Photo: Eclipse Spotswire
BLACK ONYX – At 11:30 a.m., Spiral (Grade III) winner Black Onyx was scratched from the 139th running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI).
decided that the No. 1 slot will be left open in the Kentucky Derby
starting gate and the remaining 19 horses in the Derby field will start
from the post positions they drew in Wednesday’s
Trainer Kelly Breen will address the media at an afternoon press conference in The Parlay Media Center.
CHARMING KITTEN/OVERANALYZE/PALACE MALICE/REVOLUTIONARY/VERRAZANO – “We’re 100% done. We’ll leave well enough alone from here.”
That was trainer Todd Pletcher’s
take on things surrounding his five Kentucky Derby (GI) entrants as
they filed off the Churchill Downs racetrack Friday morning after
turning in their final gallops prior to
their Saturday date in America’s classic.
The Pletcher quintet had
taken advantage of the special Derby/Oaks training period that had been
moved up to between 5:45 and 6 a.m. because of the early end of training
on Oaks Day. In fact, they were among the first
ones on the track and soon went about their business with a practiced
Coming out of the six-furlong
gap on the Churchill backside, each backtracked left to the frontside
under the iconic Twin Spires, then turned and broke off at the
seven-furlong pole for a full tour of the strip supplemented
by two more furlongs for 10-furlong gallops that they handled nicely.
The quintet of bay colts consisted of Overanalyze, with exercise rider Obed Perez in the saddle; Palace Malice handled by Jake Nelson; Verrazano under Humberto Zamora; Revolutionary
partnered by Nick Bush, and Charming Kitten steered by Patti Krotenko.
Pletcher stationed himself just inside the gap on the racetrack and used his binoculars to take in the proceedings.
Among the interested
observers for the exercises was a 75-year-old gentleman wearing a bright
red University of Arizona ball cap. It was J.J. Pletcher, the longtime trainer and father of Todd.
Asked about his choice of headgear, the senior Pletcher noted his connection.
“Didn’t go to the
university,” he said. “But I paid tuition there for four years. (His son
is a graduate of the school and its Racetrack Industry Program.) Liked
to go visit him there; could get in some good golf.
And they’ve got lots of fine golf courses in Tucson.”
Todd Pletcher, who continues
to be a big fan of the U of A sports programs, especially their
high-flying basketball teams, has credited his father for many of the
things he’s learned about training horses, lesson that
he obviously learned quite well. It isn’t hard to argue that he is
currently the most successful trainer in the country.
Does Todd still lean on his father for training advice?
“Oh, sure,” he said. “He and I bounce ideas off each other all the time.”
With all the Derby heavy
lifting accomplished, the trainer was asked if he had a chance to go
back, would he liked to have done anything differently with any of his
“No, not really,” he said.
“We laid out a plan to get here with them and it’s all come down pretty
much like we hoped.”
FALLING SKY– Newtown Anner Stud, James Covello and Joseph Bulger’s Falling Sky jogged once around the Churchill Downs track under exercise rider Cassie Garcea Friday morning.
The prospect of rain Saturday doesn’t concern the son of Lion Heart’s connections.
“He ran on an off track as a 2-year-old, and he skips over this track,” said Reynaldo Abreu, assistant to trainer John Terranova. “He never galloped like this at Palm Meadows.”
By Lion Heart, who finished second behind Smarty Jones in the 2004 Kentucky Derby over a sloppy track, and out of a mare by Sea Hero, the 1993 Run for the Roses winner on a wet fast surface,
Falling Sky is bred to handle mud.
Falling Sky won an allowance race over a good track at Gulfstream on Dec. 15. Luis Saez, who was aboard for that victory, will ride the winner of the Sam F. Davis (GIII) in the Derby.
FRAC DADDY/JAVA’S WAR – Magic City Thoroughbred Partners’ Frac Daddy and Charles Fipke’s Java’s War both jogged two miles the “wrong” way Friday morning with their regular exercise riders – Hugo Garcia
and Marvin Abrego, respectively.
“Nothing complicated,” trainer Ken McPeek
said of the exercise. “We wanted to save a little energy for tomorrow.
They both had strong gallops earlier in the week and didn’t need to do
performances of McPeek’s Derby starters don’t reveal much in the way of
wet-track ability. Frac Daddy ran a solid second in his debut over a
muddy Belmont Park surface, but that’s the only real
experience either has had with off going. McPeek, for one, isn’t
concerned about the rain being forecast.
“It’ll make the
Derby that much more wide-open,” he said. “Both horses are doing well
but how they handle it and what kinds of trips they get are completely
out of control. They’re doing good and we’re pleased.”
GIANT FINISH – Sunrise Stable and Partners’ New York-bred colt Giant Finish went out to the track for the first time Friday at 5:45 a.m. Ray Handal, assistant to trainer Tony Dutrow, was
aboard for the morning exercise.
The son of Frost Giant was
the last horse added to the Derby when defections opened a spot in the
starting gate. He shipped from Elkton, Md., Wednesday night and arrived
at Churchill Downs Thursday.
Handal took the colt to the
track when it opened for training and let him stand and look around for
10 minutes before making a couple of laps of the oval.
“He was a pro like we thought
he would be,” Handal said. “We jogged him a mile and galloped him a
mile and a quarter, just nice and easy and let him take everything in.
He was good about it. No complaints.”
Giant Finish’s lone race on a
wet track produced his only off-the board finish, a fifth in the Damon
Runyon for New York-breds on Dec. 9 at Aqueduct.
“Actually, it was his poorest
performance,” Handal said, “but there might have been other
contributing factors: It was his first time against winners, stretching
out, first time in stakes company. There were a lot
of things going on there, and it was an off track. I don’t know if I
could base him liking or not liking a sloppy surface off the one poor
performance because there were so many other factors.”
GOLDENCENTS – Led to the track from his Barn 45 headquarters by assistant trainer Leandro Mora, the Santa Anita Derby (GI) hero Goldencents was among the Kentucky Derby (GI) runners who took advantage
of the early (5:45-6 a.m.) Friday training period for Derby or Oaks entrants.
The bay son of Into Mischief jogged a half-mile under exercise rider Jonny Garcia, then went through a nice-and-easy gallop of a mile and a quarter, putting the final touches on his preparations for Derby 139
“No, we won’t put him on the racetrack tomorrow morning,” said trainer Doug O’Neill, who was, of course, on hand to take in the proceedings. “We didn’t put I’ll Have Another out there race day last year
and that worked fine.”
I’ll Have Another captured
Kentucky Derby 138 for the O’Neill barn, then went on to win the
Preakness, too. His career was ended, however, prior to the Belmont
Stakes when he sustained a leg injury and he subsequently
was sold as a stallion.
Goldencents, a winner of four
of six starts, comes into the Derby off a 2013 California campaign in
which he won two stakes – the Sham (GIII) and the Santa Anita Derby –
and finish fourth in another – the San Felipe
O’Neill was asked -- if he could -- would he liked to have gone back and done something differently with his colt.
“You know, I think it has all
worked out for the best,” he said. “Even the debacle in the San Felipe,
I think that may prove to be a godsend. If he’d have won that race
handily, I think we probably wouldn’t have run
him again; we probably would have just trained him up to this race. Then
maybe he’s going to be too fresh and you don’t know what’s going to
"But when he ran like he did
that day (backing up in the stretch), we made some adjustments. We
trained him differently and he responded. He’s really doing well and
we’re feeling good about his chances. We think it
is our time. We think it is us.”
Goldencents will break from post eight in the 20-horse Derby field and be ridden by his regular jockey, Kevin Krigger.
GOLDEN SOUL – After Charles Fipke’s Golden Soul capped his training for the Derby with a jog Friday morning under exercise rider Emerson Chavez, trainer Dallas Stewart expressed satisfaction
with how the colt is going into the race.
“His energy has
been good,” Stewart said. “He had some really strong gallops two or
three days in a row. Now I feel like he’s doing well. His energy is
good. He’s very sound.’’
Stewart didn’t speculate on how the race might unfold.
“I don’t know,’’
he said. “It’s probably going to be muddy, I guess. They’ll be enough
speed. There always is. My horse is out of a Mr. Prospector mare, and
they love the mud, so we’ll just have to see if
it plays out like that. That’ll be the strength.
“We prepared well. We got lucky we got in the race, and that’s where it’s at. Let’s go get ’em, baby.’’
ITSMYLUCKYDAY – Trilogy Stable and Laurie Plesa’s Itsmyluckyday galloped 1 ½ miles under Peter Shelton Friday morning at Churchill Downs.
“Pete gave him a 12 on a scale from 1-10. He’s been doing that all along,” trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. said.
trainer was amused while watching an animated video posted on the Wall
Street Journal mobile phone website. The video featured a preview of
Saturday’s running of the Kentucky Derby. Itsmyluckyday
won the race.
“I loved the ending,” Plesa said.
The track wasn’t wet in the video, but forecast showers for Saturday may mean an off track for the Derby a possibility.
“From my thoughts,
I think Lawyer Ron handled it well. You’d hope he’d pass it along if
that were the case,” Plesa said. (Lawyer Ron broke his maiden on a
sloppy track and won a stakes on a good track).
“I’ve been saying this all along: I just want everybody to have a fair
chance to win.”
LINES OF BATTLE – The War Front colt Lines of Battle, owned by Joseph Allen, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, completed his quarantine period and went to the track
for the first time Friday morning.
The UAE Derby (GII) winner
shipped from Ireland and arrived in Louisville early Wednesday morning.
He was confined to Barn 48 until he cleared quarantine.
T.J. Comerford, assistant to trainer Aidan O’Brien said the colt did his exercise under Laura McInerney at about 6 a.m.
“He walked, trotted for a
mile and cantered for a mile,” Comerford said. “We did what we normally
do at home and let him see what’s happening. It was grand. No problems.”
Lines of Battle has no experience training or competing on a wet dirt track.
Comerford said the Kentucky-bred has adapted well after his trip from Europe.
“We’re in the same position
we’ve been with him,” Comerford said. “He’s good. We’re happy and we
can’t have him any better. We just have to hope and see what happens
MYLUTE – GoldMark Farm and Whisper Hill Farm’s Mylute “had his regular day” with a jog and a gallop at 5:45 a.m. under regular exercise rider Maurice Sanchez, according to assistant trainer (and the exercise
rider’s wife), Kathy Sanchez.
Mylute hasn’t raced on an off
track but his pedigree suggests he could be one that wouldn’t be
bothered by it. His sire, Midnight Lute, dominated the 2007 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI) over a sloppy track at Monmouth
Park, winning by 4 ¾ lengths.
Mylute has two starts in 2013 and has been trained to peak in his third start off the layoff.
“Skipping the Lecomte and
waiting for the Risen Star, having that break, that was all to set us up
for his best effort here on the first Saturday in May,” said Todd Quast, general manager of co-owner GoldMark
The past six Kentucky Derby winners all came into the race with two starts in that calendar year.
NORMANDY INVASION – Fox Hill Farms’ Normandy Invasion had
an easy and uneventful visit to the track Friday, the morning after
speeding up and running about three furlongs faster than the normal
Trainer Chad Brown said his horse is fine and ready for the Derby.
“He’s a sharp horse and he’s
feeling good,” Brown said. “He’s sound and strong. Sometimes these
horses do a little more in their training than you had planned on doing.
That’s definitely the lesser of two evils than
having a horse that is sore, doesn’t want to train and is hobbling
around the track.
“My horse is doing good. He
trained a little more than I wanted yesterday; I compensated today and I
just jogged him. He looks great. He’s going to run good.”
Normandy Invasion doesn’t have any experience on muddy or sloppy tracks.
“There’s not much you can
do,” he said. “I generally don’t train on wet tracks. I’m of the
opinion that I don’t want to hurt my horses in the morning training. On
behalf of my clients, I’m safe in training and just
don’t train on wet tracks. I’m also of the opinion that they are either
going to like the wet track or they’re not. I don’t know if you can
teach them to like it. We’re going to find out with him.”
Brown said he doesn’t have a feel for how Normandy Invasion will handle the expected wet track for the Derby.
“He doesn’t give me a feel,
one way or the other,” Brown said. “There are horses occasionally that
will give me the feel if they would handle a wet track of not and I
would have an opinion. This horse gives me no opinion.
People tell me that his breeding for the mud is one of the highest in
the race. Great. I love hearing that, but I don’t know how much I put
into that all the time as a trainer. We have to keep our fingers crossed
and hope for good weather, and if it’s not good
weather hope he likes the mud.”
ORB – Stuart Janney III and Phipps Stable’s Orb galloped 1 ½ miles under exercise rider Jennifer Patterson Friday morning at Churchill Downs.
Trainer Shug McGaughey
had high praise for Patterson’s dedication while closely working with
Orb all winter and spring and her contribution to the Florida Derby
winner’s rapid development.
“When this whole
thing started I wanted it to be all about her. She’s an excellent rider;
she’s an excellent horsewoman; and she’s an excellent person,”
McGaughey said. “I’m a privileged guy to have her.”
expressed a level of uncertainty how his 7-2 morning-line favorite
winner would handle a wet track should forecast showers materialize
“Well, he’s never
run on one. He trained on one here on morning and trained excellent. I
don’t think it’ll be a problem,” McGaughey said. “But you never know in
the afternoon what you’re going to get. Mud
in his face isn’t going to bother him, because he’s gotten plenty of
else, I hope the track is fast and safe for everybody and nobody has any
excuses and let the best horse win. We can’t control the weather. They
say it might rain, so if it does, it does.”
OXBOW/WILL TAKE CHARGE – Trainer D. Wayne Lukas had his Derby duo -- Calumet Farm’s Oxbow and Willis Horton’s Will Take Charge – exercising comfortably early Friday morning
“The thing I was
looking for this morning was the energy level, and I think I’ve got them
peaking up pretty good,” Lukas said. “They were sharp out there this
morning. I’d like to run it today instead of
tomorrow, but they’re doing well.”
Under exercise rider Rudy Quevedo, Oxbow jogged a mile before completing his final prerace tune-up with exercise in the mile chute.
“I didn’t want him
to get the full mile-and-a-half gallop, because he gets so aggressive
in the last half-mile, so I did the mile, then I backed him up and took
him in the chute and let him stretch his legs
a little bit more there,’’ Lukas said.
Will Take Charge, exercise rider Taylor Carty aboard, jogged a mile and galloped a mile.
“I just didn’t want to do quite as much today. I want to get the energy level up,’’ Lukas said.
Lukas, participating in his 27th Derby, said he’ll be sleeping well the night before the race.
“I don’t get up
tight, don’t get excited, don’t even get excited when they go in the
gate,’’ Lukas said. “ In fact, when we had that run of six in a row
(victories in Triple Crown races), ABC came to me
or NBA and they said, just be a little animated. You know, hug somebody
or throw your hand in the air. They actually said this: ‘You’re bad TV
on these races.’ ’’
Tabasco Cat’s victory in the Preakness in 1994 started a run of six consecutive victories by Lukas-trained horses in Triple Crown races.
VYJACK – Pick Six Racing’s Gotham (GIII) winner Vyjack walked the shedrow Friday morning, the day after he had a three-furlong blowout breeze under trainer Rudy Rodriguez.
looks like he came out of the work good. He looks sharp,” Rodriguez
said “That’s what I was looking for and so far this morning he
looks very good.”
Vyjack won his first four career starts then finished third, beaten a length by Verrrazano, in the Wood Memorial (GI) at Aqueduct. After the race, the gelding was found to have a lung infection. He spent a couple
of weeks at Bruce Jackson’s Fair Hill Equine Therapy Center in Elkton, Md., where he spent time in the hyperbaric chamber.
Rodriguez said Vyjack appears to be fully recovered from the issue.
forward to seeing him run again and hopefully everything is 100
percent,” Rodriguez said. “We don’t try to look for excuses, but that
was an excuse.
“He was in the chamber in Far Hill and we’ve scoped him a couple of times here and, thank God, everything is very, very good.”
In his one start on a wet track track, Vyjack won an overnight stake at Aqueduct on Dec. 9 by 5 3/4 lengths.