Sackatoga Stable’s Tiz the Law, the 3-5 morning line favorite for Saturday’s $3 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (GI), made his first on track appearance of Derby Week on a soggy Wednesday morning.
With trainer Barclay Tagg escorting alongside on a pony, Tiz the Law jogged to the frontside of the track and then galloped once around under Heather Smullen during the 7:30-7:45 a.m. (all times Eastern) training window for Derby and Oaks horses.
Before returning to the barn, Tiz the Law visited the Derby starting gate in the chute for a brief get-acquainted session.
Also making their initial Derby Week appearances on track were Ny Traffic, Money Moves and South Bend who arrived on the same flight from Albany, New York, with Tiz the Law on Tuesday.
ATTACHMENT RATE – Jim Bakke and Gerald Isbister’s Attachment Rate was on the track at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday and galloped 1 ½ miles with Faustino Herrarte in the saddle.
“We’ll continue to gallop two more days and be ready for Derby,” trainer Dale Romans said.
Attachment Rate is scheduled to school in Race 6 on Wednesday.
AUTHENTIC/THOUSAND WORDS – Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert was on hand at Churchill Downs Wednesday morning to see for himself how his Derby duo of Authentic and Thousand Words were progressing in advance of the 1 ¼-mile classic.
Thousand Words, who is owned by Albaugh Family Stables and Spendthrift Farm, hit the track first, going out during a heavy round of rain just after 6 a.m. The son of Pioneerof the Nile turned in a routine gallop with Authentic also galloping twice around the Louisville oval when he emerged during the special 7:30 a.m. training slot for Derby and Oaks horses.
“It’s a wet track so you really can’t tell if they like it or not, but so far everything seems well,” Baffert said of his duo. “It’s gone smooth, that’s what you want.”
Both Thousand Words and Authentic are coming into the Kentucky Derby off victories in their most recent outings with the former taking the Shared Belief Stakes over Grade 1 winner Honor A. P. Aug. 1 and Authentic annexing the Haskell Stakes (GI) July 18.
“They’re coming off of wins and that’s very important,” Baffert said. “And you need to, you need to be at your best right now. That’s why they’re doing well.”
The early speed Authentic has flaunted in his five career starts likely will be put to the test Saturday as he will break from the far outside post in the 18-horse field.
“He’s got so much naturel speed and that’s such an important part of the Derby,” said Ned Toffey, general manager of Spendthrift Farm, which also co-owns Authentic along with My Racehorse, Madaket Stables, and Starlight Racing. “He should be able to put himself in a good position. And we’ll see how he goes down the stretch.”
ENFORCEABLE – With trainer Mark Casse set to arrive in Louisville Thursday afternoon, assistant trainer David Carroll continues to oversee the preparations for John Oxley’s Enforceable as he again worked to keep the colt from doing too much during his gallop Wednesday morning.
“Mentally he’s in a great place, I couldn’t be any happier with him,” said Carroll, who himself sent out the third-place finisher in the 2008 Kentucky Derby with Dennis of Cork.
Enforceable will break from post No. 3 in the Kentucky Derby but his running style figures to have him well back in the early going.
“Personally I would like to see him a little further out in the draw but we couldn’t be asking for him to be doing any better,” Carroll said.
FINNICK THE FIERCE – There is no guesswork involved for Rey Hernandez when it comes to evaluating how his charge, Finnick the Fierce, is progressing in the days leading up to the Kentucky Derby. The trainer and co-owner is the relatively rare breed who gets on his horses himself, and what he has felt from the chestnut gelding in of late is giving him confidence as they collective dive into their deepest waters yet.
Hernandez guided Finnick the Fierce during his routine gallop Wednesday as the two took the track during the special 7:30 a.m. training slot for Oaks and Derby contenders.
“I think it’s a big plus (getting on your own horses) because you can feel how they’re doing and you know everything about them,” Hernandez said. “It’s to your advantage.”
Finnick the Fierce has gained a sentimental following because of the fact he is missing his right eye, the result of a congenital cataract.
“Just in the beginning we tried to be really careful with him, how we approached him on his blind side,” co-owner Arnaldo Monge said. “Rey did a great job when he was breaking him of giving him the confidence that everything was going to be OK. Kudos to Rey for how he handled this horse in the beginning.”
HONOR A. P. – C R K Stable’s Honor A. P. , the 5-1 second choice on the Kentucky Derby morning line, galloped 1 ½ miles with exercise rider Javier Hernandez aboard at 7:30 a.m. after visiting the starting gate for the first time.
“He’s doing good, excellent,” trainer John Shirreffs said. “The gate was a good learning experience for him. He needed that.”
MAJOR FED – Lloyd Madison Farm’s Major Fed galloped 1 ½ miles at 5:15 a.m. Wednesday with Margarito Fierro in the saddle.
The son of 2004 horse of the year Ghostzapper is likely to school in the paddock Thursday.
MAX PLAYER – George Hall and SportBLX Thoroughbred Corp.’s Max Player, who worked Monday and walked Tuesday, returned to the track during the second set for trainer Steve Asmussen and jogged once around under regular exercise rider Juan Vargas.
Asmussen, who is still seeking his first Kentucky Derby victory despite being Churchill Downs’ winningest trainer, thinks the biggest difference between running the Derby in September rather than May is that by now many of the horses already have sorted themselves out.
“This late in the year, I think horses are a lot more sorted out in what they are going to do,” Asmussen said. “It’s going to be interesting. There are certain people in the race, riders you know their tendencies. I don’t think pace is going to be as fast as it could be because of that. We’ll be watching how the track plays this week.
“This is unprecedented to say the least. We feel fortunate to have Max Player, a horse of his talent that is doing this well right now.”
MONEY MOVES – Robert LaPenta and Bortolazzo Stable’s Money Moves had one of the most heralded set of eyes in the sport keeping watch on him as he got his first feel of the Churchill Downs track during his gallop on Wednesday.
With his trainer Todd Pletcher remaining in New York at his Saratoga base this week, the lightly raced son of Candy Ride (ARG) is having his Kentucky Derby preparations handled by the legend that is Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas. That Lukas is now acting as an “assistant” of sorts for Pletcher is the equivalent of Obi Wan Kenobi readying Luke Skywalker’s light saber given that the latter famously cut his teeth working for the four-time Kentucky Derby winning trainer.
“I just did what I was told,” said Lukas, who celebrated his 85th birthday Wednesday. “I sent him out there and he had a good maintenance gallop. We’ll school him in the gate tomorrow. Todd just said ‘Run him like you would any of your others’.”
“First of all he’s a great friend for doing it,” Pletcher added by phone. “They’ve gone out of their way to accommodate us. Part of the decision making process of going with this horse was that one of the challenges was with the staff. It’s been a difficult time for our staff in general all year losing the visa workers and (Lukas) was able to accommodate us and, that way, we don’t have to go through the quarantine process coming back.”
Lukas recently returned to his barn after battling the COVID-19 virus, and he makes no bones about how hard the illness hit him. The resilience Lukas has shown in his recovery, however, is par for the course for the man who had made a career out of pulling off extraordinary feats.
“He’s a remarkable man. My biggest concern was I knew he had a bout with COVID-19 and I didn’t want to be a burden in any way on him,” Pletcher said. “But I could tell from talking to him that his voice was strong and he was feeling good compared to the week before. That was my main concern was I didn’t want to be a burden for him.”
Money Moves comes into Saturday with just three career starts to his credit and none against stakes company. The bay colt has held his own against older horses, though, finishing second last time out in an allowance optional claiming race at Saratoga on July 25.
“He came into us with high expectations and I thought he ran very impressively to win his first two races,” Pletcher said. “Unfortunately after that he got sick and we missed several weeks of training so it kind of knocked out the original schedule that we hoped for.
“By the time we got him back, we were in kind of a difficult position because we didn’t feel like he was quite ready to run in the Peter Pan off the long layoff. We were in a tough spot. We ran him 1 1/8 miles first time around two turns against older horses and he fared pretty well. It was a very tough race, he was almost able to win and his figures came back strong. After that, it started to look like it might not take any points to get into the Derby, so the ownership group expressed interest in monitoring how he’s training and he trained well. We got together after his last breeze and weighed the pros and cons and they felt like we don’t get these opportunities but once in a horse’s life, so let’s take a shot.”
MR. BIG NEWS – Allied Racing’s $200,000 Oaklawn Stakes winner Mr. Big News galloped about 1 ½ miles Wednesday morning at 7:30 for trainer Bret Calhoun.
“He’s bred with a lot of turf on both sides of the family,” Calhoun said. “He worked over the turf here twice and I don’t think we’ll get a good grip of how good he would handle the surface with how soft it is. He’s breezed great over the dirt here and was very impressive over the winter at Oaklawn.”
NECKER ISLAND – Raymond Daniels, Wayne Scheer and Will Harbut Racing’s Necker Island jogged two miles early Wednesday morning in the rain with Hillary Hartman aboard for her husband, trainer Chris Hartman.
Necker Island, who represents the first Kentucky Derby starter for the 47-year-old Hartman, drew post 11 for the Run for the Roses and is listed at 50-1 on the morning line.
A two-time winner in 10 starts with both of those victories coming at Churchill Downs, Necker Island will race without blinkers for the first time Saturday. Miguel Mena has the mount.
NY TRAFFIC – Haskell Invitational (GI) runner-up Ny Traffic had his first gallop over a wet Churchill Downs track at 7:30 a.m. and then visited the starting gate with trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. and co-owner John Fanelli looking on. The gray Cross Traffic colt, who also is owned by Cash is King and Paul Braverman, arrived on a flight from New York Tuesday shortly before he drew post 15 of 18.
“I thought he went well,” Joseph said. “The track was a little sloppy, so I was undecided if we were going to gallop or jog today, but looking at the weather, there’s more rain on the way, so we may jog tomorrow and I decided to go on and gallop. He went well. He was nice and relaxed. He showed good energy. He stood in the gate. So far, all is well.”
Ny Traffic, who has not been worse than third in five starts in 2020, has shown improvement in each of his races and his connections are hopeful he can perform well in the Kentucky Derby and are pleased with how he has trained since the Haskell July 18.
“He’s done well. He’s trained forwardly. He has a good series of breezes in,” Joseph said. “Our preparation as far as a race horse coming into a race has gone as well as we could have asked. The Haskell was his best race as far as handicapping figures. He’s going to need to improve to compete with horses like Tiz the Law and Honor A. P., but we feel with the spacing of his races he should have improvement again. You never know for sure. Each race he’s made a little jump and if he makes another little jump again, he’s right there among the leaders.”
SOLE VOLANTE – Reeves Thoroughbreds and Andie Biancone’s Sole Volante continued his routine of jogging alongside the pony Wednesday during the 7:30 a.m. special training time with his co-owner in the saddle. Andie Biancone also has been handling the training duties for father Patrick Biancone, who is staying in South Florida.
SOUTH BEND – With his Kentucky Derby gear still being constructed, South Bend took to the track with his usual Bill Mott saddle towel as he galloped during the special 7:30 a.m. training session for Oaks and Derby horses.
A late entrant to the Derby fray, South Bend heads into Saturday’s test off a fourth-place finish in the Travers Stakes (GI) at Saratoga on Aug. 8. Though he is winless in eight starts this year, the bay colt has flashed potential, most notably running second in the Ohio Derby (GIII) June 27 while still in the barn of his prior trainer Stanley Hough.
Campaigned by Sagamore Farm through his first 11 starts, including a victory in the Street Sense last fall at Churchill Downs, South Bend was acquired by a partnership group that includes Gary Barber, Adam Wachtel, Peter Deutsch and Leonard Schleifer of Pantofel Stable.
“He was previously with Stanley so he’s trained over this track (Churchill Downs) many times,” said Kenny McCarthy, assistant to Mott. “This horse, it was a bit of a last-minute decision to go into the race but having said that, I think initially when the horse was purchased, that might have been in the back of their minds to try and get themselves a Derby horse. Obviously with the defection of Art Collector, they figured let’s take a shot.”
STORM THE COURT – Exline-Border Racing, David Bernsen, Susanna Wilson and Dan Hudock’s Storm the Court galloped a mile and half under Thomas Dubaele at 7:30 Wednesday morning.
Winner of last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) at 45-1, Storm the Court is winless in five starts since.
“It is part of growing up,” trainer Peter Eurton said of the 2020 campaign. “He matured early even though he is a late May foal. He has been running well and figuring things out. This would be the perfect time for him to do that.”
Storm the Court, who is housed in the same stall as 2001 Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos, will brerak from post four as a 50-1 morning line proposition under Julien Leparoux.
“It is a quality field,” Eurton said. “Art Collector not entering Tuesday was a big loss for the public and the Derby.”
TIZ THE LAW – Sackatoga Stable’s Tiz the Law galloped once around the sealed track under Heather Smullen and then visited the starting gate for trainer Barclay Tagg.
Tiz the Law drew post 17 and was installed as the 3-5 morning line favorite, the shortest such price in Mike Battaglia’s since the entry of Easy Goer and Awe Inspiring in 1989.
“There was a lot of tension at the table as the numbers drew down,” said Jack Knowlton, head of Sackatoga. “It was down to the two or 17 and I think the 17 is a great spot.”
Prior to Tuesday’s draw and the 3-5 morning line assignment, Battaglia’s lowest priced program favorite was Empire Maker at 6-5 in 2003. The winner that year was Funny Cide, owned by Sackatoga and trained by Tagg.
Funny Cide represented Tagg’s first Kentucky Derby starter.
“They’re both fast. They’re different types,” Tagg said comparing Tiz the Law with Funny Cide. “He’s kind of a stockier horse than Funny Cide but distance doesn’t seem to faze him. He’s not as tough to train as Funny Cide, Funny Cide was a very hard horse to ride and very hard horse to train. This horse just does what you ask him to do. He’s strong, he’s on the muscle but he’s a real pleasure to work with.”
WINNING IMPRESSION – West Point Thoroughbreds and Pearl Racing’s Winning Impression galloped 1 ½ miles at 6 a.m. Wednesday with Emerson Chavez on board.
“We’re ready for the Derby,” Chavez said on his walk back to trainer Dallas Stewart’s Barn 34.
Winning Impression is 50-1 on the morning line for Saturday’s “Run for the Roses.”
KENTUCKY OAKS UPDATE
BAYERNESS – Belladonna Racing’s Indiana Oaks runner-up Bayerness galloped Wednesday morning at Trackside Louisville for trainer Cherie DeVaux.
Bayerness is 50-1 for Friday’s Longines Kentucky Oaks.
DONNA VELOCE – Kaleem Shah, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith’s Donna Veloce visited the starting gate and galloped once around under John Stock for trainer Simon Callaghan.
Donna Veloce, who enters Friday’s Oaks off a nearly six-month layoff, was scheduled to school in the paddock with horses in Wednesday’s second race.
“She had a minor issue and it was decided to take some time off and get ready for a fall campaign and the Breeders’ Cup and have a good filly next year as a 4-year-old,” said Carlos Santamaria, assistant to Callaghan.
Donna Veloce, runner-up in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI) last year at Santa Anita, won the Santa Ysabel (GIII) going 1 1/16 miles on March 8 in her most recent start.
“She went to Florida and utilized a water treadmill and when she came back, she was two to three weeks ahead in her schedule before starting back jogging and galloping,” Santamaria said.
Ricardo Santana Jr. will be aboard for the first time in the Oaks.
DREAM MARIE – Miracle’s International Trading Inc.’s Dream Marie continued to make a good impression as she galloped once around the Churchill track under exercise rider Ian Cravens during the allotted 7:30 a.m. training time for Oaks and Derby horses. Shortly before the Graydar filly left the barn, it started to rain, but trainer Matthew Williams said he wasn’t worried about the wet track and that he wouldn’t mind a wet track come Friday.
“She’s never raced on an off track, but the one workout that stands out in my mind was on a wet track,” Williams said. “I think she’d like it. I was watching the last 15 runnings of the Oaks last night and I remember how Abel Tasman closed from way back on a sloppy track. We know our filly will be closing.”
GAMINE – Michael Lund Petersen’s Gamine, the even-money, morning line favorite for the Kentucky Oaks, had trainer Bob Baffert on hand as she galloped over the sloppy Churchill Downs track Wednesday morning.
The daughter of Into Mischief annexed the Acorn (GI) and Test Stakes (GI) in her past two outings, winning those two races by a combined 25 ¾ lengths.
HOPEFUL GROWTH – St. Elias Stable’s Monmouth Oaks (GIII) winner Hopeful Growth arrived safely around 9 a.m. after an overnight van ride from New Jersey, according to her trainer Anthony Margotta. She is staying with trainer Dale Romans, who will saddle the filly Friday.
“I’m going to miss the hoopla,” Margotta said. “It’s still a very important race, a historic race. I feel very blessed to be in this position, but unfortunately, I’m staying in New Jersey.”
SHEDARESTHEDEVIL – Qatar Racing, Flurry Racing Stable and Big Aut Farms’ Shedaresthedevil galloped about 1 ½ miles Wednesday morning in the mud with Edvin Vargas up for trainer Brad Cox.
“There are some really nice fillies in the race but we’re training like she’s ready for the best race of her career so far,” Cox said.
SPEECH – Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners, Madaket Stables and Heider Family Stables’ Speech waited for early morning rains to slacken before galloping under Osman Cedeno during the 7:30-7:45 training window for Kentucky Derby and Oaks horses.
Listed as the 5-1 third choice for the Oaks, Speech could get trainer Michael McCarthy’s weekend off to a flying start Friday. McCarthy brought seven horses from his 45-horse stable to Churchill Downs and will have four horses running Saturday, three in stakes.
“Everybody has trained well and gotten over the track well,” McCarthy said. “It is easier with that many getting and getting settled and staying in a routine.”
McCarthy’s stakes runners Saturday include Ce Ce in the $500,000 Derby City Distaff Presented by Derby City Gaming (GI), Rushie in the $500,000 Pat Day Mile Presented by LG&E and KU (GII) and Smooth Like Strait in the $500,000 American Turf Presented by Smithfield (GII).
SWISS SKYDIVER – Peter J. Callahan’s multiple stakes winner Swiss Skydiver had her usual “basic” gallop at 6 a.m. over a sloppy track Wednesday and will do the same Thursday, the final day of training ahead of the Kentucky Oaks.
The Daredevil filly had been training during the special 7:30 a.m. training time reserved for Oaks and Derby horses only, but trainer Kenny McPeek said he moved her training up not so much because of the weather, but because it was closer to her usual training time.
“She’s always been one of our first horses to train,” McPeek said. “That’s how she likes it. We’re just keeping her happy.”
TEMPERS RISING – Mark and Nancy Stanley’s Tempers Rising galloped about 1 3/8 miles early Wednesday morning for trainer Dallas Stewart.
The daughter of Bayern is scheduled to school in Race 6 on Wednesday.