- Road to the Kentucky Derby
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Sidney's Candy works six furlongs in Saturday's slop...Five Pletcher horses work
AMERICAN LION – WinStar Farm’s American Lion went to the track after the renovation break, then galloped over the muddy track with exercise rider Paul Turner up.
“He went to the gate, stood in the gate and galloped a mile and a half,” trainer Eoin Harty said as he held the colt’s halter during his bath. Harty said the Illinois Derby (GIII) winner was perfect during the schooling.
Monday’s planned five-furlong work could be pushed back a day by rainy weather and sloppy track conditions.
“We’ll have a pretty good idea Sunday night what the weather is going to be,” Harty said. “As of right now, it’s scheduled for Monday.”
David Flores has the Kentucky Derby riding assignment.
AWESOME ACT – Mrs. Susan Roy and Vinery Stables’ Awesome Act jogged six furlongs and galloped 1 ¼ miles during the Derby and Oaks training session with assistant trainer Wayne Tanner up. “He’s in good shape,” Tanner said.
Asked how Awesome Act handled the sloppy track, Tanner replied: “It didn’t bother his dad (Awesome Again) and it didn’t bother him. He should be good in it.”
Julien Leparoux has the mount in the Kentucky Derby.
BACKTALK – Trainer Tom Amoss said Gold Mark Farm’s Backtalk will van to Keeneland today in order to work over the Lexington track’s synthetic Polytrack surface Sunday morning.
“I don’t like the forecast and we’re kind of under the gun,” Amoss said. “He was raised on synthetic over at Gold Mark Farm and raced at Keeneland. We’re treating him like he’s going to get in but that doesn’t mean he’s going to get in.”
Miguel Mena, who has the mount in the Derby should Backtalk make the field, will be aboard for the breeze, planned for sometime between 7 and 8 a.m.
Backtalk galloped 1 ½ miles on Saturday. “He galloped good,” Amoss said. “It was a typical gallop for him.”
CONVEYANCE/LOOKIN AT LUCKY – Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert sent his two Kentucky Derby 136 prospects out to gallop a mile and a half over the wet track after the renovation break.
Dana Barnes was aboard Lookin At Lucky, who is owned by Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman, and Peter Hutton was on Conveyance, who is owned by Zabeel Racing International Corp.
“They went around there good. No complaints,” Baffert said
The two colts are scheduled for their final pre-Derby works on Monday, but Baffert said that plan is subject to change.
“It will be Monday or Tuesday,” Baffert said. “It will depend on the surface. I worked them before (Wednesday, April 21), which gives me a day to move, because I saw all the rain in the forecast. That’s one thing about Louisville, when you come in here you’ve got to work around the weather. Those 10-day forecasts are great.”
DEAN’S KITTEN/STATELY VICTOR – Trainer Mike Maker reported that both of his Derby contenders came back fine from their Friday works and walked the shedrow Saturday at his Trackside Training Center base.
Stately Victor worked five furlongs in company in 1:00.60 on Friday and Dean’s Kitten worked five-eighths in company with Kentucky Oaks hopeful Age of Humor in 1:01.20.
Alan Garcia has already been named to ride Thomas and Jack Conway’s Stately Victor and Maker said he will “wait to see how today shakes out” before making a final decision on a jockey for Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Dean’s Kitten.
DEVIL MAY CARE/DISCREETLY MINE/ESKENDEREYA/MISSION IMPAZIBLE/RULE/SUPER SAVER – Trainer Todd Pletcher’s Barn 34 is often a busy place in the days leading up to the Kentucky Oaks and Derby. Saturday morning, however, it was Grand Central Station, Tokyo at rush hour and Carnival in Rio all at once as seven “serious” horses took steps along the road that could have them soon in the Churchill Downs spotlight.
Two of his charges merely galloped, but five of the multiple-Eclipse Award winner’s other sophomores put in final works for one or the other of the national headliners over a “sloppy” strip following the renovation period at 8:30 that is reserved particularly for Oaks or Derby runners.
Here are their works with splits provided by the track’s clockers:
Devil May Care -- :12.80, :24.60, :36.40, :47.80 and 1:00.20 (with an “out” time of 1:13.60);
Discreetly Mine -- :12.40, :24.40, :36.40, :48.20 and 1:00.20 (with an “out” time of 1:13.40);
Mission Impazible -- :12.20, :24.20, :35.60, :47.40 and 1:00.20 (with an “out” time of 1:13.80);
Rule -- :12.00, :24.00, :35.60, :47.20, and 1:00.20 (with an “out” time of 1:15.80);
Super Saver -- :12.80, :24.60, :36.60 and :48.80 (with an “out” time of 1:01.60).
Rule and Mission Impazible worked in company. The others worked alone.
Exercise rider Patti Barry was aboard Devil May Care; jockey Javier Castellano was on Discreetly Mine; exercise rider Kevin Willey handled Mission Impazible; jockey Larry Melancon was up on Rule, and jockey Calvin Borel guided Super Saver.
The two other Pletcher horses, likely Derby favorite Eskendereya and stablemate Interactif, both “two-minute licked” it. Exercise rider Carlos Cano was aboard the former, while Willey was in the tack on the latter.
“All things considered, I though all the works were spot on with what we hoped for,” Pletcher said back at the barn following the exercises.
The 3-year-old filly Devil May Care worked with her pink Oaks saddlecloth attached, underscoring the fact that she could run in the Friday headliner, or wait an extra day and take on the boys in the Kentucky Derby.
“Mr. Greathouse (John Greathouse of Glencrest Farm) was out to watch her work today and he was impressed with her just like we were,” Pletcher said. “He said he’d be coming back Monday and we’d talk then about whether she might go in the Oaks or the Derby.
“Actually, I checked with the racing office and we can enter her in both races. We’re aware of how that can affect other horses and we don’t want to be in the way of keeping horses out of either race, but on the other hand we’ve got to do right by our horse, too. You might have a case where she might draw the 20 (post position) in the Derby and the six in the Oaks and that would play into any decision. We’ll have to see.”
The trainer was asked if any of Saturday’s workers in particular impressed him.
“They all did well,” he said, “but Super Saver is really doing well. He’s training the best he’s been since we’ve had him. He seems to be getting better and better. And I know he likes this track. I don’t know why, but I know he does.”
Pletcher had Interactif out early for his mile and one-quarter gallop, but had Eskendereya stretch his legs with the workers right after the break.
The conditioner was asked how Eskendereya, a handsome chestnut by Giant’s Causeway who has impressively captured the Fountain of Youth and the Wood Memorial in his two most recent starts, was doing.
“He’s doing well,” Pletcher said. “He went a mile and three-eighths this morning and everything is good. He’s scheduled to work tomorrow. We’re hoping for a break in the weather. He’s never been on an ‘off’ track and that was part of the reason we didn’t work him today. We could work him tomorrow, or Monday, or Tuesday. He’s a big, robust colt and I have some options with him.”
Regarding Interactif, the trainer said he still isn’t sure about running the son of Broken Vow in the 10-furlong Derby.
“We want to give him every chance to prove he belongs,” he said. “We’ll see how he works and go from there. It is not for sure he’s going to run, but if he were to work real well he might get us thinking differently.”
No rider has been assigned to Interactif at this point, but the other runners have riding assignments for the most part. Should the filly Devil May Care run in the Oaks, John Velazquez has the call. Should she run in the Derby, another jockey likely would have to be assigned because Velazquez has the call in that race on Eskendereya. Castellano will be aboard Discreetly Mine, Rajiv Maragh has drawn the assignment on Mission Impazible, Ramon Dominguez gets the mount on Rule and Borel will handle Super Saver.
DUBLIN – Robert Baker and William Mack’s Dublin was spooked during his gallop by runners competing in the Louisville Marathon trainer D. Wayne Lukas said. The marathon course brought thousands of runners through the infield – they entered and exited the infield through the tunnels – and were clearly visible to the Derby and Oaks horses who came onto the track after the renovation break ended at 8:30 a.m.
A few strides after he turned into the backstretch, Dublin veered to his right toward Oaks prospect Beautician and appeared to be headed toward the gap on the outside rail between the five- and six-furlong poles.
Exercise rider Arielle Witkowski was able to control the colt and put him back on course. He reacted again near the far turn by the track kitchen, headed straight toward the outside and stopped with his chest against the rail. Witkowski put him back to his business and he completed the gallop without further incident.
Lukas said the colt did not sustain any injuries and was fine.
“They (the runners) came out of the tunnel, about 5,000 of them, and started cheering and he went, `whoa,’ ” Lukas said. “Anyhow, it was fine. He finished his gallop out good.”
Dublin is a high-energy horse who sees and reacts to his surroundings.
“He dances to his own drum,” Lukas said.
Dublin galloped a mile and five-eighths Saturday and Lukas said he may move Monday’s scheduled work ahead by one day.
“I’m going to try and work him tomorrow,” Lukas said. “I don’t know what the weather forecast is, but I’m trying to get a little better track than today or yesterday. It looks pretty good right now. I’ll decide about the track when I get here at 4 a.m.”
Lukas said he was leaning toward a six-furlong work for Dublin.
ENDORSEMENT – WinStar Farm’s Endorsement jogged two miles shortly after the track opened Saturday morning under trainer Shannon Ritter.
“I wanted to get him out early because I have horses to work at Keeneland,” said Ritter, who has the remainder of her stable housed at the Lexington track.
Ritter had planned to work Endorsement on Sunday, but with more rain in the Louisville forecast, Ritter said, “He’ll probably work Monday now instead of tomorrow.”
Robby Albarado has the Kentucky Derby riding assignment.
Among those looking on Saturday were Bill Casner, chairman and co-owner of WinStar, and Elliott Walden, WinStar’s vice president and racing manager.
WinStar has three other Kentucky Derby hopefuls in addition to Endorsement: American Lion, trained by Eoin Harty, and Rule and Super Saver, trained by Pletcher.
Walden, who saddled Victory Gallop and Menifee to runner-up finishes in the 1998 and 1999 Kentucky Derbies, respectively, was asked what his thoughts would be if the quartet was spread four across the track vying for the lead at the head of the stretch.
“I just hope one of them wins,” Walden said.
HOMEBOYKRIS – Lazzinnaro, Bulger, Mandato, Diamond Pride, Tabraue Sallusto and Teel’s Homeboykris jogged once around the muddy track.
Trainer Rick Dutrow said his horses are limited to jogging in the mornings when the track is wet. Joe Deegan was up for the trip to the track.
Dutrow said he has not secured a jockey for the Roman Ruler gelding. He was hoping to have Patrick Valenzuela aboard for the Derby. However, Valenzuela does not have a license in Kentucky and there is not enough time for the Kentucky Horse Racing Commission to schedule a hearing for Valenzuela’s request to be licensed.
Valenzuela won the 1989 Kentucky Derby aboard Sunday Silence.
ICE BOX/JACKSON BEND – Robert LaPenta’s Florida Derby winner Ice Box walked Saturday, the morning after turning in a bullet four-furlong work in 46.40.
Trainer Nick Zito’s other Kentucky Derby hopeful, Jackson Bend, owned by LaPenta and Jacks or Better Farm jogged Saturday morning.
Jackson Bend has plenty of 2’s around him. He finished second in his past three starts, the Wood Memorial, the Fountain of Youth and the Holy Bull, and he is 22nd on the graded earnings list. Two horses ahead of him on the list would have to come out for Jackson Bend to earn a spot in the 20-horse field for the 136th Kentucky Derby.
Two of those runner-up finishes were behind likely Derby favorite Eskendereya in the Wood and the Fountain of Youth.
“The Holy Bull was his race,” Zito said. “I like the winner, Winslow Homer, who has gotten hurt. I think he’s a very good horse. On the other hand, no matter how you look at it, ‘Jackson’ definitely has a chance, especially if they make a mistake because he shows up all the time.”
LINE OF DAVID/SIDNEY’S CANDY – Trainer John Sadler looked at the weather reports, put an eye to the sky and made a call at Barn 42 Saturday morning: Work today, not tomorrow.
California’s current leading conditioner doesn’t often have to make weather- and track-related decisions about his horses at his home base, but such was not the case on a threatening morning at Churchill Downs with overnight rain already having turned the track “sloppy” and much more rain and thunderstorms projected for the coming 24 hours.
“I’m going to take what I can get right now,” he said. “It could be worse tomorrow.”
Sadler met with jockey Joe Talamo at 8:10 and plotted out a six-panel drill for Sid and Jenny Craig Trust’s Sidney’s Candy, the Santa Anita Derby (GI) winner who’ll be among the favorites for next Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. The colt was to go trackside at 8:30 following the renovation break and take advantage of Churchill’s “Derby/Oaks horses only” exercise period. He’d have a “rabbit” with him, too – the 3-year-old winner Via Verde, who came in from California with the trainer’s nine-horse contingent and is earmarked for an allowance race on Derby Day. Stable exercise rider Lupillo Alferez would break off Via Verde a couple of lengths in front of “Sidney” near the six-furlong pole and Talamo would run him down. “Let him roll,” the trainer said.
Roughly 20 minutes later that scenario happened just as Sadler planned, with the conditioner stationed in the grandstand to watch it unfold.
Talamo went after Via Verde approaching the far turn and collared him as the pair made the bend. The horse race was all over there, but the work continued on sharply for the young rider and his racy chestnut. They finished up well clear of their workmate and track clocker’s rang him up in a bullet 1:11.60. Via Verde followed home in 1:13.40.
The splits on the son of Candy Ride were :12.20, :24, :35.20, :46 and :58.80. He galloped out the seven furlongs in 1:26.20.
“It was a good work,” Sadler said at the barn afterward. “I was looking for a strong work coming into this race and he got it today. I would have preferred to have worked him over a fast track – that’s what we’re likely to see here next week – but we didn’t have a choice. I’d say the conditions were less than ideal, but we dealt with them as best we could. I actually liked the way he handled the wet track. That (working on an ‘off’ track) was a first for him. But that South American sire line of his says he should probably like it and it appeared today he did.”
Talamo, an ebullient 20-year-old who had risen to the upper echelons of the jockey rooms in Southern California, had on an even bigger smile than usual following the work.
“He felt great out there,” the rider said prior to dashing off to the airport for a plane back to the West Coast. “He loves the mud. If it rains Derby Day, I won’t be mad.”
A few hours before Sidney’s Candy’s exercise, Sadler sent his other Derby hopeful, Ike and Dawn Thrash’s Line of David, out to the track with Alferez on board. They galloped a mile and a half around the big oval, bathed in the track lights that now have become part of the morning scene at Churchill.
“That’s a first for him, handling a wet track,” Sadler said. “We don’t see that much out our way with the weather in general and the synthetic tracks. He seemed to handle it fine and that’s encouraging. He’ll have his final work here Monday.”
Line of David, the winner of the Arkansas Derby (GI) in his most recent start, will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano in the Run for the Roses.
MAKE MUSIC FOR ME – Ellen and Peter Johnson’s Make Music for Me galloped a mile and a half under Andy Durnin after the renovation break.
“Everything is fine. He feels great,” Durnin said. “He handled that sloppy track no problem.”
Trainer Alexis Barba is scheduled to arrive in Louisville on Saturday from her Southern California base.
NOBLE’S PROMISE – Chasing Dreams Racing 2008’s Noble’s Promise galloped a mile and a half after the renovation break under exercise rider Walter Blum Jr.
Trained by Ken McPeek, Noble’s Promise is scheduled to work on Monday.
Noble’s Promise arrived at Churchill Downs after a fifth-place finish in the Arkansas Derby (GI) in which he exited the race with cuts and scrapes plus a slight lung infection.
After a five-furlong work in :59.80 on Tuesday, McPeek labeled the chances of Noble’s Promise making the Derby as “60-40.” The upcoming Monday work will be key.
“We will scope him after he works,” said McPeek, who has saddled three Kentucky Derby starters. “It is really not an issue. You go by instinct. A lot of guys are dealing with different problems; they just won’t tell you about them.”
Willie Martinez, who has ridden in three previous Kentucky Derbies with the most recent being in 1999, is scheduled to ride Noble’s Promise.
PADDY O’PRADO – Donegal Racing’s Paddy O’Prado walked the shedrow a day after working a bullet five furlongs in :58.40 over a sloppy track.
Trainer Dale Romans was asked if he would be doing a rain dance for next Saturday given the Friday work by Paddy O’Prado.
“I don’t care,” Romans said. “It doesn’t matter to me if it is wet, fast, dry or at night and on the grass.”
The long range forecast calls for a 40 percent chance of thunderstorms on Kentucky Derby Day.
Three-time Derby winning jockey Kent Desormeaux will ride Paddy O’Prado.