Mor Spirit, runner-up to Exaggerator in the April 9 Santa Anita Derby (GI) last time out, put in his first breeze over the Churchill Downs main track for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) on Tuesday morning during Churchill Downs’ special 8:30-8:45 a.m. training window, which is exclusive to possible starters in the Kentucky Derby and Longines Kentucky Oaks.
Working in company with stablemate Jimbo Fallon, the son of Eskendreya breezed five furlongs in :59.80, producing eighth-mile splits of :11.40, :22.40, :34.20, :46, galloping out three-quarters of a mile in 1:13.20 and seven furlongs in 1:27 with regular rider Gary Stevens in the irons. It was the second fastest of 18 works at the distance for the morning over a fast track.
“Loved the work,” said Stevens, who will be looking for his fourth Kentucky Derby victory. “The work went great; he was very aggressive going to the pole, which is not always him. He’s a little quirky sometimes. [Trainer] Bob [Baffert] put a little more blinkers on him this morning to get him a little more focused and it did the job. He went to the pole aggressive, was aggressive throughout the work, he galloped out strong into the backstretch.”
The pilot in six of Mor Spirit’s seven career starts, Stevens is confident in Mor Spirit’s ability to get the mile-and-a-quarter distance.
“I can’t get the horse tired and that’s a good thing when you’re going a mile and a quarter,” Stevens said. “I don’t think that distance is going to be a problem but he’s come along at the right time. This has been the focus since last year in December; we’ve been pointing the Derby. We’re two weeks away.”
Stevens reflected on Mor Spirit’s second-place effort in the Santa Anita Derby.
“We haven’t got to the bottom of him,” Stevens said. “In the Santa Anita Derby, I won’t say that he didn’t like the surface, but he didn’t like the kick back coming back. I felt like he ran about 80 percent for me and still finished second. He’s got some gears and I’ve felt them in the morning and I’ve felt them in the afternoon. Unfortunately I didn’t feel them in the Santa Anita Derby so hopefully he brings the ‘A’ game.”
Baffert, who will be looking to become the second winningest trainer in Derby history with Mor Spirit, spoke highly of the horse’s work.
"He worked well today,” Baffert said. “He’s never been a real willing worker. He got a good work today, seems like he [Gary Stevens] didn’t go too hard on him. This track is pretty quick, but it was good for him, he got into it. When Gary worked him a few weeks ago he started off slow and kind of lost interest. The surface is really kind on him, he likes the surface.”
It’s much quieter around Baffert’s Churchill barn this year. Last year he was the focus of most of the buzz having started two of the favorites, eventual Triple Crown winner American Pharoah and Dortmund, who was undefeated going into the race.
“It’s quieter, but it should be,” Baffert said. “Last year we came with two top horses. One who was undefeated, Dortmund, and American Pharoah had come off that ridiculous race [Arkansas Derby] at Oaklawn Park so they had stamped themselves, especially Pharoah with the way he won. It’s a different vibe, but it’s still exciting, it’s still good to be here. Mr. [ Michael] Lund [Petersen] flew in from Maryland to watch his horse work, he’s getting into it and it’s fun for him. He’s learning the process of it all.”
Baffert and Stevens have collectively found Kentucky Derby success with Silver Charm in 1997.
“It’s fun with Gary because he’s focused,” Baffert said. “He knows what we need to and we’re getting to know this horse and we’ve been here before and we’re both getting older now so we appreciate it more and we’re enjoying it more, before we used to come in here and try to win one of these things. Once you’ve been here so many times, you know what you need to do, just stay focused and enjoy yourself as long as everything is going smooth, so that’s the whole key.”
Baffert reflected on last year’s Triple Crown experience with American Pharoah, who became the first horse in 37 years to win all three American classics.
“What I bring form the Triple Crown is what I got to share it with my wife and my kids and just the noise and the emotion,” Baffert said. “I’ll never forget, it was just deafening, that’s what I take from it that I was actually involved in sports history. The people who were there will always remember that how loud it was. The noise was just incredible. I wasn’t really rooting for the horse I was just listening to the noise and we were all crying. The noise is what I’ll never forget and it kept on going and my wife Jill was there. This game can get you down and it can get you bitter sometimes but that just made up for everything.”
OTHER KENTUCKY DERBY NOTES
BRODY’S CAUSE/CHERRY WINE – The Albaugh Family Stable’s Brody’s Cause galloped 1 ¼ miles under Miguel Garcia after the morning renovation break for trainer Dale Romans.
Also galloping the same distance after the break was Cherry Wine, under Faustino Aguilar.
CREATOR/GUN RUNNER – Trainer Steve Asmussen said that his two Kentucky Derby hopefuls, Creator and Gun Runner, emerged from Monday works in good order.
WinStar Farm’s Creator had worked five furlongs in 1:02.80 while Gun Runner, owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm, had covered six furlongs in 1:12.20.
DAZZLING GEM – Steve Landers Racing’s Dazzling Gem, fourth in the Arkansas Derby (GI) in his most recent start, galloped after the renovation break under exercise rider Fernando Espinoza.
Dazzling Gem stands 24th on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 30 points, accumulated by virtue of his third-place finish in the Louisiana Derby (GII) and the Arkansas Derby result.
“If we don’t get in the Derby, we will look at the ($200,000) Peter Pan (GII on May 14 at Belmont Park) or the Preakness (at Pimlico on May 21),” trainer Brad Cox said.
DESTIN/OUTWORK – Trainer Todd Pletcher’s two Kentucky Derby hopefuls, Outwork and Destin, made their initial appearances on the track after arriving at Churchill Downs the day before.
Repole Stable’s Outwork, winner of the Wood Memorial (GI) in his most recent start, galloped under Hector Ramos. John Velazquez will have the Derby riding assignment.
Twin Creeks Racing Stables’ Destin, winner of the Tampa Bay Derby (GII) in his most recent start, galloped under Ovel Merida. Javier Castellano will ride Destin in the Derby.
With plenty of rain forecast for the Louisville area the rest of the week, Pletcher will be playing weather tracker regarding final works for the Derby for the two colts.
“That is all up in the air,” Pletcher said. “We could work Thursday, Friday or Saturday.”
DISCREETNESS – Xpress Thoroughbreds’ Discreetness had a strong gallop in company after the renovation break under exercise rider Paul Griffith.
Trained by Jinks Fires, Discreetness is 26th on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard.
FELLOWSHIP – Jacks or Better Farm’s Fellowship, third in the Florida Derby (GI0, Fountain of Youth (GII) and Holy Bull (GII), galloped after the break under exercise rider Brian O’Leary for trainer Mark Casse.
LANI – Koji Maeda’s Lani jogged a half-mile and then galloped two miles under exercise rider Eishu Maruuchi after the break. Before returning to the barn, Lani spent nearly 20 minutes walking in the mile chute.
"He never gets tired,” said Keita Tanaka, agent for the owner.
Winner of the UAE Derby (Group II) in his most recent start and also a stakes winner in Japan, Lani is scheduled to work six furlongs Wednesday with jockey Yutaka Take coming in for the breeze.
The time of the work will be determined by the weather. Storms were forecast to start in Louisville late Tuesday afternoon and continuing overnight into Wednesday morning. The track opens for training at 5:45 a.m.
Lani is trained by Mikio Matsunaga.
MAJESTO – Grupo 7C Racing Stable’s Majesto, runner-up to Kentucky Derby favorite Nyquist in the Florida Derby (GI) in his most recent start, galloped after the break under J.J. Delgado.
Trained by Gustavo Delgado, Majesto is scheduled to work Friday. No rider has been confirmed on Majesto for the Derby.
MOHAYMEN – Shadwell Stable’s Mohaymen galloped after the renovation break under exercise rider Miguel Jaime for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
Mohaymen is scheduled to work Friday, weather permitting. He will be ridden in the Derby by Junior Alvarado, who has been aboard the Tapit colt in all six of his starts.
MO TOM – G M B Racing’s Mo Tom galloped after the break under exercise rider Mario Garcia for trainer Tom Amoss.
Winner of the LeComte (GIII), Mo Tom had been scheduled to work Wednesday, but with a forecast for heavy rain, Amoss has altered his plan.
We are going to changes things up,” Amoss said. “He will gallop early tomorrow and probably work now on Friday.”
MY MAN SAM/SHAGAF – Trainer Chad Brown’s two Kentucky Derby hopefuls, Shagaf and My Man Sam, returned to the track to jog after the renovation break.
Gian Cueva was aboard Shadwell Stable’s Shagaf, who had worked a half-mile in :48.40 on Sunday and Daniel Bernardini was on My Man Sam, who is owned by Sheep Pond Partners, Newport Stables and jay Bligh.
OSCAR NOMINATED – Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Oscar Nominated galloped 1 ¼ miles at the nearby Trackside Training Center under exercise rider Joel Cano.
Trained by Mike Maker, Oscar Nominated will be ridden in the Derby by Julien Leparoux.
Oscar Nominated, who never has raced on dirt in his seven-race career, is scheduled to work at Churchill Downs Saturday.
SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS – Samuel Henderson’s Suddenbreakingnews galloped after the break under exercise rider Ramiro Gorostieta for trainer Donnie Von Hemel. Suddenbreakingnews is scheduled to work sometime this coming weekend depending on weather.
TOM’S READY – G M B Racing’s Louisiana Derby (GII) runner-up Tom’s Ready galloped after the break under exercise rider Emerson Chavez for trainer Dallas Stewart.
Brian Hernandez Jr., who was aboard the More Than Ready colt when he broke his maiden here in September as well as in the Louisiana Derby, will have the Kentucky Derby mount.
WHITMORE – Robert LaPenta, Harry Rosenblum and Southern Springs Stable’s Whitmore jogged a mile shortly after the track opened under Laura Moquett.
Trainer Ron Moquett said the third-place Arkansas Derby (GI) finisher would work Friday or Saturday.
KENTUCKY OAKS NOTES
NICKNAME/ROYAL OBSESSION/TAXABLE/TERRA PROMESSA – Trainer Steve Asmussen, who could potentially start four fillies in the May 6 Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI), has not decided on which jockeys will pilot his quartet going into the race, stating that he would discuss the topic with the owners. His four fillies, Terra Promessa, Taxable, Royal Obsession and Nickname, all breezed over the Churchill Downs main track on Monday morning.
Following morning workouts, Asmussen was informed that he had been inducted into Racing’s Hall of Fame.
“It was fun to be able to call up mom and dad and tell them that,” Asmussen said. “We’re going to celebrate it for a while.”
CARINA MIA – Three Chimneys Farm’s Carina Mia came out of her bullet five-eighths work of :58.80 on Monday in good roder according to Kenny McCarthy, assistant to trainer Bill Mott.
DREAM DANCE – Stoneway Farm’s Dream Dance had a strong gallop under exercise rider Joel Dominguez shortly before 6:30.
“She did a two-minute lick from the five-eighths to the seven-eighths,” trainer Neil Howard said. “I wanted her to go on the better side of 1:30 for the three-quarters and I got her in 1:23 and a mile in 1:51.”
Brian Hernandez Jr., who has been aboard the Afleet Alex filly in all nine of her starts, has the Oaks assignment. Dream Dance is scheduled to work Sunday.
GO MAGGIE GO – Mike Tarp’s Gulfstream Park Oaks (GII) winner Go Maggie Go galloped 1 ¼ miles after the break under Tammy Fox. Trained by Dale Romans, Go Maggie Go was returning to the track for the first time since working five furlongs in 1:00.80 on Saturday.
LEWIS BAY – Alpha Delta Stable’s Gazelle (GII) winner Lewis Bay galloped at 7:15 with exercise rider Gian Cueva aboard for trainer Chad Brown.
MO D’AMOUR/RACHEL’S VALENTINA/THRILLED – Stonestreet Stables’ Rachel’s Valentina, daughter of 2009 Kentucky Oaks winner Rachel Alexandra, made her first appearance on the Churchill Downs track at 6:45 Tuesday morning, galloping under exercise rider Amy Mullen.
Rachel’s Valentina arrived at Churchill Downs shortly after noon on Monday from Keeneland where she had been housed since finishing second in the Central Bank Ashland (GI).
On the track at the same time was Michael Tabor’s Thrilled, who galloped under Ovel Merida.
After the break, King of Prussia Stable’s Mo d’Amour galloped under Mullen. Mo d’Amour had arrived at Churchill Downs early Monday morning from Belmont Park.
Trainer Todd Pletcher has John Velazquez to ride Rachel’s Valentina but noted that the riding assignment for Mo d’Amour has not been finalized.
Thrilled won the Plum Pretty Stakes at Sunland Park in March in her 2016 debut but only has four points toward the Oaks, good for 21st on the Oaks leaderboard.
“She is pretty far down the list for the Oaks,” Pletcher said. “We will see how she trains here.”
The Oaks is limited to the top 14 point earners that pass the entry box.
PAOLA QUEEN – Grupo 7C Racing Stable’s Paola Queen galloped a kittle after 7 o’clock under J.J. Delgado.
Trainer Gustavo Delgado has not comfirmed an Oaks rider for Paola Queen, who is scheduled to work Friday.
VENUS VALENTINE – Rosemont Farm’s Venus Valentine, winner of the Rachel Alexandra (GII), galloped after the renovation break under Maurice Sanchez for trainer Tom Amoss.
Amoss said Venue Valentine would work early Wednesday morning.
“She is going to go when the track opens at 5:45,” Amoss said.
WEEP NO MORE – Ashbrook Farm’s Weep No More jogged a mile and galloped a mile after the break under exercise rider Alex Gonzales.
Trained by Rusty Arnold, the Central Bank Ashland (GI) winner is scheduled to work Sunday.
Winner of her past three starts, Weep No More will attempt to carry on her family’s success in the Oaks. Her granddam is Flute, winner of the 2001 Oaks.
Corey Lanerie, who was aboard for the Ashland victory, has the Oaks mount.
PROSPECTIVE FIELDS FOR UPCOMING STAKES
$100,000 WILLIAM WALKER (Entries taken Wednesday, race Saturday) – Probable: Cataroux, Patton Proud, Toews On Ice, Possible: Twizz.
$100,000 KENTUCKY JUVENILE (Entries taken Saturday, race Thursday, May 5) – Probable: Classic Empire, Hey Mike, Lawton, Polar City, Rapa Iti.
$400,000 ALYSHEBA (GII) (Entries taken Tuesday, May 3, race Friday, May 6) – Probable: Coin Broker, Departing, La Macchina, Looks to Spare, Majestic Affair, Natchez, Noble Bird, Regally Ready. Possible: Blue Tone, Eagle.
$300,000 LA TROIENNE (GI) (Entries taken Tuesday, May 3, race Friday, May 6) – Probable: Angela Renee, Curalina, Penwith, Sheer Drama.
$200,000 EIGHT BELLES (GII) (Entries taken Tuesday, May 3, race Friday, May 6) – Probable: Blast, Blip n’ Th Bye, Durango, Frozen Hannah, Put Da Blame On Me, Stageplay. Possible: Cash Back.
$150,000 EDGEWOOD (GIII) (Entries taken Tuesday, May 3, race Friday, May 6) – Probable: Adore, Believe in Bertie, Catch a Glimpse, Dothraki Queen, Enjoy Yourself (GB), Harmonize, Jeremy’s Legacy (IRE), Nodiac (IRE), Outsider Art, Sky My Sky. Possible: Ava’s Kitten.
$150,000 TWIN SPIRES TURF SPRINT (GIII) (Entries taken Tuesday, May 3, race Friday, May 6) – Probable: Billy Two Hats, Guns Loaded, Latent Revenge, Mongol Bull, Something Extra, Speightsong. Possible: Alsvid, Power Alert (AUS).
$500,000 WOODFORD RESERVE TURF CLASSIC (GI) (Entries taken Wednesday, May 4, race Saturday, May 7) – Probable: Big Blue Kitten, Bolo, Chocolate Ride, Danish Dynaformer, Divisidero, Finnegans Wake, Grand Arch, Reporting Star, Roman Approval, Tourist, World Approval. Possible: Tepin.
$300,000 HUMANA DISTAFF (GI) (Entries taken Wednesday, May 4, race Saturday, May 7) – Probable: Dancing House, Kathbalu, Sarah Sis, Spelling Again, Stonetastic, Taris, Wavell Avenue.
$500,000 CHURCHILL DOWNS (GII) (Entries taken Wednesday,
May 4, race Saturday, May 7) – Probable: Barbados, Holy Boss, Kobe’s Back,
Limousine Liberal, Squadron A.
$300,000 CHURCHILL DISTAFF TURF MILE (GII) (Entries taken Wednesday, May 4, race Saturday, May 7) – Probable: Bureau de Change, Cash Control, Celestine, Isabella Sings, Josdesanimaux, Mississippi Delta, Rainha Da Bateria, Super Saks. Possible: Tepin.
$300,000 AMERICAN TURF (GII) (Entries taken Wednesday, May 4, race Saturday, May 7) – Probable: Airoforce, American Patriot, Azar, Camelot Kitten, Converge, Dressed in Hermes, J R’s Holiday, Surgical Strike, Two Step Time.
$250,000 PAT DAY MILE (GIII) (Entries taken
Wednesday, May 4, race Saturday, May 7) – Probable: American Freedom, Cocked
and Loaded, Discreetness, Forevamo, Imperial Hint, Lookin for a Kiss, Sea
Wizard, Star Hill, Unbridled Outlaw.
LINK TO CHURCHILL DOWNS WORKOUT VIDEOS : https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLl40UP8fX1C...