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Kentucky Derby 2013 Barn Notes - April 30

Overanalyze Normandy Invasion 615 X 400
Photo: Eclipse Spotswire - Sue Kawczynski

BLACK ONYX (No. 11) – Sterling Racing’s Black Onyx galloped 1 ¾ miles under exercise rider Aurelio Gomez during the Derby and Oaks training session.

“It was a little bit longer gallop, a little bit stronger at the end,” trainer Kelly Breen said. “He came out of it looking dynamite.”

 
Black Onyx will be ridden by “Jersey” Joe Bravo, who has won both his starts aboard the Rock Hard Ten colt since Breen took over as trainer this year. Bravo – like Breen, a native of New Jersey – has 4,826 career wins, good for 34th all time and 15th among active riders. He’s a 13-time leading jockey at Monmouth Park.

“And he’s only 41 years old,” Breen said. “He’s had a great career and horse-backing is second nature to him. It’s a plus to have a guy who knows where the finish line is at and where the winner’s circle is at.”

The Spiral Stakes (Grade III) winner Black Onyx will be Bravo’s third Kentucky Derby mount after finishing 16th on both of his previous mounts – Spanish Chestnut in 2005 and Atomic Rain in 2009.

“This is going to be my third Derby and the trainer’s third Derby, so hopefully three’s a charm,” Bravo said. “He keeps improving day by day, just looking at him. Don’t know how good he is but we’ll find out real soon. It looks like we have plenty of pace in there. Another factor is going to be this weather. We don’t know who is going to get ahold of a muddy track but we’re going to find out about 7 o’clock Saturday night.”

 
CHARMING KITTEN (No. 18)/OVERANALYZE (No. 5)/PALACE MALICE (No. 13)/REVOLUTIONARY (No. 6)/VERRAZANO (No. 2) – The “Todd Squad” all went trackside through the six-furlong gap at Churchill Downs Tuesday morning right after 8:30 at the conclusion of the track’s renovation break.
 
The five sparkling bays trained by Todd Pletcher were going to take advantage of the special Oaks/Derby 15-minute period where the runners in those races have the track all to themselves for training. And train they did, four of them galloping a mile and a quarter and one just jogging one time around the sun-splashed oval.
 
The jogger was Louisiana Derby winner Revolutionary, the son of War Pass who had exercise rider Nick Bush attached for his leg-stretching. He was around and headed back to Barn 34 well before his stablemates.
 
Following him were the foursome of Verrazano, Overanalyze, Charming Kitten and Palace Malice. Heeding the trainer’s start-and-finish-pole instructions – “Seven to the five” – they each had been galloped a mile and a quarter under their partners -- Humberto Zamora (Verrazano), Obed Perez (Overanalyze), Patti Krotenko (Charming Kitten) and Jake Nelson (Palace Malice).
 
Pletcher, who stood inside the gap with a set of binoculars to watch his charges go through their drills, simply said “All good” when asked about his crew as he returned to the barn.
 
The trainer noted further that he will “paddock” his Derby quintet with horses for Wednesday’s second race. He also had news about his rider for Verrazano, Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez, who hasn’t ridden since sustaining rib and wrist injuries in a spill at Aqueduct in New York on April 7.
 
“I understand Johnny was to get on horses this morning at Belmont (Park),” Pletcher said. “Then he’s going to ride some races there tomorrow.”
 
Besides Verrazano, Velazquez also has the call on Pletcher’s Dreaming of Julia in Friday’s $1 million Kentucky Oaks (GI).
       
FALLING SKY (No. 17) – Newtown Anner Stud, James Covello and Joseph Bulger’s Falling Sky galloped 1 3/8 miles under exercise rider Cassie Garcea Tuesday morning at Churchill Downs.

“He was really into it. He’s always into it. He’s great. He likes to go out there and train. He just loves it. It’s all good,” trainer John Terranova said.

Falling Sky was purchased for $425,000 in January at the OBS Mixed Sale in Ocala.

“He had run three times and had already won two of three starts. He won an allowance race nicely at Gulfstream and we thought he’d stretch out nicely,” Terranova said.

Falling Sky was entered in the seven-furlong Hutcheson (GII) at Gulfstream and the 1 1/16-mile Sam F. Davis (GIII) at Tampa Bay on Feb. 2. His new connections opted for the Davis, and the son of Lion Heart won while stretching out around two turns for the first time.

“Everyone thought we would run in the Hutcheson, but we did the 180 at the last minute. We knew what we wanted to do and ended up going to the route. That worked out nicely,” Terranova said.

Falling Sky came back to finish a distant third behind Verrazano and Java’s War in the Tampa Bay Derby (GII) and went on to finish fourth in the Arkansas Derby (GI).

“He’s a real honest horse. He obviously has real talent. He’s a horse that’s a free-runner who likes to be out there. And he’s been pretty competitive in each start,” Terranova said.

 
FEAR THE KITTEN (No. 20) – Frank Irvin’s Fear the Kitten joined the ranks of Kentucky Derby hopefuls following the defection of four possible contenders Monday.
 
Trained by Mike Maker at the nearby Trackside Training Center, Fear the Kitten enters the Derby off a fifth-place finish in the Blue Grass (GI) at Keeneland on April 13. Fear the Kitten worked a half-mile in :49.80 over a fast track at Trackside on Saturday, the eighth fastest of 19 at the distance that morning.
 
Claimed out of a maiden win in his debut at Keeneland, Fear the Kitten was a Churchill Downs allowance winner in his second start and has raced exclusively in graded stakes company since with a best finish of second in the Southwest (GIII).
 
Alan Garcia picks up the mount on Fear the Kitten in the Derby. Fear the Kitten galloped Tuesday morning at Trackside under exercise rider Joel Barrientos.
 
“I am excited,” Irvin said. “The thing has really turned around in the last 23 ½ hours. Yesterday, we were aiming for the Belmont.”

Fear the Kitten is scheduled to come to Churchill Downs on Wednesday and will be housed in Barn 41, Stall 15.

 
FRAC DADDY (No. 14)/JAVA’S WAR (No. 4) – Magic City Thoroughbred Partners’ Frac Daddy and Charles Fipke’s Java’s War each galloped 1 ½ miles during the Derby and Oaks training session, picking up the pace noticeably through the lane, and visited the starting gate.
 
“All of them went super,” trainer Ken McPeek said, referring to his Derby team as well as Oaks contender Pure Fun.
 
Blue Grass Stakes (GI) winner Java’s War was ridden by regular exercise rider Marvin Abrego and had a “great day,” according to McPeek.
 
“Today was probably as good as I’ve ever seen him go over this surface,” the trainer said. “He really had great energy. He had a couple of light days in a row and I may go light with him the rest of the week because I want to see that kind of energy on Saturday.”

Concurrently, Derby jockey Victor Lebron was on Arkansas Derby (GI) runner-up Frac Daddy, who continues to show off his aggressive nature in the mornings.

“I was worried he was going to run off that second mile there,” McPeek said. “Victor had a tough time pulling him up.”

That aggression – or “high-spiritedness,” as Lebron calls it – could be a concern for Frac Daddy in a chaotic 20-horse race that is preceded by a litany of preparations and no small amount of pomp and circumstance in front of 160,000 screaming fans.

 
“He’s had a couple of episodes where things didn’t go his way and he didn’t perform all that well,” McPeek said. “But I think we’re in a good spot. His last race was super and he handled everything really well and I’m anticipating he’ll do it again.

“He still needs to show he can handle adversity a little bit better but physically he’s doing terrific.”

Frac Daddy earned four Kentucky Derby qualifying points as a juvenile when he finished second in the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) at Churchill Downs but had not added to that total going into the Arkansas Derby. His disappointing efforts in two Gulfstream Park stakes would have meant the end of the Derby road for many horses but the owners and trainer still saw a raw talent that just hadn’t put it all together yet.

“We gave him a sharp work right out of the Florida Derby and wheeled him back in Arkansas,” McPeek said. “I was a little reluctant to do it – it was a bit of an aggressive approach – but it was one of those deals where he needed to wake up quick. Carter Stewart (of Magic City) said to go with it, wanted to make it in, and we knew we needed to run second or third to make the race.

If Frac Daddy runs big on Saturday, that bullet breeze at Gulfstream eight days after the Florida Derby (five furlongs in 1:00.40 on April 7) will become known as the critical turning point for a 3-year-old many had written off. Six days later, after a good week of increasingly strong gallops at Oaklawn Park, he got up for second in the Arkansas Derby at 23-1.

“With him, nine-tenths of it was just getting in,” McPeek said. “He loves this racetrack and the mile-and-a-quarter won’t be a problem. We just needed to get him in and he punched his ticket there.”

 
GOLDENCENTS (No. 3) – The Santa Anita Derby (GI) star Goldencents was out for a gallop during the Oaks/Derby training period Tuesday morning.
 
Exercise rider Jonny Garcia was up for the exercise, accomplished with the colt’s usual panache during a full oval tour with a couple of furlongs farther thrown in. Trainer Doug O’Neill positioned himself in the grandstand to watch his charge and enjoyed the eyeful below him on the big Churchill strip.
 
The trainer noted that one of his several owners in the son of Into Mischief was going to make his first appearance at the track Wednesday morning for training.
 
“ ‘Coach’ is coming out tomorrow,” O’Neill said.
 
And when you say ‘Coach’ right now in the city of Louisville, it causes a major stir and points to only one man – NCAA champion and recent basketball Hall of Famer Rick Pitino. Though he owns only a small interest in Goldencents, he’ll have a big impact among fans and media types coming up to Derby 139. And it isn’t a case of beginner’s luck for Pitino. He has been in the game for better than 15 years and has been seen at racetracks regularly from Saratoga-to-Del Mar-to Churchill for most of that time.
 
Would Goldencents put on any kind of a special show for Pitino Wednesday?
 
“No, he’s not going to do anything special,” O’Neill said. “He’ll just train along as he has been doing. But each of his gallops is pretty special all on their own. He puts a lot into his mornings; a lot to each time he goes out on the track.”
 
Goldencents, a winner of four of six starts and more than $1.2 million in purses, will be handled by his regular pilot, Kevin Krigger, who will be making his Kentucky Derby debut.
 
GOLDEN SOUL (No. 19) – Trainer Dallas Stewart said Tuesday morning that his employees are on an emotional high now that Golden Soul is assured a spot in the starting gate for the Kentucky Derby.

Because of defections Monday from the possible field, Golden Soul moved into the top 20 horses, according to Derby points.

“They’re elated,’’ Stewart, said of his help. “They were excited. And they know he’s a good horse, and everybody, obviously, wants to be in the race.’’

Stewart said he is leaning toward a particular jockey for Golden Soul but will wait until Wednesday, entry day, to cement the decision.

“Well, I think I’ve got it pretty much narrowed down,’’ Stewart said. “I mean, we’ve got a couple of guys – one guy we’re real solid on. We’re just going to wait. If something was to happen (further defections), then the owner (Charles Fipke) wouldn’t step in and say, ‘Hey, how come we’re not using one of these guys?’ ’’

Golden Soul galloped Tuesday under exercise rider Emerson Chavez.

       
ITSMYLUCKYDAY (No. 10) – Trilogy Stable and Laurie Plesa’s Itsmyluckyday galloped 1½ miles under exercise rider Peter Shelton Tuesday morning at Churchill Downs.

Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr., who arrived in Louisville from his South Florida base Monday afternoon, monitored the morning exercise. The Calder Race Course-based trainer reported that Itsmyluckyday will gallop up to the Derby and likely visit the starting gate on Wednesday. He has no plans to school the son of Lawyer Ron in the paddock.

“Nothing bothers him, so I don’t see any reason to do that,” said Plesa, whose Gulfstream Park Derby and Holy Bull (GIII) winner finished second behind Orb in the Florida Derby (G1) last time out.

Itsmyluckyday is slated to be the second Derby starter for Plesa, who saddled Three Ring for a 19th-place finish in 1999. The filly was bumped and had to be steadied sharply just after the break.

“She never had an opportunity. I felt really bad for the owners. If after the first eighth of a mile, you could hit pause and they could say, ‘Go on with the race or take the horse out,’ I would say, ‘Take the horse out,’ because there’s no way you’re going to overcome what had happened to her,” said Plesa, whose filly went on to win the Acorn (GI) before a fall in the Belmont paddock before the Mother Goose claimed her life.

Plesa said he and his wife, Laurie, will enjoy Derby Week, but come Saturday, he’ll be wearing his game face.

“I’ll be miserable to be around, as my wife will attest to, on the morning of the race,” Plesa said. “I don’t like to be bothered. Then, I’m focused and zoned in. Things just disrupt that, and I don’t like it. That’s not my usual demeanor, but for big races it is – not everyday races.”

 
MYLUTE (No. 15) – GoldMark Farm and Whisper Hill Farm’s Mylute jogged one mile and galloped two miles under exercise rider Maurice Sanchez at his usual time, just before 6 a.m. On Wednesday the Louisiana Derby (GII) runner-up will make his first appearance during the Derby and Oaks training session so he can take advantage of time to school in the starting gate.
 
Mylute ran his best race to date in the Louisiana Derby by settling early, as opposed to expending precious energy establishing position toward the front of the field, as he had tried to do in February’s Risen Star Stakes (GII) before weakening to a seventh-place finish.

“We made a conscious change in his style – try to take him back off the pace and make one run – and it worked well,” trainer Tom Amoss said. “So we’ve followed that same pattern for the Kentucky Derby. He’s had his big work, three weeks out, and he’s had his two minor works, which is how we did it for the Louisiana Derby. His big work here was really nice, just as it was before the Louisiana Derby, so we’re real comfortable with where we are.”

Being by Midnight Lute, the champion sprinter of 2007, it is easy to presume that Mylute could have distance limitations. However, the change in tactics helps to get the most out of Mylute’s speed by conserving him for the stretch as much as possible. The nine-furlong Louisiana Derby was Mylute’s farthest test yet and he passed most of the field in the final three-eighths.

“I have no fear regarding his fitness level or his understanding of getting a true distance of ground,” Amoss said. “I know that he’s physically ready to do that and that he’s had the training to do that.”

 
NORMANDY INVASION (No. 13) – Trainer Chad Brown liked what he saw when Fox Hill Farms’  Normandy Invasion galloped 1 3/8 miles Tuesday morning. It was the Tapit colt’s first vigorous exercise since he worked five furlongs in :59 Saturday morning.
 
“I thought he went super,” Brown said. “I was anxious to see him come out of that work to see how he would be moving and he couldn’t be moving any better. I’m getting excited about him.”
 
Brown was hoping for consistency and Normandy Invasion delivered.
 
“He galloped today the way he did prior to his last work,” Brown said. “That’s all I was looking to see because he was moving super since he has been at Churchill and in the week leading up to his final workout. When you’re breezing a horse for a big race like this and he has a serious work like he did, as a trainer you’re always curious to see how they’re coming out of there and how they’re moving. He’s moving just like he was prior to the work and I was excited to see him galloping today.”
 
Normandy Invasion earned the points he needed to qualify for a spot in the Derby field with a second-place finish in the Wood Memorial (GI) on April 6 at Aqueduct.
 
ORB (No. 1) – One day after turning in a sharp four-furlong breeze, Stuart Janney III and Phipps Stable’s Orb walked the shedrow at Barn 43 at Churchill Downs Tuesday morning.
 
The Florida Derby (GI) winner was clocked in :47.80 Monday before galloping out five furlongs in 1:00.80 under exercise rider Jennifer Patterson, who remained motionless throughout the workout. His dazzling work has led to speculation that Orb may have wrested the Kentucky Derby favorite’s role from undefeated Verrazano.

“He had an awfully good work yesterday and he’s done awful well since he’s been at Churchill. Even before all that I wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d been the post-time favorite,” trainer Shug McGaughey said. “But Verrazano very much deserves to be the (morning-line) favorite. He probably deserves to be the post-time favorite.”

McGaughey said there is very little to choose between Orb and Verrazano, who won the Wood Memorial (GI) in his most recent start.

 
“He’s done nothing wrong. We’ve done nothing wrong over the winter. We got here and have done good and Verrazano has done very well. I saw him come off the track this morning and he thought he looked the picture. I thought he galloped very good over it,” McGaughey said. “So whatever they do, is fine with me. The biggest thing I’m hoping is we get there Saturday as well as we’re doing right now and get something done that afternoon.”
 
OXBOW (No. 16)/WILL TAKE CHARGE (No. 9) – Calumet Farm’s Oxbow  and Willis Horton’s Will Take Charge – the Derby duo trained by D. Wayne Lukas – walked in the barn and grazed Tuesday morning. They had an off day after working five furlongs Monday – Oxbow in :59.80 and Will Take Charge in 1:01.00.

Will Take Charge rallied from mid-pack to win the Rebel (GII) on March 16 at Oaklawn Park in his most recent start. A big, chestnut colt, Will Take Charge appears built more for power than speed, and he ran from off the pace in all but one of his seven races. But don’t expect him to be at the back of the Derby pack, Lukas said.

“He lays a little closer than you think,’’ Lukas said. “When you look at him physically in the paddock, you’d say, ‘This horse is definitely going to come from way out of it.’ He’s got a little bit of a lick to him. I would say mid-pack. He’ll be in touch.’’

Lukas, who has won the Derby four times, said he doesn’t have a favorite Derby winner.

“Not really, because I represented four different clients,’’ he said.  “That’s what made it special. Every time I won it, I never duplicated one of them. I got Bill Young (owner of Grindstone) where he wanted to be, Gene Klein (owner of Winning Colors), then Bob Lewis (owner of Charismatic) – right down the line. It was special because I was able to have that association with people I really am fond of.’’

 
VYJACK (No. 8) – Pick Six Racing’s Vyjack galloped 1 1/2 miles under trainer Rudy Rodriguez Tuesday morning.
 
“The same routine. We aren’t changing anything,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve been doing that since Day One and he got us here doing that so I don’t think we need to change anything.”
 
Vyjack cruised through his first four starts unbeaten and finished third, one length behind Verrazano, in the Wood Memorial (GI) on April 6 at Aqueduct. The Into Mischief gelding recovered from a minor lung infection discovered after the Wood and has made a smooth transition to Churchill Downs. Rodriguez said the gelding felt fine to him when they have been on the track in the morning.
 
“So far, so good. I’m very comfortable,” Rodriguez said. “He has been galloping like that all along. He doesn’t show us anything that he doesn’t like, but he’s still got to go and do it. We’re happy.”
 
Owner David Wilkenfeld purchased Vyjack as a 2-year-old for $100,000 at the May 2012 Fasig-Tipton sale at Timonium, Md. Vyjack proved to be a difficult horse when he was being prepared for the track at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md., and Wilkenfeld decided that Rodriguez was the right trainer for the assignment.
 
“I knew that Rudy could get on this horse in the morning and work with him,” Wilkenfeld said. “I saw that he had some nice 2-year-olds at Saratoga. It’s worked out great. He’s done a terrific job. The horse has relaxed.”

 

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