Zayat Stables’ El Kabeir and WinStar Farm and Stonestreet Stables’ Carpe Diem arrived at Churchill Downs early this morning for Saturday’s $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI). Arriving shortly after 10 o’clock from the nearby Trackside training center was Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s International Star, who took up residence in Barn 27.
Trained by John Terranova, El Kabeir was making his second trip here, having first made the journey in November to win the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) under Calvin Borel. Borel, a three-time Kentucky Derby-winning rider, will have the mount Saturday. El Kabeir is housed in Barn 33.
Blue Grass Stakes (GI) winner Carpe Diem joined the remainder of trainer Todd Pletcher’s Derby roster at Barn 40.
Scheduled to arrive later Monday from Arlington in Chicago is Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s Mubtaahij (IRE). Trained by Michael de Kock, Mubtaahij won the UAE Derby (GII) in his most recent start.
The lone horse under Kentucky Derby consideration to work Monday was Bold Conquest, who covered five furlongs in 1:01.80. Bold Conquest would need two defections from horses under consideration for the race to gain a spot in the starting gate.
On the Kentucky Oaks front, trainer Bob Baffert said that Maybellene, owned by his wife Jill, and Kaleem Shah’s Luminance likely would not be entered Tuesday for Friday’s $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI). The likely defections would open a spot in the starting gate for Charles Fipke’s Forever Unbridled and George and Lori Hall’s Money’soncharlotte, who is currently training at Monmouth Park.
Maybellene had worked a half-mile in :48.80 after the break Monday morning. Earlier, before the break, Luminance worked five furlongs in 1:02.80.
The draw for the Kentucky Oaks will take place at 11 a.m. Tuesday in the Parlay/Media Center’s media briefing room. The draw will be streamed online at kentuckyderby.com/watch/pressconferences.
KENTUCKY DERBY NOTES
AMERICAN PHAROAH/DORTMUND – Zayat Stable’s American Pharoah had an easy Monday morning the day after turning in a sizzling five-furlong workout in :58.40. The Arkansas Derby (GI) winner’s exercise consisted of walking the shedrow at trainer Bob Baffert’s barn.
Owner-breeder Ahmed Zayat and his son, Justin, spent part of the morning doing interviews at Baffert’s barn before driving to the Lexington area to visit some of the family stable’s bloodstock. Justin serves as the stable’s racing manager and said the horses have brought him and his father closer together.
“It became a great bond for us,” he said. “We both found something of mutual interest that we bond over. All day we’re talking horses, me and him. Every single moment of the day we’re talking, we’re debating, we fight, we argue. But at the same time we kind of balance each other out and it causes us to make good business decisions at the end of the day.”
There is no question in the Zayat family about who is in charge and has the final say. “For sure, he’s my boss,” Justin said. “He’s my boss, my mentor, everything to me.”
Kaleem Shah’s unbeaten colt Dortmund was given a leisurely tour of the racing surface Monday morning. Jimmy Barnes, assistant to Baffert, rode the pony and held on to Dortmund shank for a jog the wrong way - clockwise - around the oval. Dortmund, who shipped from California on Sunday, was returning to the track for the first time since he won an allowance race over it on Nov. 29.
Oddsmaker Mike Battaglia has said that Dortmund, a tall animal who measures 17 hands and weighs 1,280 pounds, will be the second choice on the morning line to his Baffert stablemate American Pharoah. Baffert holds a very strong hand for Derby 141 as he tries for his fourth victory in the Derby.
“I’m glad I have them both on my roster,” Baffert said.
Dortmund is an imposing specimen, who has shown that he is gritty, fast and nimble while winning the first six starts of this career.
“I remember that one of my owners wanted to run against him in a stake,” Baffert said. “He said, ‘How would you compare my horse to Dortmund?’ I said, If you were here outside my office and I brought Dortmund out, you would say, ‘why are we running against him?’ He’s just a big, tall horse with a stride. He has speed. He’s really, really fast.”
Dortmund, named after the German professional soccer club team Borussia Dortmund, won the Santa Anita Derby (GI) by a 4 1/2 lengths on April 4.
“It’s a fun time to have a horse like that,” Baffert said. “Kaleem Shah has waited a long time for horses like that. He’s been on a roll lately with Bayern and now him.”
Baffert said that Dortmund is a versatile type who can handle different race scenarios. In Baffert’s view, Dortmund showed his toughness when he rallied to beat Firing Line in the Robert B. Lewis on Feb. 7.
“He can go fast early and smaller horses are trying to keep up with him,” Baffert said. “He’s doing it easy and they give up. Firing Line is the one who came to him and gave him a pretty good scare. It was a great race. When he came back and fought him off he really showed that he has a lot of determination. He’s got a lot of heart and wants to win. He’ll need that.”
Though Dortmund is taller and weighs more than most of the horses he will be facing Saturday, Baffert said, “This guy is lanky. He’s built sort of like a greyhound.”
And Baffert gladly wrapped his arms around a basketball analogy.
“He’s the center, yeah,” Baffert said. “He can dunk.”
BOLD CONQUEST – The Ackerley Brothers Farm’s Bold Conquest worked five furlongs Monday in 1:01.80 under exercise rider Abel Flores for trainer Steve Asmussen. The workout was the ninth fastest of 32 workouts at the distance. Bold Conquest’s fractions were :13.20, :25.40, :37.60, :49.60 and out six furlongs in 1:16. The colt worked in company with Gold Hawk after the renovation break.
“He went nice,’’ Asmussen said. “He goes over the track good. Nice and smooth. Handled nice.’’
BOLO – Golden Pegasus Racing and Earle Mack’s Bolo got his first feel for Churchill Downs Monday morning when he visited the paddock and took a one-mile jog around the track during the 8:30-8:45 a.m. training session set aside for Kentucky Derby and Oaks runners.
The Temple City colt had jetted in from his Southern California headquarters Sunday and bedded down at Barn 45 with his groom, Daniel Marquez, and exercise rider, Tony Rubalcaba, along to be sure all was well. Marquez reported that his charge had shipped very well. “He’s a happy horse,” he said.
Rubalcaba noted that he “handled it all well” when the Kentucky-bred sophomore came off the track following his tour. Bolo, who’ll be ridden Saturday by California’s top rider, Rafael Bejarano, will be reunited with his trainer, Carla Gaines, Tuesday morning. The California-based conditioner will fly in from Los Angeles Monday afternoon.
CARPE DIEM/ITSAKNOCKOUT/MATERIALITY/STANFORD – The Todd Pletcher barn at Churchill Downs was back to its full complement of Derby horses Monday with the 5:20 a.m. arrival of WinStar Farm and Stonestreet Stable’s Carpe Diem from Keeneland by van. The Giant’s Causeway colt, a multiple-stakes winner of four of five starts, simply had a morning of walking around Barn 40 after having put in his final Kentucky Derby prep (:48.60) Saturday morning in Lexington, then jogging there Sunday.
Stanford, the Louisiana Derby runner-up who is owned by the partnership of Stonestreet Stables, Mrs. John Magnier, Derrick Smith and Michael Tabor, went to the track with the stable’s first set shortly after 6 a.m. with exercise rider Isabelle Bourez as his pilot. He galloped a mile and one half strongly, making the Frenchwoman earn all of her keep. “Oh, boy,” Bourez said afterward. “He made me work hard today. I didn’t want him to go fast and he was pulling hard.”
Pletcher noted that the issue of a rider for Stanford still had not been resolved, but that there was to be “a pow wow this afternoon with all the owners on the phone and we’ll see if we can’t get it sorted out there.”
Bourez was back on board Starlight Racing’s Itsaknockout at 8:30 as he joined stablemate Materiality (handled by exercise rider Carlos Cano) for their continuing Derby preparations. The pair visited the starting gate where Pletcher oversaw the colts entering and standing in the stalls, then watched them gallop 12 furlongs with other Derby and Kentucky Oaks trainees.
Materiality, who flies the silks of Alto Racing, will be handled in Saturday’s Derby 141 by Javier Castellano. Itsaknockout gets the saddle services of Luis Saez, who has ridden him in all four of his previous starts. Carpe Diem will get his regular guy – John Velazquez – for his run. The Hall of Fame rider has been aboard for all of the chestnut colt’s earlier outings.
Pletcher was asked for his assessment of his Derby stock five days in front of their dates in the Run for the Roses.
Using his thumb and index finger to make a zero and allowing his other three fingers to go straight up in the classic “A-OK” sign, the conditioner stated “We’re all good.”
DANZIG MOON – John Oxley’s Danzig Moon galloped 1 ½ miles under exercise rider William Cano for trainer Mark Casse after the morning renovation break.
Casse arrived in Louisville last night from Ocala where he had been attending sales.
“He looked good this morning,” Casse said. “I have been watching him every morning when the works are streamed online.”
Danzig Moon will be Casse’s third Derby starter. Seaside Retreat finished 10th in 2006 behind Barbaro and Prospective was 18th in 2012 behind I’ll Have Another.
“This is a great Derby with a lot of tough horses,” said Casse, who saw his first Derby in person in 1972 when Riva Ridge got the roses. “But this is home for him and now they have to come play in his house.
“Seaside Retreat actually ran pretty well. He got beat by about 10 lengths but Barbaro won by six. Prospective was kind of an overachiever and he got wiped out at the start by Hansen.”
Casse likes his chances this time around with Danzig Moon, who was second to Carpe Diem in the Blue Grass Stakes (GI) in his most recent start.
“We’ve felt that he is a special horse from Day One,” Casse said. “It has just taken him a long time to prove. It would be nice if he showed it Saturday. In terms of raw talent, he has more than Seaside Retreat and Prospective.”
EL KABEIR – Zayat Stables’ El Kabeir arrived at Churchill Downs a little after 4 a.m. Monday following a 13-hour van ride from New York.
“He looks like he shipped really well,” said trainer John Terranova, whose Kentucky Derby hopeful walked Monday morning. “Everybody’s happy. The horse is happy. We look forward to a good week and enjoying it.”
Shipping to Kentucky from New York was not a new experience for El Kabeir, who ventured to Churchill Downs last fall. The son of Scat Daddy left Churchill Downs with a victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) on his resume.
“He was here in the fall. We shipped him in Thanksgiving week and everything worked out well,” Terranova said. “He’s gotten over the track, shipped in, been here, so there are no concerns there.”
El Kabeir went right to the front under Calvin Borel in the 1 1/16-mile Kentucky Jockey Club and held on to win by a head.
“International Star (fourth) was in there and he went and swept everything in New Orleans, so that’s a good thing,” said Terranova, whose trainee will be reunited with Borel for the Kentucky Derby.
El Kabeir is stabled with Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s Churchill string that includes likely Kentucky Derby favorite American Pharoah, who is also owned by Zayat Stables, and Dortmund, who have generated a lot of media activity around Barn 33.
“We do the same for Bob when he ships to New York,” said Terranova, whose stable star has won the Jerome (GIII) and the Gotham (GIII) and finished third in the Wood Memorial (GI) this year. “I don’t think any of this will bother him. He’s got a great mind. I don’t think he’s going to worry about any of the stuff going on this week. We just want to keep him happy.”
FAR RIGHT – Harry Rosenblum and Robert LaPenta’s Far Right galloped 1 ½ miles after the renovation break with exercise rider Laura Moquett aboard for her husband, trainer Ron Moquett.
“He went at a two-minute clip this morning and never took a deep breath,” Laura Moquett said.
Far Right picked up 62 points on the road to the Kentucky Derby, a total that ranks him 10th. The first two points came with a third-place finish in the Delta Downs Jackpot (GIII) in November.
“I started getting on him at the Delta Jackpot,” Moquett said. “I found him to be super focused and very athletic. He is relentless and he never, ever quits.
“When he got to Oaklawn (where he won the Smarty Jones and Southwest and ran second in the Arkansas Derby), he really blossomed.”
Moquett was cautiously optimistic about the colt’s future without going overboard.
“It seems like a lot of times when you get real high on one, they never pan out,” Moquett said. “You have to show quality to belong in a race like this.”
FIRING LINE – Arnold Zetcher’s Firing Line did some jogging Monday morning at Churchill Downs, going nice and easy once around the main track with exercise rider Humberto Gomez in the tack during the 8:30-8:45 Derby/Oaks training period.
The colt by the Lion Heart stallion Line of David had been flown to Louisville from his Southern California headquarters Sunday. Besides Gomez, the Sunland Derby winner also had assistant trainer Carlos Santamaria in his camp as they await the arrival of head trainer Simon Callaghan from Santa Anita on Tuesday.
As Firing Line was readied for his jog, his Derby rider – Hall of Famer Gary Stevens – stopped by the barn to check on the bay. Stevens was asked just how much he liked Firing Line. “I like him quite a bit,” the 52-year-old jockey said with a smile.
FRAMMENTO – Mossarosa’s Frammento galloped Monday morning at Keeneland under exercise rider Juan Bernardini for trainer Nick Zito.
Standing 21st on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard, Frammento will need one defection before entry time Wednesday of horses under consideration for the race to make the field.
Zito plans to have Frammento train at Keeneland tomorrow morning and then ship to Churchill Downs later in the day.
FROSTED – Godolphin Racing’s Frosted galloped a mile and three eighths at Palm Meadows Training Center in Boynton Beach, Fla., Monday morning in preparation for a start in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. The Wood Memorial winner is scheduled to fly to Louisville Tuesday.
“He’ll gallop in the morning about a mile and three-eighths and he’ll get on a plane at noon,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “He’ll arrive at Churchill and gallop the next few days.”
McLaughlin expressed complete satisfaction with Frosted’s winter of preparation for the Triple Crown campaign.
“It couldn’t have gone better. Everything has gone perfectly,” he said. “It’s going to be a tough race. I just hope he draws a decent post position, but he couldn’t be doing any better.”
INTERNATIONAL STAR – Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Louisiana Derby (GII) winner and Road to the Kentucky Derby points leader (171) International Star had an easy jog around 6 a.m. at the nearby Trackside training center before vanning to Churchill Downs around 10 a.m. The New York-bred son of 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus will reside in Barn 27 for the remainder of this week.
International Star has been ridden in each of his starts this year by Miguel Mena, who is annually among the leading riders at Fair Grounds. Together, International Star and Mena swept all three of the Road to the Kentucky Derby prep races in New Orleans – the Lecomte Stakes (GIII), the Risen Star Stakes (GII) and the Louisiana Derby (GII).
“International Star is a good horse,” Mena said between workers this morning. “The good thing about him is he handles everything. He doesn’t mind traffic, dirt, he has tactical speed to get a good position. He has everything. I just hope we have a good trip so I can be in a good spot at the quarter-pole with a clear shot to make a run.”
Mena and International Star had an ideal ground-saving trip in the Louisiana Derby. In the earlier stakes, however, the colt overcame different types of traffic trouble and still won impressively. The Lecomte showed off International Star’s ability to wait behind horses and then shift gears on a dime, while in the Risen Star he demonstrated a willingness to go up the rail through tight quarters without hesitation.
“He was stuck behind some horses on the rail and he didn’t mind it,” Mena said. “He came through a pretty tight hole. He gets out of trouble quick and he has a quick turn of foot. A little hole opens and he goes and that’s a real advantage for the Derby.”
Mena was aboard for International Star’s final official work in advance of the Derby, a half-mile in :50.80, in company.
“He was full of himself and he wanted to do more than we did,” Mena said. “He felt very strong. He was pulling pretty good going to the pole, pretty fresh. It didn’t take anything out of him. He went with company and back at the barn the company was blowing but my horse was like he didn’t even gallop.”
Even though International Star stamped himself as a serious Derby contender as far back as January, he’s continued to progress steadily, according to Mena, and appears primed for a peak effort Saturday when it matters most.
“He feels a lot better and a lot stronger,” Mena said. “This horse keeps improving and the groom and the exercise rider also say he’s better than ever. He likes to win, this horse. He showed it the last time when he was tested by a nice horse of (Todd) Pletcher’s (Stanford, the second-place finisher) with an easy pace in front and he ran him down.”
Mena, a 28-year-old native of Lima, Peru, with more than 1,500 career wins, is also a regular rider at Churchill Downs. He cracked the top five in the standings at the 2013 Fall Meet and usually finds himself in or near the top 10. He has two career Grade I victories – the 2010 Test Stakes at Saratoga with Champagne d’Oro and the 2011 Stephen Foster at Churchill Downs aboard Pool Play, the longest shot in the field that evening at 36-1.
In his only previous Kentucky Derby appearance, Mena finished 20th aboard longshot Backtalk in 2010.
KEEN ICE – Donegal Racing’s Keen Ice galloped two miles Monday under exercise rider Faustino Aguilar after the renovation break in the colt’s first training session since working five furlongs Saturday in 1:01.60.
Keen Ice will be the sixth Derby starter for trainer Dale Romans, a Louisville native. His best Derby finishes were third places with Paddy O’Prado in 2010 and Dullahan in 2012, both owned by Donegal. “It’s hard to compare any of them,’’ Romans said. “They all have their own little traits. They’ve all been big, strong horses that I knew could get the mile and a quarter.’’
Keen Ice is a late runner, like Paddy O’Prado and Dullahan. In the Derby in 2011, Romans ran front-runner Shackleford, who set the pace before finishing fourth. Two weeks later, he won the Preakness. “Shackleford, his question was could he get the distance?’’ Romans said. “He was the only one I ran (in the Derby) where I wondered if he could. (Keen Ice) fits right in there with Dullahan and Paddy O’Prado.’’
Romans said he’s pleased with how Keen Ice is training for the race. “I think he’s absolutely perfect,’’ Romans said. “It’s just a matter of getting the right trip. We know he doesn’t control the race. He doesn’t have the speed. If they go fast early and they’re backing up, he’ll be right there at the end.’’
MR. Z – Zayat Stables’ Mr. Z., with exercise rider Edvin Vargas aboard, had a routine morning, galloping after the renovation break and schooling in the paddock. “I’m going to take him to the paddock every day,’’ trainer D. Wayne Lukas said.
Lukas acknowledged that he’s “completely off’’ the radar for this Derby, in which Mr. Z will be a longshot. “It makes it easier in some ways,’’ he said. “But I roll with it pretty good anyhow. I’ve always enjoyed it. I’ve always enjoyed the camaraderie with (the media). It doesn’t make any difference. I’ve been involved with the Derby when I didn’t have a horse. Like last year, I did interviews all morning long, tell them about the other guys.’’
Lukas recalled winning the Derby with horses off the radar, bringing up Grindstone (1996) and Charismatic (1999) as examples.
In 1996, Grindstone, one of five Lukas-trained horses in the race, was part of an entry with Editor’s Note that went off at 5.90-1. In 1999, Lukas ran Charismatic, who was a 31-1 shot, and Cat Thief, who finished third at 7-1. “I thought Charismatic was the better horse, and yet the perception was he wasn’t. … I bet on Charismatic. I didn’t bet on (Cat Thief).’’
Lukas said he didn’t expect Grindstone to run as well he did. “Grindstone was on nobody’s radar screen,’’ Lukas said. “I thought he was the lesser of the bunch.’’
Back then, there wasn’t a training period reserved for Derby and Oaks horses, and Lukas took his Derby horses to the track soon after it opened. “Everybody accused me of hiding them,’’ said Lukas, who confirmed, with a laugh, that he wouldn’t do such a thing.
MUBTAAHIJ – UAE Derby (GII) winner Mubtaahij (IRE) cantered two laps around Arlington’s Polytrack surface under exercise rider Lisa Moncrieff this morning and left the Chicago track at 10 a.m. Central time on a van ride to Churchill Downs with an anticipated arrival of 6 p.m. The Michael de Kock-trained colt will be housed in Barn 42. There will be a media opportunity with de Kock Tuesday at 10:15 a.m. in the Parlay / Media Center’s media briefing room.
OCHO OCHO OCHO – DP Racing LLC’s Delta Jackpot (GIII) winner Ocho Ocho Ocho did not visit the Churchill Downs track today and had a laid-back morning at Barn 41 instead.
“We just walked today,” said Matt Williams, assistant and exercise rider for trainer Jim Cassidy. “He’ll be back to the track tomorrow. We just gave him a day off but he’s doing really good and is happy as can be right now.”
Cassidy, reached in California before his flight to Louisville this afternoon, said that a day off from the rigors of training is good for a horse. The trainer will fly to Louisville this afternoon and be on track Tuesday morning to watch Ocho Ocho Ocho gallop before making a decision on possibly working Wednesday. “I’m going to take a good look at him and decide then,” Cassidy said. “He got the race he needed in the Blue Grass, as far as fitness is concerned.”
TENCENDUR – Monday was a day off for Phil Birsh’s Tencendur, the runner-up in the Wood Memorial (G1) on April 4. The massive New York-bred colt worked five furlongs in a bullet 1:00 Saturday. The week before a race trainer George Weaver reverses the program used by many horsesmen, jogs his horses the day after a workout and then gives them a day of rest before returning to training.
Tencendur didn’t go near the track Monday. “He did absolutely nothing,” Weaver said. “We just walked him and grazed him.”
Weaver is pleased with the way the colt is doing as he prepares for America’s biggest race. “So far, everything is going according to plan,” Weaver said. “He worked fine. He’s eating and healthy. Hopefully he’ll stay that way between now and Saturday and we’ll get a chance to run.”
UPSTART – Ralph M. Evans and WinStar Farm’s Upstart galloped at Palm Meadows Training Center Monday morning before a taking a scheduled flight to Louisville Tuesday.
Upstart ran three times at Gulfstream Park in preparation for a Kentucky Derby start, winning the Holy Bull (GII), finishing first in the Fountain of Youth (GII), only to be disqualified and place second, and finished second behind Derby hopeful Materiality in the Florida Derby (GI).
Upstart turned in a bullet half-mile workout at Palm Meadows on Saturday after missing a couple days of training with a sinus infection. “Other than a little blip in the screen from the sinus infection, everything couldn’t have turned out better,” trainer Rick Violette said.
WAR STORY – Loooch Racing Stables, Glenn Ellis and Christopher Dunn’s War Story galloped 1 ½ miles under exercise rider Marvin Orantes after the renovation break for trainer Tom Amoss.
Amoss said the colt would have a similar exercise Tuesday along with a trip to the starting gate.
War Story will represent the fourth Kentucky Derby starter for Amoss, whose best result came in 2013 with Mylute who finished fifth in the Derby and followed that with a third-place finish in the Preakness.
“I got caught up in the moment,” Amoss said of his first Derby in 2003 with Lone Star Sky, who finished 15th behind Funny Cide. “I felt pressure to have him look good in the morning. I probably didn’t do the best job of preparing him because I wanted him to do well in the work. If Lone Star Sky was here in 2015, he probably wouldn’t run.”
But War Story will.
“I think he is pretty similar to Mylute,” Amoss said. “They are fringe players and their styles are a bit similar. Both have eye-catching moves, but they have not sustained them into a big win.”
KENTUCKY OAKS NOTES
ANGELA RENEE/ESKENFORMONEY – The two Longines Kentucky Oaks fillies who race out of trainer Todd Pletcher’s Churchill Downs barn – Siena Farm’s Angela Renee and Star Ladies Racing’s Eskenformoney – continued their preparations for the nine-furlong Friday race with trips to the starting gate and strong gallops Monday morning at the Louisville oval.
Angela Renee, who was partnered by exercise rider Adele Bellenger, and Eskenformoney with Ezequiel Perez in the tack were out during the special 8:30-8:45 training session for Derby/Oaks contenders. They were joined by Pletcher at the starting gate for short stand-in-the-stall sessions, then galloped roughly a mile and one half on a crisp, clear morning.
Angela Renee, who once again will have Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez on her back for the $1 million Oaks, shows two wins, two seconds and two thirds from eight starts – with earnings of $447,000 -- on her current resume. Eskenformoney, who never has been off the board in nine lifetime outings, will be handled by Javier Castellano.
BIRDATTHEWIRE – Forum Racing’s Gulfstream Park Oaks (GII) winner Birdatthewire walked the shedrow for trainer Dale Romans for the second consecutive day since she worked five furlongs Saturday in 1:01.20. Romans said she’ll return to the track Tuesday. “I need two days off for her after her work,’’ he said. “She’s a little, light filly.’’
CONDO COMMANDO – Trainer Rudy Rodriguez liked how Condo Commando felt underneath him Monday morning as they galloped 1 3/8 miles during training period reserved for Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks runners.
“She looked like she was very full of herself today,” Rodriguez, a former jockey, said. “Let’s keep it that way. She was a little more aggressive. She’s usually aggressive, but today we started ahead of another horses and I think she was feeling that horse behind. She galloped very good.”
Condo Commano, owned by Michael Dubb, Bethlehem Stables and The Elkstone Group, will be ridden by Joel Rosario.
FOREVER UNBRIDLED – Charles Fipke’s Forever Unbridled galloped a mile and three-eighths Monday under exercise rider Emerson Chavez for trainer Dallas Stewart, who remains hopeful that the filly, who stands 15th on the Oaks points list, will find a position in the starting gate.
Forever Unbridled, who has won one of five starts, has run in three stakes, all at Fair Grounds. She finished second in the Silverbulletday and third in both the Rachel Alexandra (GIII) and Fair Grounds Oaks (GII). I’m a Chatterbox won all three of those races.
“They’re solid, the ones she’s been running against,’’ Stewart said. “That form has held up just great. She’s got to be a couple of lengths better for sure to win.’’
In the Silverbulletday, Forever Unbridled finished eight lengths behind I’m a Chatterbox. In the Rachel Alexandra, Forever Unbridled finished 2 ¾ lengths behind the winner and was a neck behind runner-up Lovely Maria, who went on to win the Ashland (GI) in her next start. Also, Angela Renee, who was fourth in the Rachel Alexandra, went on to finish second in the Ashland. In the Fair Grounds Oaks, Forever Unbridled finished 2 ½ lengths behind I’m a Chatterbox and length behind runner-up Shook Up.
Stewart said that Unbridled Forever is showing signs that she’s maturing. “She’s progressed,’’ Stewart said. “You look at her work tab, she’s right there. She was three of 30 the other day, nice and easy. (He was referring to a five-furlong workout Friday in 1:01, the third fastest of 30 workouts that day at the distance.) She’s doing well. She’s eating well. She’s carrying herself well – everything that we like to see. She’s sound.’’
I’M A CHATTERBOX/LOVELY MARIA – Grayson Farm’s Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) heroine I’m a Chatterbox and Brereton Jones’ Ashland Stakes (GI) winner Lovely Maria walked the shedrow a day after posting five-furlong breezes.
“They’re really doing well,” trainer Larry Jones reported as his fillies circled Barn 43 around 7:30 a.m. “Everything looks really good for us right now.”
A two-time winner of the Kentucky Oaks with Proud Spell (2008) and Believe You Can (2012), Jones knows more than most when it comes to high-class fillies. His other top females include legends like the ill-fated Eight Belles, winner of three consecutive stakes before her game but fatal second in the 2008 Kentucky Derby, and Havre de Grace, the 2011 Horse of the Year and Champion Older Mare who won three Grade I events and beat top older males in the Woodward (GI).
“I get more fillies than I do colts,” Jones said of what his owners tend to purchase. “Beyond that I really don’t know why we’ve had such good success with fillies. But I’m not going to look a gift horse in the mouth! The fillies just seem like they want to dominate.”
In this year’s deep and competitive renewal of the Kentucky Oaks, one advantage Jones thinks he has is the tractability of his tandem.
“My strongest suit in this race will be that neither horse is one-dimensional,” Jones said. “Both horses have gone to the lead and won from the lead, but both will stalk to win and Chatterbox has even come from dead last to win. We don’t have to play our cards instantly. We can make the race fit us instead of us having to fit the race.”
INCLUDE BETTY – Brereton Jones and Timothy Thornton’s Fantasy Stakes (GIII) winner Include Betty was out early during training hours for some light exercise. “I’m sure she just galloped or jogged,” Thornton said. “She doesn’t need much by now.”
Jockey Rosemary Homeister Jr. reported that all was well with her Kentucky Oaks mount when she stopped by trainer Tom Proctor’s barn mid-morning to say hello and feed a few peppermints to the chestnut filly.
LUMINANCE/MAYBELLENE – After his two prospects worked Monday morning, trainer Bob Baffert said he was not likely to enter Kaleem Shah’s Luminance or Jill Baffert’s Maybellene in the race.
“I might not run a horse in the Oaks,” he said. “I worked them today. I wasn’t really sure; I wanted to see how they worked. It’s a tough Oaks and I might not enter a horse in the Oaks.”
Luminance covered five furlongs in 1:02.80, which was the 22nd fastest time of the 32 at the distance, and Maybellene, working in company with Lord Nelson, covered a half-mile in :48.80, ninth of 35 at the distance.
“The works were OK, but I don’t know if they are ready for that yet,” Baffert said. “There are a lot of races coming up. I wanted to get them here and watch them train. They are doing well, but I want to be in a more competitive (situation). It’s a really strong Oaks field. I’ll pick some other spots for them.”
Luminance has made three career starts and in her most recent outing was second by 5 1/2 lengths in the Santa Anita Oaks (G1). Maybellene has won three of 10 starts. She finished second in the Sunland Park Oaks but was moved to first by the disqualification of stablemate Callback.
OCEANWAVE – Gary and Mary West’s Oceanwave jogged around the Churchill Downs track Monday morning in preparation for a start in Friday’s Kentucky Oaks (GI). “She jogged today. She’ll gallop tomorrow,” trainer Wayne Catalano said.
Oceanwave, who finished a late-closing third in her debut last September at Churchill Downs, is coming off a pair of second-place finishes at Oaklawn Park in Honeybee (GIII) and Fantasy (GIII), both at 1 1/16 miles. “I think she’s a filly who’s going to love a mile-and-an-eighth in the Oaks,” Catalano said.
PUCA – Donegal Racing’s Puca went to the racetrack at Churchill Downs following the renovation break Monday morning to prepare for a scheduled start in Friday’s Kentucky Oaks. “She had a strong gallop this morning,” said Kenny McCarthy, assistant to trainer Bill Mott, who observed the morning activity before driving to Lexington.
SARAH SIS – Joe Ragsdale’s Sarah Sis had a schooling session in the little starting gate in the mile chute and then had an easy gallop under exercise rider Jesus Esquivel after the Monday morning renovation break.
Trainer Ingrid Mason is trying to keep things as routine as normal for her first Oaks appearance as she readies Honeybee (GIII) winner Sarah Sis.
“I brought seven horses down (from Chicago) and I have one more coming in,” Mason said. “The challenge is getting ready to be in a race like this. This is not a regular race. Horses are creatures of habit and if you keep a routine, they stay relaxed.
“We are all a family here and I have about half my barn here. They know me and how I do things and most importantly, they have my back.”
Gary Stevens, a two-time Oaks-winning rider, will have the mount Friday.
SHOOK UP – Regis Racing’s Shook Up walked in the shedrow the day after working a half-mile in 49.60 seconds for trainer Steve Asmussen. “(She) came out of it in really good shape,’’ Asmussen said.
STELLAR WIND – Hronis Racing’s dominant Santa Anita Oaks (GI) winner Stellar Wind got her first taste of the Churchill Downs surface right after the track opened this morning, jogging an easy one mile from the five-eighths pole under Ricardo Peniche, longtime exercise rider for trainer John Sadler.
“She jogged really nice, relaxed,” Peniche said. “No problems. She’s been relaxed and is very good. She handled the track good. She’s sharp but she handled it really nice. We are very excited about her. She’s been training great and she’s got our hopes up.”
Peniche was last at Churchill Downs in 1988 to gallop Olympic Prospect in advance of a seventh-place finish for Sadler in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI). Sadler arrives at Churchill Downs on Tuesday.