LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Wednesday, May 4, 2016) – On a partly cloudy Kentucky morning, all but three of the players for Saturday’s 142nd Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) went about their business on a fast track at Churchill Downs. All the activity was done before steady rain began before noon.
Only Lani, who had worked five furlongs the day before, and Oscar Nominated, who arrived from the nearby Trackside Training Center, did not go to the track. Both are slated to return to the track in the morning.
Laoban, who will be on the also-eligible list, arrived at Churchill Downs at 7:30 after vanning from Keeneland.
The undefeated Nyquist, the reigning 2-year-old champion of 2015 and probable Derby favorite, jogged two miles, visited the starting gate and schooled in the paddock.
Next up after the morning activity is the post position draw that will be held at 5:30 this afternoon in the Aristides Lounge.
KENTUCKY DERBY NOTES
BRODY’S CAUSE/CHERRY WINE – Albaugh Family Stable’s Brody’s Cause and William Pacella, Frank L. Jones Jr. and Frank Shoop’s Cherry Wine galloped 1½ miles Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs. Brody’s Cause also stood in the starting gate during his training session.
Brody’s Cause, the Toyota Blue Grass (GI) winner, has secured a spot in the 20-horse field forSaturday’s Kentucky Derby, while Blue Grass third-place finisher Cherry Wine also was entered in the Run for the Roses Wednesday morning, but will need a few defections to draw off the also-eligible list and into the field.
Romans has started six horses in the Kentucky Derby, including third-place finishers Paddy O’Prado (2010) and Dullahan (2012) and fourth-place finisher Shackleford (2011). Shackleford went on to give Romans’ his first success in the Triple Crown with a victory in the Preakness Stakes
The multiple-Grade I stakes winner Brody’s Cause has given Romans reason to think that a coveted victory in the Derby is well within his capability.
“He’s the best shot I’ve had and he’s going to be the lowest price of any horse I’ve run. We don’t have a question mark right now. He’s won on the racetrack. He’ll go the distance. He’s beaten 14-horsefields,” Romans said. “He’s done everything you need to make it to the winner’s circle for the Derby.”
Owners Dennis and Susan Albaugh have announced that if Brody’s Cause should win the Derby, they will make a $500,000 donation from his winner’s purse to the Des Moines Area Community College Foundation. Dennis Albaugh is a 1972 graduate of DMACC. The Albaughs recently were recognized for their $1 million donation at the ribbon cutting of DMACC’s renovated Iowa Culinary Institute.
CREATOR/GUN RUNNER – Trainer Steve Asmussen's Kentucky Derby duo – WinStar Farm's Creatorand Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm's Gun Runner – returned to the track Wednesdaymorning for the first time since they worked Monday.
After the renovation break, Louisiana Derby (GII) winner Gun Runner galloped a mile and a half under exercise rider Carlos Rosas, and Arkansas Derby (GI) winner Creator galloped that distance under exercise rider Abel Flores.
At the barn, Asmussen expressed his satisfaction with how Gun Runner has developed. "His progression has been very good starting from last year,'' Asmussen said. "He's always had a lot of talent. I think physically, he has continued to develop, and with that, he's gotten a little stronger, a little faster all along.
"And after he won the Louisiana Derby, we thought ... the time, the spacing, that it was going our way, Ron (Winchell) asked, 'Will he be here the way we want him to be in six weeks?' We're on top of that. The question is about to be answered.''
As a 2-year-old, Gun Runner ran fourth in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (GII) at Churchill Downs.
"I think we learned that he was competitive at that level but felt he needed to improve,'' Asmussen said. "What would do that for us was time and maturity. Pedigree-wise, he's a horse that should be better with time, being out of a very good Giant’s Causeway mare, a (half-brother) to Saint Liam, horses that came on later in their careers. And I think we are seeing that from him.''
The colts schooled in the paddock Tuesday afternoon. A photograph taken by Barbara Livingston for Daily Racing Form showed Creator standing upright on his hind legs, and Gun Runner watching from the next stall. Asmussen said the photo reveals the energy of an energetic young athlete.
"They're ready,'' he said. "They're at their peak physical. We're 'Wait. Not yet.' We're in the Not yet mode. And I think both horses, just like today, first day back (to the track), I get awfully concerned about them jumping or stepping on themselves. They're very physical animals. Abel and Carlos were on them a good 10 minutes up and around the barn just for that purpose. Creator is very reactive. Something happens ... he responds to it. He is awake and alive. Gun Runner is very similar.
"And I thought the picture, Creator is standing up like that, and Gun Runner is looking over at him like, 'It's your turn,' like, 'It's me next. You now. Me next.' They're well aware of what they do for a living. They're racehorses, and they can feel the anticipation. And they're on edge. They're on edge. With Creator, that's what the schooling's about. Went over there. Stood in the paddock. Stuff like that. Excellent. And when we saddled him up, he really puffed up. That was what it's from.
"We'll go over there. We'll keep him moving a little bit more. We'll be a little more gradual with our approach to that. That's what the schooling allows us, for how they'll react to the things that happen.''
Asmussen said that Creator's behavior before the Arkansas Derby was a tip-off that the colt would run well. That race always draws a large crowd. The horses are led to the infield after saddling inside.
"I do think that you get a lot horses that run their race out of the Arkansas Derby in the KentuckyDerby through history,'' Asmussen said. "And I think the pageantry of that (Arkansas Derby) does set them up, to a degree, for the pageantry of the Derby. ... And I do love how he responded to it. He was very focused that day. In prerace for Creator before the Arkansas Derby, you were very confident, because he had his game face on. The race wasn't going to surprise him. It's like, 'We're here to run.' And I did like his focus, and I thought that the trip Ricardo (Santana Jr.) gave him in the Arkansas Derby translates very well to a crowded race of the (Kentucky) Derby.''
DANZING CANDY – It was a busy second morning at Churchill Downs for Halo Farms and Jim and Dianne Bashor’s Danzing Candy. The San Felipe (GII) winner galloped, visited the starting gate and walked through the paddock, with Rolando Quinones in the irons.
Trainer Cliff Sise Jr. said he was happy with all elements of Danzing Candy’s schooling and training session.
Looking ahead to this afternoon’s post position draw for the Derby, Sise said a favorable post for his front-runner is key.
“The draw is very important,” Sise said. “(Post) 10 would be perfect; that way he loads second-to-last, and if the other speed in the race drew inside of us that also would be perfect. Every post he has drawn, he has drawn inside of a speed horse, so we’ve had to send him. He will (go to the lead) on his own, but we’ve never had the opportunity to draw outside and lope around and lay second.”
DAZZLING GEM – Trainer Brad Cox called an audible and did not enter Saturday’s Kentucky Derby or Pat Day Mile (GII) with Steve Landers Racing's Dazzling Gem
Cox previously had said Dazzling Gem was under consideration for the Peter Pan Stakes (GII) at Belmont May 14 or the Preakness Stakes (GII) at Pimlico May 21.
With exercise rider Fernando Espinoza aboard, Dazzling Gem galloped the renovation break.
DESTIN/OUTWORK – Trainer Todd Pletcher had his Derby duo out for good gallops during the special8:30 a.m. training time for Derby/Oaks horses Wednesday morning. Ovel Merida had his usual spot aboardDestin for the exercise, while Hector Ramos was the man on Outwork. Joining in for the pre-Derby run-up excitement was the New Yorker’s New Yorker, Mike Repole, on the scene to watch the colt (Outwork) he not only owns, but bred, go through his paces. Besides his gallop, Outwork spent a bit of time standing at the gate.
Both of Pletcher’s charges – the gray son of Giant’s Causeway, Destin, and the bay colt by Uncle Mo, Outwork – have speed and both figure to be forwardly placed in the Derby field of 20. That should be an advantage in the chock-full Run for the Roses.
“There appear to be more deep closers than normal in this year’s Derby,” Pletcher said tracksideWednesday morning. “And on paper, it looks like the race should spread out (early). That should be good for us. Of course, we all know about a race on paper and a race for real. Sometimes, they don’t resemble each other at all.”
One of the reasons Pletcher is able to have a bit more confidence than most and probably sleep a bit better at night, too, is that he hires some of the best riders in the world to steer his horses, especially in a “rider’s race” such as the Kentucky Derby. For this year’s 142nd edition of the race he’ll have two of the best on his side – Hall of Famer John Velazquez aboard Outwork and Javier Castellano, currently the leading rider in the county for money won, on Destin.
EXAGGERATOR – “He’s settled in. It’s feeling like home here now.”
That was trainer Keith Desormeaux’s assessment of Exaggerator’s mind-set concerning Churchill Downs and his Barn 25 headquarters. The Curlin colt can say that Churchill is his sixth racetrack so far and his connections can note that his experience (his nine starts, along with a like number for rival Tom’s Ready, are the most of any horse in the Derby field) and his credentials (four victories, including three graded stakes and more than $1.6 million in purses) are solid statements for continued success heading into Kentucky Derby 142.
Desormeaux had exercise rider Peedy Landry aboard for some exercise Wednesay morning coming into the 8:30 special training period for Derby and Oaks runners. He instructed his rider to take Exaggerator through a mile and one-half gallop, as well as a short period of standing at the gate. They did so.
“I’m going to have to get him over to the paddock in the afternoon,” the trainer said. “Either today ortomorrow.”
FELLOWSHIP – On Wednesday morning, when the connections of Fellowship knew for sure they would be No. 21, the first horse on the also-eligibles, they decided not to enter the Derby. Instead, Fellowship, who is owned by Fred Brei’s Jacks or Better Farm, has been entered to run on the undercard in the Pat Day Mile (GIII).
“(Fred) and I started talking about it, and he said, ‘What do you think about running in the Pat Day?’ ” Casse said. “I said, ‘Well, he is training good here and it’s not going to hurt him. If we were going to run in the Derby and run in the Preakness, why can’t we run in the Pat Day and run in the Preakness?’ ”
In other doings at the Casse barn, University of Louisville shooting and point guard, David Levitch, is interning for the stable as part of his studies for his major, sports administration. The 21-year-old Levitch is a native of Kentucky and may be interested in pursuing a career on the racetrack.
“I’ve been hot-walking and just learning,” Levitch said Wednesday morning at the Casse barn. “I met the Casses last year, and we’ve been friends ever since. They gave me a chance to do this; I’m very grateful. It’s cool to be in this barn and around horses like (Eclipse Award winner) Tepin.”
LANI – Koji Maeda’s Lani was hand-walked in Barn 17 Wednesday morning, a day after working five furlongs in 1:01.
Trainer Mikio Matsunaga said that the UAE Derby (Group II) winner came out of the work in good order and would return to the track Thursday morning.
With Lani’s activity confined to the barn, Matsunaga was asked if he planned on scouting the opposition during the 8:30-8:45 training period reserved for Kentucky Derby hopefuls.
“Not especially. I want to stay in my barn and look after my horse,” Matsunaga said, adding that he has been doing some scouting. “I have been watching videos of the horses.”
Matsunaga arrived in Louisville on Monday and has had two days to soak in the atmosphere surrounding the Kentucky Derby.
“It is much, much greater than I expected,” Matsunaga said. “There is nothing like this at home before the Japan Derby.”
LAOBAN – McCormick Racing LLC and Southern Equine Stable’s Laoban was entered in the Derby, following the Wednesday morning news that Fellowship, No. 21 on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard, would not enter. Adventist, No. 22, is based in New York and it would have been impossible for him to arrive byWednesday’s noon deadline for Derby horses to be on the grounds at Churchill Downs.
Laoban, who was 23rd on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard before the defections, arrived from Keeneland at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday, according to his trainer, Eric Guillot. He is stabled in Barn 20. Guillot named jockey Cornelio Velasquez to ride.
The Louisiana-bred trainer, well-known for his colorful comments, remarked he would proceed with “a voodoo ritual” to ensure there would be one defection among the 20 starters entered, paving his way to secure a spot in the gate for the 142nd Run for the Roses.
Since finishing fourth in the Toyota Blue Grass (GI), Laoban has had two works at Keeneland, one at five furlongs, the other at six furlongs.
“Like smoked ham, we’re always ready,” Guillot said of Laoban’s preparedness for a possible start in the Derby.
Laboan, a front runner, will jog two miles on Thursday morning at 8:30, Guillot said, and paddock school on a day to be determined.
MAJESTO – Grupo 7C Racing Stable’s Majesto galloped once around the Churchill Downs oval Wednesday morning.
The ownership group’s president, Alejandro Ceballos, joined trainer Gustavo Delgado from Venezuela for the Florida Derby (GI) runner-up’s morning activity.
“I have been here six times without having any horses. I’ve been dreaming of this moment since I was 6 years old,” Ceballos said through an interpreter.
Majesto, a son of Tiznow who was bought at the 2014 Keeneland September sale for $300,000, was named for Ceballos’ sons.
“It’s a combination of Mauro and Jesus and the ‘to’ is for everyone else,” said Ceballos, who owns Haras Urama, a commercial breeding farm with 57 broodmares, in Venezuela. “We name our horses for members of our families.”
Jesus, a member of the popular Venezuelan singing duo of Jesus & Yorky, also was on handWednesday morning.
“I’ve loved horses since I was 6. I wanted to be a jockey but I grew too tall,” the 18-year-old said. “I fell in love with this horse the first time I saw him.”
#Majesto began trending on Twitter in Venezuela after earning a Kentucky Derby spot with his second-place finish behind Nyquist in the Florida Derby.
“Venezuela is a very horse-related country. After Majesto got second place in the Florida Derbyeveryone is talking about the horse,” Ceballos said.
Delgado, who had saddled the winners of four Triple Crowns in Venezuela, has been training in South Florida for two years.
“I came to the United Stakes in 2014 and went to Gulfstream. Now, I’m happy to have a horse in the Kentucky Derby and all the stakes. I’m happy for myself; I’m very happy for my people; I’m very happy for my owner,” Delgado said. “To be in the Kentucky Derby in the second year, it’s good luck. Everything is possible.”
MOHAYMEN – Shadwell Stable’s Mohaymen visited the Churchill Downs paddock and galloped 1 ½ miles Wednesday morning.
“It was his best day galloping, and he was great in the paddock for 30 minutes, so we had an excellent day,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said.
Saturday, the son of Tapit will attempt to rebound from his first career loss as the 4-5 favorite in the Florida Derby (GI) at Gulfstream Park on April 2 after winning his first five career starts.
“First of all, it rained. There was water standing on the racetrack, and where we were on the racetrack was the worst part. We broke from nine out of 10. It’s an eighth of a mile into the first turn. We’re very wide and on a part of the racetrack that wasn’t a good spot to be that day. I feel very strongly about that,” McLaughlin said. “We ran 54 feet farther than Nyquist and on the worst part of the racetrack.”
Wednesday’s training session made McLaughlin even more confident that Mohaymen will be up to the demands of Kentucky Derby Day.
“He’s a lovely mover, has a great mind, and we think that’s very important on Derby Day. Nothing bothers him, and that’s a big plus in the paddock that day,” McLaughlin said. “He just does everything right. He’s such a special horse. He’s a beautiful mover, light on his feet; you don’t even see him switch leads. He’s just such a special colt. We’ve never had one like this at this stage of the going as a 3-year-old.”
McLaughlin has saddled six Kentucky Derby starters, including 2005 runner-up Closing Argument.
MOR SPIRIT – Michael Petersen's Mor Spirit, accompanied by assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes aboard Smokey, the stable pony, returned to the track two days after his final work. He galloped 1 ½ miles under exercise rider George Alvarez, while trainer Bob Baffert watched from just beside the five-furlong track gap.
Although Baffert acknowledges he's flying under the radar this year as he seeks his fifth KentuckyDerby victory, he has been pleased with how Mor Spirit has trained.
“I've been in 16 Kentucky Derbys and have been fortunate to win four of them,” Baffert said. “This is a good horse. We just need a good draw and a good break.”
MO TOM – G M B Racing's Mo Tom, with exercise rider Mario Garcia aboard, galloped a mile and a halfWednesday for trainer Tom Amoss after the renovation break. Also, Mo Tom schooled in the starting gate, and he was scheduled to school in the paddock in the afternoon.
"In the Risen Star (GII), he was a little silly in the gate, but never before,'' Amoss said. "And I just want to make sure we don't get that on Saturday. Everything needs to be right, and taking him to the gate a second time, there's no downside to it.''
Mo Tom will be Amoss' fifth Derby starter. Amoss finished 15th with Lone Star Sky in 2003, 20th with Backtalk in 2010, fifth with Mylute in 2013 and 16th with War Story last year. None of those horseswas as serious a contender as Mo Tom, Amoss said.
"I think Mylute had an outside chance,'' Amoss said. "But the other horses which I ran were horsesthat deserved to be in the race. They earned their way in. But the reality of them winning the race was a tremendous longshot at best. This horse is different. He has a real chance on Saturday, and we'll see how it plays out.”
Amoss, 54, said that with experience, he has learned to change his approach to the Derby.
"Inevitably, when you're in the Derby, you want the media to talk well of your horse,'' he said. "And I think as a rookie trainer, you can get caught up and try to do things with your horse to give him a little bit of a ‘Wow’ factor for the media, so that they say nice things.
"Those days are gone for me. I couldn't care less what the media says about my horse, although the comments have been good. But that's really a non-factor. I do my thing with my horse. I'm totally focused on my horse. Let the chips fall.''
Still, Amoss understands that the Derby is not just another race. "You have to deal with a tremendous amount of scrutiny,'' he said. "The horse-racing media world has converged on Churchill Downs. The horsesare very distinguishable by their saddled towels with their names on it. Everything you do with that horse on the racetrack is dissected and looked at. So, you're definitely under the microscope in that sense.
"There can be pressure involved with that, and pressure to do maybe not necessarily what you want to do but more what you think is going to be pleasing to the people watching the horse. I can just tell you from experience that that's the wrong approach. The right approach is to know you job and have confidence in what you're doing.''
MY MAN SAM/SHAGAF – Trainer Chad Brown's Kentucky Derby duo went to the track to gallop 1 3/8 miles Wednesday during the special 8:30 a.m. training time. Daniel Bernardini was on My Man Sam and Gian Cueva was on Shagaf.
My Man Sam most recently finished second in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (GI) after breaking from post 14. Brown is hopeful both his starters will have better luck at today's Kentucky Derby draw.
“We're happy with both of them,” said Brown. “Hopefully, (My Man Sam) won't have to overcome a bad post for the second straight time. We just want them both to get good posts, but that's out of our hands. It's just a part of horse racing.”
NYQUIST – The likely Kentucky Derby favorite, Nyquist, got busy a bit earlier than usual Wednesdaymorning, bypassing the special training period at 8:30 to come out about 7:15 and check off some boxes on his way to the big race Saturday.
Regular exercise rider Jonny Garcia was in the tack and trainer Doug O’Neill assistant Jack Sisterson was alongside on a pony when the Uncle Mo colt set out from Barn 41 to do the sort of things a good Derby horse must do. Those things consisted of a two-mile jog the “wrong way” around the one-mile oval, a stand in the starting gate and a session of familiarity in the Churchill Downs paddock. Thus exercised and educated, the racy bay went back home where one of his rewards was a refreshing bath under the Kentucky sun.
“We had him out early today because he had so many things we wanted to accomplish,” said O’Neill’s chief assistant, Leandro Mora. “We wanted to get him to the gate and into the paddock and we just needed more time for that. It gets hectic during that 8:30 time and we wanted to avoid all that.”
Heading east from California Wednesday was Paul Reddam, the owner of Nyquist (as well as Kentucky Oaks filly Land Over Sea). He was to be on board for the Derby Draw Wednesday evening, then no doubt would be at the barn Thursday. The owner, of course, will be bringing with him the dream of doing what he did in 2012 with O’Neill and rider Mario Gutierrez (who handles Nyquist), which was win the Kentucky Derby with I’ll Have Another. The betting will be that he can.
OSCAR NOMINATED –Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Oscar Nominated, the lone supplemental nomination at $200,000, arrived at Churchill Downs’ Barn 27 at approximately 5:30 this morning from his home base at the nearby Trackside Training Center. The son of Kitten’s Joy, who was fitted with new shoes a few hours after his arrival, did not train this morning, but will go to the track to gallop Thursday. He was scheduled to paddock school during the races Wednesday.
Accompanying the Mike Maker-trained Oscar Nominated to Churchill was Nolan Ramsey, the grandson of the horse’s owners. The 19-year-old works for Maker, and just completed his freshman year at the University of Louisville.
The Ramseys, who are seeking their first Derby victory, have started seven horses in the KentuckyDerby, and Nolan, who hopes to become a trainer one day, was there to watch all of them run, save for one year.
“I remember one Derby I had to stay home with strep throat,” Ramsey said as he held the shank of Oscar Nominated while he was being shod. “I really can’t remember my first Derby, because it was so long ago.”
SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS – Samuel F. Henderson's Suddenbreakingnews, accompanied by trainer Donnie Von Hemel, went to the track during the special 8:30 training time and galloped one mile under regular rider Ramiro Gorostieta. He also stood in the starting gate.
“No complaints here,” Von Hemel said. “He continues to do well. He was a little on his toes after the starting gate because I think he wanted to do more. He couldn't be doing any better.”
Henderson and jockey Luis Quinonez are expected to be at the post position draw this afternoon.
TOM’S READY – G M B Racing's Tom's Ready, with exercise rider Emerson Chavez aboard, galloped a mile and a half Wednesday after the renovation break for trainer Dallas Stewart.
Stewart, 56, is participating in his fifth Derby. He finished sixth with Kimberlite Pipe in 1999, 15th with Dollar Bill in 2001, second with 37-1 shot Golden Soul (behind Orb) in 2013 and second with 34-1 shot Commanding Curve (behind California Chrome) in 2014.
Also, Stewart, as an assistant trainer, helped Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas prepare threeDerby winners – Winning Colors in 1988, Thunder Gulch in 1995 and Grindstone in 1996. Stewart was with Lukas for every Derby from 1987-97, the year Stewart went out on his own.
How important is experience for a trainer trying to win the Kentucky Derby? Stewart's response focused on the horse, not the trainer.
"You've got to have a horse that can compete in the wintertime to kind of get you where you need to be,'' he said. "You've got to be competitive through the winter the way this horse (Tom's Ready) was. The three seconds, and you have to build from there, and focus him and train him and challenge him. The horsehas to make steps forward through the winter and early spring to win this race. They've got to compete.
"You can't just say he's by this sire, he's out of this mare and stuff like that. The horse has to compete on his own merit, and I feel like this horse competed well on his merit. I feel like he's made some leaps here and made some steps here and gotten better at what he does. I feel like he has to get a little better and hopefully ... he'll go forward. That's what it's all about.
"You take Winning Colors. She just whipped them in the Santa Anita Oaks, Santa Anita Derby. She was just spot-on. She walked in here and got the job done.
"Then you go to Grindstone. He won the Louisiana Derby and ran second in the Arkansas Derby. He had some physical issues. Actually, I liked Editor's Note. It was the same year. He trained unreal, but Grindstone just whipped the shucks out of him. Just whipped the pants off him.
"Then you go to Thunder Gulch. Todd (Pletcher, then a Lukas assistant) had him in Florida. He won the Florida Derby. Then we ran him in Blue Grass, and he ran (fourth). I don't know why. I still to this day don't know why. But he came out of it. We trained him. He had a couple of mishaps. One day, he didn't train very good. But the horse was a stone-cold racehorse. That's the thing. When you hook a stone-cold racehorse, like California Chrome ... or Orb, you're going to get beat. That's just going to happen. You just have to hope you're the best on that day, your preparation is good, you've done what you need to do as a horseman and get them over there.''
Stewart, who is from New Orleans, is turning to Louisiana native Brian Hernandez Jr. to ride Tom's Ready. Hernandez, 30, will be making his Derby debut. He was named on Tale of Verve for the Derby last year, but he was on the also-eligible list and didn't get into the race.
"It's exciting, of course,'' Hernandez said. "It'll be nice. We have a lot of family coming in.''
Hernandez rode Tom's Ready in four of his nine starts, including the most recent, when the colt finished second, 4 1/2 lengths behind Gun Runner, in the Louisiana Derby.
"It looks like he's stepping up, and Dallas believes that he's coming into this race really, really good,'' Hernandez said. "With a record like Dallas, with the horses he's run in the Derby the last few years, you have to think that he's got a big chance, the way he's done everything.
"The mile and a quarter is going to be a question for any 3-year-old at this point. None of them has tried the mile and a quarter yet. It'll be the first time for all of them. So we just have to go in there with a lot of confidence in our horse and think he's going to show up.''
Hernandez said that a key to riding Tom's Ready is not letting him get too aggressive early in the race, because if that happens, he won't finish strongly. "If you get him to kind of settle and get in a nice rhythm, he runs on,'' Hernandez said.
"It's pretty easy, if you just kind of know him. Like the Louisiana Derby, he wanted to get a little aggressive going into the first turn, but after he got through the first turn, I was able to drop my hands and let him float along.''
TROJAN NATION – Paddy Gallagher and his fine Irish brogue made it in from California Tuesday night and Wednesday morning he was at Barn 41 to oversee Trojan Nation’s mile and one-eighth gallop under fellow Irishman Andy Durnin. They got their exercise in during the 8:30 special training time for Derby and Oaks runners. Both ex-pats were happy with their charge.
“Realistically, you’ve got to look at one thing – he’s a maiden,” said Gallagher, about his big Street Cry colt who is stakes placed, but 0-for-6 on the scorecard so far. “Now he’s a grand, big horse and he might have liked the mud last time (when he was second in New York’s Wood Memorial) when he ran so well. But remember, he’s a maiden. But it is exciting for his people and that’s a good thing. The owner says he’s well-bred and (that) because of it he should like a mile and a quarter. And the people at the farm where he was are loving this. And it surely is better being here than not and we’re keeping the positives right up front. Just remember, though, he’s a maiden.”
Gallagher will give old pro Aaron Gryder (who rode him in the Wood) a leg up Saturday for Derby142.
“I want him to come back sound and safe,” the trainer said, “and then – no matter what -- we’ll go from there.”
WHITMORE – Whitmore went to the track with a workmate Wednesday, jogging one mile and galloping one mile with Laura Moquett on board. Trainer Ron Moquett explained that the workmate helps the Pleasantly Perfect gelding stay relaxed on the track.
Moquett believes that today's post position draw will be extremely important to how this year's Kentucky Derby unfolds.
“This year, more than other years, the post position is going to be very key,” Moquett said. “I think there's easily 10 or more horses in here that could win with the right trip, our horse included. At this point we're all the same. None of them has gone a mile and a quarter.”
Whitmore enters the Kentucky Derby off a third-place finish in the Arkansas Derby (GI), which Moquett feels will be an advantage to his horse Saturday.
“The Arkansas Derby is as good a prep as any of them,” Moquett said. “There's a big crowd when the horses walk over to the paddock and that paddock is an education in itself.”
Whitmore will school in the paddock today and tomorrow during the races.
KENTUCKY OAKS NOTES
CATHRYN SOPHIA – Cash is King’s Cathryn Sophia, the co-second choice in Friday’s Kentucky Oaks,put on a little show for onlookers as she was approaching the gap to exit the track following a routine gallopWednesday. With exercise rider Jerry Ortega in the saddle, the John Servis-trained filly spun around a few times, displaying a reluctance to proceed off the track. She finally cooperated when Tyler Servis, the trainer’s son and assistant, took hold of her head.
“That’s her; she didn’t want to leave the track,” the elder Servis said. “I was thinking about jogging her tomorrow, but I don’t think I will get away with that, so we’ll probably gallop.”
DOTHRAKI QUEEN – Magdalena Racing’s Dothraki Queen jogged a mile and galloped a mile shortly after the track opened at 5:45 under Erin Walker.
Dothraki Queen is on the also-eligible list for the Kentucky Oaks and would need one defection to draw into the race.
Trainer Kenny McPeek opted to enter the Oaks rather the Edgewood (GIII) on Friday.
“(Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf winner) Catch a Glimpse is in the Edgewood and it is a field of 13,” McPeek said. “That did not look like an easier spot and it is $150,000 and the Oaks is a million. With Catch a Glimpse in there, it should be upgraded and the purse doubled.”
Should Dothraki Queen draw into the Oaks, she would be ridden by Gary Stevens.
“She is doing good and I think she’d run well,” McPeek said. “She already has won a Grade II on dirt (the Pocahontas here in September). The backup plan possibly would be the ($250,000) Black-Eyed Susan (GII at Pimlico on May 20).”
DREAM DANCE – Stoneway Farm’s Dream Dance was on the track at 6:45 Wednesday morning and galloped 1 ¾ miles under Joel Dominguez for trainer Neil Howard.
Dream Dance, listed at 30-1 on the morning line, will break from post position five under Brian Hernandez Jr. Hernandez has ridden Dream Dance in all nine of her starts.
“She is a nice filly,” Hernandez said. “She came off that four-month layoff to be second in the Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) and then had the nice win at Keeneland (in an allowance race).”
Dream Dance finished her major work for the Oaks with a :59.60 drill last Friday.
“She is not real flashy; she’s very workmanlike,” Hernandez said. “She shows up and gives you 110 percent every time. She is very honest.”
GO MAGGIE GO – Mike Tarp’s Go Maggie Go galloped 1 ½ miles Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs.
The late-developing daughter of Ghostzapper broke her maiden at Gulfstream March 13 and came back three weeks later to capture the Gulfstream Park Oaks (GII) April 2.
“We didn’t know she was going to be this good. Down in Florida this winter she really blossomed and came around to be a really nice filly,” trainer Dale Romans said.
Romans trained the dam of Tarp’s homebred filly, Magibel.
“We gave like $200,000 at a 2-year-old sale. She was a solid allowance filly worth breeding. She produced a Grade III winner and another solid horse and then this one, a Grade II winner,” Romans said.
Rated at 12-1 in the Kentucky Oaks (GI) morning line, Go Maggie Go is slated to break from post four in the field of 14.
“The four is an ideal spot. You’d probably hand pick right in there,” Romans said.
LAND OVER SEA – Reddam Racing’s Land Over Sea continued to move forward toward her date inFriday’s $1-million Kentucky Oaks (GI) with a gallop of a mile and three-eighths under Jonny Garcia during the special Derby/Oaks training period at the track starting at 8:30.
Tuesday the daughter of Bellamy Road had drawn post 13 in the 14-horse field and been assigned morning line odds of 5-1, making her the fourth choice in the lineup.
Trainer Doug O’Neill’s chief assistant, Leandro Mora, is especially high on Land Over Sea as she comes up to the biggest challenge of her career.
“She often works up a good sweat around her exercise,” Mora said. “But the past few days she has been completely dry. She’s focused. Since she came over from Keeneland (Saturday), she’s been very focused.”
Land Over Sea, one of the more-seasoned fillies in the Oaks cast with eight starts already on her ledger, will have regular rider Mario Gutierrez return to the saddle for Friday.
LEWIS BAY – Gazelle Stakes (GII) winner Lewis Bay went to the track a little before 7 a.m. to gallop 1 3/8 miles under Gian Cueva.
“She looks good,” trainer Chad Brown said. “She continues to train well here.”
Brown was happy when Lewis Bay drew post position three for the Oaks.’
"I'm very pleased with the post," Brown said. "It will give her a chance to save some ground. I don't think she'll be too far back."
MO D’AMOUR/RACHEL’S VALENTINA – Trainer Todd Pletcher’s Oaks 142 duo of Mo d’Amour andRachel’s Valentina were mile and a quarter gallopers Wednesday morning, both with exercise rider Amy Mullen doing the honors. Mo d’Amour went “out with the boys” (meaning the trainer’s Derby duo of Destinand Outwork) during the 8:30 special training time for Derby and Oaks horses, while Rachel’s Valentina accomplished her bit of exercise at 6:30 with the conditioner’s second stable set.
The day before the fillies had drawn seven and 11 (“Vegas numbers,” Pletcher quipped) for their post positions (“Mo” in seven and “Rachel’s” outside her) for Friday’s nine-furlong test worth $1 million and a large chunk of very black type. Mo d’Amour is listed at 30-1 on the morning line and will have the saddle services of Joel Rosario. Rachel’s Valentina gets John Velazquez and the role of favorite at 7-2.
Rachel’s Valentina has earned her way to her current status, though there is little doubt that status was expected, right from Day One. She is, you see, by one of the world’s great sires – Bernardini – and out of one of the world’s great racemares – Rachel Alexandra.
Pletcher remembered when she first came onto his shedrow as a 2-year-old last May.
“There were no mysteries about her,” he recalled. “She was very uncomplicated. She came as advertised. And right from the start, she did everything right. She learned quickly. She was a pleasure, the kind that makes my job easier.”
Rachel’s Valentina performed to expectations in her initial start, a winning straight maiden race Aug. 2 at Saratoga. A little more than a month later she won the Grade I Spinaway at The Spa, then finished second to champion Songbird in the 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) at Keeneland. Following a five-month break, she returned at Keeneland last month and just missed in the Grade I Central Bank Ashland, a race that likely tightened her down and set her up perfectly for her Friday date. Velazquez will reunite with the filly for the Oaks and Pletcher takes comfort in that.
“John has ridden at a very high level consistently for a very long time,” he said. “I have great respect for the decisions he makes. In a tactical race like the Oaks, it is good to have a rider like him on your side.”
MOKAT – Trainer Richard Baltas played the “conservation” card Wednesday morning with his Kentucky Oaks runner Mokat, having the Uncle Mo filly merely jog two miles instead of galloping as she had been doing on her recent visits to the track.
“She puts a lot into her gallops,” Baltas said, “and the past two days she showed a lot of energy on the track. We wanted to save some of it, so we went easy today. She’ll probably go back to gallopingtomorrow.”
Mokat’s owner, John Manni of the J K Racing Stable, was on the scene for the exercise. This is the first visit to Churchill Downs for the Michigan native who now spends a fair amount of time in a new home in Las Vegas.
In her past two starts, Mokat had the misfortune of running into the buzzsaw known as championSongbird. Mokat ran well, but, like all who have faced her, she couldn’t get by Songbird. Still, her efforts earned her the points and the confidence by her connections to give the Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) a go. She’ll be handled by Flavien Prat and break from post six in the 14-horse field.
“She doesn’t have a lot of early speed,” Baltas said, “so I don’t expect her to be close (to the lead) early. We’ll just let her settle into the middle of the pack and then make a good late run.”
PAOLA QUEEN – Trainer Gustavo Delgado sent Grupo 7C Racing Stable’s Paola Queen to the Churchill Downs track for a 1 ½-mile gallop Wednesday morning.
The runner-up behind Go Maggie Go in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (GII) was rated 30-1 in the morning line for Friday’s Kentucky Oaks (GI) and drew post position nine in a field of 14. Emisael Jaramillo was named to ride the daughter of Flatter.
“I think the post position is very, very good. She has the speed to get into position; one, two, three, depending on Jaramillo,” Delgado said. “She likes the Churchill Downs track.”
ROYAL OBSESSION/TAXABLE/TERRA PROMESSA – Trainer Steve Asmussen's Kentucky Oaks threesome – Stonestreet Stable and Regis Farms LP's Royal Obsession, Winchell Thoroughbreds' Taxableand Stonestreet Stable's Terra Promessa – galloped a mile and a half Wednesday before the renovation break.
Exercise rider Abel Flores was aboard Taxable and Terra Promessa. Exercise rider Carlos Rosas was on Royal Obsession.
Terra Promessa will break from the rail, Royal Obsession has post position eight and Taxable is No. 14 in a 14-filly field. Asmussen said that each has a position to suit her style.
"We have there very different fillies,'' he said. "Terra Promessa, inside draw. She's pretty aggressive, will probably have something to say with the pace with her draw. Royal Obsession, a great big talented filly coming off second in the Gazelle. It was a very good draw for her with the eight.
"And then, Taxable, a lightly raced filly on the far outside, which might actually help her. Just three lifetime races. She will avoid some traffic. There's some very good ability to her immediate inside, which ought to clear out a path for her.''
VENUS VALENTINE – Rosemont Farm's Venus Valentine galloped a mile and a half after the renovation break Wednesday under exercise ricer Maurice Sanchez. Also, trainer Tom Amoss planned to send her to the paddock for schooling in the afternoon.
Venus Valentine will break from the No. 10 post position in the Oaks. A late runner, she and jockey Shaun Bridgmohan will have to work out a favorable trip in a full field.
"With her, I'm definitely thinking trip,'' Amoss said. "Ideally, I'd like to have been one or two, because she's going to drop back. You want to save every bit of ground you can. But even from out there, I'm sure Venus is going to save a lot of ground in the race, coming from behind. (The speed) is definitely there. So we'll go from there. I'd love to see something like we saw in the race in New Orleans that she won, which is a pace that's absurdly fast.''
Amoss was referring to the Rachel Alexandra (GII), in which Venus Valentine, a 74-1 shot, rallied from last place. In the Oaks morning line, she's 30-1.
"It's the Oaks,'' Amoss said. "Tensions are running high. Jockeys get excited, and maybe we'll see that. Certainly, there is the potential for a very fast pace.''
WEEP NO MORE – Ashbrook Farm’s Weep No More galloped 1 3/8 miles under exercise rider Alex Gonzales shortly after the track opened at 5:45, an exercise that was shortened because of a loose horse on the track.
“It was intended to be a mile and a half, but I just wanted to get her off the track,” said Jack Bohannan, assistant to trainer Rusty Arnold. “I didn’t want her to be out there with the loose horse.”
Weep No More comes into the Oaks off a victory in the Central Bank Ashland (GI) at Keeneland when she lit up the toteboard as a 30-1 shot. For the Oaks, she is co-second choice at 9-2.
The Oaks favorite is Rachel’s Valentina at 7-2 and the co-second choice is Cathryn Sophia, both of whom finished behind Weep No More at Keeneland. Also, fourth-place Ashland finisher Carina Mia is the 8-5 favorite for the $200,000 Eight Belles (GII).
“I was shocked,” Bohannan said of being the co-second choice. “I thought she’d be 8-1, but I’m not a handicapper.”