Owner Robert LaPenta said he spent about five hours on Sunday watching the television coverage of Saturday's Kentucky Derby. He came to the same conclusion each time.
"I think we had the best horse in the race,'' said LaPenta, the owner of Ice Box, whose furious late rally through the sloppy Churchill Downs stretch fell 2 1/2 lengths short of Super Saver. "To come up a little short, it's tough.''
That's why LaPenta said he would like to run Ice Box back against Super Saver in the $1 million Preakness Stakes on May 15 at Pimlico. However, Nick Zito, the trainer of Ice Box, indicated that he would be more comfortable skipping the Preakness and pointing to the Belmont Stakes, a race Zito has won twice, including in 2008 with the LaPenta-owned Da' Tara. Zito and LaPenta both said that Jackson Bend, who finished 12th in the Derby, is likely to run back in the Preakness.
Regarding Ice Box, LaPenta said Monday he "wants to think about it for a few more days'' and talk to Zito after the horse goes back to the track.
"He ran so well I think the Preakness would be a nice race for him,'' LaPenta said. "I'd hate to wait to fire that one bullet in the Belmont. A lot of times you don't get that fast of a pace.''
Zito is hesitant to run Ice Box in two weeks because the colt ran so hard in the Kentucky Derby and he wants to have a horse to run in the big races the remainder of they year.
"He's a Pulpit and you worry about his mind,'' Zito said. "We ran twice as hard as the winner. He ran his guts out. I got to focus on the whole year. He could be a serious 3-year-old.''
Ice Box entered the Kentucky Derby off a six-week layoff, since winning the Florida Derby by a nose over Pleasant Prince on March 20. Zito said he had to train the horse hard to get him ready for a peak performance in the Kentucky Derby.
Zito obviously did his job well as Ice Box ran a very strong race under Jose Lezcano. However, Ice Box ran into significant trouble while attempting to rally from next-to-last in the 20-horse field.
Around the far turn, Ice Box was flying, but at the quarter pole he had to steady behind a tiring horse. Lezcano had to take him several paths wide in the stretch and twice had to alter course before finally closing ground while in the seven or eight path.
"He was running twice as fast as anybody else,'' said LaPenta, who added he watched NBC's aerial view countless times. "And I don't think it had to with just the pace.''
Neither Zito nor LaPenta had an issue with Lezcano's ride, and both indicated Lezcano would be back on Ice Box the next time he runs.
"The kid's a cool customer, just racing luck,'' Zito said. "He tried once, it closed. He tried twice, it closed. I would have loved to have seen Ice Box with a clear shot.''
"He was on the rail," LaPenta said. "When he went to make that move outside there was no room to go outside and that's where we lost the race. He knows the horse. I'm satisfied.''
In watching the replay of the Derby repeatedly, LaPenta constantly heard Calvin Borel, the jockey of Super Saver, predict that his horse would win the Triple Crown.
"If I were Calvin and I looked at the replay, I'm not sure I would have said that,'' LaPenta said.
Kentucky Derby champion Animal Kingdom was unable to go out a winner, fading quickly in the Queen Anne Stakes on Tuesday in his last race before retirement.