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Kentucky Derby 2013 Contender Orb Impressive in Final Work

Orb_Florida_615X400
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

BLACK ONYX (No. 11) – Sterling Racing’s Black Onyx jogged one mile under exercise rider Aurelio Gomez during the Derby and Oaks session. The Rock Hard Ten colt is officially dark bay or brown but appears black. His coat and overall striking appearance has made him a favorite with fans, especially photographers, who gather to admire the Spiral Stakes (Grade III) winner as he grazes behind Barn 41 each morning.

“He’s an eye-catching horse, with his color and everything else,” trainer Kelly Breen said. “He’s put on a little weight since the Spiral and he looks good.”

 
The Spiral was March 23, six weeks out from Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. Although few trainers would draw up a 42-day layoff between starts by choice, the Derby success of 2011 Spiral winner Animal Kingdom rendered old assumptions about spacing irrelevant.
 
“Part of racing goes by individuals and this horse looks like one that could use the time in between,” Breen said. “It just happens to be that way. You pick out a race and you happen to win it and if we didn’t win it we wouldn’t be here.”
 
CHARMING KITTEN (No. 18)/OVERANALYZE (No. 5)/PALACE MALICE (No. 12)/REVOLUTIONARY (No. 6)/VERRAZANO (No. 2)/WINNING CAUSE – Trainer Todd Pletcher’s Derby lineup shrunk by one Monday morning when his Lexington Stakes (GIII) winner Winning Cause was withdrawn from consideration for Kentucky Derby 139.
 
The Giant’s Causeway colt had worked earlier in the morning – and worked well – but at a news briefing with the media in Churchill Downs’ new Media Center at 10:30, Pletcher said it was a no go for his chestnut charge.
 
“I spoke with the owners and we decided the best way to go for him would be to sit back and give other races consideration,” the trainer said. “If we ran him Saturday, that would be his third race in a month, and we felt that that would be too much. We don’t know yet where he’ll run next but there are several races under consideration, including the Preakness, the Peter Pan and even the Marine at Woodbine, because that’s on the Polytrack.”
 
All three of Winning Cause’s victories thus far came on Keeneland’s Polytrack surface.
 
Working at 8:30 following the track renovation break in company with the undefeated 3-year-old Red Rifle, Winning Cause under exercise rider Humberto Zamora was timed in :48.20 for the half-mile, a tick faster than his partner.  
 
Thus it appears that Pletcher now will start five horses in Saturday’s classic, matching his five-horse feat of 2007, while equaling the five-horse entries saddled by Nick Zito in 2005 and D. Wayne Lukas in 1996.
 
Two of Pletcher’s other Derby horses stretched their legs following the break with gallops around the Churchill oval. Blue Grass Stakes runner-up Palace Malice and the Blue Grass third, Charming Kitten, both went strongly on the fast surface as they continued their preparations for the 10-furlong Derby. Palace Malice will be handled Saturday by Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith. No rider has been named for Charming Kitten yet.
 
“We’ve got somebody in mind, but it isn’t official yet,” Pletcher said.
 
The conditioner’s other three Derby hopefuls – Overanalyze, Revolutionary and Verrazano –walked the shedrow.
 
“Touch wood,” Pletcher said, “they’re all doing well and we’ve only got the regular things to do – gallops, trips to the paddock and gate -- for the rest of the week.”
 
CODE WEST/GOVENOR CHARLIE – Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said Monday that the owners of Code West and Govenor Charlie have decided not to enter their colts in the Kentucky Derby.
 
Baffert, a three-time winner of America’s biggest race, will be without a Derby starter for the first time since 2008. He has a record of 3-3-2 from 23 starters since 1996. Last year, Bodemeister finished second and Liaison was sixth.
 
 

Mike Pegram’s Governor Charlie had his training interrupted for a short time in mid-April because of a minor foot bruise. The Midnight Lute colt won the Sunland Park Derby (GIII) on March 24. After talking with Pegram, Baffert scrapped plans to breeze Govenor Charlie Monday and sent him out for a routine gallop.

 
“I’m going to wait. I sat down with Mike and we said let’s not push it and get him right,” Baffert said. “There are other races. It’s tough to miss it, but if you don’t think you can run 1-2-3, I just don’t want to run. I know there have been some longshots (that have been winners), but I didn’t feel it. You have to feel it. I didn’t feel that we were going to be competitive. That’s why we passed on it.”
 
Gary and Mary West’s Code West breezed in company Sunday and Baffert recommended to the Wests that the Lemon Drop Kid colt pass on the Derby. Sunday, Baffert said that the Wests’ Power Broker would be skipping the Derby, too.
 
“Gary West is a realistic kind of guy,” Baffert said. “He wants to be in the right spots. His horses are nice horses, but they are slowly coming around. They’re going to get better for the summer and he didn’t want to waste a run.”
 
FALLING SKY (No. 17) – Newtown Anner Stud, James Covello and Joseph Bulger’s Falling Sky galloped approximately six furlongs under exercise rider Cassie Garcea Monday morning at Churchill Downs.       

“He’s a good feeling colt. It looks like he came out of the breeze really well. He’s hitting the ground great,” trainer John Terranova said. “He galloped from near the quarter pole to about the five-eighths pole. It was just to stretch his legs a little bit. It was a light day, first day back after he walked yesterday.”

Falling Sky, the Sam F. Davis (GIII) winner who worked five furlongs in :59.60 on Friday, will have routine gallops up to Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. Terranova likely will school the son of Lion Heart in the paddock this week.

“He’s handled himself well in the paddock each time we’ve run him. Of course, it will be different for all of them. It’ll be a scene that they’ve never seen before and ever will see again,” Terranova said. “It’ll be something, but he handles himself well. He’s a smart colt.”  

Luis Saez is slated to ride Falling Sky, who finished fourth after setting the pace in the Arkansas Derby (GI) last time out.

 
FRAC DADDY (No. 14)/JAVA’S WAR (No. 4) – Magic City Thoroughbred Partners’ Frac Daddy and Charles Fipke’s Java’s War came to the track together at 8:30 a.m. during the Derby and Oaks session. Arkansas Derby (GI) runner-up Frac Daddy galloped with regular exercise rider Hugo Garcia up, while Blue Grass Stakes (GI) winner Java’s War jogged two miles under Marvin Abrego.
 
“Java is kind of a lighter-framed colt so we gave him an easier day,” said Phil Bauer, assistant to trainer Ken McPeek. “We’re thrilled with the way they came out of their works. They have plenty of energy so we’re on to tomorrow.”
 
Frac Daddy will be ridden Saturday by Victor Lebron, a native of St. Croix, Virgin Islands, making his first appearance in a Kentucky Derby. The 28-year-old began galloping horses on his father’s farm at age 14 and first dreamed of becoming a professional jockey after watching the Derby on television.
 
“It’s a privilege to ride in the Derby,” Lebron said. “Not every rider gets the opportunity to ride in it and I feel honored, especially for Kenny to give me a shot. It’s a dream come true; everybody dreams about it but not many get to do it.”
 
Lebron has been getting on Frac Daddy since the week before the Arkansas Derby and has kept a close watch on the Scat Daddy colt’s progress, stopping by to see him every day regardless of whether he’s scheduled to exercise him.

“Since Oaklawn, looking at him, he’s filled out and body-wise he’s gotten bigger,” Lebron said. “He’s gotten a lot stronger, way stronger. He’s been a way different horse since landing here. He got way stronger than what he was over there. He’s just been getting tougher and tougher.”

 
Frac Daddy has a stubborn side to him. This morning, he refused to be escorted from the track after his gallop, repeatedly turning his head out of the pony rider’s reach each time she stretched out to grab his halter.
 
“Usually he’s like that,” Lebron said. “He’s high-spirited. He’s real active about everything. Sometimes he can get a little hot because he’s always doing something. He’s on the go-go-go, all the time. But that’s just him – high-spirited.”
 
GOLDENCENTS (No. 3) – Santa Anita Derby (GI) hero Goldencents galloped at Churchill Downs Monday morning under exercise rider Jonny Garcia, looking strong and moving the same way for his trip around the main track during the Oaks/Derby-runners-only time between 8:30 and 8:45.
 
Trainer Doug O’Neill took in the exercise standing trackside with a band of his “Team O’Neill” posse and gave it his seal of approval. Saturday he’ll try to pull off the back-to-back Derby Double (he won it last year with I’ll Have Another), a feat accomplished only six times before.
 
Goldencents will be handled by California-based Kevin Krigger, who is not a newcomer to Churchill. He won five races here during the fall meet in 2004.
 
O’Neill has 15 horses under his care at Barn 45 and plans on running between 10 and 12 of them in various races during the coming week. Krigger will ride them all with the exception of two. They would be Renee’s Titan in the Eight Belles Presented by Xerox (GIII) on Friday and Handsome Mike in the Churchill Downs (GII) on Derby Day. Those two runners will be handled by Mario Guitterez, the young rider who became a household name last year when he did the driving for I’ll Have Another in the Run for the Roses.
 
GOLDEN SOUL (No. 19) – Defections on Monday of Govenor Charlie, Winning Cause, Code West and Tiz a Minister from the possible field for the Kentucky Derby assured a spot in the starting gate for Charles Fipke’s Golden Soul.
 

Dallas Stewart trains Golden Soul, who moved up to the 19th spot on the Derby leaderboard.

“I’m very happy,’’ Stewart said. “I’m so happy for the horse to get the opportunity. I’m happy for Mr. Fipke. He’s going to have two horses in there. I really think (Golden Soul) is going to represent us well.’’

Fipke bred and owns Golden Soul and Java’s War.

 
Golden Soul, the fourth-place finisher in the Louisiana Derby, galloped a mile and a half Monday.

“You want to maintain,’’ Stewart said of what he’s doing with Golden Soul this week. “You don’t want to necessarily get them fit, but you want to keep them sharp, continue to take it to them, prepare them. You’ve got a day or two here – Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday – back off Thursday and Friday, something like that. … You just have to see. You like to see them pick it up earlier in the week, then kind of take it down a notch Thursday and Friday.’’

Stewart said he hasn’t decided on a jockey but has “a couple in mind.’’

       
ITSMYLUCKYDAY (No. 10) Trilogy Stable and Laurie Plesa’s Itsmyluckyday galloped 1½ miles under exercise rider Peter Shelton at 7 a.m. Monday at Churchill Downs.

“He loved it. He bounced all the way around the racetrack. He handled the surface really well -- that’s what I liked the most about it,” Shelton said. “His energy level is 100 percent.”

 

Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. traveled to Louisville from his Calder Race Course base on Monday and is expected to send Itsmyluckyday to the track following the renovation break Tuesday morning.

Itsmyluckyday captured the Gulfstream Park Derby and Holy Bull (GIII) at Gulfstream prior to finishing second behind Orb in the Florida Derby (GI). His exercise rider said he expects the son of Lawyer Ron’s running style to be well suited to the Derby.

“He has tactical speed and a big kick when you ask him,” Shelton said.

Shelton said Itsmyluckyday makes his job easy.

“He’s not like a lot of horses that really want to go on the bit. He just holds the bit enough so you can keep a perfect balance with your body,” he said. “You don’t even have to move on him. You just have to move your wrist and he switches his lead; you move your other wrist and he switches his lead. That’s hard to find horses like that. He loves to train.”  

Elvis Trujillo has the mount aboard Itsmyluckyday.

 
MYLUTE (No. 15) – Gold Mark Farm and Whisper Hill Farm’s Mylute took to the Churchill Downs track for a light jog shortly before 6 a.m.

“It was a light day,” trainer Tom Amoss said. “Tomorrow will be a busier day; he’ll do a full gallop tomorrow.”

Amoss remains confident that Mylute is prepared to put forth a peak effort in the Kentucky Derby. What remains to be seen is whether that will be enough to make an impact.

“I’ll be frank,” Amoss said. “He’s going to have to run the best race of his life to be competitive Saturday. But when it comes to the Kentucky Derby, that same statement applies to the other 19 in the race. Somebody’s going to really step forward and the one that does is going to be the winner.”

 
One point in Mylute’s favor – at least for those who still believe it’s a point that matters – is his extensive experience as a 2-year-old. The Midnight Lute colt is one of three Derby probables with seven starts as a juvenile. Four of those came against stakes company.
 
“It took a long time for him to show me that he was a proper horse so a lot of those starts were important in terms of his learning curve,” Amoss said. “He was never a horse that broke well from the gate and a lot of times that cost him his races. It took him a long time to catch on and understand racing. Even in the Louisiana Derby, he passed the winner, Revolutionary, inside the sixteenth pole, but he still didn’t quite understand. He hasn’t quite shown that killer instinct you need to be a top racehorse. But he learned from the Louisiana Derby just like he’s learned from each of those races.”
 
NORMANDY INVASION (No. 13) – Following his routine, trainer Chad Brown had Fox Hill Farms’ Wood Memorial (GI) runner-up Normandy Invasion trot on the track Monday morning, two days after breezing five furlongs in :59.
 
Brown, 35, is all business as he prepares to saddle his first Derby starter. The Mechanicville, N.Y., native picked up some Derby experience during a tour as an assistant for the late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel before opening his own stable in 2007.
 
“I’ve been here before. I’m excited, but I keep an even keel,” Brown said. “We’ve got so much going on every morning that I really don’t have time to dwell on it much.”
 
ORB (No. 1) – Stuart Janney III and Phipps Stable’s Orb breezed four furlongs in :47.80 under exercise rider Jennifer Patterson Monday morning at Churchill Downs. Working in company, Orb broke off just behind stablemate Overwhelming before pulling even on the turn and drawing clear by several lengths through the stretch. The Florida Derby (GI) winner galloped out five furlongs in 1:00.80.
 

Joel Rosario, who is slated to ride Orb in the Derby, was aboard Overwhelming, a 3-year-old maiden who was clocked in :48.60.

Orb posted the fifth fastest half-mile workout of 43 recorded Monday morning after turning in fractions of :23.80 and :35.80.

“I wanted to work him a half-mile to put him in the game. He left his workmate pretty easily and finished up well. He’s had a little bit of a tendency in his races when he’s made the lead he thought he’d done enough. So we wanted him to finish and go by the other horse and he did it,” trainer Shug McGaughey said. “Jenn was happy, so that makes me happy.”

Orb pleased his Hall of Fame trainer with his professionalism during his morning outing.

“Churchill is a bit different sometimes, so I was hoping this is what I’d see,” he said. “I’ve been a little bit nervous hoping he’d work well, and I think it did go well. He dropped his head and walked home the way you’d want him to and he didn’t break a sweat. She (Patterson) felt he didn’t get out of a high gallop.”

Since shipping in from the country setting at Payson Park in Indiantown, Fla., the son of Malibu Moon has adapted well to his new and busier surroundings.

“He went to the gate Friday; that went perfect; he went to the paddock Saturday night and that went perfect, as well as you could expect the first time over there, especially at night. He’ll go again on Wednesday,” McGaughey said. “He’s fit in here as well as I could expect. As of right now, I’ve got no qualms. We have four, five more days to go.”

If all continues to go well, Orb will be only the second Kentucky Derby starter for McGaughey since he saddled Easy Goer for a second-place finish behind Sunday Silence in 1989. A native of Lexington, Ky., McGaughey has always dreamed of winning the Kentucky Derby.

“It’s on top of my list and it has been for a long time. Even though we haven’t been here that many times, every year when we get a bunch of 2-year-olds, I’m hoping that one of them will be the horse that can give us the opportunity,” said McGaughey, who saddled Saarland for a 10th-place finish in 2002. “All we want is the opportunity. I feel what will be will be when race day comes.”

 
McGaughey isn’t trying to hide his feelings now that Orb is providing him a solid opportunity.

“I’m excited. I have been since the Florida Derby. We came here with the idea that we’re going to be excited and try to have fun with it. I know Wednesday or Thursday, the nerves are going to set in – not that they weren’t last night anticipating this morning,” McGaughey said. “I’m having a good time. I’m comfortable in Louisville. I’ve stabled at Churchill and was in this barn (No. 43). I lived here for three or four years.”

 
OXBOW (No. 16)/WILL TAKE CHARGE (No. 9) – Calumet Farm’s Oxbow, ridden by jockey Gary Stevens, and Willis Horton’s Will Take Charge, with exercise rider Rudy Quevedo aboard, had five-furlong workouts Monday morning for trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

Oxbow’s time was :59.80, the fastest of 34 workouts at the distance. His fractions were 11.80, :23.40, :35.20, and :47.40, and he  galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.80.

Will Take Charge’s time was 1:01, the 12th fastest of the morning. His fractions were :11.60, 23.20 and 35.20. Will Take Charge galloped out six furlongs in 1:17.40.

“A work’s a work,’’ Lukas said. “I’ve always said we put a little too much emphasis on works. When you do it at 8 in the morning, it’s a lot different from the afternoon, but it’s a barometer of where you’re at with a horse in a lot of ways. As a trainer you get a chance to evaluate maybe the energy level of where you’re at, the soundness, all the things that go into maybe winning the darn thing.

“I don’t get caught into it so much, but I told Gary in the tack room here, I said, ‘59-and-4 to a minute would fit me today,’ and that’s my opinion – I didn’t discuss it with the horse at all – and he hit it right on the head, which I know is an accident, but it was good. Will, I thought worked a little bit slower, but Rudy was afraid. I’d pretty much beat up on him in there about going too fast this close (to the race), so less is always better. Always better. If you’re going to err on any side of a work, you always err on the slow side, never err on the fast side.’’

Stevens, 50, will be riding in his 19th Derby but first since 2005. In January, Stevens came out of seven-year retirement.

His three Derby victories include two for Lukas – on Winning Colors in 1988 and Thunder Gulch in 2005. Silver Charm (1997) was Stevens’ other Derby winner.

The experience factor – you cannot downplay it in this one, with 20 horses especially,’’ Lukas said of having Stevens on Oxbow. “I would be very concerned in the race about somebody that had never ridden one. There are some in there, and I’m not second-guessing Doug O’Neill with a first-time guy, or anybody else. But experience is big.’’

“It never gets old,’’ Stevens said of participating in the Derby. “It’s no different than from when I was here for my first Derby, except I know what it’s all about. I don’t prepare for it any differently now than I did was I was 23 years old, but it’s exciting, and it’s exciting going in there knowing you have a chance.”

Stevens expressed gratitude for the support he has received from trainers and owners since he returned to riding.

“Wayne called me back in January after I’d ridden for just the first week, and he said, ‘I’ve got a couple of colts that I think you’ll be wanting to ride one of them the first Saturday in May.’ And here we are. He’s a Hall of Famer for a reason, and his record in the Derby speaks for itself.’’

Lukas, who was listening, took a wad of bills out of his pocket and acted as if he would hand money to Stevens. “Don’t let me interrupt, Gary,’’ Lukas said. “Just roll with it.’’

 
TIZ A MINISTER – Trainer Paul Aguirre confirmed via text to Churchill Downs officials that Tiz a Minister will not run in the Kentucky Derby.

“Owner has decided not to go,” Aguirre texted.

Tiz a Minister, owned by S.A.Y. Racing (Stephen Young), ran third in Saturday’s Snow Chief at Betfair Hollywood Park.

 
VYJACK (No. 8) – Trainer Rudy Rodriguez said Monday that images of Vyjack lying down and sleeping in his stall show that the Pick Six Racing gelding has settled into his new surroundings in Barn 4.
 
Rodriguez and owner David Wilkenfeld are able to monitor security cameras in and around the stall and Rodriguez had a picture on his phone of Vyjack on the ground.
 
“It’s good He’s not nervous. He’s relaxing and enjoying himself,” Rodriguez said. “That’s a big plus, I think. You want your horse to be able to relax and be comfortable.”
 
Vyjack galloped 1 ½ miles under Rodriguez at 8:30 a.m. during the training period reserved for Derby and Oaks horses.
 
"He’s doing pretty much the same thing that we do back home,” Rodriguez said. “He’s doing everything we ask of him and he’s very, very comfortable. I’m kind of surprised myself, but I’m very happy where we’re standing right now.”
 
Vyjack opened his career with four consecutive victories and finished third in his fifth start, the Wood Memorial (GI) at Aqueduct Racetrack.

 

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