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Verrazano Gallops on First Morning Beneath the Twin Spires; Lukas Arrivals Get Settled
Wood Memorial (Grade I) winner Verrazano, the individual favorite in all three pools of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, arrived at Churchill Downs on Sunday evening and galloped beneath the Twin Spires on Monday on his first morning in Louisville.
“Everything went perfectly,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “He seemed to settle in really well overnight and I thought he galloped very nicely over the track today.”
Verrazano won the Tampa Bay Derby (GII) prior to his ¾-length victory in the Wood Memorial and is ranked No. 2 behind Orb on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by TwinSpires.com” Leaderboard.
“We’ve gotten to this point with him as well as we could have hoped,” Pletcher said. “He’s maintained his condition really well and looks phenomenal. His appetite is good and he’s moving well. We’re really pleased and we’re hoping for another 19 days of what we’re seeing right now.”
Pletcher added that if the weather cooperates, Verrazano and Louisiana Derby (GII) winner Revolutionary (No. 6) will breeze at Churchill Downs on April 21 and April 28. Overanalyze (No. 5), Palace Malice (No. 13) and Charming Kitten (No. 20) are scheduled to work just once before the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) on April 28.
Normandy Invasion also arrived from New York on Sunday evening and is stabled in Barn 42 for trainer Chad Brown.
“He came out of the Wood OK and arrived fine,” Brown said. “I just walked him this morning, but I’ll send him to the track tomorrow (Tuesday) for the first time. He’ll work the next two weekends, depending on weather.”
Also on the Tex Sutton flight from New York was Kentucky Oaks (GI) contender Close Hatches, winner of the Gazelle (GII) in her last start. Ranked No. 6 on the “Road to the Kentucky Oaks” Leaderboard, Close Hatches is stabled in Barn 19 for trainer Bill Mott.
Assistant trainer Kenny McCarthy reported Close Hatches, who was stabled at Churchill Downs for several months as a juvenile, arrived in good order and jogged around the Churchill Downs oval Monday morning. “She went over the track fine,” McCarthy said. “It was like coming home for her.”
Arriving at Churchill Downs from Oaklawn Park on Sunday evening was four-time Kentucky Derby winning trainer D. Wayne Lukas and his Derby contenders Will Take Charge (No. 9) and Oxbow (No. 17). Will Take Charge, winner of the Rebel (GII), and Lecomte (GIII) winner Oxbow both arrived in good order and are stabled in Barn 44.
“They got settled in and got around here good this morning,” Lukas said. “They got some of that bluegrass in them early and that will help them more than anything. We’ve got three weeks to tweak the situation a little bit and then we’ll see what we can get done.”
Lukas, who won the Kentucky Derby in 1988, ’95, ’96 and ’99, has started a record 45 horses in the “Run for the Roses.”
“The Derby is the Derby,” Lukas said. “People say that when you win one, it means less when you win a second one, but I think my enthusiasm is greater for it now after winning four of them. I enjoyed the fourth one more than the first one. The other thing is that you’re dealing with different people. I’ve got a different assistant and different clientele. You want to give them that experience.”
Lukas added that Will Take Charge is scheduled to work twice in advance of the May 4 Kentucky Derby. Oxbow will have one work for sure, but he also could work twice.
The next Kentucky Derby contenders scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs this week are Sunland Derby (GIII) winner Govenor Charlie (No. 11), Toyota Blue Grass (GI) winner Java’s War (No. 4) and Arkansas Derby (GI) runner-up Frac Daddy (No. 15).
Govenor Charlie’s Tex Sutton flight from California is scheduled to land in Lexington on Tuesday at 11:30 a.m. EDT and then he will van to Churchill Downs. He is expected to arrive at Bob Baffert’s Barn 33 at Churchill Downs between 1-1:30 p.m. EDT.
Joining Govenor Charlie on Tuesday’s flight will be Sunland Park Oaks winner Midnight Lucky (No. 11). She also will be stabled in Barn 33 for Baffert, who completed the Sunland Park Oaks – Kentucky Oaks double in 2011 with Plum Pretty.
Trainer Ken McPeek, who has stalls in Barns 6 and 7 at Churchill Downs, said Java’s War and Frac Daddy exited their races in fine form and will van to Louisville this week. Frac Daddy is scheduled to van from Oaklawn Park to Churchill Downs on Tuesday and Java’s War will ship from Keeneland later in the week, most likely on Thursday.
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