For those trainers still chasing a garland of roses, the Kentucky Derby presents this great paradox: The horses who make their way into the starting gate on May 4 will be the best in their class, the fastest 3-year-olds in the land, and yet, until their resolve is tested over the Derby’s one-and-one-quarter miles, no one really knows how good they are. None of these horses has ever raced this far.
Pure Fun will take an unorthodox route toward her ultimate goal, the May 3 Kentucky Oaks, when she lines up against 10 males in Saturday's Grade 3, $200,000 Lexington at Keeneland. The 1 1/16-mile race on Polytrack offers a total of 34 points (20-8-4-2) for both the Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks, and Pure Fun needs points to qualify with only 20 in the bank.
Java's War got up to win by a neck and Overanalyze rolled to a convincing 4 1/4-length victory as the Blue Grass and Arkansas Derby wrapped up the final round of major preps. A total of six probable Kentucky Derby contestants were in action last Saturday.
Arkansas Derby (Grade I) runner-up Frac Daddy, ranked No. 15 on the “Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by TwinSpires.com,” arrived at Churchill Downs on Wednesday morning at 4 a.m. (all times Eastern) and will be prepped for Kentucky Derby 139 beneath the Twin Spires.
Jockey Rosie Napravnik has accepted the Kentucky Derby mount on Louisiana Derby runner-up Mylute.
Napravnik, the leading rider at Fair Grounds the past three meetings, rode Mylute to his last win, a 10 3/4-length romp over optional claiming rivals at Fair Grounds on December 26. The gray son of Midnight Lute had been ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan in his previous two outings, a seventh in the February 23 Risen Star and his fast-finishing second, beaten less than a length by Revolutionary, in the March 30 Louisiana Derby.
Three-time Kentucky Derby winner Calvin Borel has picked up the mount on Louisiana Derby hero Revolutionary for the 139th Run for the Roses, it was announced Monday.
Revolutionary represents the same connections -- WinStar Farm and trainer Todd Pletcher -- as Borel's most recent Derby winner, Super Saver, in 2010. The veteran rider first guided Street Sense to Derby glory in 2007 before springing the 50-1 upset aboard Mine That Bird in 2009.
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.”
"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.