AMERICAN LION – WinStar Farm’s Tiznow colt American Lion breezed five furlongs on 1:02 3/5 over the muddy track Monday morning. Jockey David Flores was in from California to ride the work for trainer Eoin Harty.
Split times for the Illinois Derby (GIII) winner, who worked alone, were: :12.60, :25.40 and :37.60. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:16.40.
“I had the five-eighths in 1:02, which is pretty much what I wanted to do,” Harty said. “I was a little leery about the track; it’s not the best surface and I didn’t want to run the risk of doing anything stupid. The horse is very fit, he’s training very well over the track, so I really just wanted him to stretch his legs, which is basically what he did.”
Harty said he wanted to get the work in on Monday, but considered moving the work to Tuesday to avoid a wet track. With more showers in the forecast for Monday and Tuesday, he decided to stay with his original schedule.
Flores said the breeze went according to plan.
“He just cruised out there,” Flores said. “I really didn’t want to get a fast work. I just wanted to get a feel of him and see how he handles this track. He went around pretty well. He looked around and was comfortable.”
Flores rode American Lion for the first time in the Illinois Derby. This will be his 10th Kentucky Derby mount.
Harty, an assistant to Bob Baffert before opening his own stable, said the Baffert-trained Lookin At Lucky is likely to go off as the favorite in Derby 136 on Saturday.
“The way Bob’s horse worked this morning (five furlongs in 1:00.80) and the track record he has going in, I would have to think he would be favored,” Harty said. “He looked really good out there. I know he will be in the thick of it at the end.”
AWESOME ACT – Mrs. Susan Roy and Vinery Stable’s Awesome Act galloped 1 ½ miles after Monday’s renovation break under exercise rider Wayne Tanner, assistant to trainer Jeremy Noseda, who is expected to arrive from England on Wednesday.
Awesome Act is scheduled to work four furlongs on Tuesday morning.
“He’s coming around at the right time. We believe he’s doing the right things,” said Tom Ludt, manager of Vinery Stables. “The bottom line is it’s a great treat to get here, and we’re here with a live shot. That’s all you can ask for in this business.”
Awesome Act, who captured the Gotham Stakes (GIII) at Aqueduct in his first start on a dirt track, finished a distant third behind Eskendereya in the Wood Memorial (GI) at Aqueduct. The Kentucky Derby was the goal for the son of Awesome Again directly after his fourth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita last November.
“Our plan was to go back to Europe and come back over. We felt this colt would like the dirt and handle the dirt. We literally said we’d come over and run in the Gotham, and if all goes well, run in the Wood. Not too often plans go as planned,” Ludt said.
“The negative was the Wood didn’t draw a lot of speed or a lot of horses – that’s racing; there’s nothing you can do about it. Obviously, Eskendereya is a great racehorse, but with no pace, there wasn’t much you can do. If you go back and watch the replay, Julien (Leparoux) tried like heck to get him to settle and it took him too long to get settled. We won’t have to worry about that pace Saturday.”
BACKTALK – Gold Mark Farm’s Backtalk walked the shedrow at the barn of trainer Tom Amoss the day after returning from Keeneland, where he put in a solid five-furlong breeze in 1:01.60 over the synthetic Polytrack surface.
“He walked today after the work,” Amoss said. “He came out of the work in good shape.”
Backtalk sits at 21st on the graded stakes earnings list among horses under consideration for the Kentucky Derby. One more defection between today and Wednesday’s post position draw gets the Smarty Jones colt into the field.
“With our situation we’ve got to just concentrate on him and we’ve done everything for him that we can to get him ready if he does happen to get in,” said Todd Quast, Gold Mark Farm general manager of racing. “If we get in the Derby that’s great; if we don’t we have a good horse and we’ll go elsewhere. There are a lot of options.”
CONVEYANCE/LOOKIN AT LUCKY – Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert watched Lookin at Lucky work a bullet five furlongs in company in 1:00.80 over the muddy track Monday. The time was equaled later in the morning by First Dude, a 3-year-old colt trained by Dale Romans.
Under Dana Barnes, Lookin at Lucky, owned by Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman, recorded split times of :12, :24.20, :36, and :48.20. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:15.20.
Baffert climbed atop an overturned blue plastic feed tub so he could be seen and heard during the post-workout meeting with the media.
“He worked well,” Baffert said. “The track was really in good shape. It’s soft today. I’ve been worrying about the rain, but it worked out. The horse in front of him (Broken Tango) was a perfect distance to him. It’s what you want to see going in. I was happy with the work. From here on, we just need some luck, we need to draw well and have a good trip.”
Barnes was under instructions not to let the colt gallop out strongly after the breeze.
“He was really going well and he really wanted to do more, but I told her to shut him down,” Baffert said. “He was reaching well.
“He’s happy. He came back looking great. His first work he needed to get over it a little bit. He was by himself and he was a little sluggish. He’s doing really well right now, but we still need a lot of luck.”
Baffert joked about whether the defection of Eskendereya would make Lookin at Lucky the favorite in Derby 136.
“I don’t know about that,” he said. “I don’t always want to be the favorite, but he’s a good horse and he’s run well. He got beat the last time; Sidney’s Candy should be the favorite, he’s the one who beat him.”
None of Baffert’s three Derby winners, Silver Charm, Real Quiet or War Emblem, was the favorite in the wagering.
Baffert said the departure of likely favorite Eskendereya, who was found to have filling in his left foreleg over the weekend, changed the complexion of the Derby.
“They’re all good horses,” Baffert said. “It opened up the race quite a bit when the other horse scratched. That was a huge scratch.
“There’s no telling how good that horse was. Unfortunately, those things happen. As trainers, we don’t want to see that happen because it can happen to any of us. It’s very unfortunate. When the Derby dream gets totally lost like that it’s terrible.”
Baffert’s other Derby prospect Conveyance, owned by Zabeel Racing International Corp., galloped a mile and a half Monday morning. He is scheduled to breeze Tuesday.
“I had (Tuesday) marked for him. I just didn’t tell anybody,” Baffert said. “I wanted to work Conveyance a little closer to the race.”
Baffert said that no matter how well his horses look and work, he will be nervous until the race.
“You can’t relax,” he said. “Anything can happen. Every day we’re on pins and needles from here on out. We’ve got to work Conveyance tomorrow and there is another four days of thinking about it (the Derby). We have to draw well.
“There are so many things that are in play. First of all, you have to come in here with a really good horse. I feel we have that. You have to work well. I feel he’s worked well. He has to draw well. And he has to have a good trip. All those things have to happen if you’re going to win the Derby. You can’t have a bad trip.
“Last year we (with Pioneerof the Nile) came in here and everything went fine and we just got beat. I’m just training him (Lookin At Lucky) now, just getting him ready, hoping that when he turns for home he’s making his move and we get to cheer. There’s nothing worse than coming here and you don’t get to cheer for your horse. I’ve come here many a time when they’re turning for home and we’re heading out the back door. It’s no fun.
“Right now we can enjoy the work, but anything can happen in this business, as we’ve all seen, so I’m always prepared for the disappointment.”
DEAN’S KITTEN/STATELY VICTOR – Trainer Mike Maker reported that his two Kentucky Derby contenders stabled at the Trackside Training Center in Louisville both jogged 1 3/8 miles Monday morning during the 6 o’clock hour with exercise rider Marvin Jiminez in the saddle.
“They all jogged a mile and three-eighths,” Maker said, referring to Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Dean’s Kitten and Thomas and Jack Conway’s Stately Victor, as well as Oaks contender Age of Humor.
Maker was busy working the phone this morning trying to finalize a rider for Dean’s Kitten but had not yet done so as of 11:30 a.m. (ET).
Ramon Dominguez was committed to ride Rule but when that one was declared out of the Derby today the door was open for Dominguez to reclaim the mount on a Dean’s Kitten, who he was aboard for a minor stakes win at Belmont Park last fall, as well as a sixth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.
Cornelio Velasquez was up for Dean’s Kitten’s upset victory last time out in the Lane’s End Stakes (GII).
DEVIL MAY CARE/DISCREETLY MINE/INTERACTIF/MISSION IMPAZIBLE/RULE/SUPER SAVER – Trainer Todd Pletcher and his stable full of Kentucky Derby candidates have been the focus of attention at Churchill Downs in this year’s run-up to the Run for the Roses, and Monday morning was no different.
The four-time Eclipse Award winner had several balls in the air on a gray and chilly morning and he was sorting them out as best he could.
After having to withdraw the Derby favorite Eskendereya on Sunday morning because of injury, the conditioner took another of his horses – WinStar Farm’s Rule – out of the mix after the colt had jogged a mile Monday morning under Patti Barry.
“His last couple of works, he’s just seemed flat,” the trainer said. “And we just can’t tell what it is. His blood tests fine and he eats up, but he’s just not right. Maybe he needs more time. It’s been six weeks since the Florida Derby (GI) (in which he ran third) and you’d think that would be enough time, but maybe he needs some more. We’ll take a pass with him on the Derby and consider the Preakness. Maybe a change of scenery will help him. If he’s back doing well in the next week or so, we’ll give the other race a look.”
Also on Monday, Pletcher sent the 3-year-old filly Devil May Care through a one-mile gallop under Horacio De Paz during the “Oaks/Derby only” time following the 8:30 renovation break, then conferred with owner John Greathouse of Glencrest Farm about her status for either/or both the Kentucky Oaks and Kentucky Derby. In the end, it appears the multiple-stakes winning daughter of Malibu Moon will become the first filly to run in the Derby since the ill-fated Eight Belles in 2008.
“Mr. Greathouse has indicated that his preference is to enter and run her in the Kentucky Derby,” Pletcher said. “It is likely – though not 100% sure -- we’ll enter her in the Derby only. That’s what he wants to do; he’s aware of other people and their wanting to run in the Oaks. I think I would have entered her in both races (which is allowed under the rules) and considered our options, but he wants her put in the Derby only.
“She’s an exceptional filly and we’ve thought all along that she’d be especially well-suited by a distance of ground. The fact that she’ll get that 5-pound sex allowance (fillies carry 121 pounds, male horses 126) doesn’t hurt, either.
“And I think the thing that put it over the top was the availability of John Velazquez for her for the race. That was probably the deciding factor.”
Velazquez had originally been earmarked for a ride aboard the Kentucky Derby favorite Eskendereya. But when that colt was withdrawn from the race, Velazquez came open for the Run for the Roses and Devil May Care had found a partner.
Also on the “maybe yes, maybe no” list for the barn this morning was Wertheimer and Frere’s Interactif, a Broken Vow colt with $307,950 in graded stakes earnings, but no wins in three starts this year.
Pletcher had said that he wanted to put the bay through one last work to see where he thought he stood and had Barry pilot him in the drill during the “Oaks/Derby only” time following the renovation break with exercise rider Kevin Willey and the 3-year-old filly Collect The Fee alongside as a workmate. The pair went through the half-mile drill with Interactif starting out a length behind and finishing a length in front in a final time of :47.60. The opening split for the colt was :23.80 and his “out” time – as in gallop out – was 1:01.80.
Rider Barry was properly impressed with the work.
“He surprised me,” she said back at Barn 38 afterward. “He really worked well. I was getting on him last winter, but I haven’t been on him in a while and I was surprised by how well he did. This was a good work for him this morning.”
Pletcher, too, liked the colt’s drill – he called it “a very good work” – but still wasn’t sure that it was good enough to put the horse in the field for the Derby.
“I’ll talk with the owners and we’ll make a decision tomorrow,” he said.
In the case of Pletcher’s three other Kentucky Derby candidates – Twin Creek Racing Stables’ Mission Impazible, WinStar Farm’s Super Saver and E. Paul Robsham Stables’ Discreetly Mine – it would appear all is a go where they are concerned following their Monday morning schedules.
Mission Impazible, an Unbridled’s Song colt who won the Louisiana Derby (GII) in his last start, went out early under exercise rider Willey and jogged a mile. Super Saver, a close second in the Arkansas Derby (GI) in his latest effort, galloped a mile and one quarter at 7:30, also for Willey. And Discreetly Mine, who has two seconds and three thirds in eight starts – including a tally in the Risen Star Stakes (GII) at Fair Grounds in February – only walked the shedrow.
Entries for the Kentucky Oaks will be drawn Tuesday. Kentucky Derby entries will be taken Wednesday at noon in a blind draw starting shortly after 12 noon in Churchill Downs’ Secretariat Lounge.
DUBLIN – Trainer D. Wayne Lukas had Robert Baker and William Mack’s Dublin do part of his morning-after-the-breeze walking on a trip to the paddock for some schooling.
The Hopeful (GI) winner breezed five furlongs before dawn Sunday in 1:02 80.
ENDORSEMENT – WinStar Farm’s Endorsement jogged a mile and galloped a mile at 6 o’clock over a track labeled as “sloppy” with trainer Shannon Ritter in the saddle.
Winner of the Sunland Park Derby (GIII) in his most recent start, Endorsement is scheduled for a half-mile breeze on Wednesday according to Ritter.
“I looked at the (long-range) weather (forecast) and it doesn’t look like the rain is going to stop,” Ritter said. “It will probably be Wednesday. He has never been on an off track, but I liked the way he went this morning.”
Monday’s training marked the fourth consecutive morning of “off” tracks for horses at Churchill Downs and has contributed to a light training schedule for Endorsement, who had jogged two miles each day Friday and Saturday and walked the shedrow on Sunday.
“I am just not big on muddy tracks,” Ritter said. “He is doing fine, eating well and looks great. He galloped out a mile in 1:42 at Keeneland in his last work Saturday a week ago and I am confident in his fitness.”
Endorsement, who will be ridden in Derby 136 by Robby Albarado, made his racing debut here last fall when he finished seventh in a six-furlong sprint while in the care of Richard Budge.
“I got him in late November when he came to the Fair Grounds,” Ritter said. “It took a little time to get to know him. He was kind of small, but he really developed over the winter. There is a lot of difference in him from then to where he is now.”
Expectations for the son of Distorted Humor grew after the colt’s 2010 debut in January in a one-mile, 40-yard maiden race in which he finished second, beaten 2 ¼ lengths but five lengths clear of the third horse.
“The first time we ran him, it was a speed-favoring racetrack,” Ritter said. “He was four-wide all the way around and the horse that beat him (Down With Dixie) had more seasoning. We felt that was a winning race and at that time we thought he could really be a nice horse.”
HOMEBOYKRIS – The Rick Dutrow-trained Homeboykris jogged a mile under exercise rider Joe Deegan on Monday morning.
“If it wasn’t muddy, he would have galloped,” said Dutrow, who saddled Big Brown for a victory in the 2008 Kentucky Derby.
Although he doesn’t like to train horses on muddy tracks, all systems are “go” for the Kentucky Derby, rain or shine.
“We’re not going to scratch him (if it’s muddy or sloppy). It doesn’t matter what we think; the horse has to show he can handle it,” Dutrow said. “I think he’ll handle it … we’re hoping.”
Homeboykris, who captured the one-turn Champagne Stakes (GI) at Belmont Park last fall, has run only once around two turns, that coming in a fifth-place finish in the Remsen Stakes (GII) at Aqueduct in his 2-year-old finale. His trainer is also hoping that the gelded son of Roman Ruler will be capable of negotiating the 1 ¼ miles of the Run for the Roses.
“We’re hoping. We haven’t seen it yet,” Dutrow said with a chuckle. “I hope he is.”
ICE BOX/JACKSON BEND – Robert LaPenta and Jacks or Better Farm’s Jackson Bend, who galloped 1 ½ miles under Carlos Correa on Monday morning, became eligible for the 20-horse Derby field upon word that Rule would not be entered.
“He’s certainly worthy of a start, that’s for sure, being second two times to Eskendereya in two big races – the Fountain of Youth (GII) and the Wood Memorial (GI). He’s kind of a gem of consistency, that’s what we want. So we’ve got to be happy about that,” Nick Zito said.
The Hall of Fame trainer said Jackson Bend earned his way in the hard way.
“He never skipped an opportunity to get in the Derby. He didn’t take an easy way out, not that there’s an easy way. He ran in the Holy Bull (GIII), the Fountain of Youth and then the Wood Memorial, and he catches a horse like Eskendereya,” he said. “He really didn’t duck anybody to get in this particular field. With a deep field, I’m just happy that he gets an opportunity, because he never runs a bad race. I’ll sign right now for second.”
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith has the mount on the son of Hear No Evil.
Jackson Bend’s stablemate Ice Box prepared for a start in the Derby Monday morning by also galloping 1 ½ miles under Dennis Chavez.
Zito compared Robert LaPenta’s Florida Derby (GI) winner to Strike the Gold, whom he saddled for a victory in the 1991 Run for the Roses.
“He kind of trains like him, acts like him. He’s a late-developing horse; he ran in Florida; ran the right races. Of course, Strike the Gold finished second in the Florida Derby and this horse won the Florida Derby,” said Zito, who also saddled Go for Gin for a Derby score in 1994. “I like his chances, I really do.”
Jose Lezcano, who was aboard for the fast-closing Florida Derby tally, will have the return call on the Kentucky-bred colt.
LINE OF DAVID/SIDNEY’S CANDY – Ike and Dawn Thrash’s Line of David was the first Derby/Oaks horse to break off and drill Monday morning on a wet track that had gone from “sloppy” to “muddy” by the time the 3-year-olds came on board for “their time only” following the renovation break at 8:30.
The Arkansas Derby (GI) winner had exercise rider Lupillo Alferez up as they cut out splits of :11.80, :23.60, :35.60, :48.20, 1:01.20 and a final time of 1:15. Alferez used a left-handed stick to urge his charge, though it seemed to be of little avail.
“He just didn’t like that track all that much,” the rider said.
Trainer John Sadler found no joy in his charge’s move either.
“I’m disappointed,” the conditioner said. “He didn’t work very well at all on that sealed track. He didn’t like it one bit. It won’t change anything, though. We’ll just hope things pick up with the weather during the week and we have a fast track for Saturday.”
Though the son of Lion Heart showed his dislike for the “off” in his first time on it, Sadler drew heart from the fact his other Derby runner, Sid and Jenny Craig Trust’s Sidney’s Candy, had handled his exercise on it this past Saturday in fine fashion. He toured six furlongs in 1:11.60 on a “sloppy” strip that morning and appeared to have no issues with the wet dirt in his initial performance on the medium.
Monday morning Sidney’s Candy jogged a mile under Alerez at 6 a.m. The trainer indicated he’d have the Candy Ride colt back to galloping for the rest of the week starting Tuesday.
MAKE MUSIC FOR ME – Ellen and Peter Johnson’s Make Music for Me walked the shedrow the morning after working five furlongs in 1:02.40 on Sunday. The son of Bernstein inched closer to qualifying for the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field with Monday’s defection of the Todd Pletcher-trained Rule.
Trainer Alexis Barba’s alternate plan is to run Make Music for Me in Friday’s American Turf (GII) at Churchill Downs. The Southern California trainer, who said her Kentucky-bred colt will be ready to run in either race, would prefer to draw into the Derby field.
“You don’t get many chances. It’s the same old thing – there’s only that one race; there’s other races. All year long, there are other races, but there’s only one Derby,” Barba said.
Although she has never trained a Derby starter, Barba did have a strong connection to one while working as an exercise rider for trainer Eddie Gregson, who saddled Gato Del Sol for a Derby triumph in 1982.
“I wasn’t here with ‘Gato.’ I wasn’t his regular exercise rider; my friend rode him. But I had the occasions to ride him when she wasn’t there,” Barba said. “It was very exciting when he won. It was a dream come true. I would have been satisfied with one in a lifetime. So to be in this position is a journey, an unexpected journey.”
NOBLE’S PROMISE – Trainer Ken McPeek wanted jockey Willie Martinez to finish the final eighth of a mile strongly Monday morning aboard Kentucky Derby 136 contender Noble’s Promise, and the trainer got his wish as the Grade II Rebel Stakes runner-up outkicked his workmate through the lane.
The final time of :48.80 was accomplished with a final quarter-mile in :24.20. Afterward, the son of Cuvee scoped clean and put himself on the doorstep of a Derby date.
“We’ve had several races where he sprinted away at the quarter pole,” McPeek said. “I wanted him to sit until the eighth pole and wait and wait and wait. He’s easy, push-button.
“There’s a better than average chance we’ll be part of this (Derby 136).”
Martinez beamed with excitement following the workout.
“We tried to wait as long as I could inside the eighth pole, that was the plan,” he said. “This was just as good as you could ask for. It could not have gone better. He was able to skip right along and move over the track.”
Martinez will be reunited with Noble’s Promise, who is owned by Chasing Dreams Racing 2008, on Derby Day. He also piloted the colt to victory in the Breeders Futurity (G1) at Keeneland last fall.
“I told my family to dress up nicely because we’re going to take a picture that day,” he recalled with a smile. “I’m going to tell them the same thing Saturday.”
PADDY O’PRADO – Donegal Racing’s Blue Grass Stakes (GI) runner-up Paddy O’Prado galloped 1 ½ miles Monday morning during the time reserved for Kentucky Derby and Oaks contenders. Exercise rider Faustino Aquilar was aboard as Paddy O’Prado was accompanied by the barn’s Oaks contenders, Quiet Temper and Sassy Image.
“He just galloped and everything is going good,” Romans said. “He’ll gallop up to the race, nothing special from here on out. He’ll school (in the paddock) and go to the gate, but I haven’t decided which days yet.”
Winner of the Palm Beach Stakes (GIII) on turf, Paddy O’Prado has caught the eye of racetrack observers in the past week with his strong morning moves over the Churchill Downs dirt.
When asked if the backstretch buzz was a good thing, Romans responded in kind, “Don’t put any more pressure on us than we already have, please.”
Romans also confirmed Monday that he will enter Donald Dizney’s First Dude into Kentucky Derby 136 with a longshot’s hope of making the field based on graded stakes earnings. Fifth in the Florida Derby (GI) and third in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (GI), First Dude has amassed $97,500 in graded earnings.
SETSUKO – Wertheimer and Frere’s Setsuko, second in the Santa Anita Derby (GI) in his most recent start and tied for 24th on the Kentucky Derby graded stakes earnings list, got his first feel for Churchill Downs Monday morning as he galloped a mile and a quarter on a “sloppy” strip during the “Derby/Oaks only” time following the morning break.
The dark colt by Pleasantly Perfect, who races out of the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella, had former rider Nestor Capitaine in the boot as they did a full tour and then some of the big oval on the gray morning. The horse had arrived from his California base late Saturday evening.
Mandella indicated that there is a Plan A and a Plan B for his charge, both of which would see him running at Churchill Downs this week.
Plan A would be that there are enough defections in the current Derby eligible list that he would sneak into the race on Saturday. In such a case, the owners (Alain and Gerard), who live in Switzerland and race a stable in Europe, would make arrangements to have their European stable jockey, Olivier Peslier, fly to Louisville to handle him in the Run for the Roses.
Plan B, which kicks in the case of the colt not making the eligible list for the Derby, would have him running Friday in the American Turf (GII) at a mile and one-sixteenth on the lawn with Rafael Bejarano riding. Setsuko has a start on the grass already, finishing second a 1 1/8-mile optional claimer at Santa Anita in January.