KENTUCKY DERBY UPDATE – Wednesday, April 30, 2014
CALIFORNIA CHROME (No. 1) – The West Coast whiz California Chrome went trackside Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs just before 6:40 with exercise rider Willy Delgado at the controls. The chestnut stood inside the five-furlong gap for about three minutes, then began a backtrack along the rail by announcing his presence to one and all with a great, loud whinny.
Trainer Art Sherman looked on from the second deck of the old clocker's stand on the backstretch. His son and assistant trainer, Alan Sherman, as well as one of the colt's owner/breeders, Steve Coburn, were stationed in the Churchill paddock, ready to oversee his eminent arrival.
With pauses along the way to take things in – a standard occurrence for the horse his people say – "Chrome" eventually worked his way clockwise to the paddock where he checked it all out and apparently found it to his approval. Delgado next steered his mount back to the main track and a tour of about a mile and one-half around, going slowly the first time, then picking up some steam for the second go-round. After pulling up, the colt headed back through the gap and an admiring crowd to Barn 20 where he soon was enjoying a bath as dozens of photographers and video types clicked and cranked away.
Art Sherman was asked if he would continue to eschew the 8:30 a.m. special training time for Derby and Oaks horses for the remainder of the week.
"Yes, I want to go early with this horse," the veteran trainer said. "I've trained him early all along and I don't want to break pattern now. If he was one of those nervous horses, one that maybe needed a pony, I might take advantage of the special training period. But he's so laid-back and easy-going, I think I do him better just to keep him on his schedule."
Sherman indicated that "Chrome" would again tour the paddock Thursday morning, as well as have a stand in the starting gate, to go with his gallop. He said he'd gallop him Friday, also, then put him on the track for a once-around jog race morning.
"I put just about all my horses on the track race day," Sherman said. "It keeps them loose; allows them to do something other than standing in the stall and starting to get nervous. They expect to go out every day, so when you do that you don't give them time to start thinking about having to race. They stay more at ease."
And as far as paddocking among the race-day crowds during the week?
"Nope," Sherman said, "don't do it. You can't replicate that Derby feeling and this horse's demeanor isn't an issue. I'm thinking he's going to be fine for the race."
Sherman's remarkable roll with California Chrome – in which one good thing after another keeps happening – continued Tuesday night when he attended the traditional KTA-KTOB Derby Trainers Dinner. He was the last trainer to speak and drew good applause for his take on the whole Derby experience. Then, in a drawing of admission tickets following the event, Sherman's was pulled for a free airplane ship for any horse by the Tex Sutton people – good for anywhere you wanted to go.
At the barn Wednesday morning, someone asked Sherman if he'd be using the free trip to send California Chrome back home.
"Well," the trainer said, "actually I was thinking I might ship him to the Bahamas and go with him."
VICAR'S IN TROUBLE (No. 2)/GENERAL A ROD (No. 14)/HARRY'S HOLIDAY (No. 19) – Trainer Mike Maker said Wednesday that the hoopla of Derby Day shouldn't be an issue for his three Derby contenders – Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Vicar's in Trouble, Starlight Racing and Skychai Racing's General a Rod and Skychai Racing, Terry Raymond and Jana Wagner's Harry's Holiday.
They have the minds to deal with the excitement, Maker said.
"Each one of them has no problem,'' he said. "They're not on the nervous side or anything of that nature, so I feel pretty confident that they're going to handle it.''
Harry's Holiday, a former claimer, will be returning to dirt after racing on Polytrack in his past four starts. His best performances came on Polytrack – a second-place finish, a nose behind We Miss Artie, in the Spiral (GIII) at Turfway Park, and an eight-length victory in the 96ROCK Stakes at Turfway. On Polytrack, Harry's Holiday has earned $151,122; in four starts on dirt, he has earned $35,760.
The 96Rock was the first race in which Harry's Holiday wore blinkers, and they made a big difference, co-owner Raymond said.
"He's not a Poly horse,'' Raymond said. "He's just a horse. He ran good in Florida on dirt, and he won over here (at Churchill Downs). I think the difference in him – where he went like shazaam! – was the blinkers. He lit up like a Christmas tree when we put the blinkers on. It was a big move on him, but we always liked him from the beginning.''
Maker and the owners claimed Harry's Holiday for $30,000 out of a maiden race, which he won, Sept. 7 at Churchill.
Harry's Holiday galloped Wednesday under exercise rider Joel Barrientos.
Vicar's in Trouble, the Louisiana Derby (GII) winner, didn't go to the track Wednesday. "It's his walk day,'' Maker said.
General a Rod, third-place finisher in the Florida Derby (GI), walked Wednesday morning, a day after working a half-mile in 49.40.
DANCE WITH FATE (No. 3) – Blue Grass Stakes (GI) winner Dance With Fate galloped 1 ¼ miles after the Wednesday morning renovation break with Issac Muniz aboard.
"He got a little aggressive at the quarter pole when another Derby horse (Ride On Curlin) came by and stayed with him," trainer Peter Eurton said.
Owned by Sharon Alesia, Bran Jam Stable and Ciaglia Racing, Dance With Fate has run twice on dirt in his eight-race career but never encountered an "off" track. After overnight rains, the track still had plenty of moisture in it and was listed as "muddy" when Dance With Fate trained Wednesday.
"I'm not really concerned about a wet track," Eurton said. "They like it or they don't. A little rain would make the track a little tighter and he likes tight tracks anyway."
When Dance With Fate was getting his morning bath, jockey Corey Nakatani came by to check on his Derby mount. Nakatani rode Dance With Fate for the first time in the Blue Grass.
WICKED STRONG (No. 4) – Centennial Farms' Wood Memorial (GI) winner Wicked Strong galloped 1 5/8 miles Wednesday morning during the 8:30 window reserved for Derby and Oaks runners.
"He's as good as I could hope," trainer Jimmy Jerkens said. "I still don't know how he is going to be on Derby Day, but I'm happy with how he is so far. Nothing else has bothered him. There's a lot activity and that hasn't bothered him at all."
There are 28 members of the Wicked Strong partnership group. Twenty of them are new to racing ownership.
Centennial Farms was formed in 1982 by Donald Little Sr. and campaigned a number of top horses, including Colonial Affair, winner of the Belmont Stakes, Whitney and Jockey Club Gold Cup; sprint champion Rubiano and Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile winner Corinthian.
After his father died in 2012, Donald Little Jr. restructured the company with partners Peter and Peggy Horvitz of Seattle and opened it to smaller investors. Wicked Strong was part of the first three-horse group purchased by the revamped Centennial Farms at the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale. They purchased him for $375,000.
"When they brought him out of the stall and stood him up, he was one of those that instantly sort of caught our eye," Little said. "What is that exactly? Well, he had a great presence. He stood over a good amount of ground. A very, very impressive shoulder angle.
"I put quite a bit of emphasis on their eye and he was very attentive, very aware of everything going on around him and had a wonderful stride in his walk. He had that shoulder angle and he would reach out. It's very obvious and you could see in prominently in the Wood. When Rajiv (Maragh) got him straightened out, literally his whole body dropped about a foot. He lowered in his running style and his stride lengthened about three feet.
The other important element in the selection was the colt's pedigree. He is by Hard Spun and is out of a mare sired by 1999 Derby winner Charismatic. Centennial's goal is to purchase horses with pedigrees that indicate they would be suited for classic races on dirt like the Kentucky Derby.
"It's definitely a distance pedigree," Little said. "His daddy was second in the Derby. Yeah, he won the King's Bishop (GI), but he was able to get a distance being by Danzig and the mother was by Charismatic.
"He trained like that, right from the get-go at the farm. He was the one guy in the group of yearlings we had in 2012 that kind of said, 'I'm the kingpin here.' And he was right from the beginning sort of the favorite of the group."
The colt received his name following the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing. The term Boston Strong quickly became popular as a show of support for the victims. Centennial is based in Beverly, Mass. and Don Little Jr. said he tried to rename the 2-year-old colt Moyne Spun as Boston Strong, but it already had been claimed by another New England partnership company, Sovereign Stable of Manchester, N.H. Boston Strong, a New York-bred son of Pioneerof the Nile, in training at Belmont Park, but has not made his first career start.
Little decided to go with the suggestion of a friend, Wicked Strong. In New England slang, wicked adds emphasis to adjectives: wicked cool, wicked fast, wicked funny, wicked strong. The 28-person partnership decided to contribute a portion of the colt's earnings to the One Fund, which aids victims of the bombing.
"When we named him, it was more out of anger," Little said. "Like Sovereign, we didn't do it as a promotional thing. It's more of a reaction to what had happened and what was going on in the city with the intention of something good coming out of it and being able to donate some money to the One Fund and be able to help the families and the victims. Here we are."
Jerkens will be saddling his first Derby starter. He was working for his father, Hall of Famer H. Allen Jerkens, in 1992 when Devil His Due ran in the Derby. One part of his Derby experience -- the parade of horses from the stable area through the first turn to the paddock -- remains a vivid memory.
"I'll never forget the walk over there," he said. "I'll never forget it as long as I live. I never saw anything like it. People are just up and around you. It was incredible."
Jerkens smiled when someone asked if he was ready to make the walk with his own horse.
"I guess as ready as I'll ever be," he said.
SAMRAAT (No. 5) – My Meadowview Farm's Samraat had an eventful visit to the track Wednesday morning where he galloped 1 3/8 miles under exercise rider Rodney Paine.
"He was very sharp," trainer Rick Violette said. "He had a horse doing a two-minute lick coming at him when he turned corner coming on the racetrack and almost lost his rider. It was all of four seconds, but ..."
Violette said his colt reared, ducked and tried to get away from the pony during that brief but frightening event. He then went on for gallop around the track for Paine.
"He moved great, was very sharp, handled the racetrack and was happy to be here," Violette said. "No changes neccessary.
Violette said he will have the Noble Causeway colt school in the gate Thursday and perhaps again Friday.
Samraat won the first five starts of his career and was second to Wicked Strong in the Wood Memorial. In the Withers and Gotham, both Grade III races at Aqueduct, he engaged in extended duels with Uncle Sigh, who also is in the Derby. He showed grit to finish well in the Wood and Violette likes bringing a battle-tested runner to the Derby.
"I think it's invaluable," he said. "That he has won is great, but there is no question that he has been looked in the eye and has had the right response. And they are long drives, too.
"In the Wood he passed a couple of little internal tests that he hadn't been confronted with before. We've stalked but we've been in the clear and for the first time down the backside he had horses in front of him, horses outside of him, horses inside of him. You would be amazed how that dynamic makes 17-hand horses look like Shetland ponies. All of a sudden they are not the dominant horses. It wasn't a factor.
"The other little battle was at the half-mile pole. We kind of set sail and Kristo was on the outside of him and it took a good eighth of a mile to shake him. He was off the bridle and riding hard to get away from him so we could focus on Social Inclusion."
Samraat did make up the ground, but the Wood favorite wasn't done.
"Social Inclusion kind of busts chops and opens up two at the head of the lane," Violette said, noting how that move can discourage the competition, but Samraat kept trying.
"He finally changed leads in the shadow of the wire and nailed him for second," Violette said. "A lot of those little educational tests he was not only was confronted with but passed them. Coming into his next race you're not going to be that concerned and he'll deal with it even better."
DANZA (No. 6)/INTENSE HOLIDAY (No. 8)/WE MISS ARTIE (No. 10)/VICEREMOS (No. 18) – The Derby quartet that races out of the Todd Pletcher barn had good gallops Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs as they head toward their date with destiny in Saturday's 140th running of the Kentucky Derby.
Danza, a flashy chestnut – as opposed to the three others who are listed as dark bay or brown – galloped widest and strongest of the foursome. He had regular exercise rider Ezequiel Perez at the controls. Intense Holiday was handled by Isabelle Bourez; We Miss Artie partnered with Nick Bush, and Vinceremos was with his guy Humberto Zamora.
The four colts each went about a mile and three-eighths – give or take – around the big oval on an overcast morning.
Those wanting a good look at the Pletcher contenders can do so in the paddock with the horses from today's fifth race.
HOPPERUNITY (No. 7)/CHITU (No. 12) – Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman's Hoppertunity jogged Wednesday morning while the Tanma Corporation colt Chitu galloped. It was Hoppertunity's first day back on the track after working a half-mile in :48 during a rain storm Monday morning.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said Chitu galloped about 1 1/2 miles. He had his final timed work for the 140th Kentucky Derby on Sunday morning, breezing six furlongs from the gate in 1:13.20. Baffert entered the colt in the Derby Trial (GIII) Saturday night, but opted to scratch out of that race and work the Sunland Derby (GIII) winner Sunday morning to stay on course for the Derby.
"Every day he looks better and better and I really like the way he went around there," Baffert said. "He needed a nice, stiff work, that's why I wanted to run him in the Derby Trail, but I did get that stiff work out of him. He looks good. He's going to run his race."
Hoppertunity, a son of Any Given Saturday, was originally named Anyway U Way, and Baffert asked his longtime owners and friends, Watson, Pegram and Weitman, to consider a new name. He even offered a suggestion.
"Sometimes I'll tell them to change a name, unless it is named after a child," Baffert said. "I didn't like the name, some friends of ours are Chad and Kathleen Hopper and we thought it would be a good to name him Hoppertunity. I guess it's a term they use it a lot in their family. They are a really fun couple and are horse racing fans."
The Hoppers are traveling from Southern California to Louisville this week to see Hoppertuity run in the Derby.
"As soon as we changed his name he woke up and started coming around," Baffert said.
WILDCAT RED (No. 9) – Honors Stable Corp.'s Wildcat Red galloped 1 ½ miles under exercise rider Juan Belmonte Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs.
The son of D'wildcat, who won the Fountain of Youth (GII) and Hutcheson Stakes (GIII), will be saddled by Jose Garoffalo, a Gulfstream Park-based trainer who never has started a horse in the Kentucky Derby.
"I'm not nervous. I'm very optimistic. I'm a little bit surprised that I'm not nervous, but I'm a pretty calm person," said Garoffalo, who began his training career in his native Venezuela before venturing to the United Stakes in 1999.
Garoffalo's calm demeanor before the Derby may be attributed in part to the success he had at the highest level in Venezuela.
"I have experience in big races. In Venezuela, trainers are very used to being in contact with the media – TV, radio, the press is always at the track. We're pretty much used to that," Garoffalo said. "And I've been involved in the big races there."
In 1991, Garoffalo saddled his father Jose Garoffalo Sr.'s champion homebred filly, Climalba, for a victory against the boys in the 1991 Clasico Simon Bolivar.
"It's Venezuela's biggest race," he said.
Garoffalo, who completed law school before deciding to dedicate himself to training, always had a goal to venture to the U.S. to train Thoroughbreds.
"It was a personal challenge to prove that I could make it here," he said. "I think it was a good decision."
Garoffalo, who settled in South Florida, became a U.S. citizen four years ago.
RIDE ON CURLIN (No. 11) – Seeking his fourth Kentucky Derby victory, Hall of Fame jockey Calvin Borel is high on the chances of Daniel Dougherty's Ride on Curlin
"I like him a lot,'' Borel said Wednesday morning of the Arkansas Derby (GI) runner-up."I think he's coming up to the race at the best time, peaking a little bit. I think every race up to this race, he always had a little excuse. He wasn't exactly ready, or, you know, had a bad trip or something. I think he's peaking at the right time. He sure is training good."
Borel, who won the Kentucky Derby on Street Sense in 2007, Mine That Bird in 2009 and Super Saver in 2010, said that Ride On Curlin has the mental make-up to handle Derby Day.
"He's pretty smart,'' Borel said. "He's not perfect at the barn. You don't want to pet him or nothing like that. But once he gets on the racetrack, he's all right. He's a hard horse to get along with at the barn. He'll bite you and stuff like that. But once he gets on the track, he's all business.''
Trainer Billy Gowan said he has no concerns about Ride On Curlin's mind. "He's got the mind to handle it, believe me,'' Gowan said."He's got the perfect mind for this because that's something you can't train in them. They've either got it or they don't. He's had it from Day One.
"When I ran him in the Iroquois (GIII) as a 2-year-old, it was night racing. They had live bands, people everywhere. Never turned a hair. I took him to the paddock yesterday and schooled him, never turned a hair. That's the least of my worries is his mind.''
The mile and a quarter shouldn't be a problem for Ride On Curlin, either, Borel said. "I don't think it'll bother him. Sit and wait. Sit and wait. Sit and wait. I think the more you sit and wait, he'll go as far as you want him to go.
"He's a smart horse. If he does how I think he's going to do – everything right – we'll be all right.''
Ride On Curlin galloped Wednesday under exercise rider Bryan Beccia.
All that's left to do, Gowan said, is to bring Ride on Curlin to the race healthy and sound. "Every morning, I check his legs,'' Gowan said." You always hold your breath when you check his legs. Man, they've been cold and tight. I'm tickled to death.''
TAPITURE (No. 13) – Winchell Thoroughbreds' Tapiture galloped an easy one mile around 6:15 a.m. with regular exercise rider Abel Flores up. It was the Southwest Stakes (GIII) winner's first time back to the track since his memorable half-mile work through a violent thunderstorm Monday morning.
"First day back from our little water-soaked breeze and I thought he went really well," trainer Steve Asmussen said. "At this stage I think there's plenty in him. I just want to keep him nice and relaxed and loose."
Tapiture schooled in the paddock Tuesday afternoon during the seventh race and seemed especially concerned with the track's public address system.
"He was pretty anxious," Asmussen said. "It was the first time we were schooling him since we've been here this meet and I look for him to be a little bit more relaxed today. Whether he goes back one or two more times I don't know."
Tapiture is a special horse to Asmussen for reasons beyond his talent. Throughout his pedigree and history are links to former Asmussen-trained horses, including several broken and readied for the racetrack at the Asmussen Horse Center owned by the conditioner's parents, Keith and Marilyn Asmussen, near the border town of Laredo, Texas.
Tapit, sire of both Tapiture and the Asmussen-trained Kentucky Oaks favorite Untapable, was purchased by Ron Winchell as a yearling in 2002. Ron Winchell's father, donut king Verne Winchell, sent talented young horses to Laredo for breaking and educating for years, dating back to the late-1980s. Ron elected to continue the arrangement after Verne died that year and sent his talented gray to Keith and Marilyn Asmussen before the colt went on to win graded stakes at two and three, including the 2004 Wood Memorial (GI) under the care of Michael Dickinson.
Tapiture's dam, Free Spin, is a Winchell homebred and also was raised in Laredo. That mare is by Olympio, a six-time graded stakes winner in Southern California in the early 1990s, who also was a Winchell homebred and, of course, learned to be a racehorse in Laredo.
Tapit's first U.S. winner was a Winchell homebred named Retap, who Asmussen trained to a debut win at Churchill Downs as a juvenile in May 2008 and who would go on to win that year's Riley Allison Futurity at Sunland Park.
"It's a fabulous story," Asmussen said. "It's just such a family tree that our family is so connected with, with all of those horses going through my parents' place in Laredo. And then Dad sends [Tapiture] up to me in the summer and Dad was so high on him. The horse was such a good athlete. For him to be down to the select 20 of his foal crop, it's very special."
In the five years his progeny have been racing, Tapit has sired 13 Grade I winners. If there is any quality in common between Tapiture, Untapable and most of the other Tapits that Asmussen has been around, it's simply their "immense ability," he said.
"When you have a good Tapit, they're faster than the rest," Asmussen said. "They just are. I think we've seen races like that from several of them through the years and what we're looking to do is just get better at handling them and keeping them around and get more of those types of races out of them."
MEDAL COUNT (No. 15) – Spendthrift Farm's Medal Count galloped 1 ½ miles under exercise rider Faustino Aguilar during the Oaks and Derby training session.
Back at trainer Dale Romans's barn, Medal Count's breeder, Barbara Banke of Stonestreet Thoroughbreds, admired the Dynaformer colt out of her successful broodmare Brisquette (who has now produced two graded stakes winners, Medal Count and Garden District).
"I'm proud I raised him, although I'm a little sorry I'm not here as his owner," Banke said. "But I'm so glad that my friend has him and they've done well with him."
Having watched Medal Count's exercise a few minutes earlier, Banke said she could envision a Derby win that would be her first as a breeder primarily because of the colt's stamina.
"He's got plenty of room to go the distance and he's fit," she said. "I'm happy with the way he looks and I'm looking forward to the race."
At Stonestreet, a band of nearly 100 broodmares produces an average of 70 foals per year.
"We sell a lot," Banke said. "I tend to keep more fillies than colts and if I do keep colts I like to have partners, because often it doesn't work out. We have some very, very well-bred fillies that I want to keep in my program."
CANDY BOY (No. 16) – The dark Candy Ride colt Candy Boy galloped during the Derby/Oaks training period at 8:30 following the renovation break at Churchill Downs Wednesday morning. Exercise rider Jelani Grant was aboard for a solid bit of exercise that covered a mile and three-eighths. They also did a session of standing in the gate.
Trainer John Sadler watched the proceedings, as did the Candy Boy's owner and breeder, Lee Searing.
Sadler was happy with most everything his horse has done in Kentucky so far.
"He's doing fine," Sadler said. "He paddocked well (Tuesday during the races). He looked around a lot, but he was fine with it. You can't duplicate that Derby crowd, of course, but I want him to have a feel for it. I've got him booked to paddock again today and right on through the week, even Oaks day."
Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens will ride Candy Boy Saturday.
UNCLE SIGH (No. 17) – Trainer Gary Contessa sent Wounded Warrior Stables and Anthony Robertson's Uncle Sigh to the racetrack for a "mini breeze" at Churchill Downs Wednesday morning.
"I just let him stretch his legs a little bit. He wound up going a half in 52 and 3. It was exactly what I was looking for," Contessa said. "He did it on his own. His body language was outstanding. He just steadily picked it up every eighth, but never turned his head loose."
The New York-bred colt was not credited for an official workout by the Churchill clockers.
"To the eye it was an open gallop. To the horse it was an open gallop. To the clocker, I guess it would be right on the borderline of being a breeze. It was exactly what I was looking for," Contessa said. "I wanted him to get a feel for the track. He worked last Friday; I wanted him to do a little something. It's three days before the Derby. I wanted him to open up his lungs a little bit and I got exactly what I was looking for him."
Exercise rider Benito Alvarado was aboard for what turned out to be an impromptu "work."
"It didn't start out to be, but it definitely ended up being one. It was a mini breeze," Contessa said. "I backed him up at the quarter pole, galloped him around. I broke him off at the half. He went 14 seconds from the half to the three-eighths. Then he picked it up to almost 12 and 4, so he went 26 and change for the quarter. Then – I was on the walkie with the rider – I said, 'Don't move.' Then he went 13, 13 home, so he went 52-and-3."
Uncle Sigh was equipped with blinkers, with which he'll run for the first time in Saturday's Kentucky Derby.
COMMANDING CURVE (No. 20) – Trainer Dallas Stewart said he decided to take a patient approach with West Point Thoroughbreds' Commanding Curve after he broke his maiden as a 2-year-old on the last day of the Churchill Downs fall meet.
Commanding Curve won that mile-and-a-sixteenth race Nov. 30 by 1 1/2 lengths in his fourth start, and Stewart discussed his plan with West Point president Terry Finley.
"I told Terry, 'Man, now we need to approach this like we've got a good horse,' '' Stewart said. "That's why we gave him enough time. We didn't run him until the Risen Star (GII). Just trained him. Ran pretty good there, got beat eight lengths coming out of a maiden race and time off. And the Louisiana Derby (GII), here we are. Hopefully, we've got him tight enough and fit enough for a mile and a quarter.''
Commanding Curve finished sixth in the Risen Star (GII), 8 1/4 lengths behind winner Intense Holiday. After being impeded at the start in the Louisiana Derby (GII), Commanding Curve finished third, five lengths behind winner Vicar's in Trouble.
Commanding Curve galloped Wednesday morning under exercise rider Emerson Chavez, and Stewart said he was planning to school him in the paddock in the afternoon.
PABLO DEL MONTE (No. 21) – Susan Magnier, Derrick Smith, Michael Tabor and trainer Wesley Ward's Pablo Del Monte was vanned from Keeneland Race Course to Churchill Downs Wednesday, arriving shortly before the 8 a.m. deadline set for Kentucky Derby entrants to be on the grounds.
Pablo De Monte sat 21st in the points standings when entries were taken Wednesday morning and will be the only horse on the Derby also-eligible list. He could draw into the field in the event of a scratch prior to Friday at 9 a.m.
Due to an unexpected delay in his morning commute, the son of Giant's Causeway didn't go to the track with other Kentucky Derby candidates at the appointed 8:30 a.m. time.
Pablo Del Monte went to the track at 9:45 a.m. for a jog around Churchill with jockey Jeffrey Sanchez aboard.
BIG BAZINGA – Robert Bates, head of Derby Dreamers Racing Stable, did not enter Big Bazinga for Kentucky Derby 140 and instead supplemented the gelding into Saturday's $250,000-added American Turf (GII) Presented by Ram Trucks.
KENTUCKY OAKS UPDATE – Wednesday, April 30, 2014
AURELIA'S BELLE – Trying to ensure that Jim Miller's Aurelia's Belle won't be bothered by the hoopla on Kentucky Oaks Day, trainer Wayne Catalano scheduled two schooling sessions Wednesday for her.
She went to the paddock in the morning, and Catalano said he also intended to school her in the afternoon.
"She doesn't care for the crowd a little bit,'' he said. "But we're going to go ahead and school her. She's getting better about it. So we're working on it.''
Before the race, Catalano, a former jockey, will be giving instructions to his son-in-law, jockey Channing Hill.
"Being an ex-jockey, it's a little easier to give instructions,'' Catalano said."And when you know the horse, like we always do, being the trainer and everything, it's a lot easier to do.''
Aurelia's Belle galloped Wednesday morning under exercise rider Calamity Compton.
EMPRESS OF MIDWAY – Daniel Kramer and Rick Pitino's Empress of Midway galloped 1 ½ miles after the renovation break with exercise rider Humberto Gomez aboard.
Empress of Midway, who has been at Churchill Downs since April 21, drew post position 10 for the Oaks and will be ridden by Corey Nakatani.
"We like the post," said Jack Sisterson, assistant to trainer Doug O'Neill. "She has not missed a beat since she has been here. She has adapted well, just like she was home."
Sisterson said Empress of Midway may make a pass through the paddock Thursday after her morning activity.
"That's what we did two years ago with I'll Have Another and that worked out well," Sisterson said, referring to the 2012 Kentucky Derby winner. "That is sort of a ritual with us."
FASHION PLATE – Arnold Zetcher and Michael Tabor's Fashion Plate backtracked once around and then galloped a mile under exercise rider Paul Eddery after the Wednesday morning renovation break.
Fashion Plate started her career on all-weather surfaces but has prospered on the dirt, a surface on which she is undefeated in three starts.
"She really transformed when she got on the dirt and she was more mature," trainer Simon Callaghan said. "In her first start at Del Mar (on Polytrack) she got bumped around but she was third in her next race."
Winner of the Grade I Los Virgenes and Santa Anita Oaks in her two most recent starts, Fashion Plate will break from post position seven in the Oaks under Gary Stevens.
"I was hoping for something in the middle and the seven is ideal," Callaghan said. "She will be forwardly placed."
GOT LUCKY/MY MISS SOPHIA – Trainer Todd Pletcher's Oaks-bound fillies galloped at Churchill Downs Wednesday morning during the special Derby/Oaks training period. My Miss Sophia had exercise rider Humberto Zamora aboard for strong bit of exercise of about a mile and three-eighths, while Amy Mulen was in the saddle for a mile and a quarter spin with Got Lucky.
Tuesday, when entries were taken, "Sophie" drew post No. 11 in the 13-horse field, while "Lucky" was just outside her in post No. 12.
"Not an ideal draw for us," Pletcher said. "But we can adjust to it. My Miss Sophia has enough speed that she'll be able to find a good position. And Got Lucky is going to drop back and make a run, so post isn't that important. They'll both be fine."
Javier Castellano has the call on My Miss Sophia, while Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez will handle Got Lucky.
KISS MOON – Carl Pollard's Kiss Moon galloped 1 ¼ miles under Otto Thorwarth after the morning renovation break for trainer David Vance.
Kiss Moon did not make her racing debut until Dec. 13 at Turfway Park. Only two other Oaks entrants started their careers later: Empress of Midway and My Miss Sophia.
"She's a big filly and we just took our time with her," Vance said. "We thought she would be better going two turns and on grass in the long run. With her (half) sister (Kiss Mine, a graded stakes-placed runner on grass), everything is a bonus now on the main track."
Second in the Fantasy (GIII) in her most recent start, Kiss Moon will be ridden in the Oaks by Victor Espinoza and break from post position six.
PLEASE EXPLAIN – Niall Racing's Please Explain jogged once around before the renovation break for trainer Tom Proctor.
Please Explain drew post position one for the Oaks and will be ridden by Jose Lezcano.
RIA ANTONIA – Christopher Dunn and Loooch Racing Stable's Ria Antonia
jogged Wednesday during her return to the track after she breezed a half-mile in :47.70 Monday morning.
The Rockport Harbor filly was transferred to trainer Bob Baffert's care over the winter following her victory via disqualification in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) for New York trainer Jeremiah Englehart. In her lone start for Baffert, she was second to Fashion Plate in the Santa Anita Oaks (GI).
"She came to me in really great shape. I really can't take any credit for that," Baffert said. "She won the Breeders' Cup and I'm trying to keep her at that level. It's a very tough race. There are some really good fillies in there, like Untapable and Rosalind. It's a strong field.
"Since I've had her, she's probably doing the best. She seems to like the track. She just needs to get away from the gate a little bit better than last time and just get in her groove. She's got a certain groove that she needs to be in. I put blinkers back on here because I think she needs them. I tried without blinkers last time and she wasn't quite as aggressive as I wanted her, but she got beat by a nice filly."
ROSALIND – Landaluce Educe Stables' Rosalind galloped 1 1/2 miles, starting from the eighth-pole and looping around the Churchill Downs oval before finishing at the five-eighths pole. A planned visit to the starting gate was abandoned when the Broken Vow filly refused to cooperate.
"We pulled the plug on that," trainer Kenny McPeek said. "She just gets balky. After she pulls up from the gallop she wants to come home. We want to take her to the gate but she wants to go the other way."
Regular exercise rider Danny Ramsey will attempt another gate visit Thursday, this time with an outrider alongside to coax and educate.
"She's done it a few races in a row and I'm not sure why she does it," McPeek said. "We haven't quite figured it out but as long as she's doing everything else right..."
Rosalind's antics didn't seem to impact her effort last time out, when she dead-heated for a win in Keeneland's Ashland Stakes (GI).
"She's a quiet filly and she's all class," McPeek said. "The only trouble we ever have with her is going to the gate."
Rosalind will school in the paddock during Wednesday's seventh race.
SUGAR SHOCK – On Cloud Nine LLC's Sugar Shock galloped 1 ½ miles after the renovation break under Seth VanDyke.
"We let her stretch her legs a little through the stretch," trainer Doug Anderson said.
Sugar Shock has been at Churchill Downs for more than two weeks since winning the Fantasy (GIII) at Oaklawn Park and Anderson has liked what he has seen.
"There have been no bumps at all," Anderson said. "She hasn't missed an oat or any training."
Calvin Borel, who won the Oaks in 2009 aboard Rachel Alexandra, has the mount on Sugar Shock and will break from post position three.
"That's all right," Anderson said of the draw in the 13-horse field. "A good spot."
THANK YOU MARYLOU – Trainer Mike Maker sees Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Thank You Marylou as a possible stalker in the Kentucky Oaks on Friday.
"It looks like there's plenty of speed in there, not looking at it closely,'' Maker said Wednesday. "I just think she'll be maintaining a stalking position.''
Thank You Marylou, who will be ridden by Julien Leparoux, will break from the No. 5 post position in the 13-filly field.
Maker said he doesn't expect the Oaks crowd to bother Thank You Marylou. "She's been good about everything, so I don't see any problems with it,'' Maker said.
The filly galloped Wednesday under exercise rider Joel Barrientos.
UNBRIDLED FOREVER – Charles Fipke's Unbridled Forever galloped Wednesday morning under exercise rider Pedro Velez, and trainer Dallas Stewart planned to school her in the paddock in the afternoon.
"She's got a really good mind,'' Stewart said. "She's nice that way.''
Unbridled Forever typically behaves well in the paddock, Stewart said, and he doesn't expect her to have issues with the crowd on Oaks Day.
Breaking on Unbridled Forever from the No. 9 post position, jockey Robby Albarado will have options, Stewart said. "She's real easy to ride, looks to be a rateable, kind filly,'' he said. "She can go either way – press the pace, lay back. It doesn't matter.''
UNTAPABLE – Winchell Thoroughbreds' Untapable, the 4-5 morning line favorite for Friday's Kentucky Oaks, visited the starting gate Wednesday around 7:30 a.m. and then enjoyed a light 3/4-mile jog from the head of the stretch to the half-mile pole over the muddy main track.
"Just looking to be very relaxed," trainer Steve Asmussen said. "Little bit sticky going this morning and just wanted her to come back in and stay happy."
Untapable schooled in the paddock during Tuesday's fifth race and never completely settled down.
"She'll go back over there today," Asmussen said. "Hopefully this will be it for her."
During the schooling session, Team Asmussen saddled the filly with the same Oaks saddle towel she'll wear Friday, as well as tack nearly identical to what jockey Rosie Napravnik will use in the race.
"We do school with an elastic girth and a jock's saddle," Asmussen explained. "If you're going to school, you know, simulate what's going to happen."
Untapable drew the outside post 13, a spot of debatable consequence.
"You don't know if a draw's good until after the race runs," Asmussen said. "So many times you can think, oh, that's a perfect spot for one when they draw, and then they get eliminated at the start or they step back when they kick it (open the gates) or just something of their own doing or something around them affects them. If she's away cleanly, finds herself a nice spot going into the first turn, you can see how it's ideal. If somebody blows the turn and takes her into the parking lot, then it's not the spot to be!"
Napravnik, an Oaks winner in 2012 (Believe You Can), has the return mount after piloting Untapable to a perfect two-for-two record in 2014 with dominant wins in the Rachel Alexandra Stakes (GIII) and Fair Grounds Oaks (GII).
"I've been watching her train every morning and she looks just unbelievable," Napravnik said. "She's doing everything exactly the right way. She's just always been improving since the first race that she ran."