Racing News

Mark Valeski Drills Bullet Five-Eighths; Creative Cause, Liaison, Asmussen Duo Work Toward Derby 138

| Churchill Downs | 04/30/2012 #
  • Daddy Nose Best breezed early Monday morning at Churchill Downs. Credit: Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography

  • Creative Cause continued his prep for Derby 138 on Monday at Churchill Downs. Credit: Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography

  • Sabercat breezed at Churchill Downs under Carlos Rosas. Credit: Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography

  • Mark Valeski drilled a five-furlong bullet at Churchill Downs. Credit: Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography

Godolphin Stable’s Alpha had a very light exercise at Belmont Park Monday morning before being shipped by plane to Churchill Downs. He is scheduled to arrive at the track between 5 and 6 p.m.

“He just walked this morning because we’re shipping today and he has new shoes,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “He will train Tuesday morning in Kentucky at the scheduled time for the Derby horses, 8:30. He will gallop 1 3/8 miles.”

McLaughlin said the colt has come out of his work on Saturday in good condition.

“We’re all set,” McLaughlin said. “He’s doing great.”

McLaughlin said the Alpha team has not committed to a jockey to ride the son of Bernardini in the 138th Kentucky Derby.

BODEMEISTER/LIAISON Arnold Zetcher’s Liaison made his case for a start in the 138th Kentucky Derby with a five-furlong breeze in 1:00.80 Monday morning at Churchill Downs.

Working in company under jockey Martin Garcia, the Indian Charlie colt was timed in splits of :24.80, :37.20 and :48.80. His gallop-out times were 1:13.20 for six furlongs and 1:26.60 for seven.

“That’s the best I’ve seen him work since back before he won the CashCall Futurity,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “He’s really taken to the track. Today he worked with Mile High Magic, who is a really nice horse, a fast horse. He was just gliding over it. I was really happy with him. I was hoping for a work like that to make the final decision to run the horse. He really went out well and Martin was really elated with the way he worked. He thought he worked really well.

“Today, he looked more like a Derby horse than he has in the last couple of months. I was pretty excited with the way he went. He still has a ways to go, but the way he went today I think definitely he deserves a chance to run in the Kentucky Derby. All systems are go.”

Liaison was third in his first career start on Sept. 3 then broke his maiden on Oct. 14 at Santa Anita, won the $100,000 Real Quiet Stakes and completed his 2-year-old year with a victory by a neck in the $750,000 CashCall Futurity (GI) at Hollywood Park.

So far, his 2012 season hasn’t been nearly that productive. He clipped heels and lost his rider in the Robert B. Lewis (GII), finished fourth in the San Felipe (GII) and was sixth in the Santa Anita Derby (GI). Nevertheless, Baffert decided to bring the colt to Kentucky after he recorded a sharp six-furling work at Hollywood Park on April 18.

“He was struggling with Santa Anita and never worked well there,” Baffert said. “The track at Santa Anita was a little bit funny for some horses. He had trouble with it. I think it was a little bit too hard for him. Since he’s been here, it’s like he’s a different horse. He’s really moved way up. I’m glad I brought him to give him that opportunity. From what I saw today, I’m not thinking that he can’t lose, but at least he’s going to be competitive.

“I think the mile and a quarter is not going to be a problem for him. He wants that. He wants to sit and come running. I’m just hoping for a Mine That Bird effort from him.”

Mine That Bird rallied from the back of the field to win the 2009 Kentucky Derby.

Zayat Stables LLC’s Bodemeister walked the shedrow Monday morning, a day after breezing five furlongs in :59.60.

“He looks good,” Baffert said. “He handled the work pretty easily. He’s a very fit horse. We just need to draw well and have some racing luck.”

Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith will ride the Arkansas Derby (GI) winner in the Kentucky Derby.

CREATIVE CAUSE Trainer Mike Harrington was super-talkative Monday morning after his Santa Anita Derby (GI) runner-up Creative Cause worked a half-mile in a smart :47.80 with regular exercise rider John Cisneros aboard.

Harrington wrapped up his thoughts on the work with, “It was perfect in my book. I wanted him to show he was on his game and he did it fairly easy.”

Cisneros was equally satisfied with the work, saying, “He was gliding like he always does. When I asked him for a little more in the stretch, he came flying. I’m very happy. What made me even happier was Mike’s ‘Good job, John,’ when I came off the track.”

Cisneros said the work included a trip to the gate, where the roan son of Giant’s Causeway stood for a bit and then walked out, all to the satisfaction of the rider.

Harrington, ever cautious in spite of the tone of the day, said the Derby field is very deep and has at least 10 horses that could be favored. He added that he was hopeful of landing a post position in the 8-12 range. “My horse has to have a good trip,” the trainer said. “He’s a stalker and it’s important for the speed to show up. That stretches the field out so you aren’t six or seven wide when you make your move.

“This colt usually moves at the three-eighths pole, but I’d like to see him wait until the quarter pole.”

DADDY NOSE BEST/SABERCAT – Trainer Steve Asmussen’s hopefuls for Kentucky Derby 138 put in half-mile workouts this morning, with Winchell ThoroughbredsSabercat going first in :48.40, followed about 25 minutes later by Cathy and Bob ZollarsDaddy Nose Best, timed in :49.40. Exercise rider Carlos Rosas was aboard for both early morning breezes over the fast main track.

Sabercat, the Delta Jackpot (GIII) winner, accomplished his move through fractions of :12.60, :24.40, and :36. The five-furlong gallop-out was caught in 1:01.20 and the three-quarters in 1:15.60.

“Little sharper [than last week’s five-furlong work in 1:02.80],” Asmussen said. “We’re wanting him to be a little quicker. He needs to be a little faster. I like his experience but I think he’s a horse that’s going to have to run faster than he has to this point.”

Sabercat had been given an easy work last week for what was his first serious exercise since the Arkansas Derby (GI).

Daddy Nose Best, the Sunland Derby (GIII) winner who has been training at Churchill Downs since early April, was caught in splits of :13.20, :25.60 and :37.40. His gallop-out was recorded by Churchill Downs clockers in 1:02.40 for five furlongs and 1:16.60 for three-quarters. While both colts were well within themselves, Daddy Nose Best appeared even more in hand for Rosas while finishing the final eighth in :12.

“Daddy Nose Best has been in a very good rhythm,” Asmussen said. “He’s put in some very good works over the racetrack and just want to keep that rhythm with him and keep him happy.”

Asmussen emphasized once again his belief that both colts are prepared to put forth races displaying the entirety of their ability, whatever that may be.

“I’m extremely happy with the condition that both of these horses are making the Derby gate in,” he said. “We’re trying to stay in a rhythm with them, monitoring where we think they are. Obviously very pleased with training them here at Churchill, they’re familiar with it. Love the position we’re in with both horses as far as their health and the way they’re getting over the racetrack.”

Sabercat and Daddy Nose Best each started their careers with two races at Churchill and now have the added benefit of multiple works over the Kentucky Derby surface.

“It gives me a tremendous amount of confidence in the fact that they’ll be able to run their race,” Asmussen said. “Horses that don’t train over here, it doesn’t mean they’re not going to run their race, but it doesn’t assure you that they will. The fact that both horses do have the races in the spring of their 2-year-old years here and have trained here a lot, I think you can notice the difference on the horses that have stabled here, as far as when they go on the racetrack, when they go off. There’s so much to see here, especially Derby Week, I think you feel good about it. It doesn’t guarantee you anything, but it’s one more thing to eliminate [having to worry about].”

Asked to compare the maturity level of his charges, Asmussen pointed to the extensive experience both horses received as juveniles.

“It’s amazing how similar these two horses are at every stage,” he said. “Both of them probably showed up on the same van ride and they worked together six to 10 times last spring and fall and both of them had two starts here at Churchill in the spring and we started both of them at Saratoga trying to get them a chance to go two turns. Daddy Nose Best ran well on the turf and Sabercat didn’t, so that’s kind of where things changed for them, but they’re very similar horses and you look where they’re at here.

“I like the confidence level of Daddy Nose Best, the spacing of his races. He obviously thinks he’s got a chance; he doesn’t know who has been in the paddock his last couple of races. And I like the experience Sabercat has gotten with the travel, all the dirt that he’s taken.

“I think they both have a lot of positives going for them. Now we’ll be very nervous about the post position draw and what kind of trip they can work out from it.

DONE TALKING – The Illinois Derby (GIII) winner Done Talking took his first spin over the Churchill Downs surface this morning since arriving Sunday afternoon from his Laurel, Md. home base. Skeedattle Stable’s home-bred son of Broken Vow jogged a mile during the 6 o’clock hour in getting an early start to his day.

“He was fresh coming off the van and we wanted to do a little something today,” said James “Bobo” Springs, groom and exercise rider representing trainer Hamilton Smith until he arrives in Louisville later today. “He’ll do more tomorrow.”

Springs said Done Talking handled the 600-plus mile van ride like a professional.

“He loved it,” Springs said. “He didn’t mind it at all. He came off the van like he knew he was here to do something.”

Done Talking will be ridden by Derby rookie Sheldon Russell on Saturday.

DULLAHAN – Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (GI) winner Dullahan galloped a strong 1 ½ miles this morning under exercise rider Faustino Aguilar just after the renovation break. The half-brother to 2009 Kentucky Derby (GI) winner Mine That Bird will continue galloping up to his potential history-making date on Saturday. No siblings have won the Kentucky Derby to date.

Romans and his team were involved in the purchase of Dullahan for owner Donegal Racing. By the time Dullahan was purchased for $250,000 at the 2010 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Mine That Bird already had etched his name in history.

“We knew what Mine That Bird looked like and the mare already had produced another foal (by Yonaguksa, named Brother Bird),” Romans said. “This was easily the best looking of the three when we bought him.”

If there’s any good mojo for Dullahan this Derby Week perhaps it came today when one of the visitors on the backstretch was none other than Chip Woolley, trainer of Mine That Bird.

Romans rose to national prominence last year when Shackleford won the Preakness Stakes (GI) after a fourth in the Kentucky Derby. When asked how his life has changed since winning a classic race, Romans thought a moment and replied, “More settled.”

Three-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Kent Desormeaux has the call on Dullahan.

EL PADRINO/GEMOLOGISTLet’s Go Stable’s El Padrino and WinStar Farm’s Gemologist returned to the track at Palm Meadows Training Center Monday morning after turning in half-mile maintenance works over a muddy track the day before.

Both of the Todd Pletcher-trained Kentucky Derby candidates jogged once around the 1 1/8-mile track at the Boynton Beach, Fla., training facility.

Undefeated Gemologist, who captured the Wood Memorial (GI) at Aqueduct last time out, breezed a half-mile in :50.39 Sunday. El Padrino, the Risen Star (GII) winner who finished fourth in the Florida Derby, breezed the four furlongs in :53.34.

Both colts are scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs mid-morning Tuesday after shipping from Palm Meadows.

HANSEN Kendall Hansen and Skychai Racing’s 2-year-old champion Hansen galloped 1 ½ miles at Churchill Downs’ Trackside Training Center. It was the first day back at the track for Hansen, who had worked five furlongs at Trackside on Saturday.

Winner of the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) at Churchill Downs last fall, Hansen will be ridden by Ramon Dominguez in Kentucky Derby 138.

I’LL HAVE ANOTHER – Santa Anita Derby (GI) winner I’ll Have Another put in his usual brisk gallop Monday morning as he moves one step closer to Saturday’s $2-million guaranteed Kentucky Derby (GI).

“He likes the racetrack and is really training well here,” said trainer Doug O’Neill, who is oozing confidence over his Derby prospect. So much so that his brother, Dennis, said, “It scares me a little bit.” But he acknowledged the colt seems to deserve that kind of confidence.

O’Neill sees I’ll Have Another stalking the pace and expects the colt’s natural speed to help him find a good place in the field and stay out of trouble. Of that kind of strategy, O’Neill said, “It’s working for him so far.”

I’ll Have Another’s owner, J. Paul Reddam, is expected to arrive Wednesday.

MARK VALESKI Brereton Jones’ homebred Mark Valeski, runner-up in the Risen Star Stakes (GII) and the Louisiana Derby (GII) at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots, breezed five furlongs in 1:00.20 – co-fastest of 28 works this morning at that distance – under retired jockey Larry Melancon. Trainer Larry Jones will now wait to see how the colt comes out of the work and how he gallops Wednesday morning before making a final decision on whether to enter the Kentucky Derby.

“I’m not going to guarantee that we’re in or out,” Larry Jones said. “Tomorrow will tell more and we’ll know, really, on Wednesday morning when I get on him. Especially if he tries to buck me off coming off that track, then he’s in the gate.”

The Proud Citizen colt started today’s breeze faster than he finished, working through fractions of :11.60, :23.40, :35.20 and :47.60. The six-furlong gallop-out was caught in 1:14.60.

“We wanted to make sure we got off to the pole good but we didn’t want to beat him up either,” Jones said. “We sent him away from there to see if he’d keep the pace but, you know, maybe at some point he’ll became a good work horse and maybe not. He’s never worked well by himself.

“I think he beat a minute one time in his life without having somebody to prompt him to do it. That’s just kind of him. Larry said he got to looking around coming down the lane. It was either call on him and ask him hard or let him finish up the way he did and we know we’re fit.

“The big thing was he didn’t drink any water and it sure doesn’t seem like it took anything out of him.”

Mark Valeski’s work was not as stiff as last week, when he went five furlongs in :59.60 while in company with unraced 3-year-old stablemate Hamiltonian (who also worked today, in 1:01.40).

“I do know that his workmate that he outworked by two lengths last time, he just worked six lengths faster than that workmate did, so he still had a good work.

“The horse is training the way I would want. I was a little disappointed last time when he made up the ground on the workmate without any problem but didn’t want to run away from him. He just kind of hung, so that’s why we sent him out by himself today.”

One person who wasn’t at all concerned about Mark Valeski’s lack of oomph in the final quarter-mile was the one who knows the colt’s tendencies better than anybody – regular rider Rosie Napravnik.

“Rosie called me wanting to know how he did and she said, ‘That’s him,’ Jones relayed. “She was ecstatic to learn he worked that fast without any company. She said if that’s the biggest problem – him not being interested – he’s a different horse come race day.”

MY ADONIS George and Lori Hall’s My Adonis, currently 22nd on the earnings list among horses under consideration for the Kentucky Derby, walked the shedrow of trainer Kelly Breen’s Monmouth Park barn the morning after breezing five furlongs in 1:01.60.

Breen confirmed via text that My Adonis came out of the work in good order and that they continue to prepare as if they’re running Saturday in case of any late defections.

OPTIMIZER Bluegrass Hall LLC’s Optimizer walked the shedrow this morning, one day after his five-furlong drill in 1:00.40.  Trainer D. Wayne Lukas indicated the son of English Channel would return to the track Tuesday.

Optimizer sits No. 21 on the graded stakes earnings list and would need a defection in order to make the Kentucky Derby starting gate. With this year’s first-ever Derby also-eligible list, he figures to be the first alternate to the race if all runners’ status remains the same between now and Wednesday’s entry date.

“I’d really like to see him get a chance to run,” Lukas said. “One thing about him, he’s a true mile-and-a-quarter horse.”

Jon Court, who piloted Optimizer to a runner-up finish in the Rebel Stakes (GII) at Oaklawn, would ride Optimizer if he can crack the field for Derby 138.

PROSPECTIVE – “There may be more talented horses in this year’s Derby, but I’m not sure any of them are training any better than my horse going into the race,” a pleased Mark Casse said after Prospective’s training on Monday. The Tampa Bay Derby (GII) winner galloped 1 ½ miles under exercise rider Juan Bernardini this morning after the renovation break

“He handled the heat just fine this morning,” Casse said. “He’s a class act. I’m very pleased with where we’re at, knock on wood.”

Prospective is scheduled to school in the paddock during the races on Tuesday at Churchill Downs. Luis Contreras, who swept all three legs of Canada’s Triple Crown last year on two different horses, gets his first Kentucky Derby mount on Saturday.

ROUSING SERMON – With Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer heading to Louisville on a flight from California, his Kentucky Derby prospect galloped 1 ½ miles Monday morning and got an “absolutely perfect” from Christina Jelm, pinch-hitting for the trainer during the early training for Rousing Sermon.

“He’s not even breathing hard,” Jelm, who is based in Midway, Ky., and sometimes helps look after Hollendorfer horses when he ships them to Kentucky to run, said after the morning exercise. “He jogged to paddock before his gallop,” she added. “We wanted him to get a feel for the track. He was very relaxed throughout and he switched leads right on cue.

“The exercise didn’t take anything out of him. He went about his business very professionally.”

Rousing Sermon is scheduled to work – perhaps a half-mile – Tuesday, weather permitting.

TAKE CHARGE INDYChuck and Maribeth Sandford’s Take Charge Indy started his last full day in rainy Florida Monday with some light exercise at the Palm Meadows Training Center. The Florida Derby (G1) winner is scheduled to be flown from West Palm Beach to Louisville early Tuesday morning.

“Our track was still deep in mud. We rain and thunder,” trainer Pat Byrne said. “Indy walked under tack for about 30 minutes then we went out to the racetrack and he proceeded to jog about a mile and an eighth.

“He’s eager to do a bit more, but I didn’t want to take a chance on galloping him on a deep, muddy racetrack. I’d love to have been able to get a gallop into him, but that’s OK. We’ll just just fly there and we’ll let him gallop over the track at Churchill on Wednesday morning.”

The rain in South Florida has limited Take Charge Indy’s activities since he worked five furlongs on 1:00.40 on Thursday.

“That’s OK. This horse is really fit,” Byrne said. “If anything, it’s just to do stuff for his mind. He’s really happy right now. He’s looking to do something. But he’s good, he’s fit and I’m really happy with him.”

Three-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Calvin Borel will ride the colt Saturday.

TRINNIBERG Shivananda Parbhoo’s Trinniberg open-galloped two furlongs under jockey Willie Martinez through the stretch at Churchill Downs Monday morning. The planned leg-stretching exercise was not an official recorded workout.

“We backed up to the wire and got all the way up to the three-eighths pole and from there on I was able to ease him out at the top of the lane and let him stretch his legs a little bit. That’s all we wanted to do,” Martinez said. “We weren’t looking for any time.”

Martinez has been aboard the son of Teuflesberg for two front-running victories in the Swale Stakes (GIII) at Gulfstream Park and the Bay Shore (GIII) at Aqueduct this year. The 41-year-old journeyman has noticed a marked change in the Florida-bred colt since trainer Bisnath Parboo removed blinkers this year.

“He such a different animal,” said Martinez, who had worked Trinniberg before his seventh-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint under jockey Cornelio Velasquez at Churchill Downs last fall.  “Day and night.  He’s so relaxed now.”

UNION RAGS Chadds Ford Stable’s Union Rags returned to the track for some light exercise under exercise rider Peter Brette at Churchill Downs Monday morning after a day off earned by working five furlongs on Saturday.

“He jogged two miles and walked through the paddock,” said trainer Michael Matz, whose Kentucky Derby contender had worked five-eighths of a mile in :59.80 on Saturday. “He came out of the work very well.”

Union Rags, who finished second behind Hansen in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs last November, captured the Fountain of Youth (GII) at Gulfstream Park in his 2012 debut before finishing third in the Florida Derby last time out. In that loss, the heavily son of Dixie Union was trapped behind and between horses until finally shaking free in deep stretch to get up for third.

“I don’t think it’s going to be the same here,” Matz said. “I think everyone will be looking out for themselves instead of picking on one horse.”

Matz has been impressed with Union Rags’ energy level since arriving at Churchill Downs last week.

“Peter said he thought he was going to pull his arms out this week,” Matz said. “There’s nothing else we can do except keep him happy until Saturday.”

Brette was the exercise rider for the Matz-trained 2006 Kentucky Derby-winning Barbaro.

“It’s very nice to be back. We have some very nice memories from here,” said Brette, who also serves as Matz’s assistant trainer. “It’s really nice to be back with a horse that’s got a really good chance.”

Union Rags has been giving Brette a very positive impression during his trips to the track.

“He’s a very happy horse. He’s always been a happy horse, very easy to deal with,” Brette said. “He’s certainly coming into himself right now. Since we’ve brought him up to Kentucky, he’s certainly starting to peak.”

WENT THE DAY WELL Team Valor International and Mark Ford’s Went The Day Well jogged once around the Churchill Downs track Monday morning under the supervision of David Rock, assistant to trainer Graham Motion. The Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (GIII) winner had walked the shedrow on Sunday after working five furlongs in 1:01 under jockey John Velazquez on Saturday.

“I was very pleased with the work. I’ve watched it a couple of times since and have become even more pleased. I don’t know what more he could have done,” Motion said from his Fair Hill, Md. headquarters.

Went The Day Well wore blinkers during the workout and will be equipped with them for the first time in a race in the Kentucky Derby, which his owner, trainer and jockey won last year with Animal Kingdom.

“He wore blinkers with a very small cup, which I intend to run him in for the Derby,” said Motion, who is scheduled to return to Churchill Downs on Tuesday. “It’s been very much on my mind for a while, even in that Gulfstream race (a maiden victory on March 3), when he ran a little green, and certainly in the Spiral, when he was a little awkward when he made the lead.

“When Johnny worked him last week at Keeneland, he really didn’t want to go away from the other horse. Johnny and I talked about it and he gave me confidence to try it. I really think it’s the right move.”

LOOKS LIKE PARTLY SUNNY SKIES, MID-80s FOR OAKS & DERBY – The early Kentucky Derby Day forecast for Louisville from the National Weather Service calls for partly sunny skies and a high of 84 degrees and a 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms. Here’s the day-by-day weather outlook:

  • Tuesday (May 1): Mostly cloudy, 82, with a 60 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms mainly between noon and 5 p.m. ET.
  • Wednesday (May 2): Mostly sunny, 87.
  • Thursday (May 3): Mostly sunny, 87.
  • Friday (May 4 – Kentucky Oaks Day): Partly sunny, 84, with a 30 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms.
  • Saturday (May 5 – Kentucky Derby Day): Partly sunny, 84, with a 20 percent chance of showers and thunderstorms.

POST POSITION DRAW

KENTUCKY DERBY: The Post Position Draw for the Kentucky Derby will be held Wednesday, May 2 from 5-6 p.m. ET in the Secretariat Lounge on the second floor of the Clubhouse. The event will be televised live nationally on NBC Sports Network and local affiliates. Media credentials must be displayed for appropriate access. In 2010, the Kentucky Derby Post Position Draw reverted back to a traditional “pill pull” where horses’ entry blanks are pulled simultaneously with a numbered pill to determine what stall a horse will break from in the starting gate. The field for the Kentucky Derby will be limited to 20 horses with preference given to horses with the most graded stakes earnings. Entries close Wednesday, May 2 at 10 a.m. ET. Once the post position draw is complete, horsemen will be available for comment in a designated area for media.

KENTUCKY OAKS: The Post Position Draw for the Kentucky Oaks will be held Tuesday, May 1 in Churchill Downs’ Racing Office at 11 a.m. ET. Post positions for the Kentucky Oaks are determined by a traditional “pill pull” where horses’ entry blanks are pulled simultaneously with a number pill to determine which post a horse will break from the starting gate. The field for the Kentucky Oaks will be limited to 14 horses with preference given to the horses with the most graded stakes earnings.

Churchill Downs, the world’s most legendary racetrack, has conducted Thoroughbred racing and presented America’s greatest race, the Kentucky Derby, continuously since 1875. Located in Louisville, the flagship racetrack of Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ: CHDN) also operates Trackside at Churchill Downs, which offers year-round simulcast wagering at the historic track. Churchill Downs will conduct the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 5, 2012, and its Spring Meet is scheduled for April 28-July 1. The track has hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships a record eight times. Information about Churchill Downs can be found on the Internet at www.churchilldowns.com.

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