Photo: Eclipse Sportswire
BLACK ONYX – Sterling Racing’s Black Onyx galloped 1 ½ miles during the Derby and Oaks session while under regular exercise rider Aurelio Gomez. Trainer Kelly Breen
was concerned that with the largest
throng of morning onlookers yet his Spiral Stakes (Grade III) winner
might finally get fazed by all the attention. Turned out, there was
nothing to worry about.
“He jogged along
the outside fence like those people have been there every day of his
life,” Breen said. “His attitude around here is so laid-back. Things
could be a lot worse going in here. You could have
a high-anxiety horse that’ll be in that one post for a long time, but
he’s been soaking it in. He’s just laid back, like it’s his fourth
Breen is the one
who will be represented in his fourth Kentucky Derby but that experience
hasn’t helped to calm the nerves. The trainer joked that whatever his
mellow horse has been taking, he could use
some it himself.
yet, with all there is to worry about the week of the world’s most
famous horse race, Breen refuses to lose sleep over Black Onyx’s
post draw. Post No. 1 has come to be accepted as the most dreaded, even
though it has produced eight winners, tied for second-most behind the
10-hole (nine winners). If the rail was good enough for Derby winners
Admiral, Citation, Needles
and, most recently, Ferdinand, then perhaps having the right horse is what really matters.
“It might not be
an ideal post but I think we have a game plan,” Breen said. “The horse
is doing well and horses have won from the one-post before. It has
happened. It doesn’t concern me as much as you would
“There are things
I’m seeing from the horse that have me at ease. You could have a
super-nervous horse that’s anxious to go and you’re going to have to try
to throttle him down. You’re going to have 150,000
people and this horse here, he’s like, it’s old hat.”
CHARMING KITTEN/OVERANALYZE/PALACE MALICE/REVOLUTIONARY/VERRAZANO – There was a one-Derby-horse-for-one-Oaks-horse swap at the Todd Pletcher barn Thursday morning, but otherwise the stable’s collection of Kentucky
Derby (GI) runners turned in another good morning of training leading up to their runs in Saturday’s American classic.
At the request of owner Mike Repole,
Pletcher held back his Oaks filly Unlimited Budget when his three other Oaks fillies went out with the first set at 6 o’clock to train. Instead, the conditioner
had his fifth Derby horse – Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s
Charming Kitten – go
early with the fillies, while Unlimited Budget went late with the colts
during the 8:30-8:45 special training period for Derby and Oaks horses,
thus allowing Repole to be on hand and watch
his filly exercise.
In the 6 a.m. session, Charming Kitten was handled by exercise rider Patti Krotenko for
a mile and three-eighths gallop that started at the finish line and
ended at the five-furlong pole. The son of Ramsey stallion
Kitten’s Joy will be ridden by Edgar Prado Saturday and they’ll
break from post 15 in the 20-horse field. The Blue Grass Stakes
third-place-finisher has been listed at 20-1 in the morning line.
Pletcher’s other Derby colts
showed good energy in their training efforts and the conditioner gave
them all a thumbs up following their exercise. Verrazano, listed as the 4-1 second choice in the Derby morning
line, covered a mile and three-eighths under exercise rider Humberto Zamora. Louisiana Derby (G2) winner Revolutionary galloped a mile and a quarter for Nick Bush, while Arkansas Derby (GI) hero Overanalyze went the same distance
for Obed Perez. Finally, Blue Grass Stakes second-place finisher Palace Malice galloped his 10 furlongs under Jake Nelson.
trainer re-emphasized he was quite happy with the Derby post draws for
his colts (Revolutionary No. 3; Overanalyze No. 9; Palace Malice
No. 10; Verrazano No. 14, and Charming Kitten No. 15.) and then answered
a question about possible rain and the effects of an “off” track on his
"The possibility of rain
doesn’t change anything we’ll do with them getting ready for the race,”
he said. “That will all be exactly the same. As to how they might do,
well, none of them have any experience on an ‘off’
track. I’ve never breezed one of them on one; just never had the
opportunity to. But of all of them, I get the impression that
Revolutionary might be the one to relish an ‘off’ track.”
FALLING SKY – Newtown Anner Stud, James Covello and Joseph Bulger’s Falling Sky galloped 1 3/8 miles under exercise rider Cassie Garcea “as good as we could want it,” reported trainer
Falling Sky, who
won the Sam F. Davis (GIII) at Tampa Bay Downs in his 2013 debut, has
come up short after setting the early pace in his two most recent races,
a third-place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby
(GII) and the Arkansas Derby (GII). The 1 ¼-mile distance of the
Kentucky Derby will be Terranova’s main concern Saturday.
all of them, and with him, maybe more so from what we’ve seen, distance
is the question mark,” Terranova said. “We’ll see. He seems to love
Churchill Downs. He trains brilliantly over the
track, so we’ll see what he can do.”
Terranova may have lingering doubts about the Derby distance, but he remains very confident in the son of Lion Heart’s talent.
got some concerns, but at this point, I wouldn’t have changed anything
we’ve done coming into the race. The horse gives us 100 percent. I have
no doubts he’s a very good horse who will try
and give us an honest effort. We’re just hoping for a nice clean trip
and a little bit of racing luck,” Terranova said. “I think the post (No.
13) is fine. We drew outside some potential speed horses. I’m not
concerned with the rain. An off track may actually
Luis Saez, who won an allowance race at Gulfstream aboard Falling Sky in December,
has the Derby mount.
FRAC DADDY/JAVA’S WAR – Magic City Thoroughbred Partners’ Frac Daddy and Charles Fipke’s Java’s War both came out during the Derby and Oaks training session for what trainer Ken McPeek described
as “an easy day.”
(GI) runner-up Frac Daddy – consistently the more aggressive of the duo
this week – jogged one mile and galloped one mile under exercise rider Hugo Garcia. Meanwhile, Blue Grass Stakes
(GI) winner Java’s War jogged two miles with exercise rider Marvin Abrego aboard.
Frac Daddy was outfitted with earplugs, which he has worn every day during training and will also wear to the gate Saturday.
“It’s just to keep him calm,”
McPeek said. “Every now and then he’ll hear a noise and he gets a
little spooky. It helps him to keep quiet. He’ll probably wear them all
the way to the gate on Saturday.”
Once Frac Daddy arrives at the gate, the rider aboard his escort pony will be responsible for removing the earplugs.
GIANT FINISH – Sunrise Stable and Partners’ New York-bred colt Giant Finish arrived at Churchill Downs at 8:48 a.m. Thursday after a 12-hour trip from the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md.
Ray Handle, assistant to trainer Anthony Dutrow,
accompanied Giant Finish on his journey and led the chestnut son of
Frost Giant off truck to his stall in Barn 42. Handle, 24, stayed with
in the back of the truck and said the colt handled the trip well.
“He was so great about it. Just professional. That’s how he is about everything,” Handle said. “He’s a cool guy.”
Giant Finish was third in the
Spiral (GIII) at Turfway Park on March 23. When a few horses with more
qualifying points were declared from the field this week and Giant
Finish moved up to the 20th and final position,
the ownership group decided to enter him in the Derby.
While compiling a 2-1-1
record in his five career starts, Giant Finish has shown that he prefers
being on or near the lead.
“He’s a little bit of a
one-paced type of horse,” Handle said. “He doesn’t really get tired, but
he doesn’t have a great kick. He’ll probably be forwardly placed and
hopefully he can out-stay them and be there at the
Jose Espinoza will ride Giant Finish in the Kentucky Derby.
GOLDENCENTS – The Santa Anita Derby (GI) winner Goldencents continued
to move forward toward his Saturday date with Kentucky Derby (GI)
destiny with another good gallop at Churchill Downs during the special
training period following the track’s morning renovation break.
The bay son of Into Mischief first visited the paddock under exercise rider Jonny Garcia, then put in a strong gallop in the warm Kentucky sun. The horse’s trainer, Doug O’Neill, was a pleased
observer, as was his rider, Kevin Krigger.
Krigger, the only rider the
horse has known in his six-race career, will break from post eight in
the 20-horse Derby field and has been listed as the 5-1 third choice in
the morning line.
O’Neill had recovered from
his golfing date Wednesday at nearby Valhalla Golf Club with two of his
colt’s owners, one of them being University of Louisville NCAA champion
basketball coach Rick Pitino.
“Someone said they’d heard I’d shot 71,” O’Neill said. “I said ‘Yeah, but that was for the first four holes.’
“But that’s a beautiful golf
course; world class. Even though I don’t play much golf, it was a treat
to play there. And Coach hits it pretty good. He’s a good golfer.”
With rain forecast for Derby
Day and the possibility of an “off” track looming, O’Neill was asked how
he thought his charge might handle such conditions.
“Well, he’s never raced on an
‘off’ track, so you can’t be sure about that,” he said. “But we breezed
him on a wet track that had been sealed one time this spring at Santa
Anita and he skipped right over it. He’s a
sure-footed horse and nothing seems to bother him.
“And from what I know about
this track, it handles water real well. As long as we don’t have any
gushers just before or during the race, I think we’ll all be all
GOLDEN SOUL – Charles Fipke’s Golden Soul hasn’t raced on an off track, and trainer Dallas Stewart said Thursday that he’d prefer dry conditions for the Kentucky Derby.
“I think most
trainers are looking at the weather,’’ Stewart said. “I don’t know, are
we fretting? Are we concerned? It is what it is, as they say. But I hope
Golden Soul, by
Perfect Soul out of Hollywood Gold by Mr. Prospector, hasn’t worked on
muddy tracks but has galloped often in mud, Stewart said.
“He’s out of a Mr. Prospector mare. They tend to run well in the mud. Perfect Souls – I don’t really know.’’
Downs track handles water well, said Stewart, who is based at the track.
“It’s the best on training, this and the Fair Grounds, in my opinion.
They do a great job. You know, we’ll just have
to see if it rains during the races. …
“If it’s raining
while we’re not training or racing, they keep it sealed, and the water
runs off, which is good. We’ll just have to see. Nobody can predict the
Perfect Soul galloped Thursday under exercise rider Emerson Chavez.
ITSMYLUCKYDAY – Trilogy Stable and Laurie Plesa’s Itsmyluckyday galloped 1½ miles under exercise rider Peter Shelton Thursday morning at Churchill Downs.
Itsmyluckyday will enter the Derby with a second-place finish behind Orb in the Florida Derby (GI) last time out. Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. said the Gulfstream Park Derby and Holy Bull (GIII)
victor will be better prepared for a rematch with Orb Saturday.
“The whole plan
was to get him here on the first Saturday in May in the best possible
condition he could be in, and part of that process was 62 days between
the Holy Bull and the Florida Derby. As important
as it was for us to win the Florida Derby, it wasn’t our goal. Our goal
was always to win the Kentucky Derby,” Plesa said. “In my mind he
probably wasn’t 100 percent fit for the Florida Derby. He was probably
closer to 95 percent fit. When you’re running against
a horse like Orb, you better be 100 percent fit. So going into this
race, I don’t think, I know my horse is 100 percent. It’s going to be an
interesting race for everybody involved.”
Plesa raised the possibility that the early pace of the Derby may be slower than years past.
“Since the point
system has been put into effect, it kind of takes a couple factors out
of the race. Certainly, a sprinter is not going to be in this race and a
filly isn’t going to be in this race. So with
that being said, that does change the pace on paper,” Plesa said. “It
looks like the pace may be a slower pace than we’ve seen in the past. As
far as my horse is concerned, my horse has tactical speed and can do
whatever needs to be done.”
Elvis Trujillo has the return mount aboard Itsmyluckyday.
LINES OF BATTLE – The well-traveled colt owned by Joseph Allen, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, walked the shedrow in the quarantine barn Thursday morning.
The Kentucky-bred son of War Front arrived from Ireland on Wednesday and entered the quarantine area at Barn 48. T.J. Comerford, assistant to trainer Aidan O’Brien said the colt will go out on the track
under exercise rider Laura McInerney at about 6 o’clock Friday morning after clearing quarantine.
“He walked this morning and
he’ll walk this evening. That’s all we can do today,” Comerford said.
“He’s not going to do a whole lot when he goes to the track, just canter
around there. He’s got all his galloping done.”
Lines of Battle earned his
Derby qualifying points with a victory in the UAE Derby (GII) on March
30 in Dubai. He returned to O’Brien’s Ballydoyle training center in
Ireland before his trip to Kentucky.
O’Brien will not attend the
Kentucky Derby. He has three starters in the 2,000 Guineas , the English
classic Saturday at Newmarket: Christoforo Colombo, George Vancouver and Mars. He also has two
fillies in the 1,000 Guineas on Sunday.
MYLUTE – GoldMark Farm and Whisper Hill Farm’s Louisiana Derby (GII) runner-up Mylute went to the track at 5:45 a.m. for some light exercise under regular exercise rider Maurice Sanchez.
“We galloped two miles,”
Sanchez said. “I warmed him up jogging one mile the wrong way, then the
two miles. It was a nice, easy morning. He’s very relaxed.”
Sanchez has played a major
role in Mylute’s emergence as a Kentucky Derby contender. After
finishing seventh in the Risen Star Stakes (GII) – the second in a
three-race series of graded 3-year-old stakes at Fair Grounds
Race Course & Slots – trainer Tom Amoss and GoldMark general manager Todd Quast agreed that further adjustments to both his equipment and style might help the Midnight Lute colt realize his full potential.
“In his training before the
Risen Star he was very laid-back, very lazy,” Quast said. “That’s why we
put all the equipment on him – the blinkers and the shadow roll. We did
that on purpose, knowing that we were going
to have a chargier horse. We put an aggressive gallop rider on him to
train him in the mornings to get into him while he worked. In the Risen
Star it was counter-productive and Shaun (Bridgmohan) had to fight him.
“But we knew we
were only about 80 percent and we knew we were trying to peak in the
third race off the layoff. After that race Tom and I decided we needed
to adjust and what we did was take the blinkers
off and put Maurice – a more mellow gallop rider – back on him. We went
back to the slow, long-distance gallops, doing the works so they were
Mylute stalked the
pace in the Risen Star, laying fourth in the early going but leaving
himself with nothing left to kick home. In the Louisiana Derby, having
trained to relax early, Mylute was as much as
11 lengths off the pace down the backside and saved his best running for
the stretch, collaring Revolutionary approaching the sixteenth pole but without quite being able to go by.
“If you had to fault him anywhere it would be that he kind of hangs a little bit,” Quast said.
However, Amoss tried to
address that by setting up Mylute to pass horses in his last major work
before the Derby, the half-mile in :47.80 on April 21.
started eight lengths behind a pair and finished eight lengths in
front,” Quast said. “He had his ears perked and went right on by.”
NORMANDY INVASION – Fox Hill Farms’ Wood Memorial (GI) runner-up Normandy Invasion schooled in the gate Thursday and had a spirited 1 ½-mile gallop with exercise rider Javier Herrera.
The Tapit colt galloped in the middle of the track and was aggressive for two or three furlongs.
“After he stood in
the gate he wanted out to go out and gallop a little strong, but he
pulled up good and came back good,” trainer Chad Brown said. “That’s him. He’s really sharp right now. We’re
“His ended his gallop a little quick, but I’m OK with it.
Normandy Invasion has a
history of coming out of the gate slowly and Brown said the visit to the
gate was a reminder of what is ahead.
“In the Wood he did good after we stood him,” Brown said. “So we did the same routine that we did before the Wood.”
Brown said he was satisfied with drawing post No. 5 for the Kentucky Derby and that position would give jockey Javier Castellano some flexibiity.
“I’m not going to request
that Javier put this horse in any specific spot. I want to leave it up
to him,” Brown said. “I just want him to break cleanly and give him the
option to put him where he wants.”
Brown said the Normandy Invasion is handling the surface well.
This horse is so sharp right now, you just have to hold him on the ground,” he said.
“He’s really full of himself.”
Describing the colt as “sharp” is a positive, Brown said.
“If you’ve seen his other
races and his come-from-behind style, this horse has been maybe a little
lethargic early. It takes him a while to get interested and come with
his late run,” Brown said. “Right now he really
has running on his mind from the word go. We started to see that before
the Wood and he placed himself in a good spot early and gave himself a
chance to win. I think we’re going to see more of that in the Derby. I
think he’s going to place himself in a good
Normandy Invasion’s owner, Rick Porter, is hosting four World War II veterans with connections to Normandy for the Kentucky Derby. Porter said that Alan Reeves
of San Diego, who saw action at Normandy,
reached out to ask whether there would be any involvement with veterans
with the horse. Porter liked the idea and has invited Reeves and three
veterans of the D-Day landing at Normandy, J. J. Witmeyer of New Orleans and two Ohioans, Ray Woods
and Bill Wilch, to be his guests for the weekend.
“I just want to shake their hands, give them a Normandy Invasion hat and make them feel welcome,” Porter said.
Porter said the project is
likely to draw some attention to what happened when Allied troops
stormed the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944.
“I’m hoping that it will
bring some awareness to young people because so many people watch the
Derby,” he said. A lot of young people don’t realize what the D-Day was
and the Normandy invasion and I hope this brings
some more focus to it.”
ORB – Stuart Janney III and Phipps Stable’s Orb, the 7-2 morning-line favorite for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, galloped 1 ¼ miles under exercise rider Jennifer Patterson Thursday morning at
Trainer Shug McGaughey, whose Florida Derby winner drew the No. 16 post position, has envisioned what jockey Joel Rosario might expect during the running of Derby 139.
“I think there’s
going to be horses that show a little more speed than maybe it shows on
paper. I’m just going to tell Joel to play the break and see what
happens and try to hold some kind of position so
when the time comes we got a chance to make that run,” McGaughey said.
“Hopefully, he’ll get a clean trip around the first turn, which I think
is very important. That’s where all the jamming up comes. Going down the
backside, hopefully, he can ease in and save
a little ground, but not be down in there and not be able to make a run
when the time comes.”
One race prior to the Derby on Saturday’s card, McGaughey is slated to saddle turf star Point of Entry for a highly anticipated clash with Horse of the Year Wise Dan
in the Woodford Reserve
Turf Classic (GI). With so much attention focused on Orb during Derby
week, the multiple Grade I stakes winner has been training at Churchill
somewhat under the radar.
“He’s not under
our radar,” McGaughey said. “We’re looking forward to running him. He’s
been a great pleasure around here for us and he still is. I don’t know
how he could be doing any better. We’ll see
how it goes.”
OXBOW/WILL TAKE CHARGE – Four-time Derby winning trainer D. Wayne Lukas said he is weighing strategy for a race even before the post position draw is over.
“You know, when
you’ve got five or six or seven holes sitting out there, you say, ‘You
know what? I got so and so in hole five and so and so in seven, and six
is still available; I’d like to get right between
those two,’ ’’ Lukas was saying Thursday morning, “If you get the two –
there’s not much speed (nearby) – we can live with that. So you start
analyzing it immediately.
“Of course, you lay awake all night and analyze it.’’
Calumet Farm’s Oxbow, who generally shows early speed, drew No. 2, and Willis Horton’s Will Take Charge, a late runner, drew No. 17. Lukas said he’ll continue to weigh race plans
for them until meeting with Gary Stevens, Oxbow’s jockey, and Jon Court, Will Take Charge’s rider, for strategy sessions.
“I get into it
pretty good,’’ Lukas said of his strategizing. “Once I talk to Gary and
Jon, I’ll pretty much turn them loose and say, ‘Look, this isn’t going
to be a Hollywood script. I mean, this is not
going to happen the way I’m describing it to you, but make the best of
it. I always tell ’em at the end, ‘Hell, just do what you want.’
The sessions also will be for psyching up the riders, Lukas said.
“It’s the coach in
me,’’ said Lukas, who was a basketball coach before becoming a trainer.
“We have a little locker-room talk. You know, play ‘Rocky’ tapes and
give ’em B-12 shots.’’
Oxbow, under exercise rider Rudy Quevedo, and Will Take Charge, with exercise rider Taylor Carty aboard, galloped Thursday.
VYJACK – Pick Six Racing’s Gotham (GIII) winner Vyjack worked three furlongs in :37 under trainer Rudy Rodriguez Thursday morning. Rodriguez had been planning to give the Into Mischief gelding a crisp
little blowout a couple of days before the race and decided to do it on the fast track.
“We’re happy. We’ve
accomplished what we came to do,” Rodriguez said. “We did the
three-eighths and galloped. I think we went very, very good, very
“I wasn’t worried about the
time. It was a little maintenance thing that we were scheduled to do.
I’m happy that we were able to do it. If it had rained, I may not have
done it. Luckily, the track was in very good
shape and we took advantage of it.”
Rodriguez said the
short work was intended to put the horse on his toes two days before
the race. It’s something of an old-school approach that Rodriquez
learned from trainers he worked for during his career
as a jockey and exercise rider, Dick Dutrow and his son, Richard Dutrow Jr., and the Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel.
didn’t want to go to fast. I didn’t want to go and blow everything out
of him,” Rodriguez said. “I wanted to sharpen him up a little
bit. I think we accomplished that.”