Kentucky Derby 2019 Daily: Improbable gets blinkers at the right time

April 13, 2019 07:22pm

Welcome to Horse Racing Nation’s Kentucky Derby Daily, which will each day leading up to the May 4 race at Churchill Downs detail all the news and notes related to contenders in one convenient space.

Last week, trainer Bob Baffert fielded entries stuck on the rail in the Santa Anita Derby (G1), Santa Anita Handicap (G1) and Bay Shore Stakes (G3). He either won or placed in each — and it’ll take a similar performance from a difficult gate for Improbable to advance to the 2019 Kentucky Derby out of Saturday’s Grade 1, $1 million Arkansas Derby.

That’s the consequence of split points last month in the Rebel Stakes (G2) that while accommodating given cancellation of a prep in California, could leave a talented horse out on the first Saturday in May.

Baffert tongue-in-cheek called the inside post “wonderful.” And then, according to Oaklawn Park’s publicity department, he asked about the “gray horse.”


That’s Gray Attempt, who stretches back out from a one-turn victory in the local Gazebo Stakes on March 23. The Graydar colt figures to be right at his distance limitation in the 1 1/8-mile Arkansas Derby and is known to show speed.

“I don’t think he has to be on the lead, but he might,” said trainer Jinks Fires.

Perhaps this was the right time, then, for Baffert to add blinkers and try to get Improbable into his race earlier. An off track is expected due to rain in Hot Springs, Ark., and it’s often the cleanest horse getting his picture taken in such events.

Improbable carries in 8-5 morning line favoritism and has Baffert’s assistant, Jimmy Barnes, overseeing him at Oaklawn Park. It’s certainly a different setting than back home in California at Santa Anita Park.

“I was looking to see if I noticed anything this morning that was a little different than the last time I was here,” Barnes said Thursday. “He was maybe a little more relaxed than last time. Very good on the track.

“We do have a special time to train, so it’s quiet out there, which really helped the horsemen. You get the first 15 minutes after the break. Maybe that’s what I’m noticing, and before I had him out there with all the other horses.

“It’s a pretty busy racetrack. He seems more relaxed here."


Improbable is vying to become Baffert’s third projected Derby starter along with Roadster and Game winner, the 1-2 Santa Anita Derby finishers.

The Hall of Famer has on one other instance saddled a trio on the first Saturday in May, when Prime Timber (fourth), Excellent Meeting (fifth) and General Challenge (11th) each competed in 1999. Similarly, Baffert had won the prior year’s Kentucky Derby, that time with Real Quiet in 1998.

"There’s some nice horses this year," Baffert said, "Nobody’s just really sprung away from the field. There’s a lot of parity. There’s a lot of nice 3-year-olds. Happy to be in it. We need to run first, second or third.”

Derby links

 Ready up for Saturday’s Derby preps with free past performances for the Arkansas Derby and Lexington Stakes (G3).

 Still deciding on a selection? Horse Racing Nation contributors teamed up to provide their Arkansas Derby picks.

 Handicapper David Levitch — also a former local hoops star here in Louisville — runs down his Lexington Stakes handicapping.

 EJ Clark, host of the Kentucky Winner’s Circle podcast, delivered an Arkansas Derby preview show with an interview from Richard Mandella, trainer of Omaha Beach.

In case you missed it…

Thursday’s Derby Daily report detailed the potentially unique trail to the Kentucky Derby blazed by Lexington favorite Anothertwistafate.


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Horse Racing Nation's Kentucky Derby daily blog counts down to the May 4, 2019, race at Churchill Downs with a once-a-day update on all things Derby. Get the latest news and chatter, workout reports and a look at fields for upcoming preps all in once place.

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