"Then there was one."
That's how Bob Baffert summed up his prospects for the Kentucky Derby on May 4 after War Academy was pulled up in Saturday's Arkansas Derby under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who at press time Sunday, was still in search of a mount in the Run for the Roses.
"The one" would be Sunland Derby winner Govenor Charlie, who has 50 points on the Derby's new qualifying system that limits the field to 20 starters with the highest point totals, earned by the top four finishers in designated Derby prep races.
"Java's War came out of Blue Grass fine. Trainer is exhausted. Thank You for opportunity Mr Fipke. Special winning in my home town Lexington"
So tweeted trainer Ken McPeek on Sunday morning about the victory by Charles Fipke's homebred Java's War in Saturday's Blue Grass before 37,161 fans, the second-largest crowd in Keeneland history. With Julien Leparoux aboard, the War Pass colt charged from last place to catch Palace Malice near the finish of the 1 1/8-mile race and win by a neck.
Mylute, runner-up to Revolutionary in the $1 million Louisiana Derby (Grade II), continued his preparations for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) with a six-furlong breeze in 1:12.20 on Sunday morning at Churchill Downs.
Repole Stable's Overanalyze, a dull fifth in the March 2 Gotham Stakes in his reappearance, roared back with a commanding, 4 1/4-length victory in Saturday's Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park. Trained by Todd Pletcher and ridden by Rafael Bejarano, the 7-2 third choice rallied boldly down the stretch to win 100 points toward the Kentucky Derby, and confirm his spot in the starting gate on May 4.
After breaking slowly and trailing during the early stages, Java's War closed fast to catch Palace Malice in deep stretch of Saturday's Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland. Julien Leparoux rode the Kenny McPeek-trained colt, who earned a Kentucky Derby berth with the neck decision.
Grade 1 winner Pure Fun and Taken By the Storm worked five furlongs together at Keeneland Saturday morning for trainer Kenny McPeek, completing five furlongs in 1:01 2/5 on the Polytrack.
Rosie Napravnik was up on Pure Fun, who could face males in next Saturday's Lexington Stakes at Keeneland. Taken By the Storm was ridden by Alan Garcia and could be cross-entered to the Lexington and Illinois Derby, which will be run the same day at Hawthorne.
Black Onyx, 1 ½-length winner of the Spiral (GIII), breezed five furlongs in 1:00.60 on the fast main track at Churchill Downs on Saturday morning in his first major training move since his victory at Turfway Park on March 23.
Godolphin Racing's Footbridge attempt to overcome some serious history on Saturday when he makes his stakes debut in the 89th running of the Blue Grass Stakes. No horse has won this major Keeneland prep for the Kentucky Derby after breaking his maiden in his previous start, something Footbridge accomplished in his fourth start.
Palm Beach winner Rydilluc completed his major preparations for Saturday's Blue Grass Stakes by breezing through the stretch Thursday morning at Keeneland.
Keeneland clockers began timing the colt at the three-eighths pole. With exercise rider Ricardo Orantes up, Rydilluc turned in fractions of :13 and :24 3/5 en route to completing three Polytrack furlongs in :37 2/5. The Medaglia d'Oro colt galloped out a half-mile in :51 3/5.
After a brief freshening at WinStar Farm in Versailles, Ky., Louisiana Derby (Grade II) winner Revolutionary arrived at Churchill Downs shortly after 11 a.m. EDT on Friday to be prepped for the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI).
Arriving with multiple graded stakes-winning 6-year-old Doubles Partner, Revolutionary, ranked No. 4 on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by TwinSpires.com” Leaderboard, was bedded down in Stall 9 of Barn 34 for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Churchill Downs Racetrack has added pop up and other patron tents and metal poles and stakes to its list of items that cannot be carried by patrons into the track on Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks Days.
Trainer Doug O'Neill is excited about the Kentucky Derby prospects of Goldencents, who earned a berth in the $2 million race when capturing the Santa Anita Derby last Saturday.
"He came out of the Santa Anita Derby great," O'Neill said Thursday morning at Santa Anita. "He's doing super but it's one day at a time. He was back on the track for the first time today, jogging, and at this point, we would work him nine days out (at Santa Anita, where the colt is based) and fly him (to Kentucky) seven days out. That's the tentative game plan."
Wesley Ward is nothing if not audacious. In 2009, he ventured across the Atlantic with a handful of horses and saddled two stakes winners at Royal Ascot, thus becoming the first U.S.-based trainer to capture a stakes race at England’s most prestigious “carnival.” That surely made an impression on the bluebloods of European racing.
With the First Saturday in May just more than three weeks away, the “Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by TwinSpires.com” is winding down and Saturday’s Toyota Blue Grass (Grade I) at Keeneland and Arkansas Derby (GI) at Oaklawn Park will conclude the Second Leg of the Championship Series.
As part of the Second Leg of the Championship Series, points will be awarded to the Top 4 finishers in the Blue Grass and Arkansas Derby on a 100 for first, 40 for second, 20 for third and 10 for fourth scale.
Several key riding assignments have been confirmed for the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 4.
John Velazquez will stick with Wood Memorial winner and likely Kentucky Derby favorite Verrazano, agent Angel Cordero Jr. reported on Wednesday. Velazquez has guided the Todd Pletcher-trained Verrazano to victories in all four career starts but faced a difficult decision due to the fact that he was also the regular rider for Florida Derby winner Orb, another leading Kentucky Derby contender.
The Wood Memorial played out in similar fashion to the Florida Derby a week earlier, with snail-like early fractions that resulted in a low BRIS Speed rating for the winner. Verrazano wasn't flashy but remained unbeaten, narrowly defeating the fast-charging Normandy Invasion, whose runner-up finish resurrected his Kentucky Derby hopes.
Hall of Fame conditioner Bob Baffert has dominated Oaklawn Park's series of graded preps for the Kentucky Derby, winning the Southwest, Rebel and Arkansas Derby a combined eight times since 2010. He will again be a major factor in Saturday's renewal of the Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby, saddling War Academy and Den's Legacy for the 1 1/8-mile fixture that highlights a blockbuster closing day program at the Hot Springs, Arkansas, course.
Uncaptured and Rydilluc will likely vie for favoritism in an oversubscribed field of 15 entered for Saturday's Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass at Keeneland.
The nine-furlong Polytrack contest and Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park about one hour later are the final races in the second leg of the Championship Series on the new Road to the Kentucky Derby point system. The top four finishers from each race will be awarded points toward a starting berth in the Kentucky Derby on a 100-40-20-10 basis.
“Dawn at the Downs,” the popular Louisville tradition that gives visitors an opportunity to enjoy breakfast in Millionaires Row while watching Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks contenders during morning workouts, returns to Churchill Downs on Tuesday, April 30 through Thursday, May 2.
Trainer Chad Brown was at Keeneland Monday morning and confirmed that Balance the Books would be entered Wednesday for Saturday's Grade 1 Blue Grass and said Noble Tune, who had been considered for the race, instead would make his next start at Churchill Downs. Both colts worked at Keeneland Sunday, Balance the Books covering four furlongs in :48 1/5 and Noble Tune breezing five furlongs in 1:01 1/5.
"I don't feel like (Noble Tune has) handled the Polytrack as well as I would have hoped, but Balance the Books is now a probable to run in there," Brown said.