ANIMAL KINGDOM/TOBY’S CORNER – Team Valor International’s Animal Kingdom answered any questions about his readiness for the Derby Saturday morning with a sharp six-furlong work in 1:13 at Churchill Downs.
The impressive breeze came a week after the Leroidesanimaux colt had a slower-than-expected time in a work at Keeneland that didn’t develop as planned. With jockey Robby Albarado aboard and working in company with stablemate Meistersinger on Saturday, the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes (GIII) winner turned in fractions of :12.40, :24.80, :37.20 and :49.20. His gallop-out time for seven furlongs was 1:26.40. Animal Kingdom broke off about three lengths behind Meistersinger, pulled even and traveled with him for a while, then drew off in the stretch.
As disappointed as I was with how things turned out last week, I couldn’t have been happier this week,” trainer Graham Motion said. “Last week everything did not go perfectly. Today, everything went perfectly. Just cut and dried, really.”
Motion had a set of instructions for Albarado to follow in the work.
“I told him I wanted to go three-quarters. In an ideal world, I’d like the horses to work together, but I said, ‘if you turn for home and you’ve got plenty of horse, you need to make him work out and get something out of it.’ That’s exactly what he did.”
Motion said the colt, who never has competed on dirt in his four-race career, looks to be ready for the Derby.
“Knock of wood, if he’s all right physically, yes, absolutely,” Motion said.
Motion also sent his Kentucky Oaks candidate, Summer Soiree, out for a half-mile breeze in :48.80 before heading back to Maryland, where his second Derby horse, Toby’s Corner, will breeze at 8 a.m. Sunday at the Fair Hill training center.
Toby’s Corner, bred and owned by Dianne Cotter, has won four of six lifetime starts and earned his trip to the Derby with a victory in the Wood Memorial (GI) on April 9 at Aqueduct.
Motion said he was changing his plans for moving the Bellamy Road colt from Elkton, Md., to Louisville.
“I’m going to push Toby’s Corner’s shipping to Tuesday instead of Monday, just to give him an extra day.” Motion said. “It’s something that has been on my mind and the weather forecast isn’t that great for here. I don’t see any need for him to get in here on Monday. I’m just going to wait, let him work tomorrow, give him an easy day on Monday and ship him on Tuesday.”
Motion said he will return to Louisville on Tuesday.
ANTHONY’S CROSS – A D K Racing’s Anthony’s Cross galloped a mile and one half Saturday morning at Hollywood Park in California as his connections, including trainer Eoin Harty, await word that they’ll get a green light to compete in next Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.
Anthony’s Cross is sitting at No. 21 on the list of potential Derby starters and needs just a bit of help to make the no-more-than-20-horse field. Harty has made arrangements to fly his charge to Kentucky on Tuesday and he’s keeping his fingers crossed until then.
“I’m still waiting to hear,” Harty said Saturday morning. “We’ll hope we get lucky. I’ve arranged for a rider for him should we get in, but I’m not at liberty to say who that is just now.”
Anthony’s Cross, a Pennsylvania-bred bay, won the Robert Lewis Stakes (GII) at Santa Anita in February, then finished fifth in his most recent out, the Santa Anita Derby (GI) on April 9.
ARCHARCHARCH – Arkansas Derby (GI) winner Archarcharch returned to the track a day after working a bullet five furlongs in :59.40 with an easy jog once around under jockey Jon Court with trainer Jinks Fires alongside on a pony.
“He does a lot better if you take him to the track and get him out of his stall,” Fires said. “We just jogged to the starting gate, stood and then backed out and jogged back around.”
Owned by Robert Yagos, Archarcharch is scheduled to gallop Sunday morning after the renovation break.
This year’s Kentucky Derby will be the first for Fires and Court, but not for the Fires’ family. Jinks’ brother Earlie, a Hall of Fame jockey, rode in the Derby six times with in-the-money placings on Blue Skyer in 1966 and Francie’s Hat in 1968.
“Earlie is coming in and at last count we have 36 family members coming for the Derby,” Jinks Fires said, adding with a laugh, “and maybe some that we don’t know about.”
BRILLIANT SPEED – Live Oak Plantation’s homebred Dynaformer colt Brilliant Speed galloped a mile and a quarter under assistant trainer Dan Blacker.
The late-closing winner of the Toyota Blue Grass (GI) was shipped from Keeneland to Churchill Downs early Friday afternoon and has settled in at Barn 42.
“He feels great. Couldn’t be happier,” said Blacker, who works for trainer Tom Albertrani.
Blacker said the ideal scenario would be to have the colt have his final pre-Derby breeze on a fast track, but with wet weather in the forecast for Sunday it will be a day-to-day decision.
COMMA TO THE TOP – Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum and Kevin Tsujihara’s multiple-stakes winner Comma to the Top galloped at Hollywood Park Saturday morning, one day before he’s to put in his final workout for the Kentucky Derby and two days before he’ll be put aboard a plane for Louisville and his date with destiny next Saturday.
“I’m going to work him five-eighths tomorrow morning at 8 and have him gallop out three-quarters,” trainer Peter Miller said from his Hollywood Park barn. “Patrick Valenzuela (who has been named aboard the Bwana Charlie gelding for his Derby run) will work him for me. He worked him for me last week.
“Everything is good. He’s going forward just like we planned. It’s getting exciting.”
Comma to the Top – the name derives from a slang phrase for an apostrophe – will be the most-seasoned starter in the field for Derby 137 with 13 starts already under his belt. The speedster has three stakes victories to his credit and was second, beaten a head, in his most recent effort, the Santa Anita Derby (GI) on April 9.
DECISIVE MOMENT – Trainer Juan Arias reported no problems Saturday morning with Just For Fun Stable’s Decisive Moment, who worked five furlongs in 1:01.40 at Churchill Downs on Friday.
He came out of the work good. He walked today. We’ll bring him back to the track tomorrow,” the South Florida-based trainer said. “We’ll give him a regular gallop.”
Arias will be aboard for Sunday’s planned gallop aboard his trainee. The native of Panama, who came to the U.S. in 1981, is a former jockey who gallops all of his horses on a rotational basis with his stable’s exercise riders.
“I have a team of exercise riders, but I do like to participate. That’s an advantage I have as a trainer – that way I can feel it when I ride,” said Arias, who is Decisive Moment’s only exercise rider. “I’ve been galloping him every day for six months, no one else. I even breeze him sometimes.”
DIALED IN – Robert LaPenta’s Dialed In, who is expected to vie for favoritism in next Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, arrived at Louisville International Airport at 12:45 p.m. (EDT) Saturday afternoon following a flight from South Florida. Dialed In arrived at Churchill Downs shortly before 2 p.m. and settled in at Barn 36.
Dialed In, who won the Florida Derby (GI) at Gulfstream Park in his most recent start, broke his maiden at Churchill Downs in his debut to racing on Nov. 12.
Hall of Fame trainer Nick Zito has saddled two Kentucky Derby winners – Strike the Gold in 1991 and Go for Gin in 1994 – and was represented by runner-up Ice Box last year.
Julien Leparoux has the return mount aboard the son of Mineshaft.
MIDNIGHT INTERLUDE – Arnold Zetcher’s Midnight Interlude, visited the starting gate for some schooling and galloped a mile and a half after the renovation break under exercise rider Dana Barnes.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has watched the colt develop through three races this year and then win the Santa Anita Derby (GI) in a stretch duel with Comma to the Top.
The thing about him is he’s got a lot of turf pedigree being by War Chant and his mother ran on turf in New Zealand. She could go long,” Baffert said. “Stamina can be so important in this race and whoever gets the trip with 20 horses in there.”
Victor Espinoza has the mount in the Kentucky Derby.
MUCHO MACHO MAN – Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Dream Team Racing’s Mucho Macho Man went to the track at Churchill Downs after the renovation break Saturday morning for his final workout for the Kentucky Derby.
Jockey Rajiv Maragh breezed the son of Macho Uno five furlongs in 1:00.40, the fourth-fastest clocking of 36 at the distance.
“I just wanted for Rajiv to get a good work and kind of let him do it on his own. He said he was kind of looking around today, so that’s when he hit him a couple times,” trainer Kathy Ritvo said. “It was important for me to get a work on a dry track. Last week we worked on a wet track. I wanted to have both.”
Mucho Macho Man, who had worked seven furlongs over a sloppy track at Churchill last Sunday, turned in splits of :12.80, :25.60 and :37 on his way to the final clocking and galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.20. Ritvo said both works served their purposes.
"They’re way different. Last time, it was like maintenance and we wanted to make sure he didn’t get too tired. This time, we were just letting him get a feel for the dry race track,” the South Florida-based trainer said. “He’s doing great. I can’t ask him to do any better than he’s doing right now. I’m really happy with everything.”
Maragh, who rode the Florida-bred colt to victory in the Risen Star (GII) at Fair Grounds in February, said Mucho Macho Man started to look around in the stretch Saturday but finished up well once he got him to focus.
“What I liked the most about the work as opposed to the last work was that he wasn’t goofing around down the lane,” Maragh sad. “I liked the way he finished up when I got into him.”
Mucho Macho Man was favored for the Louisiana Derby (GII) on March 26 but finished third, beaten by less than a length, after losing a right front shoe leaving the starting gate.
“I think it definitely, definitely cost him the race. I mean, he ran without a right front shoe from the start. Being a little bit younger, being a June foal, he took some time to figure out what was going on,” said Ritvo, whose colt wears glue-on shoes on his front feet. “He was switching leads back and forth, so he was definitely compensating for losing the shoe.”
NEHRO – Zayat Stables’ Nehro, fast-closing runner-up in the Louisiana Derby (GII) and Arkansas Derby (GI) in his past two starts, galloped a mile and a half under exercise rider Carlos Rosas at 6:15 Saturday morning.
Slated to be ridden by Corey Nakatani in Derby 137, Nehro is scheduled to work Monday morning.
PANTS ON FIRE – Trainer Kelly Breen rolled the dice and decided to wait a day to work George and Lori Hall’s Pants On Fire on Sunday morning despite a rainy forecast for the Louisville area.
“Hopefully it won’t rain too much,” Breen said after the Louisiana Derby (GII) winner galloped a little less than a mile and a half under exercise rider Juan Pizarro. “It is mainly a timing thing in that I like to get him on his toes a little closer (to the race).”
Jockey Rosie Napravnik is scheduled to be aboard for the work.
SANTIVA – Tom Walters’ Santiva galloped a mile and a half following the renovation break under Brendan Walsh.
“I couldn’t be happier. He went really well,” trainer Eddie Kenneally said.
Kenneally said the Giant’s Causeway colt is coming up to the race in a good way.
“He couldn’t be doing any better. He’s eating well, looking well, very sound and healthy,” Kenneally said. “Hopefully the weather stays good.”
Weather will dictate when Santiva has his final pre-Derby breeze, but Kenneally said the ideal day is Monday.
Shaun Bridgmohan has the mount on Santiva in the Derby.
SHACKLEFORD – An interested observer to the final Kentucky Derby work of Michael Lauffer and W.D. Cubbedge’s Shackleford was jockey Jesus Castanon, who is one week away from riding in his first Kentucky Derby.
"You can’t see as much from back here as over there (in the grandstand),” Castanon said, “but what I did see, he looked good and seemed like he did it pretty easy.”
What he saw parts of was a bullet, five-furlong work in :58.80 by Shackleford with Tammy Fox in the irons. Working solo after the renovation break over a fast track, Shackleford posted fractions of :11.60, :23, :34.40 and out six furlongs in 1:12.40 for the fastest five-eighths work of 36 at the distance.
“It was a good work and I was really impressed with his gallop out,” trainer Dale Romans said of the work that was the colt’s second here since finishing second in the Florida Derby (GI) on April 3. “He just loves this track and he loved it here last year as 2-year-old.”
Shackleford, who broke his maiden on his second try at Churchill Downs last fall, had worked a bullet last Saturday in 1:00.20 over a sloppy track.
“He’s as good as I can get him,” Romans said. “It is just a question of whether he is good enough.”
SOLDAT – Harvey Clarke and partners’ Soldat arrived at Louisville International Airport at 12:45 p.m. (EDT) Saturday following a flight from South Florida. Soldat arrived at Churchill Downs shortly before 2 p.m. and headed to Barn 41.
Soldat, who captured the Fountain of Youth (GII) at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 26 before a disappointing fifth-place Florida Derby run, breezed five furlongs in 1:01.40 at Palm Meadows on Friday.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin will be seeking his first Kentucky Derby success with Soldat, who will be ridden next Saturday by Alan Garcia.
STAY THIRSTY/UNCLE MO – Repole Stable’s twosome went trackside for a mile and a quarter gallop Saturday at 8:30 during the special training period following the renovation break. Hector Ramos was in his usual spot aboard Uncle Mo, while Fernando Espinoza was at the controls for Stay Thirsty.
Both colts went about their business as expected, setting themselves up for bigger things on Sunday.
“They’ll both work tomorrow,” trainer Todd Pletcher said back at his Barn 34 headquarters. “We’ll go at the 8:30 following the break.”
The Kentucky-bred stablemates are both coming off disappointing efforts: Stay Thirsty finishing seventh in the Florida Derby (GI) on April 3 and Uncle Mo managing only a third at odds-on in the Wood Memorial (GI) at Aqueduct on April 9.
Uncle Mo, last year’s 2-year-old champion, is scheduled to be handled by regular rider John Velazquez in next Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, while Gotham Stakes (GIII) winner Stay Thirsty will have the saddle services of Ramon Dominguez.
TWICE THE APPEAL/SWAY AWAY – Edward Brown Jr., Victor Flores and Henry Hernandez’s Sunland Derby (GIII) hero Twice the Appeal was trackside Saturday morning at 6:15 with the-man-with-the-magic-Derby-touch on his back, namely Calvin Borel. The veteran rider, who has won three of the past four editions of the Run for the Roses, will try to extend his almost unreal run in America’s most famous race next Saturday aboard the Successful Appeal colt he was meeting for the first time before sunup on the Churchill Downs backside.
Borel and his new friend got right down to business along the rail with a six-furlong drill that the track’s clocker’s registered at 1:15.60. Along the way the colt, wearing his usual blinkers, registered splits of :13.40, :26, :38.20, :50.40 and 1:02.80, then galloped out seven furlongs in 1:29.20.
“He felt good,” Borel said afterward back at Barn 42. “He clipped right along. And I liked the way he finished up.”
Borel won the 2009 Kentucky Derby aboard an outsider named Mine That Bird, who came into the race after finishing fourth in the Sunland Derby in New Mexico. Twice the Appeal comes into this year’s Derby having just won that same Sunland Derby. Did his new mount via New Mexico feel anything like his other one?
“No, not really,” Borel said. “The other horse (Mine That Bird) was more of a plodder. He’d just go along there and then finish strong. This horse moved along the whole while better. And he galloped right out for me.”
Northern California-based trainer Jeff Bonde trains Twice the Appeal and was pleased with his final pre-Derby drill.
“He never has (worked fast),” Bonde said. “It’s just not his style. But he’ll run on; the distance should be no problem for him. And he had a real good gallop out today, which is what we wanted. His weight is good and he traveled (to Kentucky) well. He’s doing it all right.”
Based on his Sunland Derby winnings, Twice the Appeal is assured a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate. But that’s not true for trainer Bonde’s other charge, Sway Away, who currently ranks No. 24 on a list of potential Derby starters that will only allow for 20 runners.
Nonetheless, the conditioner is moving forward with his Afleet Alex colt as if he will run next Saturday and put him through a six-furlong drill this Saturday at 6:45 with exercise rider Brian Hernandez aboard. Sway Away accomplished his move in 1:14, then galloped out strongly to finish up another furlong in 1:27.60. The track’s clockers caught his early splits in :13.40, :26, :38.80, :50.80 and 1:02.40.
“He finished up strong,” Bonde said. “I liked that a lot. I sure hope I get a chance to run. This colt belongs in there.”
Sway Away, stakes-placed twice and most recently the fourth-place finisher in the Arkansas Derby (GI) at Oaklawn Park on April 16, has had four riders in his five-race career thus far. If he does make it to the Derby, he’ll get another new partner. Bonde said he’d secured a call for his charge by one of Southern California’s top riders, Martin Garcia.
TWINSPIRED – Alpha Stables, Skychai Racing and Sand Dollar Stable’s Twinspired completed his major training for Derby 137 by working five furlongs in 1:01.20 at the nearby Trackside Training Center.
With exercise rider Derrick Smith up, Twinspired’s time was the third fastest of nine at the distance over a Trackside course labeled as fast.
“He went well,” trainer Mike Maker said. “He will go back to the track Monday and most likely train (at Trackside) Tuesday morning before he comes over there.”
Runner-up in the Toyota Blue Grass (GI) in his most recent start, Twinspired will be ridden in the Derby by Mike Smith.
WATCH ME GO – Trainer Kathleen O’Connell was on hand to watch Watch Me Go gallop Saturday, the morning before her Tampa Bay Derby (GII) winner is scheduled to work over the Churchill Downs track.
"He’s got a wonderful way of traveling,” the Florida-based trainer said of Watch Me Go, who is owned by Gilbert Campbell.
Jockey Freddie Lenclud, who was aboard for Saturday’s morning exercise, is slated to ride Watch Me Go in Sunday’s workout.
O’Connell said she won’t name a rider for the Derby until Monday.
“We have a couple people on hold, so we’ll wait until Monday,” O’Connell said.
BARN TALK – In addition to next Saturday’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, five other graded stakes will be on the card, including two Grade Is: the 25th running of the $500,000 Woodford Reserve Turf Classic and the 25th running of the $300,000 Humana Distaff.
Headlining the list of probables according to Churchill Downs officials for the Woodford Reserve at 1 1/8 miles are multiple Grade I winner and 2010 Woodford Reserve runner-up Court Vision, as well as Get Stormy, winner of the Maker’s Mark Mile (GI) at Keeneland this month. Other probables include Gulfstream Park Turf Handicap (GI) winner Teaks North and Jamaica (GI) winner Prince Will I Am plus Grade II turf winners Al Khali, Battle of Hastings (GB), Doubles Partner, Expansion and Smart Bid, as well as Grade III turf winners Little Mike, Memorial Maniac and Rahystrada. Also probable for the race are Caracortado, Citrus Kid, Riviera Cocktail and Stately Victor.
The Humana Distaff at seven furlongs on the main track features Shotgun Gulch, winner of the Vinery Madison (GI) at Keeneland in her most recent start. Also considered probable for the Humana Distaff are Hilda’s Passion, Ms Vanenzza, Tidal Pool and Twelve Twenty Two, with multiple Grade I winner Switch and Amen Hallelujah considered possible.
Also on Derby Day will be the 77th running of the $300,000 Churchill Downs Presented by Navistar (GII), the 26th running of the $200,000 Churchill Distaff Turf Mile Presented by American Commercial Lines (GII) and the 17th running of the $100,000 Twin Spires Turf Sprint Presented by GE Appliances & Lighting (GIII).
Topping the probables for the Churchill Downs at seven furlongs on the main track is Smiling Tiger, a Grade I winner who ran third in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI) here. Other Grade I winners on the dirt probable for the race are Capt. Candyman Can and Here Comes Ben. Also considered probable are After Shock, Aikenite, Apriority, Calibrachoa, Captain Cherokee, Chocolate Candy, Coffee Boy, Delong Road, Ibboyee, Le Grand Cru, Mythical Power and Noble’s Promise.
Never Retreat, winner of the Jenny Wiley (GII) at Keeneland this month, tops the probables for the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile that also may attract Tapitsfly, winner of the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Juveniles Fillies Turf. Other probables are Aruna, Aviate (GB), C.S. Silk, Decelerator, Fantasia (GB), Ice Mist, Miss Keller (IRE), Snow Top Mountain, Upperline, Vivo Per Lei and Wild Mia.
Chamberlain Bridge, winner of last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (GII), tops the probables for the five-furlong Twin Spires Turf Sprint. Other probables are Bridgetown, Early Return, Regally Ready, Southern Region, Spectacular Kid and Streakin’ Mohican.