ANIMAL KINGDOM/TOBY’S CORNER – Dianne D Cotter’s homebred Toby’s Corner, winner of the Wood Memorial (GI), breezed six furlongs in 1:15 Sunday morning over the Tapeta surface at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md.
“It was very non-eventful. It went exactly how I hoped it would,” trainer Graham Motion said. “Basically, it is exactly what we did with him before the Wood Memorial.”
Although no split times were available, Motion said the Bellamy Road colt did the work under exercise rider James Slater the way he preferred it go.
“The most important thing to me was that he didn’t go off too fast and that he finished up nicely,” Motion said. “That’s exactly what he did.”
Toby’s Corner is scheduled to walk Monday and will be shipped by van to Churchill Downs on Tuesday.
Eddie Castro will ride the colt in the Kentucky Derby.
Motion also said Team Valor International’s Animal Kingdom came out of Saturday’s work in good order.
The Leroidesanimaux colt worked six furlongs Saturday morning in 1:13 at Churchill Downs. He walked the shedrow Sunday morning.
ANTHONY’S CROSS – A D K Racing’s big Indian Charlie colt Anthony’s Cross had his Kentucky travel plans scotched Sunday morning at Southern California’s Hollywood Park by trainer Eoin Harty.
The Robert B. Lewis Stakes (GII) winner, who sits No. 21 on the 20-horse Derby-eligible list, will “look to other options” according to his Irish-born conditioner.
“We got to thinking about it and we decided it was just going to be too much hassle,” Harty said. “You ship all the way down there and then, if you don’t get to run, you’ve got to ship all the way back. And right now it doesn’t look good for us running, so rather than hanging on hope, we just decided it would be best for all if we said ‘no go.’
“We’ve got lots of other options with this colt and I’m zeroing in on one of them, but we’ll definitely live to fight another day. We would have loved to have come, but often these things work out for the best.”
ARCHARCHARCH – Robert and Loval Yagos’ Archarcharch galloped a mile and a half after the renovation break over a sloppy track under exercise rider Carlos Vasquez.
The Arkansas Derby (GI) winner had worked a bullet five-eighths in :59.40 on Friday and had light exercise Saturday morning.
“We just walked him and jogged him a little yesterday and he got mad because he wanted to gallop,” trainer Jinks Fires said.
Vasquez was in the saddle this morning in place of jockey Jon Court, who opened the Spring Meet last night with two victories on the card.
“We didn’t have much this morning, so Carlos got on him,” Fires said. “(Brother) Manny (Fires) and Carlos got on him at Oaklawn.”
Fires said that Archarcharch may visit the paddock once in the afternoon during the week and may go to the gate one more time.
“He has always been good at the gate,” Fires said of Archarcharch, who was kicked by another horse in the gate before the Rebel (GII). “Maybe if we take him over there enough, he won’t think about that.”
BRILLIANT SPEED – Live Oak Plantation’s Toyota Blue Grass (GI) winner Brilliant Speed galloped a mile and a quarter over the wet track under assistant trainer Dan Blacker.
“He seemed to go over it great,” Blacker said. “Even though it was sealed, the track seemed like it had a nice cushion on it. He felt great, strong all the way. I couldn’t be happier. He’s doing great.”
Trainer Tom Albertrani is scheduled to arrive in Louisville Sunday and will supervise the colt’s breeze Monday morning.
COMMA TO THE TOP – Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum and Kevin Tsujihara’s speedy multiple-stakes winner Comma to the Top put in his final preparations for his run in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby several thousand miles away from Churchill Downs on the West Coast Sunday when he skipped through a five-furlong drill at Hollywood Park in 1:00.40 at 8 a.m. Southern California time. It was the 16th fastest of 46 works at the distance during the morning.
The Florida-bred gelding by Indian Charlie’s son Bwana Charlie had his scheduled Derby rider, Patrick Valenzuela, aboard for the exercise.
“I loved it,” said trainer Peter Miller, speaking from his Hollywood Park barn shortly after the move. “I loved it and so did Patrick. He’s ready now.”
While Valenzuela has eight previous go-rounds in the Run for the Roses, including a victorious one in 1989 with the flashy Sunday Silence, this Derby outing will be a first for Miller, a 44-year-old Californian who has been around horses most of his life, but out on his own as a public trainer only since 2004.
“I worked (as a groom) for Charlie Whittingham when he won the Derby with Ferdinand (1986),” Miller recalled. “But I didn’t get to go to Kentucky for that one.”
Miller said Comma to the Top will be aboard a Tex Sutton flight leaving Los Angeles at 4 a.m. Tuesday en route to Louisville. He will headquartered in Barn 42, Stall 16 on the Churchill Downs backside.
DECISIVE MOMENT – Trainer Juan Arias hopped aboard Decisive Moment Sunday morning for a 1 ¼-mile gallop over the sloppy Churchill Downs track.
The South Florida-based trainer runs a hands-on operation.
“I tell people, ‘When I win a race, there are four people in the winner’s circle.' I’m like four people, the trainer, the exercise rider, the groom, the hotwalker,” said Arias, a former jockey in South Florida.
Decisive Moment, who’ll be ridden by Kerwin Clark in the Derby, walked the shedow on Saturday after working five furlongs in 1:01.40 on Friday.
DIALED IN – Trainer Nick Zito sent Dialed In to the track for a light jog Sunday morning to re-familiarize himself with Churchill Downs, where he broke his maiden in his debut last November. The Hall of Fame trainer liked what he saw in Robert LaPenta’s Florida Derby (GI) winner, who shipped in Saturday from his winter base at Palm Meadows in Boynton Beach, Fla.
“He jogged, and I loped him a little bit the right way because I had the feeling that he wanted to do a little bit more,” Zito said. “He just shipped in, so I didn’t want to do too much with him, but he bounced off the track.”
Zito was just happy that the heavy early morning rain gave way to cloudy skies long enough to get Dialed In to the racetrack.
"I wasn’t going to take him out in torrential rain. I wasn’t going to take the chance of getting him sick,” said Zito, who saddled Strike the Gold (1991) and Go for Gin (1994) for Kentucky Derby victories.
Dialed In’s familiarity with Churchill Downs only heightens his trainer’s confidence in him.
“I think it’s very important,” said Zito, noting Derby rival Uncle Mo won over the Churchill track in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI). “Dialed In was here for 40 days almost. He was on this track all of November. He knew where he was when he got off the van. He came bouncing off the van. He’s happy.”
When Dialed In won his debut, in which he closed from last through traffic to prevail over 11 rivals, his connections received a trophy in the winner’s circle that Zito has kept close to the son of Mineshaft.
“It’s a beautiful trophy they gave us when he won his maiden race here. It’s a horse with a rider. I’m shipping it up this morning. It’s on a van. I said ‘I’m going to take it with me and leave it with this horse all along.’ Then, he’ll come back here and get the other trophy,” said Zito, clearly interested in adding the Kentucky Derby trophy to Dialed In’s collection.
Julien Leparoux, who was aboard Dialed In for his victorious debut and his wins in the Holy Bull (GIII) and Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park, has the return mount.
MIDNIGHT INTERLUDE – Arnold Zetcher’s Santa Anita Derby (GI) winner Midnight Interlude galloped a mile and a half after the renovation break under exercise rider Dana Barnes.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said “just use ditto” to describe the colt’s activities on Sunday morning.
The routine of morning gallops will change Monday, though, when Midnight Interlude has his final pre-Derby breeze following the renovation break.
Victor Espinoza has the mount in the Kentucky Derby.
MUCHO MACHO MAN – After working five furlongs in 1:00.40 Saturday morning, Mucho Macho Man walked the shedrow of Barn 41 on the Churchill Downs backstretch.
“Everything’s good. He came out of the work great,” said trainer Kathy Ritvo, who had moved up the work to Saturday because of the on-the-money forecasts for rain on Sunday morning. “I’m just glad he got to work on a fast track.”
James Culver, whose Dream Team Racing Stable purchased the Risen Star Stakes (GII) winner as a yearling on the recommendation of Ocala breeders John and Carole Rio, was on hand as the colt was standing quietly and obviously content as his long legs were being hosed in the grassy area behind Barn 41.
South Florida-based Dream Team Racing Stable, managed by Culver and partner Kostas Hatzikoutelis, subsequently sold a 70-percent interest in Mucho Macho Man to Dean and Patti Reeves of Atlanta after finishing a strong second in his debut behind Gourmet Dinner at Calder Race Course last July.
“It’s hard to make a profit in this business. After his first race, I got 12 offers to buy him. The partners all wanted to stay in on him to some degree. No one wanted to get out completely. We figured out the most we could sell was 70 percent, and Mr. Reeves was willing to accept that, so we took a profit and sold him 70 percent,” said Culver, whose ownership group with Mucho Macho Man numbers 13 investors.
"People are going to sales paying $300,000 and $400,000 for yearlings, and they don’t even know what they have,” he added. “But you see a race and a horse runs good, at least you know you have a horse that can run.”\Culver said his group has no regrets about taking a sizable profit on Mucho Macho Man, expressing satisfaction and appreciation that the Reeves agreed to the 70-30 deal while the other offers were all for 100 percent of the colt who would go on to become a prominent Kentucky Derby contender.
NEHRO – Zayat Stables LLC’s Nehro galloped two miles in a driving rain at 6:15 a.m. under regular exercise rider Carlos Rosas, taking two laps around the oval, starting and finishing at the five-eighths pole. A two-mile gallop the day before a final work has been standard procedure in trainer Steve Asmussen’s barn “for 15 years,” he said.
The Arkansas Derby (GI) and Louisiana Derby (GII) runner-up will breeze Monday, again as part of Asmussen’s second set of the morning at about 6:15 a.m.
PANTS ON FIRE – George and Lori Hall’s Pants On Fire breezed a half-mile in :47.80 with jockey Rosie Napravnik up. The Louisiana Derby (GII) winner was first onto the “sloppy” track from the five-eighths gap during the Derby-Oaks training session that began at 8:30 a.m.
Trailing just a few seconds behind Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty, the Jump Start colt worked from the half-mile pole to the finish line through splits of :11.80 and :24 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:01.80.
“We had said :48 would be perfect so we got what we wanted,” trainer Kelly Breen said. “He pulled up good, didn’t turn a hair. Now it’s all up to the racing gods. He’s fit and ready to go.”
Napravnik, who was aboard Pants On Fire for the first time since the Louisiana Derby, was similarly satisfied with the move.
“He’s very kind,” she said. “He’s very easy to get along with altogether. He’s very comfortable with whatever you ask him to do. I’ve said before that if there’s one horse I could ride in a field of 20 it’s him because he’ll do exactly what you ask him to do.”
Because of the way the calendar falls this year, the Louisiana Derby was held six weeks out from the Kentucky Derby instead of what would normally be a five-week gap. That spacing has not been a concern for Pants On Fire.
“He showed a lot of improvement going into there and he showed a little bit of a spark and still he’s maintained it,” Breen said. “Yesterday at feed time he was running around the stall and that’s how he was leading up to the Louisiana Derby. I was happy to see that and I’ll be even more happy if I see it this afternoon. Right now he looks just the same as if he’d only galloped.
“Between Louisiana and Palm Meadows, before we came here, he kept all his weight. Even shipping back and forth, all that stuff, he didn’t miss a note. Sometimes, even when they’re eating, you still see them and think they might be a little ribby and that maybe the race took a little something out of them. A horse can lose as much as 100 pounds from a race. But between that and putting him on a van and everything else he kept his weight and he looks fantastic.”
Pants On Fire will continue to go out at the same time each day this week for spirited gallops that Breen said will “just keep him sharp and on his toes.”
SANTIVA – Tom Walters’ Santiva, galloped a mile and a half following the renovation break.
“He’s handling the track fine,” trainer Eddie Kenneally said. “It’s muddy, but it looks like it’s going to be muddy for a few days at the beginning of the week again. But he’s in great shape. No problems.”
Kenneally plans to breeze the colt Monday morning. He will make a decision on when to go out based on the surface conditions and might not wait until the time reserved for Derby and Oaks horses at 8:30 a.m.
“We’ll see what the track looks like early,” Kenneally said. “If it’s good early, I may go early, when they first open. If we breeze, we’ll be out there at 5:45. We want to be the first out there if we decide we want to do it at that time.”
Shaun Bridgmohan has the mount on Santiva in the Derby.
SHACKLEFORD – Florida Derby (GI) runner-up Shackleford walked the shedrow at trainer Dale Romans’ barn a day after working a bullet five furlongs in :58.80.
Owned by Michael Lauffer and W.D. Cubbedge, Shackleford is scheduled to return to the track Monday. Jesus Castanon has the Derby mount on Shackleford.
SOLDAT – Henry Clarke and partners’ Soldat walked the shedrow Sunday morning after arriving from South Florida on Saturday afternoon. The son of War Front had his final workout in preparation for the Kentucky Derby – five furlongs in 1:01.40 – before leaving the Palm Meadows training facility in Boynton Beach, Fla., and will only gallop and school at Churchill.
Before deciding on his shipping and training plans, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin reached out to trainer D. Wayne Lukas, the four-time Derby-winning trainer for whom he worked as an assistant for several years.
“He’s my mentor and coach over the years. I had in my mind what I wanted to do, but I just wanted to check with the master and professor of the game,” McLaughlin said. “He told me to either come in early and work three times or stay in Florida and don’t work here at all. That’s what I wanted to do – stay in Florida.
“It’s probably the best track to train on – Palm Meadows – and the weather’s great. He was doing so well, and I didn’t want to change,” he added. “Any change from any surface to any surface is a negative sometimes, more often than not. He’s been training there for six months, and I didn’t want to change.”
Soldat, an accomplished turf stakes performer who finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (GII) at Churchill Downs last fall, became a main-track success at Gulfstream Park this winter. While returning to a dirt track with the Kentucky Derby as his trainer’s goal, Soldat captured an allowance race by more than 10 lengths and ran off with the Fountain of Youth Stakes (GII) by two lengths, both victories accomplished in front-running fashion. After failing to get the lead in the Florida Derby (GI) last time out, Soldat was never a factor while taking a lot of dirt in his face.
“Hopefully, we won’t be in the one hole like we were in the Florida Derby. But it’s a whole different racetrack,” McLaughlin said. “You have to learn to draw a line through a race. This horse has been first or second in every race except that race, so we’re going to draw a line through it.”
Alan Garcia is slated to ride Soldat in the Kentucky Derby.
STAY THIRSTY/UNCLE MO – In one of the most anticipated Derby works in years, 2010 champion 2-year-old Uncle Mo and his stakes winning stablemate Stay Thirsty teamed up for a tandem drill Sunday morning at Churchill Downs on a “sloppy” strip at just after 8:30 following the track’s morning renovation break.
The bay partners went trackside through the Lukas Gap near the six-furlong pole with exercise rider Fernando Espinoza up on “Thirsty” and exercise rider Hector Ramos on “Mo,” who also was accompanied by assistant trainer Mike McCarthy alongside on a pony.
The two 3-year-olds backtracked to the Churchill frontside, then came as a team around the clubhouse turn to get a good running start at the five-furlong pole. With “Mo” on the outside of his slightly taller and wider mate, the pair bore down on their exercise with relish, going as a twosome for most of the journey to the finish line with no more than a length separating them at any one point.
Uncle Mo, a winner of four of five starts and more than $1.4 million, finished slightly clear of his workmate at the wire, earning a final time of 1:01.60 for the five furlongs. Stay Thirsty, the Gotham Stakes (GIII) hero, came right behind to register a time of 1:01.80.
Churchill clockers caught early splits on the pair that went like this:
Uncle Mo -- :12.80, :25.40, :37.20, :49.20 – with gallop out times of 1:14.20 and 1:28.
Stay Thirsty -- :13, :25.40, :37.40, :49.40 – with gallop out times of 1:14.40 and 1:28.20.
Uncle Mo’s final time was eighth best of 20 workers at the distance Sunday, while Stay Thirsty’s was ninth.
Trainer Todd Pletcher and the owner of the two colts – New York businessman Mike Repole – watched the work from the Churchill grandstand. Afterward at a news conference on the track’s backside media center, the Eclipse Award conditioner called the moves “textbook.”
“Ideally,” Pletcher stated to a gathering of about 50 newspaper, TV, radio and on-line types, “you’d want those kind of fractions for a five-furlong work -- :13, :25 and so on. And that’s just what they did. They both handled the ‘off’ going well. It was a textbook 1:01 work, which is just what we were after.
“I told Mike (Repole) the key would be the gallop out and they both did it strongly. I really liked the gallop out.”
Repole, who races under the name of Repole Stable, joined his conditioner for the press conference that started with the owner’s admiration for his two horses segueing to his wise guy one-liners and friendly knocks on both his trainer and the tough world of owning Thoroughbreds that had media members repeatedly laughing.
“I’m not the expert here,” Repole stated, “but the horse (Uncle Mo) I saw today was a whole lot different than the one who left Belmont Park two weeks ago. A whole lot different. I talked to Johnny (Velazquez) after the work and he said he watched it and he loved it. He said ‘I wouldn’t trade places with anyone.’ ”
Uncle Mo had been expected to be a stout favorite for Derby 137, but when he could only finish third under regular rider Velazquez in the Wood Memorial (GI) at Aqueduct on April 9 it sent a ripple throughout the racing world. Subsequently, veterinarian tests on the Indian Charlie offspring turned up a stomach ailment that the stable treated with medication that appears to have allowed the colt to recover while continuing to train toward his 10-furlong crucible this coming Saturday.
“I said he needed to have a perfect three weeks (at Churchill Downs) if he were to run in the Derby,” Pletcher said, “and so far we have. His work today was better than the last one he had and his appetite and appearance are much better than they’ve been. We’ve still got a week to go, but we are where we want to be right now.”
Pletcher was asked if he felt confident that the real Uncle Mo would turn up Saturday and win the Kentucky Derby.
The conditioner, who until he won the race last year with Super Saver had gone 0-for-24 in it (and will go into Saturday’s race with a 1-for-28 record) had a tempered reply:
“Believe me, I have a healthy respect for how hard it is to win this race,” he said. “There are so many variables that go into it and so many good horses that haven’t (won it). There’s the track condition and the crowd and the traffic and all the rest and it is the hardest race in the world to win. Uncle Mo is a very professional horse. He does the things he has to do in the right way. I think that’s going to help him when we go over there Saturday.”
Pletcher also had good words for Stay Thirsty, who hasn’t drawn near the accolades of his more accomplished stablemate.
"I think (today’s) work was the best I’ve ever seen him have,” Pletcher said. “The way he hung in there and the way he galloped out was very encouraging. His last race (a seventh-place finish in the Florida Derby April 3) wasn’t for real. It was hot – 92 degrees – and he didn’t like it at all. He was wet; not what you’d call washed out, but it appeared he was overheated. He seemed to cool down some going over to the gate and I thought he might run his race, but he didn’t. I’m throwing the race out.”
The trainer was asked about working his two good horses against each other, a practice some trainers disdain, but one he has used repeatedly with top horses in his barn.
“These two have worked together before (noting such cases prior to winning races in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile for Uncle Mo and the Gotham for Stay Thirsty),” he said. “They’re both pointing for the same race now and it just made sense to work them together today.”
Owner Repole was asked about his two charges in Saturday’s Derby.
“I think Uncle Mo will be first and Stay Thirsty second,” he said. “But in a perfect world they’d dead-heat. Then I could win two Derbies in one day.”
TWICE THE APPEAL/SWAY AWAY – Trainer Jeff Bonde reported Sunday morning that his two potential Kentucky Derby colts – Twice the Appeal and Sway Away – came out of their six-furlong drills from Saturday morning at Churchill Downs in good order and had spent a quite morning walking the shedrow the day after.
"They’re both doing fine,” the Northern California-based conditioner said at Barn 42. “Ate up and no problems.”
Twice the Appeal, winner of the Sunland Derby (GIII) and assured a spot in the Derby 137 lineup Saturday because of it, drilled his six furlongs in 1:15.60 under his Derby partner Calvin Borel. Stablemate Sway Away, who will need some help to run Saturday as he sits at No. 23 on the Derby eligible list with only 20 runners allowed to compete in the 10-furlong classic, had accomplished his workout in 1:14. If he gets to run, he’ll be partnered by Southern California ace Martin Garcia.
Bonde said he wasn’t sure when he’d send the two colts back to the track.
“We’ll have to see how it goes with the weather and the track condition,” the trainer said. “That will tell me when I want to go back (to the track) with them.”
TWINSPIRED/DERBY KITTEN – Alpha Stables, Skychai Racing and Sand Dollar Stable’s Twinspired stayed under cover at the Trackside Training Center walked the shedrow at trainer Mike Maker’s barn a day after working five furlongs in 1:01.20."
Everything is good here,” said Maker of the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (GI) runner-up who will resume galloping on Monday.
Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Derby Kitten, winner of the Coolmore Lexington (GIII) in his most recent start, galloped at Trackside. With $120,000 in graded stakes earnings, Derby Kitten would need one defection from horses under consideration for Derby 137 to make the field that is reserved for the top 20 graded earners that pass the entry box on Wednesday.
Maker plans to gallop Derby Kitten up to the Derby should he get in.
WATCH ME GO – After overnight thunderstorms turned the Churchill Downs racing surface to slop, trainer Kathleen O’Connell postponed Watch Me Go’s scheduled workout Sunday morning.
“We’ll just wait until (Monday) morning and hope the track will be better,” she said.
O’Connell is well aware that the weather forecast may not be on the side of Gil Campbell’s homebred colt.
"I may even go earlier in the morning when the track first opens and ask for a good strong two-minute lick,” said O’Connell, noting her colt’s dislike for wet tracks. “I’m not worried about speed. We’re going a mile and a quarter. I just want to get some air into him.”
O’Connell named Rafael Bejarano to ride her Tampa Bay Derby (GII) winner for the first time in the Derby.
"I’ve always liked Bejarano. He’s a good, strong finisher; he’s a good judge of pace; and he knows Churchill Downs,” O’Connell said of the jockey who started his career at Churchill Downs before moving on to the Southern California circuit.