• Gary West's Top 10 Kentucky Derby Championship Series Performances

    By Gary West, special to KentuckyDerby.com

    Over the next 10 days or so, much will be written extolling the virtues of California Chrome. His virtues are as conspicuous as they are numerous. He’s professional and smart; most of all, he’s fast. And he just keeps running. He deserves the praise, the plaudits and the acclaim. In this run-up to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, he has given not only the best performance of any 3-year-old but arguably the best two performances.

    And based on those two races, he’s not just the best 3-year-old in the country, but he’s best by daylight. At this point, he’s probably a few lengths better than any other horse of his generation. And if this were the feature race on a Thursday he’s preparing for, he’d be the odds-on favorite. But, of course, this is the Derby, the most turbulent moment in sports.

    The unique confluence of circumstances – the pressured atmosphere, the 20-horse field, the long and frenetic run to the first turn, the 1 ¼ miles – can bring out the greatness in a horse. The circumstances can also expose a weakness previously hidden. Yes, right now, at this moment, California Chrome is best. But what counts is that moment following the musical outburst and the thunderclap of excitement on the afternoon of May 3, that moment that compresses years of planning and nurturing and months of preparation into two minutes. Will he be best then, when it counts, when the world and history are watching?

    California Chrome was foaled, or born, on Feb. 18. He’s two months older than Danza and Intense Holiday, nearly three months older than Hoppertunity, Bayern and Tapiture. In the development of a youngster, a month is precious. Could some of these younger horses step forward and challenge California Chrome, or even surpass him? Absolutely. Could the unique confluence of circumstances challenge the latent greatness within a horse who’s still relatively unnoticed and unheralded? Absolutely.

    After all, it’s the Derby.

    The Top 10 Kentucky Derby Championship Series Performances

    1. California Chrome, Santa Anita Derby. The flashy chestnut overcame a little trouble early, showed his willingness to control his speed and then finished full of run, with a final three-eighths of a mile in 36.71 seconds, drawing clear to win by more than five lengths. He’ll be a deserving favorite for the 140th Kentucky Derby.

    2. California Chrome, San Felipe. He put away the speedy Midnight Hawk after three-quarters of a mile in 1:09.45 and then really went to work, winning by more than seven lengths under a long hold.

    3. Constitution, Florida Derby. This is a difficult race to measure simply because Gulfstream Park tends to favor speed so unabashedly and because the pace was so modest. Still, the lightly raced colt fought through an opening along the rail to win in a photo in a determined effort. Most important, Constitution ran down Wildcat Red, who loves Gulfstream Park and was cruising along on an easy lead through those casual splits (48.19 for the opening half-mile and 1:12 for three-quarters). Constitution has been sidelined, but he could be a special horse. As for Wildcat Red and General a Rod, who finished second and third and are aimed at the Derby, it’s hard to imagine them moving forward on May 3.

    4. Wicked Strong, Wood Memorial. He made up two lengths in the final furlong and then drew clear to win the Wood by more than three lengths. In other words, he finished strongly indeed, with a final furlong in 12.52 seconds, suggesting the classic distance of the Derby is within his reach. If the 140th Derby is won in deep stretch, this horse could be wearing the roses. But six of the last 10 Derby winners, had taken the lead and control of the race by mid-stretch, and last year Orb was only a head back with a furlong remaining. And even horses that rally from far back to win the Derby generally make up more ground in the second turn than in the stretch.

    5. Danza, Arkansas Derby. Yes, he was 41-1, but he ran as if he were an odds-on favorite, spurting clear to win by nearly five lengths in a very solid clocking for the day (1:49.68 for 1 1/8 miles). The Arkansas Derby was his first race around two turns, and Danza performed as if this is what he was born to do, running the final three-eighths of a mile in 37.09 seconds and galloping out beyond the wire with outstanding energy.

    6. Hoppertunity, Rebel. A late foal – he won’t actually turn 3 until May 7 – Hoppertunity has made huge strides in his last two races, and with another forward move he could be a major threat to win the roses. In the Rebel, he rallied in the second turn and finished strongly despite encountering trouble through the lane.

    7. Hoppertunity, Santa Anita Derby. And in the Santa Anita Derby, although he never threatened, he was a clear second, defeating some very capable horses. Most important, for the recent Santa Anita race, he didn’t have to get on a plane and travel halfway across the country and he didn't have to pour out all his energy to secure second. He could be ready to take that next step at Churchill.

    8. Tapiture, Rebel. Although second, he might have been best in the Rebel, but at the very least his performance was the equal of Hoppertunity’s. Tapiture’s fourth in the Arkansas Derby, however, raises questions about his effectiveness beyond 1 1/16 miles. A high-strung colt and a late foal, he won’t actually turn 3 until Derby Day.

    9. Intense Holiday, Risen Star. He ran into some trouble in the Louisiana Derby and created even more for himself when he ducked in at the top of the stretch. But he hadn’t done anything like that in his other races, and so the lapse might be dismissed as an aberration. For a measure of talent, look instead at his Risen Star effort. He was a little nervous in the saddling area, but after that he was all business. He rallied strongly in the second turn – where the Kentucky Derby is usually won – and ran the fourth quarter-mile in about 24 seconds. He got up in the final strides for the victory and then galloped out with overflowing energy. And it’s worth noting that Vicar’s in Trouble, who would win the Louisiana Derby, finished third, and that Hoppertunity, who would win the Rebel, finished fourth.

    10. Chitu, Sunland Derby. Chitu looks like a sprinter and has the speed and quickness of a sprinter, but he hasn’t conceded he’s a sprinter, not yet anyway. When he won the Sunland Derby, he pressed a rapid pace – 46.46 seconds for the half and 1:09.60 for three quarters – and then persevered, while everybody around him was staggering – to win by more than two lengths. Still, he ran the final three-eighths of a mile over a fast surface in 38.28 seconds, which suggests he’s unlikely to step forward at 1 ¼ miles.

  • Longines Kentucky Oaks Update for Tuesday, April 22

    UNTAPABLE (No. 1)/EUPHROSYNE Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Untapable, winner of the Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) and Silverbulletday (GIII) at Fair Grounds, returned to the track on Tuesday and galloped 1 1/8 miles over a fast surface under exercise rider Angel Garcia.The Steve Asmussen-trained daughter of Tapit worked five furlongs on Sunday under jockey Rosie Napravnik, who will ride Untapable in the Longines Kentucky Oaks. She walked under Asmussen’s shedrow on Monday.

  • Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands Update for Tuesday, April 22

    VICAR’S IN TROUBLE (No. 2)/GENERAL A ROD (No. 15)/HARRY’S HOLIDAY (No. 20) – Trainer Mike Maker vanned his trio of Kentucky Derby possibilities to the Churchill Downs backside late Tuesday morning.

    Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s  Vicar’s in Trouble galloped at the Trackside Training Center Tuesday morning and is scheduled to breeze at Churchill Downs on Saturday along  with  Harry’s  Holiday,  who  is  owned by  Skychai  Racing, Terry Raymond and Jana Wagner. Harry’s Holiday galloped Tuesday at Trackside. Joel Barrientos was aboard both colts.

    J.  Armando Rodriguez’s  General a Rod  also galloped at  Trackside Tuesday  and  is scheduled  to  work  at  Churchill  Downs  on Wednesday with Barrientos up.

    DANZA (No. 6)/INTENSE HOLIDAY (No. 8)/WE MISS ARTIE (No. 10)/VINCEREMOS (No. 19) – Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners Danza galloped 1 ½ miles under exercise rider Nick Bush after the Tuesday morning renovation break at Churchill Downs.

    Trained by Todd Pletcher, Danza will be joined Tuesday afternoon by Starlight Racing’s Intense Holiday and Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s We Miss Artie. The two colts were booked on a flight out of South Florida with a 1 p.m. arrival at Louisville International Airport.

    Pletcher’s fourth Derby hopeful, WinStar Farm and Twin Creek Racing Stables’ Vinceremos is scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs on Wednesday from WinStar, where he has been since running in the April 12 Blue Grass Stakes (GI).

    HOPPERTUNITY (No. 7)/CHITU (No. 12)/BAYERN (No. 23) – Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman’s Hoppertunity got his first exercise over the track at Churchill Downs Tuesday morning, galloping 1 ½ miles under Dana Barnes after the renovation break.

    The winner of the Rebel (GII) and runner-up in the Santa Anita Derby (GI) in his most recent start, the Bob Baffert trainee arrived at Churchill Downs Monday afternoon from his home base in Southern California.

    Tanma Corporation’s Chitu and Kaleem Shah’s Bayern, walked the shedrow a day after turning in half-mile works here.

    WILDCAT RED (No. 9) – Honors Stable Corp.’s Wildcat Red was scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs early Tuesday afternoon after a flight from Florida.

    The two-time graded stakes winner and runner-up in the Florida Derby (GI) in his most recent start is trained by Jose Garoffalo. Wildcat Red will be housed in Barn 21.

    RIDE ON CURLIN (No. 11) – Daniel Dougherty’s Ride On Curlin, runner-up in the Arkansas Derby (GI) in his most recent start, galloped after the renovation break under exercise rider Bryan Beccia.

    Trained by Bill Gowan, Ride On Curlin is scheduled to breeze Saturday or Sunday, depending on weather, with jockey Calvin Borel up.

    TAPITURE (No. 13) – Trainer Steve Asmussen said Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC’s Southwest (GIII) winner Tapiture walked in the shedrow and was doing well on the morning after his first work since his return to Churchill Downs last week.

    The 3-year-old son of Tapit breezed five furlongs over a fast track in 1:02.80 on Monday. Ricardo Santana Jr. has the Kentucky Derby mount on Tapiture.

    RING WEEKEND (No. 14) – West Point Thoroughbreds tweeted that Alan Garcia will ride Ring Weekend in Kentucky Derby 140.

    Currently stabled at the Fair Hill Training Center in Maryland, Ring Weekend finished second in the Calder Derby on April 5 with Garcia aboard. Trained by Graham Motion, Ring Weekend is scheduled to work Friday at Fair Hill.

    MEDAL COUNT (No. 16) – Spendthrift Farm’s Medal Count, runner-up in the Blue Grass (GI)  last out,  galloped  after  the  renovation  break  under  exercise  rider  Faustino Aguilar for  trainer  Dale Romans.

    CANDY BOY (No. 17) – C R K Stable’s Robert B. Lewis (GII) winner Candy Boy walked the shedrow at Barn 43 on his first full day at Churchill Downs for trainer John Sadler.

    Candy Boy arrived at Churchill Downs at 3:30 Monday afternoon from his base in Southern California.

    Cesar Aguilar, assistant to Sadler, said Candy Boy would go to the track Wednesday.

    COMMANDING CURVE (No. 21) – West Point Thoroughbreds’ Commanding Curve, third in the Louisiana Derby (GII) in his most recent start, galloped after the renovation break under exercise rider Emerson Chavez for trainer Dallas Stewart.

    Commanding Curve stands 21st on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard Presented by TwinSpires.com.

    "We’re still just waiting,” Stewart said, “that’s all you can do. I think he’s right on par with (2013 Kentucky Derby runner-up) Golden Soul last year. I think he’s every bit as good and he’s been handling this track really well.”

    PABLO DEL MONTE (No. 22) – Susan Magnier, Derrick Smith, Michael Tabor and Wesley Ward’s Pablo Del Monte, third in the Blue Grass Stakes last out, is scheduled to work Saturday or Sunday at Keeneland, according to Ward, who is also the colt’s trainer.

    BIG BAZINGA (No. 25) – Derby Dreamers Racing Stable’s Big Bazinga galloped 1 ½ miles under Loren Diego after the morning renovation break.

    Big Bazinga arrived at Churchill Downs Monday afternoon from Keeneland where he had remained since a fourth-place finish in the Blue Grass Stakes (GI).

    Big Bazinga is trained by Katerina Vassilieva. According to Frank Bernis, agent for jockey Brian Hernandez Jr., the colt is scheduled to work Saturday with Hernandez up. Hernandez rode the colt in the Blue Grass.

    Click here for a pdf copy of the April 22 Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby Update.

  • Longines Kentucky Oaks Update for Monday, April 21

    UNTAPABLE (No. 1)/ EUPHROSYNE (No. 8) – Gillian S. Campbell, Ralph Staver, Shelly Staver, Dan Clark and Greg Skoda’s Euphrosyne, listed as “possible” for the Longines Kentucky Oaks, breezed five furlongs in the company of a workmate in 1:02.20 Monday morning. Abel Flores was aboard the daughter of Harlan’s Holiday, who covered the distance in fractional splits of :13, :25.80 and :38 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:16.

    Euphrosyne was on the track with Asmussen’s first set of horses.

    Untapable, who had worked five furlongs on Sunday, walked on Monday.

    SUGAR SHOCK (No. 2) – On Cloud Nine LLC’s Sugar Shock was given the morning off by trainer Doug Anderson.

    “She just walked today,” said Anderson, whose string of 30 horses is based at Prairie Meadows. “She had four hard races at Oaklawn.”

    A daughter of Candy Ride (ARG), Sugar Shock progressed from a maiden score to an allowance winner and then finished first in the Honeybee (GIII) but was disqualified before triumphing in the Fantasy (GIII).

    Anderson said Sugar Shock probably would work “an easy five-eighths” with new rider Calvin Borel scheduled to be aboard.

    AWESOME BABY (No. 4) / RIA ANTONIA (No. 12) – Christopher Dunn and Loooch Racing Stable’s Ria Antonia was scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs Monday afternoon after a flight from Southern California for trainer Bob Baffert.

    Kaleem Shah’s Awesome Baby was not on the Monday flight. However, there are flights scheduled from California on Thursday and next Monday.

    MY MISS SOPHIA (tie-No. 5) / IN TUNE (tie-No.5)  / GOT LUCKY (No. 10) – Mathis Stable’s My Miss Sophia  and Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings’ Got Lucky both jogged after the morning renovation break for trainer Todd Pletcher.

    Humberto Zamora was aboard My Miss Sophia and Amy Mulen partnered Got Lucky.

    Wertheimer and Frere’s In Tune is scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs on Tuesday.

    ROSALIND (No. 7) – Landaluce Educe Stables’ Rosalind, dead-heat winner of the Ashland (GI) at Keeneland in her most recent start, was scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs early Monday afternoon.

    ROOM SERVICE (No. 9) / AURELIA'S BELLE (No. 11) – Gary and Mary West’s Room Service and James Miller’s Aurelia’s Belle galloped after the morning renovation break with exercise rider Calamity Compton in the saddle first on Room Service and then Aurelia’s Belle.

    HOUSE RULESTrainer Allen Jerkens said he “does not plan to come” to Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Oaks with J.V. Shields Jr.’s House Rules.

    House Rules had been No. 12 on the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard.

    KISS MOON (No. 13) – Carl Pollard’s Kiss Moon worked five furlongs in 1:00.60 under Julien Leparoux after the morning renovation break for trainer David Vance.

    Working on her own and without the blinkers she wore in the runner-up effort in the Fantasy (GIII), Kiss Moon reeled off fractions of  :12.20, :24.20 and :36.40 while galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.80.

    “She only ran two weeks ago and I didn’t want her to do too much,” Vance said. “I was happy with the work and probably will come back next Sunday for her last work before the Oaks.”

    IFTYSHADESOFGOLD (No. 14) – The Estate of Clarence Scharbauer’s Fiftyshadesofgold galloped 1 ½ miles before 7 o’clock Monday morning under exercise rider Sara Escudero for trainer Bret Calhoun.

    Fiftyshadesofgold is scheduled to work Friday.

    UNBRIDLED FOREVER (No. 15) – Charles Fipke’s Unbridled Forever,  galloped after the  renovation  break  under  exercise  rider  Pedro Velez for trainer Dallas Stewart.

    SWEET REASON (No. 16) – Treadway Racing Stable’s Sweet Reason has not been ruled out of the Kentucky Oaks picture that would require a couple of defections to land a spot in the starting gate.

    "I am probably leaning in a different direction because I didn’t think there was a possibility of getting in,” trainer Leah Gyarmati said of Sweet Reason, who is at Belmont Park. “I would not rule it out now if there is a chance.”

    THANK YOU MARYLOU (No. 17) – Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Thank You Marylou galloped at the nearby Trackside Training Center for trainer Mike Maker.

  • Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands Update for Monday, April 21

    VICAR'S IN TROUBLE (No. 2) / GENERAL A ROD (No. 15) / HARRY'S HOLIDAY (No. 20) – Trainer Mike Maker reported Monday morning that his trio  of  Kentucky  Derby  possibilities  “were  doing  just  fine”  at  the  nearby Trackside Training Center.

  • 'Fate' could give Nakatani first Derby win; White announces his Derby odds

    Corey Nakatani will seek his first Kentucky Derby victory in his 17th attempt when he rides Blue Grass winner Dance With Fate in the Run for the Roses on May 3 at Churchill Downs.

  • Wildcat Red, Intense Holiday, We Miss Artie put in final Florida works

    Grade 2 hero Wildcat Red completed the Florida portion of his preparation for the $2 million Kentucky Derby on May 3 by working a half-mile in :48 3/5 over Gulfstream Park's fast main track on Sunday.

  • Longines Kentucky Oaks Update for Sunday, April 20

    UNTAPABLE (No. 1)Winchell Thoroughbred LLC’s Untapable, winner of the Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) and Rachel Alexandra (GIII) at Fair Grounds, tuned up for her scheduled run in the Longines Kentucky Oaks with a sharp five-furlong work at Churchill Downs under jockey Rosie Napravnik.

  • Kentucky Derby Update for Sunday, April 20

    VICAR’S IN TROUBLE (No. 2) / GENERAL A ROD (No. 16) / HARRY’S HOLIDAY (No. 21) – Trainer Mike Maker reported Sunday morning that things were “all well” at the nearby Trackside Training Center for his trio of Kentucky Derby possibilities.

  • Updated Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by TwinSpires.com Leaderboard (after races of Sat., April 19)

    Click here for the updated Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by TwinSpires.com Leaderboard following the Coolmore Lexington (GIII) and races of Sat., April 19 ...

  • Mr Speaker brings gavel down in Lexington

    Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey thought about running Mr Speaker in the April 12 Blue Grass at Keeneland, but decided to pass the hurly-burly of a big field in that major Kentucky Derby prep, and instead opted for Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 Lexington Stakes over the same track. Judging by how the Phipps Stable homebred stormed four lengths clear in his first attempt on synthetic, it's worth wondering how he might have fared one week ago.

  • California Chrome leads Derby worktab

    Santa Anita Derby winner California Chrome took another step closer to the Kentucky Derby on May 3 when he worked four furlongs at his Los Alamitos headquarters Saturday morning in :47 4/5 under regular rider Victor Espinoza.

  • Cairo Prince to miss Derby with ankle injury

    Cairo Prince has sustained an ankle injury that will rule him out of the May 3 Kentucky Derby, Daily Racing Form's David Grening reported via Twitter.

  • Pablo Del Monte remains on Derby trail

    Wesley Ward, trainer and part-owner of Blue Grass third-placer Pablo Del Monte, reports that his colt remains on the road to the 140th Kentucky Derby  for now.

    With the defection of Cairo Prince Saturday, Pablo Del Monte ranks 23rd on the Kentucky Derby leader board with 20 points.

  • Churchill Downs Maintains Tightened Security for Kentucky Derby, Kentucky Oaks 140

    Churchill Downs Racetrack (“CDRT”) has released its list of security and hospitality policies and procedures for this year’s 140th celebrations of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands on Saturday, May 3, and the Longines Kentucky Oaks on Friday, May 2.

    The list mirrors the revised list of policies and procedures from last year that was issued following the attack on the Boston Marathon on April 15, 2013. As it retains last year’s adjusted roster of security and hospitality policies, Churchill Downs officials are again asking Derby and Oaks patrons to be aware during their visits on both days and to heed a simple, but important, reminder: “If you see something, say something.”

     Most prominent among the policies for this year’s Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks are:

    • A ban on carry-in coolers. Patrons will not be allowed bring their own coolers; however, coolers and ice will be available at several infield purchase points;
    • Purses or bags measuring more than 12 inches in any dimension will not be allowed through any admission gate;
    • Cans of any size or type and glass bottles and containers will not be permitted;
    • Patron and pop-up tents are prohibited.  Poles and stakes of any kind are not permitted.
    • A ban on laptop computers, cameras with detachable lenses, cameras with attached lenses measuring six inches or morecamcorders and tripods;

     Most of the remaining security procedures on Churchill Downs’ 2014 list have been in place since sweeping changes to those policies were formulated by the track and its security and safety partners and adopted for the 2002 Kentucky Derby.

    Among the items permitted for carry-in on both days are:

    • Food items and box lunches contained in clear plastic bags or clear plastic containers measuring no larger than 18” x 18”;
    • Water and soft drinks in plastic bottles that are sealed and unopened;
    • Sunscreen (in non-glass containers only);
    • Purses measuring less than 12” in any dimension, and baby and diaper bags, if accompanied by a child.
    • Cellular phones, smartphones and tablets (patrons could be required to turn on electronic items before being allowed to enter the track);
    • Small cameras with non-detachable lenses no longer than six inches.

     “Our sincere hope is that every fan who visits Churchill Downs for the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks has an amazing experience,” said Ryan Jordan, General Manager of Churchill Downs.  “Our fans have told us that they feel safe when they visit our racetrack.  We are thankful for the tireless efforts of nearly 40 law enforcement, security and safety agencies who work together with Churchill Downs team members each year on security and safety policies for these great events.

    “In addition to maintaining tightened security policies, we are again asking that our patrons be aware of their surroundings and to say something to a uniformed security officer or a member of our Churchill Downs staff if they see something that seems out of the ordinary. ‘If you see something, say something’ is an important thought for all to remember.”

    As has been the case since 2002, when security procedures were completely overhauled following the 9/11 terrorist attacks the previous autumn, all patrons entering the track on those days are subject to electronic wand scans.

    Click here for the complete list of security "dos and don'ts" for Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks 140.

  • Dance With Fate confirmed for Derby

    Blue Grass winner Dance With Fate will indeed take his spot in the starting gate in the May 3 Kentucky Derby, connections announced Friday.

  • Commanding Curve, Unbridled Forever breeze in hopes of making Derby, Oaks

    Kentucky Derby hopeful Commanding Curve, ranked No. 23 on the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" leaderboard, continued his preparations for a potential start in the "Run for the Roses" with a five-furlong move Friday morning at Churchill Downs in 1:00 2/5.

  • Samraat, Uncle Sigh turn in works at Belmont

    New York-breds Samraat and Uncle Sigh, who will be ridden in the Kentucky Derby by New York's leading jockeys, brothers Jose and Irad Ortiz Jr., had their penultimate workouts for the May 3 Run for the Roses on Friday morning at Belmont Park.

  • Wicked Strong breezes half-mile at Belmont

    In his first work since winning the Grade 1 TwinSpires.com Wood Memorial, Wicked Strong breezed a solid half-mile in :49 3/5 Thursday morning over the Belmont Park training track in preparation for his upcoming role as one of the favorites for the May 3 Kentucky Derby.

    Click here for video of the work.

  • Kentucky Derby Report -- April 18

    The Blue Grass went to a logical winner, synthetic/turf horse Dance With Fate, who is on the fence for the Kentucky Derby, but the Arkansas Derby outcome was impossible to predict as Danza rolled home at 41-1.