BACKTALK – With the announcement that neither Endorsement nor Interactif would be entered for the Derby, Gold Mark Farm’s Backtalk made the field.
“We’re fortunate that we’re one of the last horses to get in,” trainer Tom Amoss said. “Even though we didn’t find out until Wednesday that we were going to get in the race, all along we’ve been planning as if we were going to run so it hasn’t affected his preparation.”
Backtalk amassed the bulk of his $225,916 in graded stakes earnings as a 2-year-old, winning the Bashford Manor (GIII) at Churchill Downs and the Sanford Stakes (GII) at Saratoga Race Course. In previous years, the earnings from those races alone would have all but assured a horse a spot in the Derby gate if they wanted it. With that in mind, Backtalk’s connections intentionally gave him a late start this year so they would have a fresh horse for the first Saturday in May.
“Ironically the design was to have two starts before the Derby not realizing that earnings would come into question,” Amoss said.
The plan still worked out, barely, and Backtalk is about to become the second career Derby starter for Amoss, along with Lone Star Sky, who finished 15th in 2003.
“We consider it an honor to be part of this race,” Amoss said. “I’m not a Louisville native but I’ve been here for 15 years. My kids were raised here, they went to high school here, and I’m proud to be a part of Louisville. This is a great town, a great place to raise your kids, and certainly the average person on the street knows about the Kentucky Derby and the Kentucky Oaks. It’s very special to be in here and I’ve heard from a lot of my friends in town.”
DEAN’S KITTEN/STATELY VICTOR – The pair of Derby contenders from the barn of Mike Maker -- Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Dean’s Kitten and Thomas and Jack Conway’s Stately Victor --arrived at Churchill Downs just before 10 a.m. following a 15-minute van ride from Maker’s Trackside Training Center base. All were in good shape following the short trip, according to their trainer.
Maker announced earlier in the morning that Robby Albarado would be named to ride Dean’s Kitten and not Joel Rosario, as the trainer had said Tuesday. The change came after Endorsement was withdrawn from consideration for the Derby, freeing Albarado from his prior commitment.
“I don’t want to break the news but Robby Albarado’s picked up the mount on Dean’s Kitten,” Maker said. “Robby has won a lot of big races and he’s a top-class rider and Dean’s Kitten is an easy horse to ride so it’ll be no problem at all.”
Saturday will be Albarado’s first time aboard his Derby mount.
Maker could be at an advantage if rain comes Saturday. He believes both of his horses will thrive on a wet surface, although neither have experience on it in races.
A homebred son of the outstanding turf horse Kitten’s Joy, the versatile Dean’s Kitten is expected to run his race on any type of track.
“He’s going to come in under the radar,” Maker said. “He’s not a flashy horse, not a big horse. He’s not going to turn any heads and he’s not going to impress you working. He’s not going to pull any bad antics. He just blends into the crowd but, you know, if the track comes up wet it’s going to be to his liking. Nothing’s going to bother him, really. He’s a very laid-back dude.”
As for Stately Victor, by 2004 Horse of the Year Ghostzapper and out of the Grade I-winning mare Collect the Cash, the trainer summed it up as such: “Rain, snow, sleet or shine, it’s not going to matter.”
ENDORSEMENT – WinStar Farm’s Endorsement was removed from Kentucky Derby 136 consideration Wednesday morning after suffering a lateral condylar fracture of his right front ankle after working a half-mile in :47.40 under trainer Shannon Ritter.
“He worked beautifully and I didn’t notice anything until we were walking back to the barn,” Ritter said after the bullet work over a track labeled as “good.”
Elliott Walden, WinStar vice president and racing manager, announced the bad news after the work.
“When he came back to the barn, we had Dr. (Bo) Landry take a radiograph and found a lateral condylar fracture in the right front ankle,” Walden said. “It was non-displaced, which is fortunate, and he may have surgery tomorrow.
“We are extremely disappointed for WinStar and for Shannon. Shannon has done a great job with this horse.”
Working during the 15-minute time devoted to Kentucky Derby and Oaks horses after the renovation break, Endorsement reeled off fractions of :12.40, :24 and :35.60 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:00. The move was the best of 17 at the distance.
“It’s disappointing,” said Bill Casner, chairman and co-owner of WinStar. “He worked great and Shannon said he gave her a feeling out there this morning like he never had before.”
Dr. Landry said the injury happened in the workout.
“I was with the horse all winter at the Fair Grounds and I can definitely say it happened today,” Dr. Landry, said adding that recovery time from the injury is projected at three to six months but that more would be known after surgery.
HOMEBOYKRIS – Louis Lazzinnaro and partners’ Homeboykris breezed four furlongs in :48.40 under exercise rider Joe Deegan Wednesday morning much to the approval of his trainer, Richard Dutrow.
“I couldn’t be happier. He went really good. Jockey Joe was really happy with him,” Dutrow said. “He said he got over (the track) the right way – a very good breeze for him. It’s all good.”
The gelded son of Roman Ruler turned in splits of :11.80, :23.80 and :35.60 on his way to the :48.40, after which he galloped out five furlongs in 1:02.20.
“I think the track was fine for him today. It was safe enough. It was still a little wet, but I took a shot to breeze him,” said Dutrow, who postponed the gelding’s final tune-up on Tuesday because of a muddy track. “I think we’re OK. He’s cooling out good. The rider is as happy as can be with him, so I’m as happy as I can be with him.”
Homeboykris, who won the Champagne Stakes (GI) last year, is unraced since finishing second in an allowance race at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 27.
“He’s fresh; he’s ready. If he’s got it in him, if it’s within him, he’ll run a big race. If he doesn’t, he won’t, but he’s ready to run,” said Dutrow, who saddled Big Brown for a victory in the 2008 Kentucky Derby.
Ramon Dominguez will have the mount on Homeboykris.
INTERACTIF – Trainer Todd Pletcher made it as official as you can make it – without making it, that is.
Referring to the colt Interactif, who is owned by the brothers Alain and Gerard Wertheimer, and the possibility of him running in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, the trainer said at his Barn 38 Wednesday: “I haven’t entered him (for the race). I don’t plan on entering. And I won’t (enter him) unless Mr. Wertheimer has a change of heart.”
Interactif, a bay colt by Broken Vow, has $307,950 in graded stakes earnings, meaning he sat 16th on the list of 20 “in” horses for the $2 million guaranteed Derby. Pletcher had held off booking a rider for the colt knowing that his possible entry was “iffy” at best.
MAKE MUSIC FOR ME -- Trainer Alexis Barba had mixed feelings when she learned Wednesday morning that Peter and Ellen Johnson’s Make Music for Me would draw into the 20-horse Kentucky field because of the injury suffered by WinStar Farm’s Endorsement.
“It’s very exciting, but you feel bad for the other person,” said Barba, whose colt also benefited from trainer Todd Pletcher’s announcement that Interactif would not be entered for the Run for the Roses. “You’re glad you’re in, but you’re sad for the other person, that’s just the way it is.” Barba, who will have the chance to become the first woman to saddle a Kentucky Derby winner, had entered Make Music for Me in Friday’s American Turf (GII) at Churchill Downs in the event that her Pasadena Stakes winner didn’t draw into the Derby field.
“You go through all the emotions,” she said. “You’re on a journey”
Joel Rosario will ride Make Music for Me.