With all of the heavy lifting done, it was a quiet morning beneath the Twin Spires at Churchill Downs with routine gallops and some gate schooling the order of the day for Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks entrants.
The respective morning line favorites for the Derby and Oaks, Forte and Wet Paint, both galloped with the former going 1 3/8 miles and the latter a mile and a half.
ANGEL OF EMPIRE/HIT SHOW/JACE’S ROAD, VERIFYING – Gary and Mary West’s Hit Show, West Point Thoroughbreds and Albaugh Family Stables’ Jace’s Road and Coolmore’s Verifying went to out to train at 7:30 a.m. during the special training time Wednesday, while Albaugh Family Stables’ Angel of Empire went out in the next set. All four Brad Cox-trained Derby contenders stood in the starting gate and then galloped 1 ½ miles.
“Everything went really well today,” Cox said. “We stood all four Derby horses in the gate. They stood extremely well. They are going to school tomorrow in the paddock. They are doing great, they really are. They stood in the gate and had really, really good gallops after that. Hopefully everything goes good in the paddock and we’ll do as much as we can in the mornings. Hopefully that will translate to them being settled and handling everything well on Saturday.”
When asked if there was a specific reason Arkansas Derby winner Angel of Empire didn’t go out with his stablemates, Cox said, “I wanted to stand Verifying and Hit Show next to each other because that’s where they’ll be on Saturday, in the 1 and 2 (posts). Also, exercise rider Edvin (Vargas) rides both Hit Show and Angel of Empire. Angel of Empire is pretty easy. You can do anything with him. I think a 7-year-old could probably gallop him. He’s a super cool horse to be around.”
CONFIDENCE GAME – Don’t Tell My Wife Stables and Ocean Reef Stables’ Confidence Game returned to the track Wednesday after walking on Tuesday and galloped 1 ¼ miles under exercise rider Alex Cano.
Trainer Keith Desormeaux is known to give his horses two walk days a week, but called the audible to walk Tuesday based on what he thought was best for the horse.
“His last two works were strong,” Desormeaux said. “And, you know, the main reason is that some horses don’t rest well in their stall if they don’t train. He’s the opposite. If you get him out early, he does his thing. He walks 30 minutes and he goes back in his stall and rests. He lays down, he munches on hay, even on a walk day. He takes full advantage of it. So, I’m like you know what? Let’s leave the track alone and let him sleep Tuesday. He’s going to train again Wednesday. He’s going to train again Friday and I’ll probably train him Saturday morning early. Since the race isn’t until 6:30 or something, I’ll get him out and blow some steam off because by that time he’ll know what’s going on.
“He did go to the paddock, so it’s not like he was sleeping all day. he did get out there and get pumped up. That’s also another reason I walked. Why get him fired up twice. Onto the paddock isn’t enough.”
CONTINUAR – Lion Race Horse Co. Ltd.’s Continuar (JPN) spent an hour training in the mile chute.
Trainer Yoshida Yahagi said Continuar would gallop in the morning.
DERMA SOTOGAKE – Hiroyuki Asanuma’s Derma Sotogake (JPN) walked the shedrow in the Quarantine Barn a day after working a half-mile in :49.60.
Trainer Hidetaka Otonashi arrived in Louisville on Tuesday and was at the Kentucky Derby Trainers Dinner Tuesday night at the Speed Art Museum.
DISARM – Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Disarm had a light one-mile jog Wednesday morning for trainer Steve Asmussen.
FORTE/KINGSBARNS/MAJOR DUDE/TAPIT TRICE – The Todd Pletcher threesome of Derby colts went trackside at their usual time, right when the track opened at 7:30 a.m. for the 15-minute session for Derby/Oaks trainees. They also had their usual exercise riders on their backs – Hector Ramos on Derby favorite Forte; Elder Flores on the undefeated Kingsbarns, and Amelia Green aboard the Blue Grass Stakes (GI) hero Tapit Trice.
Again, the trio went through their regular exercise, which is a mile and three-eighths in a good gallop.
“Everything is right on schedule,” Hall of Famer Pletcher confirmed when his charges had returned to his Barn 39 headquarters. “They’ll all paddock today with the horses for Race 6.”
Forte is owned by Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable and will be ridden Saturday by Irad Ortiz Jr. Kingsbarns runs in the colors of Spendthrift Farm and will be handled in the big one by Jose Ortiz, while Tapit Trice runs for Whisper Hill Farm and Gainesway Stable and gets regular rider Luis Saez.
LORD MILES – Vegso Racing Stable’s Wood Memorial (GII) winner had a light gallop Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs.
Lord Miles drew post 19 in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.
MAGE – The Florida Derby (G1) runner-up to Forte was out for a gallop Wednesday with regular exercise rider J.J. Delgado.
“He’s looking really well,” said Gustavo Delgado Jr., assistant to trainer Gustavo Delgado Sr. “He galloped about a mile-and-a-half again, and he finished the last three or four furlongs increasing his speed. Most importantly, when he came back, his breathing was nearly normal, and he wasn’t breathing hard. I think he’s going to run well.”
Javier Castellano will ride the son of Good Magic, owned by OGMA Investments LLC, Ramiro Restrepo, Sterling Racing LLC and CMNWLTH, out of the No. eight post position. He’s 15-1 on the morning line.
PRACTICAL MOVE/REINCARNATE – Trainer Tim Yakteen changed his routine with his two Derby colts Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs. He had his gray Sham Stakes (GIII) winner Reincarnate take the early slot at 5:20 with exercise rider Baltazar Contreras attached. Then at 7:30 during the special Derby/Oaks training period, he had Contreras take out the big bay Practical Move.
“Just put a little variety in it for the horses,” the conditioner said.
Reincarnate, who is owned by an extended partnership led by Gavin Murphy’s SF Racing, galloped a mile and three-eighths before returning to Barn 27. Conversely, Pierre and Leslie Amestoy and Roger Beasley’s Santa Anita Derby (GI) winner Practical Move merely jogged a mile, an unusual move for a Derby horse midweek coming up to Saturday’s Classic.
Yakteen was asked if everything was OK with Practical Move. The trainer said: “Everything is fine.”
Reincarnate, who’ll have the saddle services of Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez for the Run for the Roses, will break from Post seven in the 20-horse lineup. Practical Move will break from Post 10 and have Ramon Vazquez at the controls.
RAISE CAIN – Andrew and Rania Warren’s Raise Cain visited the starting gate and galloped a mile and a half under Rene Morales for trainer Ben Colebrook.
Winner of the Gotham (GIII) in the mud, Raise Cain schooled in the paddock Tuesday and will have another paddock session Thursday.
There is rain the forecast three days out from Derby 149 and that doesn’t bother Colebrook.
“Nick Zito (Hall of Famer and two-time Derby winner including Go for Gin in the slop in 1994) said it was going to rain Saturday,” Colebrook said. “I’ll take that. The forecast said 60 percent (chance of rain) Friday and 40 on Saturday … oh, now it’s 54.
“He has handled an off track and that is nothing that we have to worry about. Some handle it better than others, but what we need is pace.”
Gerardo Corrales has the mount Saturday and will break from post 16.
ROCKET CAN – Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott had the Into Mischief colt, owned by Frank Fletcher Racing Operations, on the track for a gallop of about a mile-and-three-eighths with regular exercise rider Guelser Cardona.
The colt, who drew the No. 18 post position and was issued odds of 30-1, will have Junior Alvarado aboard in the Derby.
“All’s good,” said Mott of Wednesday’s preparations for Rocket Can. “His gallop went well, and he practiced at the starting gate, standing in and backing out.”
SKINNER – The bay colt Skinner followed pattern Wednesday morning for trainer John Shirreffs and went trackside through the six-furlong gap at 9 a.m. with exercise rider Donnie Balthazar in the tack. The pair backtracked with a pony to the finish line, they moved up the tunnelway to the new paddock that has been setup for Derby 149 while the main paddock goes through its total remake.
Skinner did his paddock tour, then returned to the main track for a solid mile and a half gallop. The C R K Stable runner, a close-up third in the Santa Anita Derby in his most recent try, was full of vigor as he moved past his trainer, who looked on from the clocker’s stand on the backside. “I liked his energy,” the conditioner said.
Shirreffs, who won the 2005 Kentucky Derby with the 50-1 shot Giacomo and handled the grand racemare Zenyatta through several championship seasons, said he wasn’t sure whether he would have Skinner paddock with horses Wednesday afternoon.
“It’s a matter of saving energy,” the trainer said. “That and the fact that what he’ll see for a crowd over there today won’t be anywhere near what he’ll encounter Saturday.”
SUN THUNDER – Following Tuesday’s four-furlong breeze with Derby jockey Brian Hernandez Jr., trainer Kenny McPeek had his colt walking the shedrow on Wednesday. Sun Thunder, owned by R.T Racing Stable and Cypress Creek Equine, was clocked in :47.80 for Tuesday’s breeze, with blinkers on.
“Everybody’s in good order,” McPeek said.
Sun Thunder and Hernandez will exit the Derby starting gate from post position 13. He’s listed at 50-1 on the Derby morning line.
TWO PHIL’S – Patricia’s Hope, Phillip Sagan, and Madaket Stable’s Two Phil’s spent an extended period on the track on Wednesday under exercise rider Gonzalo Gonzales. Heading out at 7:30 a.m. with the other Derby and Oaks horses, Larry Rivelli’s first Derby horse spent around 30 minutes on the track. He stood in his usual spot along the fence outside his Barn 1 watching all the activity, then he took time to school in the gates before galloping his usual one 1 and 1/4 miles.
Rivelli, jockey Jareth Loveberry, and owner Anthony Sagan looked on, reflecting on how well he has traveled to each track. Including Hawthorne, where Two Phil’s trained but has yet to race, Churchill Downs is his seventh stop.
“If he runs his last race he’s going to have a huge chance,” Rivelli said. “A lot of people think it’s the Tapeta that moved him up (winning the Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway Park), and it could be. If it wasn’t, he’s got a serious shot. It’s a deep and even year this year. There’s no Justify, no American Pharoah, which gives us a shot.”
Two Phil’s schooled on Tuesday prior of Race 1, sharing the paddock with fellow chestnut Rich Strike, who won Kentucky Derby 148.
ALSO-ELIGIBLES –.Trainer Dale Romans again had Cyclone Mischief galloping on the track about a mile-and-three-eighths with exercise rider Faustino Herrarte aboard. The colt, owned by Albaugh Family Stables LLC and Castleton Lyons, is the first also-eligible for the Derby, and not in the field of 20.
Hiroaki Arai’s Mandarin Hero had a walk day in the Quarantine Barn after working five furlongs in 1:05.60 on Tuesday.
Brereton C. Jones and Naber Racing’s King Russell galloped a mile and three-quarters Wednesday.
LONGINES KENTUCKY OAKS UPDATE
AFFIRMATIVE LADY – AMO Racing USA’s Affirmative Lady had a strong 1 ½-mile gallop under Kevin Lundie and visited the starting gate.
Trained by Graham Motion, the Gulfstream Park Oaks (GII) winner had a paddock schooling session after training hours.
Winner of her past two starts, Affirmative Lady is one of four Oaks entrants to have raced at the Oaks distance of 1 1/8 miles, something she has done twice.
“The farther she goes, the stronger she gets,” Lundie said of Affirmative Lady, who will break from post 13 under John Velazquez. “I just hope she gets a clean trip.”
AND TELL ME NOLIES – Peter Redekop’s And Tell Me Nolies had an easy day Wednesday, walking the shedrow of barn 24.
BOTANICAL, THE ALYS LOOK, WET PAINT – Trainer Brad Cox sent Botanical, The Alys Look and Wet Paint to the track all together first set at 5:15 a.m. for their Wednesday training and they all galloped a 1 ½ miles. All three, led by Oaks morning line favorite Wet Paint, will school Wednesday during the first race.
“Overall, I’m super happy with them,” Cox said. “They all schooled in the gate a couple of days ago and did well. Everything has been fantastic with them.”
DEFINING PURPOSE – At the time reserved for Oaks and Derby horses, the Ashland Stakes (GI) winner again stepped onto the track Wednesday with regular exercise rider Shelby Spalding aboard, for a gallop of about a mile and three eigthths.
While some humans on the backstretch didn’t appreciate the chilly weather with gusty winds, the equines appeared to tolerate it well.
“It’s crisp, but it feels good,” trainer Kenny McPeek said. “Horses like it.”
McPeek said Defining Purpose is progressing to his satisfaction ahead of the Oaks. The filly, who races in the silks of Magdalena Racing, Collette Marie Vanmatre and James Ball, drew the No. 11 post position in the field of 14. Brian Hernandez Jr. will ride 12-1 Defining Purpose Friday.
DORTH VADER – John Ropes’ Dorth Vader had a routine 1 ½-mile gallop at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday.
Dorth Vader would be the first start in the Oaks for Florida-based trainer Michael Yates.
Yates appears to be enjoying his trip to Louisville which included a visit to the Kentucky Thoroughbred Association’s Trainer’s Dinner Tuesday night.
FLYING CONNECTION – Brad King, Randy Andrews, G. Chris Coleman, Jim Cone, Suzanne Kirby and Lee Lewis’ Flying Connection had a regular walk day in trainer Todd Fincher’s barn and will return to the track to gallop at 7:30 Thursday morning.
GAMBLING GIRL/JULIA SHINING – Repole Stable’s Gambling Girl and Stonestreet Stables’ Julia Shining flexed their equine muscles Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs as they put some finishing touches on their preparations for Friday’s Kentucky Oaks.
Gambling Girl, a daughter of the Mineshaft stallion Dialed In, is assured a spot in the $1.25 million mile and one eighth. Stablemate Julia Shining, who is by champion Curlin, remains on the outside looking in in the 16th spot for the 14-horse field.
Both 3-year-old fillies galloped a mile and three eighths, with Carlos Quevedo handling Gambling Girl and Humberto Zamora up on Julia Shining for trainer Todd Pletcher.
Irad Ortiz Jr. is scheduled to handle “Girl” on Friday, while “Julia,” should she get to run, would have the saddle services of Luis Saez.
Both fillies will paddock today with horses from Race 6.
MIMI KAKUSHI – Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum’s Mimi Kakushi followed her regular routine of jogging a mile with the pony and then galloping a mile under Xavier Ziani.
Mimi Kakushi has not raced since the Feb. 17 UAE Oaks (GIII) and enters Friday’s Run for the Lilies off a 12-week layoff, the longest of any Oaks starter.
“She had had a busy campaign and she got a short break (after the UAE Oaks),” said trainer Salem bin Ghadayer, who currently oversees 72 horses in training in Dubai. “She got back on our program and she has been breezing every week (prior to coming to Churchill Downs).”
Mickael Barzalona has the mount in the Oaks and will break from post one.
PRETTY MISCHIEVOUS – Keeping to her routine, moving well, Godolphin’s Pretty Mischievous galloped one mile and a half on Wednesday during the designated Derby/Oaks training time at 7:30 a.m. Exercise rider Albino Martinez reported she is feeling good.
The Rachel Alexandra (GII) winner, who wintered in New Orleans at Fair Grounds Race Course, took time ahead of Race 6 on Tuesday to get comfortable in the paddock as trainer Brendan Walsh saddled the eventual winner, Farfellow Farm’s Fuente Ovejuna (GB).
PROMISEHER AMERICA – After arriving at Churchill Downs safely on Sunday night, Hoffman Thoroughbreds, Tom McCrocklin, and Medallion Racing’s Promiseher America had her first gallop across Churchill Downs’ main track. After jogging Tuesday, the Gazelle (GII)-winner galloped 1 and 1/4 miles under exercise rider Fernando Tapara.
“Fernando said she felt awesome and was looking around a lot today,” trainer Ray Handal said. “We did all the heavy lifting back home so I wanted to ship her in, jog, change her shoes, and get her comfortable with her surroundings. She galloped today and looked around a bit. She’ll gallop tomorrow and look around less, so she’ll be relaxed on race day.”
Handal returns to Churchill Downs for the first time since May of 2013, and he brought Kentucky Derby alumni Giant Finish with him. Having worked for trainer Anthony Dutrow prior to beginning his own barn, Handal was on hand for Giant Finish’s 10th-place finish to Orb.
“Giant Finish is my pony now,” Handal said. “I saddled him for the Derby. He’s kind of the reason I started training (on my own) because the owners were so thrilled, and they gave me my first two horses to start training. I kept Giant Finish and now he’s 13, so hopefully we can make a Derby with him around. It would be a nice way to come full circle.”
SOUTHLAWN – Robert Masterson’s Southlawn had a 1 ½-mile gallop Wednesday morning for trainer Norm Casse.
Jockey Rey Gutierrez will pilot the Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) winner in the Longines Kentucky Oaks.
“I love a rider that’s confident walking into the paddock and I know Reylu will be,” Casse said. “I’ve never had another trainer tell me before that they heard from my rider that they will win a race and that’s what happened in the Fair Grounds Oaks. I came into the paddock in the second or third race and (trainer) Bret Calhoun came up to me and said ‘Rey told me you’re going to win the Fair Grounds Oaks today.’ So, I’m confident that Rey will be confident coming into the race.”
WONDER WHEEL – After arriving on Tuesday, trainer Mark Casse was on hand for Wonder Wheel’s Wednesday morning work. Breaking from her 5:45 a.m. routine training time, D.J. Stable’s filly made an appearance during the Derby and Oaks training window at 7:30 a.m. Her regular exercise rider David Carroll guided her for a jog along the outside rail before galloping easily twice around the track.
“She went nicely and did everything right,” Casse said. “We’re going to conserve her energy a couple days before the race. She’s carrying more flesh than she probably ever has. Numbers-wise, I don’t think her race in the Ashland was as bad as some have said. I think she got confused out there. One problem was, and I knew I was going to run into it, but there was two months between races (before the Ashland). I’m thinking that maybe I didn’t do enough to get her in a competitive mindset. The timing is much better for this.”