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.
Flashback, second as the even-money favorite in Saturday's Santa Anita Derby, will miss the Kentucky Derby due to a chip in his right knee, trainer Bob Baffert reported Sunday night.
The gray son of Tapit will have surgery to remove the chip and is expected to make a full recovery. Baffert revealed that Flashback should return to training in 60 days in preparation for a return to the races later this year.
With the dust still settling on an overcast Sunday morning after Doug O'Neill gave Kevin Krigger a leg up on mutuelly maligned Goldencents who went on to win Saturday's Santa Anita Derby at 6-1, turning back the Bob Baffert-trained even-money favorite Flashback by 1 1/4 lengths, a sense of reason and calm prevailed.
Mylute, runner-up to Revolutionary in the Louisiana Derby, continued his preparations for the Kentucky Derby with a half-mile breeze in :50 1/5 over the fast Churchill Downs track on Sunday morning.
"We moved the work up because the weather looks like it could be bad the next few days," trainer Tom Amoss explained.
Grade 1, $750,000 Blue Grass candidate Noble Tune worked five furlongs in 1:01 1/5 in company with Big Blue Kitten on Sunday over the Polytrack at Keeneland.
Julien Leparoux was aboard Noble Tune while Norberto Arroyo Jr. piloted Big Blue Kitten, who is nominated to the $300,000 Maker's 46 Mile on Friday and the $150,000 Ben Ali on April 21.
Clockers caught the pair in fractions of :13, :25 4/5, :37 2/5 and :49 1/5 with a gallop-out time of 1:14 1/5.
Undefeated Verrazano was a happy and hungry horse the morning after his gritty victory in Saturday's Wood Memorial, and is scheduled to depart next Sunday for Churchill Downs as the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby.
"The horse came back in great order," said Michael McCarthy, assistant to winning trainer Todd Pletcher, who now has won three of the past four runnings of the Wood, with Eskendereya (2010) and Gemologist (2012). "Everything is good."
After dueling and weakening to fourth in the March 9 San Felipe, Goldencents was overlooked entering Saturday's Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby. But that proved to be a mistake as the three-year-old colt displayed the willingness to relax during the early stages, made his move to the lead entering the stretch drive and comfortably held the favored Flashback safe to the wire.
For the first time in his brief career, Verrazano had to work to grind out a victory, but the 4-5 favorite found plenty to remain perfect in Saturday's Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. The Todd Pletcher pupil turned back a bid from the hitherto unbeaten Vyjack, then held off the late-running Normandy Invasion, and will now bring a four-for-four mark into the Kentucky Derby.
Jockey John Velazquez will now have a decision to make, for he is also the regular rider of Florida Derby hero Orb.
Dynamic Sky, runner-up to Falling Sky in the Sam F. Davis and most recently fourth behind Verrazano in the Tampa Bay Derby, breezed five furlongs at Churchill Downs on Saturday in 1:01 2/5 in advance of next Saturday's Grade 1 Blue Grass at Keeneland.
Palm Beach winner Rydilluc completed his major preparation for next Saturday's Grade 1 Blue Grass by working seven furlongs in 1:28 3/5 on a cool, clear morning at Keeneland. Click here for work video.
With jockey Edgar Prado up, Rydilluc worked on his own and recorded fractions of :12 4/5, :25 4/5, :38 3/5, :51, 1:03 1/5 and 1:15 3/5. He galloped out a mile in 1:43 2/5.
Dynamic Sky, runner-up to Falling Sky in the Sam F. Davis (Grade III) and most recently fourth behind Verrazano in the Tampa Bay Derby (GII), breezed five furlongs at Churchill Downs on Saturday in 1:01.40 in prep for the Toyota Blue Grass (GI) at Keeneland on April 13.
Churchill Downs Racetrack (“CDRT”), working with the Louisville Metro Police Department (“LMPD”) and other law enforcement and public safety partners, has developed a new plan for taxi cab and bus drop-off and pick-up of Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks Day patrons designed to create a more convenient and efficient environment for fans traveling to-and-from the track via those means of transportation on its biggest days.
Chris Carrino and Tim Capstraw are best known as the radio broadcast team of the Brooklyn Nets, but their names could become part of Grade 1 Wood Memorial history if their namesake, Chrisandthecapper, were to upset New York's top prep race for the Kentucky Derby.
Saturday's Grade 1, $1 million Wood Memorial at Aqueduct Racetrack will be Chrisandthecapper's first start against winners off an 11 1/2-length maiden victory in a sprint at the Big A on March 9.
Hear the Ghost has been knocked off the Triple Crown trail by a knee injury, co-owner Ted Aroney told HRTV Thursday afternoon. The winner of the Grade 2 San Felipe in his latest, the Jerry Hollendorfer pupil would have been a top contender in Saturday's Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby.
Aroney, who races Hear the Ghost in partnership with Hall of Famer Hollendorfer, said that the promising sophomore was "off" in his training Thursday morning.