bridgmohan will have the mount on Commanding Curve for the Derby.

Pablo Del Monte, third in the Grade I Toyota Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland, is now 21st in the Kentucky Derby points standings and would be the next to get in if there are any other defections.