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″We’ve got a long way to go yet,” said Roger Laurin, well aware ho

March 2, 1985

HALLANDALE, Fla. (AP) _ ″We’ve got a long way to go yet,″ said Roger Laurin, well aware how bumpy the road to the Kentucky Derby can be.

Laurin is the trainer of Chief’s Crown, the 1984 2-year-old champion.

While Kentucky hopefuls Proud Truth, Stephan’s Odysey and Banner Bob were schedued to contest the 11/8 -mile Florida Derby today at Gulfstream Park, Chief’s Crown was set to make his 3-year-old debut in the seven-furlong Swale Stakes at the same track.

Chief’s Crown, winner of six of nine starts as a 2-year-old, was not entered in the $300,000 Florida Derby because his training schedule was derailed when he developed a cough in January. He has not raced since winning the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile over one mile Nov. 10 at Hollywood Park.

Should Chief’s Crown make it to the 11/4 -mile Kentucky Derby May 4 at Churchill Downs, he would be the first 2-year-old champion to start in the Derby since Rockhill Native finished sixth in 1980.

Of 10 2-year-old champions before Chief’s Crown, four won the Derby - Foolish Pleaure, 1975; Seattle Slew, 1977; Affirmed, 1978, and Spectacular Bid, 1979. Another, Honest Pleasure, finished second in 1976.

But after Rockhill Native’s sixth-place finish, the road to Kentucky became impassable for the next four 2-year-old champions.

Lord Avie, the 1980 juvenile champion, won the Florida Derby in 1981, but then suffered an ankle injury and was retired in August of that year.

Deputy Minister missed the 1982 Kentucky Derby because of an ankle injury. He came back to race as a 4-year-old and was retired in November 1983.

With Deputy Minister out of action, Timely Writer won the Florida Derby and Flamingo, becoming the hot favorite to win the Kentucky Derby. But 10 days before the race, he underwent surgery for an intestinal problem. Later in the year, Timely Writer broke down in the Jockey Club Gold Cup and was humanely destroyed.

Roving Boy won the 1982 2-year-old title, but missed the Kentucky Derby with a knee injury. He came back, but broke down in a race in November 1983 and was destroyed.

Devil’s Bag won all five of his starts as a 2-year-old, prompting Woody Stephens, his Hall of Fame trainer, to call him the greatest horse he ever handled. But he didn’t run back to his form in 1984 and was held out of the Derby. Two days after the Derby, he was retired because of a knee injury.

″He’s the real thing,″ groom Eddie Sweat said of Chief’s Crown. Sweat also was groom for Riva Ridge, the 1972 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes winner, and Secretariat, the 1973 Triple Crown champion.

″Looks like I’m rubbing my third Derby winner.″

There’s a long way to go.

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