Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s International Star, whose victory in the Louisiana Derby (Grade II) completed a sweep of Fair Grounds’ trio of Kentucky Derby prep races, took a brief van ride to Churchill Downs Saturday for a five-furlong work over the one-mile dirt course that will host the 141st Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands in two weeks.
Jockey Miguel Mena was in the saddle as the New York-bred son of 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus worked in company with stablemate Dreams Cut Short and covered five furlongs over fast footing in 1:01.80. International Star’s final time for the distance ranked 34th among 58 works at the distance. His workmate was timed in 1:02.60.
Internal fractions for International Star were timed in :12.40, :25 and :37.20 and he galloped out six furlongs in 1:15.
“It was a pretty routine work for him,” trainer Mike Maker said. “We were looking for a strong gallop-out and he gave it to us.”
After the work, International Star shipped back to Maker’s regular training base at Trackside training center, which is located four miles from Churchill Downs. The colt is scheduled to return on Monday or Tuesday to take up residence in Barn 27 and train at Churchill Downs through the Derby. Maker followed roughly the same schedule last year with the Ramseys’ Vicar’s In Trouble.
International Star’s 171 points leads the Road to the Kentucky Derby standings that will determine the 20 horses that will compete in the 1 ¼-mile classic on the first Saturday in May. Despite his impressive point total, the colt is likely to be a relative outsider in Derby 141 and Maker is eager to see where his horse fits in what many observers regard as a strong Derby field.
"I think it’s an outstanding Derby,” Maker said. “One trait about him is he’s going to give your 120 percent. Whether that’s good enough or not, we don’t know.”
International Star’s 2015 victories in the Louisiana Derby, Risen Star (GII) and LeComte (GIII) have lifted his career record to 5-2-0 in nine races and a bankroll of $1,010,979.
DANZIG MOON SIZZLES IN FIVE FURLONG WORK FOR KENTUCKY DERBY 141
John C. Oxley’s Danzig Moon, runner-up to Carpe Diem in the recent Toyota Blue Grass (GI) at Keeneland, turned in a sizzling five-furlong breeze in :58 over a fast track at Churchill Downs in his first serious training move since the April 4 race.
The Kentucky Derby contender had jockey Julien Leparoux in the saddle when Churchill Downs clockers timed him in internal fracdtions of :11.40, :22.40, :34 and :45.60. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:12.20. Danzig Moon’s gallop-out time for three-quarters of a mile was faster than the work turned in by fellow Derby hopeful Keen Ice, who was timed in 1:13.20 in the only official six-furlong work of the Saturday training session.
The son of Malibu Moon worked in company with stablemate and Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile (GII) candidate Tepin, who had an identical five-furlong clocking and their moves tied as the fastest of 58 works at the distance. The swift move by Danzig Moon left assistant trainer Norman Casse, the son of trainer Mark Casse who oversees his father’s stable at Churchill Downs, concerned that the colt could have done too much just 14 days out from Kentucky Derby 141.
“We usually reserve our two-weeks-out works to be our big works and, unfortunately, I think he got a little overzealous leaving the pony,” Casse said. “He’s a fast horse and he worked fast, and Julien recognized that and really didn’t ask him to do too much afterwards.
“We know he likes the racetrack and the horse he worked with is a very, very talented horse. The horse that worked is running on Derby Day as well. We purposely worked them together because they basically have the same target: different races, but on the same day. Had he not gotten away and ran-off the first bit, the overall time wouldn’t have been nearly as fast. But it’s OK.”
Casse took a close look at Danzig Moon immediately after the work and will do so again Sunday morning.
“I’ve already gone over him and already jogged him by hand, and we did a post-breeze scope and all those things are perfect,” Casse said. “That’s the important thing.”
Danzig Moon’s Toyota Blue Grass run improved his lifetime record to 1-2-0 in five races and he has earned $251,120.
KEEN ICE BREEZES SIX FURLONGS IN 1:13.20; ‘PROTOTYPE DERBY HORSE’ HOPES TO MAKE FIELD
Donegal Racing’s Keen Ice, a closing fourth in the Louisiana Derby (GII), breezed six furlongs in 1:13.20 Saturday morning at Churchill Downs while in company with a workmate. Breaking off from the five-furlong pole, exercise rider Tammy Fox positioned Keen Ice on the outside of the companion and guided the 3-year-old Curlin colt through fractions of :23.20, :35.20, :47.20 and :59.80. After the conclusion of the work to the seven-eighths pole, Keen Ice galloped out an addition furlong in 1:27.60.
Keen Ice, who broke his maiden at Churchill Downs in September, has banked $160,395 from a record of 1-0-2 in seven starts. He accrued 22 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby from third place finishes in the Remsen (2 points) and Risen Star (10 points) and his Louisiana Derby fourth (10 points). That put him No. 21 on the preference list, which meant he needed one horse to withdraw in order to compete in the May 2 classic.
“We’ve been taking our time with this horse,” trainer Dale Romans said. “I’ve never really squeezed the lemon and made him work fast because he’s not a naturally fast workhorse. But coming into this race (the Kentucky Derby), he’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. We’ve been hoping to squeeze the lemon the last three weeks before the Derby and have him peak to run an all-time best race on the first Saturday in May. So far it’s working out well. He had a fast five-eighths work last week (1:00.20 on April 11) and this week he comes back three-quarters (of a mile) in 1:13 and change. We’ve got one more big work ahead of us and two defections are all we need. (Editor’s Note: One Lucky Dane was withdrawn from Kentucky Derby consideration after a mishap in a Saturday workout at Santa Anita; the injury occurred after speaking with Romans).
“This is a prototype Derby horse. He’s built like one – big and strong and should be able to handle himself if he gets bumped around – and the further they run, the better. Every race he’s run, he’s been closing fast. This is the first time these horses will be going a mile-and-a-quarter. He does not control his own destiny like a horse that has tactical pace and they forwardly place themselves. We’re going to need a fast pace and a clean trip but if we get it then he’s the type of horse that can win the Derby.”
Romans doesn’t have to fret about getting into the May 1 Longines Kentucky Oaks with Forum Racing’s Birddatthewire. The Forward Gal and Gulfstream Park Oaks winner breezed a half-mile in :47.20 with splits of :11.80, :23.60 and :35.20. She galloped out five furlongs in :59.60, three-quarters of a mile in 1:12.60 and seven-eighths in 1:27.
“Birdatthewire is just a push-button horse,” Romans said. “Everything she does is easy. There are no issues and no problems. If she’s the best horse she’ll win.”
POSSIBLE KENTUCKY DERBY FAVORITE AMERICAN PHAROAH GALLOPS AT CHURCHILL DOWNS
Zayat Stables LLC’s American Pharoah, American racing’s reigning 2-year-old champion and the possible favorite for the 141st running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI), had an easy 1 ½-mile gallop over the fast surface at Churchill Downs on Saturday morning.
Exercise rider Jorge Alvarez was in the saddle for the first gallop for the Bob Baffert-trained son of 2009 Kentucky Derby runner-up Pioneerof the Nile since his Monday arrival at the home of the Kentucky Derby. American Pharoah rolled to his fourth consecutive win and stakes victory a week ago in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (GI) at Oaklawn Park.
American Pharoah galloped during the first of the 15-minute training sessions devoted exclusively to horses being pointed toward the Kentucky Derby and the Longines Kentucky Oaks. Assistant trainer Jim Barnes said American Pharoah had done well during his brief time at Churchill Downs and would continue to train during that Derby-Oaks training window that begins at approximately 8:30 a.m. following the mid-session break for track maintenance.
Working for Baffert on Saturday was Kaleem Shah Inc.’s Luminance, runner-up to Stellar Wind in the Santa Anita Oaks (GI) and a possible candidate for the Kentucky Oaks, who zipped through a sizzling half-mile in :46.
The work by Luminance was the fastest of 57 at the distance. The 3-year-old daughter of Tale of the Cat covered the first quarter of her move in :23 and galloped out five furlongs in :58.80.
LONGINES KENTUCKY OAKS WORK BY PUCA PLEASES HALL OF FAME TRAINER MOTT
Donegal Racing’s Puca, runner-up in Aqueduct’s Gazelle (GII) and the Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) hope of Hall of Fame trainer and all-time Churchill Downs win-leader Bill Mott, tuned-up for her Oaks bid with a four-furlong work in :48.20 over a fast surface at Churchill Downs.
The 3-year-old daughter of 2008 Kentucky Derby winner Big Brown had Jo Lawson in the saddle as Mott’s filly worked in company with stablemate Japan. Puca’s internal fractions were timed by Churchill Downs clockers in :12:40 and :24.40 and she galloped out five furlongs in 1:00.80 and six furlongs in 1:14.40.
The work by Puca ranked 10th among 57 training moves at the half-mile distance. She started off 1 ½ lengths in front of Japan, a 3-year-old colt in Mott’s care, and the son of Medaglia d’Oro was timed in :48 – the eighth-fastest move of the day – for his work.
“I thought it was a good, nice steady work,” said Mott, who was at Churchill Downs for his filly’s first work over the track. “There was plenty of horse the whole way. She finished up good and galloped out very good.”
The work was the first serious training move for the Donegal filly, who shipped to Churchill Downs shortly after her runner-up finish to Kentucky Oaks contender Condo Commando in the Gazelle. She finished 2 ½ lengths behind Condo Commando in that race at the Kentucky Oaks distance of 1 1/8 miles.
Puca’s lone victory in six career races was a 16-length romp in a Belmont Park maiden race on Oct. 1. That win was followed by a troubled sixth-place run behind champion Take Charge Brandi in the 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) at Santa Anita. Her only other race during her 3-year-old season was a fourth-place run in Gulfstream Park’s Davona Dale (GII).
“She broke her maiden very impressively and then she ran well coming back in the Breeders’ Cup where she had a rough trip and got stopped,” Mott said. “She’s indicated that she belongs. She ran second in the Gazelle so she’s coming off of a good race and the horse that won the Gazelle was alone on the lead with nobody to challenge. So we felt that if she gets a little pace (in the Oaks), she gets the mile-and-an-eighth well enough. So we’re going to give her a chance.”
The career record for Puca stands at 1-1-1 in six races with earnings of $122,832.
Although Mott is the career leader in both victories and stakes triumphs at Churchill Downs, he has not saddled a winner in the Kentucky Oaks.