Trainer Tim Yakteen’s 1-2 Santa Anita Derby (GI) finishers Taiba and Messier made their first appearance on the track at Churchill Downs Monday morning after arriving the previous afternoon from their Southern California base.
Another California runner, albeit by way of Keeneland, to appear on the track for the first time was Happy Jack, who made the 75-mile van ride to Churchill Downs from the Lexington track Sunday afternoon.
Arriving from South Florida early this morning was Florida Derby (GI) winner White Abarrio who is scheduled to make his first on-track appearance Tuesday.
There was one defection from the anticipated roster of entrants when the Churchill Downs Racing Office was notified that Un Ojo would not be entered for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. The defection moves Ethereal Road into the No. 20 spot on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard.
The Post Position Draw for Kentucky Derby 148 will take place this afternoon from 2-3 p.m. (all times Eastern) in the Aristides Lounge.
BARBER ROAD – William Simon’s Barber Road returned to the track for the first time since his half-mile work Saturday and galloped a mile under regular exercise rider Elexander Aguilar.
“It was just a nice easy mile,” trainer John Ortiz said. “We’re getting ready. We put the blinkers back on him today and Elexander said that the horse felt as good as he’s ever felt. He’s on the muscle and really, really focused on going forward. He gave a couple of squeals and a couple of bucks. That’s a good sign. Hopefully, he’s peaking at the right time.”
It was a whirlwind for Ortiz, who is saddling his first Kentucky Derby starter. As soon as the work was over, he flew to Arkansas where he won his third stakes of the Oaklawn Park meet with Whelen Springs in the $150,000 Bachelor Stakes.
“I’m tired, but this is why we do it,” Ortiz said. “I love this.”
CLASSIC CAUSEWAY – Kentucky West Racing and Clarke Cooper’s Classic Causeway had a one-mile jog early Monday morning under trainer Brian Lynch’s exercise rider Calamity Compton.
Compton, who works a pony rider during the races, will get to accompany Classic Causeway in the post parade for the Kentucky Derby.
Julien Leparoux has the call.
CHARGE IT, MO DONEGAL, PIONEER OF MEDINA – The trio of Kentucky Derby colts working out of the Todd Pletcher barn took advantage of the special 7:30-7:45 training session for Derby/Oaks types Monday morning to stretch their legs en route to their date with destiny this Saturday.
Charge It had exercise rider Hector Ramos aboard, Mo Donegal was partnered by Amelia Green, while Pioneer of Medina teamed up with Carlos Perez. They all galloped about a mile and a half on a sunny, Chamber of Commerce morning.
Hall of Famer Pletcher also had two of his three Kentucky Oaks fillies (Nest and Shahama) out during the same period and they, too, galloped, but also spent some time at the starting gate.
The conditioner said he’d have his three colts do gate visits tomorrow morning.
“All good so far,” he noted
CROWN PRIDE (JPN) – Teruya Yoshida’s UAE Derby (GII) winner Crown Pride (JPN) jogged in the mile in the chute and then schooled in the starting gate under exercise rider Masa Matsuda.
Trainer Koichi Shintani’s flight to Kentucky was delayed from Sunday night until today but he still is expected to make the Post Position Draw that begins at 2 p.m.
Jockey Christophe Lemaire is scheduled to arrive in Louisville tonight.
CYBERKNIFE, TAWNY PORT, ZOZOS – Reigning champion trainer Brad Cox sent all three of Kentucky Derby contenders to the track Monday before the first renovation break at 7 a.m. to jog a mile. It was their first time on the track since their final Derby works Saturday.
“They’re all doing good,” Cox said. “They came out of the works well and I’m happy with them.”
Cox was particularly happy with Arkansas Derby (G1) winner Cyberknife, who has had two impressive works since the April 2 win at Oaklawn.
“I thought his two works here were the best Derby works I’ve seen,” Cox said. “I may be biased, but that’s my opinion.”
EPICENTER – After Sunday’s final work of five furlongs 1:01, Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Epicenter had a walk day at trainer Steve Asmussen’s barn.
ETHEREAL ROAD – Aaron Sones and Julie Gilbert’s Rebel Stakes (GII) runner-up Ethereal Road will draw into the Kentucky Derby field after the defection of Un Ojo. He jogged one mile on Monday for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who is seeking a fifth Derby victory.
HAPPY JACK – The Oxbow colt has set up shop on the backside of Barn 41 at Churchill Downs and went to the racetrack for the first time Monday morning. He had exercise rider Tony Romero aboard and the two jogged once around the big oval.
“Tony has been with us a long time,” trainer Doug O’Neill said. “He used to gallop Lava Man.”
Lava Man was the $50,000 claim who raced for O’Neill from 2004 to 2009 and earned purses worth more than $5.2 million, winning stakes on dirt, grass and synthetic. He was subsequently voted into racing’s Hall of Fame. Since his retirement, the now 21-year-old has been O’Neill’s stable pony.
The trainer, who already has two Kentucky Derby wins under his belt (Nyquist in 2016 and I’ll Have Another in 2012), has had a string of horses at Keeneland for the past three weeks. He said that Happy Jack would go to galloping Tuesday
MESSIER, TAIBA – The two California colts made the scene Monday morning trackside at Churchill Downs with trainer Tim Yakteen on hand for their separate exercise moves.
The conditioner sent Santa Anita Derby (GI) runner-up Messier out at 5:30 with his ace exercise rider Beto Gomez in the boot. They galloped a mile.
“He’s a very professional horse,” Gomez said afterward about the Empire Maker colt. “He’s easy to work with.”
Yakteen said he sent the bay Canadian-bred out early to take advantage of the calmer atmosphere.
“I wanted to go out with him when it was a little quieter,” he said. “He can get a little strong in his training and I thought this would be a good way to start.”
The trainer had the chestnut Gun Runner colt Taiba come forward with Gomez during the 7:30-7:45 special training period for Derby and Oaks runners. The Santa Anita Derby winner also galloped a mile.
“I could switch them up during the week,” Yakteen noted.
The trainer hosted a large contingent of racing media at Barn 37 after Taiba’s drill and subsequent bath. He (Yakteen) has been at the Derby several times before in his role as assistant for Hall of Fame trainers in Charlie Whittingham and Bob Baffert, but this was the first time he stood directly in the media firing line and he handled the session with aplomb.
Yakteen also brought the 3-year-old colt Doppelganger to Churchill from his Southern California base. The son of Into Mischief is scheduled for a start in Saturday’s, $500,000 Pat Day Mile (GII).
RATTLE N ROLL, SMILE HAPPY, TIZ THE BOMB – Trainer Kenny McPeek had Magdalena Racing’s Tiz the Bomb and Lucky Seven Stable’s Smile Happy on the track Monday, jogging a mile and a half after both worked a half-mile Saturday. Edwardo Ruvalcaba was on Tiz the Bomb, while Danny Ramsey was aboard Smile Happy.
With the defection of Un Ojo, McPeek could find himself with a third Derby starter, but for now Lucky Seven Stable’s Rattle N Roll moved up to No. 22 on the Derby points list. To get in, Rattle N Roll would need two horses to scratch by 9 a.m. Friday. McPeek named James Graham as the potential rider for Rattle N Roll, who finished sixth in the Blue Grass Stakes (GI) at Keeneland on April 2.
“Pretty basic stuff, everyone is ready,” McPeek said. “Now it comes down to the draw.”
RICH STRIKE – RED TR-Racing’s Rich Strike galloped 2 ¼ miles under exercise rider Gabriel Lagunes.
“He had the day off yesterday and we did a little more today and he didn’t want to pull up,” trainer Eric Reed said.
Third in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (GIII) in his most recent start, Rich Strike is No. 21 on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard and most likely will be an also eligible when post positions are drawn this afternoon.
“We are going to do all the things we have to do (to prepare to run Saturday),” Reed said. “He will school in the paddock but he doesn’t need to go to the gate. He’s good in the gate.”
Sonny Leon will have the Derby mount.
SIMPLIFICATION – Tami Bobo’s Fountain of Youth (GII) winner Simplification had an easy mile gallop under exercise rider Ismal Ramirez for trainer Antonio Sano.
Simplification is scheduled for a gate schooling session Wednesday morning as part of his Derby Week regimen.
Jose Ortiz will have the Derby mount.
SUMMER IS TOMORROW – Michael Hilary Burke and Negar Burke’s Summer Is Tomorrow worked a half-mile in :49.20 over a fast track Monday morning during the 7:30-7:45 training window for Kentucky Derby and Oaks runners.
With Caroline Seemar, wife of trainer Bhupat Seemar, aboard, Summer Is Tomorrow worked on his own and produced fractions of :13.60, :25.80, :49.20 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:02. The work was the sixth fastest of 21 at the distance.
“I am very happy with the work,” Bhupat Seemar said. “I got him a little faster. It was a nice move and a strong finish.”
Summer Is Tomorrow comes into the Derby off a runner-up finish in the UAE Derby (GII) going a mile and three-sixteenths.
“I expect him to improve off that race which was his first two-turn race,” Seemar said. “He will be a much fitter horse for this race.”
Summer Is Tomorrow is scheduled to have a walk day tomorrow.
UN OJO – Cypress Creek Equine and Whispering Oaks Farm’s Un Ojo has been declared from the Kentucky Derby with a bruised right foot that appeared after the gelding worked a sharp half-mile in :47.60 on Saturday. The decision to scratch was made Monday morning after Un Ojo didn’t immediately respond to treatment.
“It’s just bad timing,” trainer Ricky Courville said. “It’s just a badly bruised foot. It’s deep in the laminae, so he’s pretty sore. We tried soaking his foot and that didn’t really help. It’s just very disappointing because he had been doing so well. He seemed to really like the track.”
WHITE ABARRIO – Following a 17 1/2-hour van trip from Gulfstream Park, C2 Racing Stable and La Milagrosa Stable’s White Abarrio settled into his stall at Churchill Downs on Monday. The van arrived at 4:30 a.m., less than an hour before the day’s training began.
Trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. said plans call for the Florida Derby winner to go to the track on Tuesday.
“It was a pretty uneventful trip for him. He’ll gallop or jog tomorrow, I’ll wait to decide as long as I can,” Joseph said. “For now we’ll see how draw goes, and hope that he gets a good post. As far as the post goes, it’s all a matter of how you break. You can overcome a bad post with a good break. He’s a good gate horse, so hopefully he can keep it up.”
ZANDON – Jeff Drown’s Blue Grass Stakes (GI) winner Zandon had a 1 ½-mile gallop Monday morning as trainer Chad Brown eagerly watched his likely Kentucky Derby favorite.
Zandon is scheduled to school in the Churchill Downs starting gate Tuesday.
SHAPING UP: THE KENTUCKY DERBY – Here’s the current Top 20 horses in this year’s Kentucky Derby (with jockey and trainer): Epicenter (Joel Rosario, Steve Asmussen); Zandon (Flavien Prat, Chad Brown); White Abarrio (Tyler Gaffalione, Saffie Joseph Jr.); Mo Donegal (Irad Ortiz Jr., Todd Pletcher); Tiz the Bomb (Brian Hernandez Jr., Kenny McPeek); Cyberknife (Florent Geroux, Brad Cox); Crown Pride (JPN) (Christophe Lemiere, Koichi Shintani); Taiba (Mike Smith, Tim Yakteen); Simplification (Jose Ortiz, Antonio Sano); Smile Happy (Corey Lanerie, Kenny McPeek); Classic Causeway (Julien Leparoux, Brian Lynch); Tawny Port (Ricardo Santana Jr., Brad Cox); Barber Road (Rey Gutierrez, John Ortiz); Messier (John Velazquez, Tim Yakteen); Zozos (Manny Franco, Brad Cox); Summer Is Tomorrow (Mickael Barzalona, Bhupat Seemar); Charge It (Luis Saez, Todd Pletcher); Happy Jack (Rafael Bejarano, Doug O’Neill); Pioneer of Medina (Joe Bravo, Todd Pletcher); Ethereal Road (Luis Contreras). Also Eligibles: Rich Strike (Sonny Leon, Eric Reed); Rattle N Roll (James Graham, Kenny McPeek)
LONGINES KENTUCKY OAKS UPDATE – Santa Anita Oaks (GII) winner Desert Dawn was on the track at Churchill Downs Monday morning for the first time after arriving Sunday afternoon from her home base at Santa Anita in Arcadia, California.
Also on the track for the first time was Fantasy (GIII) winner Yuugiri who returned to the track where she made her first three starts last year.
The Post Position Draw for Kentucky Oaks 148 will take place this afternoon from 2-3 p.m. (all times Eastern) in the Aristides Lounge.
BEGUINE – Charles Matses’ Beguine galloped a mile and a half under Raul Vizcarrando immediately after the track opened for training at 5:15.
Trainer Danny Peitz is resigned to being on the also-eligible list for the Oaks should more than 14 enter.
“She loves the outside,” Peitz said with a laugh knowing that if Beguine draws into the field she would have to start from post 14.
Peitz said that Ricardo Santana Jr. would have the Oaks mount and that Beguine is scheduled for a gate schooling session Wednesday.
The dilemma for Peitz is what to do going forward should Beguine not get in the gate for the Oaks.
“Scratch time is not until 9 o’clock Friday morning and I’d probably breeze Friday morning to keep on schedule for Black-Eyed Susan,” Peitz said referring to the Grade II race on May 20 at Pimlico. “I’d hate to breeze early Friday morning, have a scratch and find out we’re in.”
CANDY RAID – Exercise rider Alex Cano reported Monday morning’s gallop of a mile and a half went well for Don’t Tell My Wife Stables and Keith Desormeux’s Candy Raid. She joined many of the other Derby and Oaks contenders on the main track at the scheduled 7:30 training period.
“She likes the track here,” Cano said. “She has been moving well across it.”
COCKTAIL MOMENTS – Trainer Kenny McPeek had Dixiana Farms’ Cocktail Moments on the track, jogging a mile and a half with exercise rider Albert Kelly. McPeek has named Corey Lanerie as her rider in the Longines Kentucky Oaks.
DESERT DAWN – The Kentucky Oaks-bound filly Desert Dawn was up and at ‘em early Monday morning at Churchill Downs going to the racetrack for a one-mile jog in her first taste of racing outside of the state of California.
Her trainer, Phil D’Amato, will be headed to Louisville today from Los Angeles, but his assistant trainer, Euriel Mejia, had come in with the filly Sunday and saddled Desert Dawn for her exercise Monday with exercise rider Roman Cecher handling the tack.
Desert Dawn, an Arizona-bred by the stallion Cupid, has won two of seven starts, including the Santa Anita Oaks (GII) in her most recent try. She’ll be handled by Umberto Rispoli in the Grade I, $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks.
ECHO ZULU – L and N Racing and Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Echo Zulu walked the shedrow the day after her final work before the Oaks, having breezed a half-mile in 50.80.
GODDESS OF FIRE, NEST, SHAHAMA – Following a pattern he had set Sunday, trainer Todd Pletcher had two of his three Oaks fillies — Nest and Shahama – go out with his Derby colts for the 7:30-7:45 special training time Monday morning. Then at 8 a.m. he had the stable’s Goddess of Fire go trackside for her exercise.
Nest, a daughter of Curlin and a three-time stakes winner, had Nora McCormack on her back, while Shahama – who is by Munnings and won all four of her starts in the Middle East, including the UAE Oaks (GIII) on Feb. 18 — was handled by Humberto Zamora. They both went approximately a mile and three-eighths in a gallop and also spent some time standing in the starting gate.
Roughly a half hour later, Goddess of Fire – with Zamora doing the honors once again – followed the same routine, also visiting the gate. The Mineshaft filly has yet to win a stakes, but it isn’t for want of trying. She has been second in three of them and third in another.
For Friday’s rich Oaks, Pletcher has lined up three of the best riders in the country to handle his charges: Irad Ortiz Jr. will be up on Nest; Flavien Prat will handle Shahama, and John Velazquez will take the controls with Goddess of Fire.
HIDDEN CONNECTION – Hidden Brook Farm and Black Type Thoroughbreds’ TwinSpires.com Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) runner-up Hidden Connection galloped about 1 ½ miles Monday at 7:30 a.m.
“Things are starting to ramp up,” trainer Bret Calhoun said.
KATHLEEN O. – Winngate Stables’ Kathleen O. took to the track at 6 a.m. for a one-turn gallop under exercise rider David Jego.
At 10 a.m., assistant Anthony Hamilton led Kathleen O. over to school in the paddock. “She did great,” Hamilton said. “Definitely kept her cool, like always.”
Asked about the possibility of a wet track for Friday’s Oaks, trainer Shug McGaughey said, “She broke her maiden in the slop so we are not worried about that.”
NOSTALGIC – Godolphin’s Nostalgic had a light one-mile jog Monday morning with exercise rider Penny Gardiner in the saddle.
SECRET OATH – Briland Farm’s multiple stakes winner Secret Oath continued her routine of being among the first horses to hit the track when she galloped 1 ½ miles under Danielle Rosier at 5:15 a.m.
“She’s doing well, she’s having a good week,” Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas said.
Secret Oath won three straight races against fillies this winter at Oaklawn Park, including the $300,000 Honeybee Stakes (GIII) before finishing third against males in the $1.25 million Arkansas Derby (GI). However, even with all that success, Lukas believes she does even better at Churchill Downs.
“She did well at Oaklawn, but she just glides over this track. I would have to say she’s even better here.”
TURNERLOOSE – Ike and Dawn Thrash’s Turnerloose was the only horse trainer Brad Cox sent to the track during the special Oaks and Derby horse training time at 7:30 a.m. after his three Kentucky Derby horses jogged earlier. The filly galloped a mile under Edvin Vargas.
“The Oaks is a tough spot, but she’s doing good,” Cox said.
VENTI VALENTINE – NY Final Furlong Racing Stable and Parkland Thoroughbreds’ Gazelle (GIII) runner-up Venti Valentine was on the track with exercise rider Luis Peña, galloping a mile and a quarter, trainer Jorge Abreu said.
“So far everything is good,” Abreu said. “The surface of the track seems to fit her.”
She had a final workout for the Longines Kentucky Oaks last Friday with Tyler Gaffalione aboard, going five furlongs in 1:00.80.
YUUGIRI – Sekie and Tsunebumi Yoshihara’s Fantasy Stakes winner Yuugiri galloped 1 ½ miles with trainer Rodolphe Brisset aboard Monday during the special training time for Oaks and Derby horses. Brisset left immediately after the gallop to drive back to his Lexington base at Keeneland, but said via phone he was happy with how the Shackleford filly was doing.
SHAPING UP: THE KENTUCKY OAKS – Here are the Top 14 horses on the leaderboard for the $1.25 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) (with jockey and trainer): Kathleen O. (Javier Castellano, Shug McGaughey); Echo Zulu (Joel Rosario, Steve Asmussen); Nest (Irad Ortiz Jr., Todd Pletcher); Yuugiri (Florent Geroux, Rodolphe Brisset); Desert Dawn (Umberto Rispoli, Phil D’Amato); Nostalgic (Jose Ortiz, Bill Mott); Venti Valentine (Tyler Gaffalione, Jorge Abreu); Secret Oath (Luis Saez, Wayne Lukas); Goddess of Fire (John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher); Turnerloose (Manny Franco, Brad Cox); Hidden Connection (Rey Gutierrez, Bret Calhoun); Cocktail Moments (Corey Lanerie, Kenny McPeek); Candy Raid (Rafael Bejarano, Keith Desormeaux); Shahama (Flavien Prat, Todd Pletcher). Also Eligible: Beguine (Ricardo Santana Jr.)
KENTUCKY DERBY, OAKS MORNING WORKOUTS OPEN TO PUBLIC – Churchill Downs will be open free-of-charge daily from 7-10 a.m. through Wednesday, May 4 so guests can watch the nation’s top 3-year-old Thoroughbreds train toward their engagements in this year’s Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks.
Horses train on Churchill Downs’ main track daily from 5:15-10 a.m. with an exclusive training window only for Derby and Oaks participants from 7:30-7:45 a.m. following the 7-7:30 a.m. renovation break.
Those horses are identified by special saddle towels which include their names: yellow saddle towels for Derby horses and pink saddle towels for Oaks contenders.
Kentucky Derby Morning Works presented by TwinSpires.com will begin Monday and air on www.kentuckyderby.com/works, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Fans in attendance will be able to watch the show on the track’s Big Board and infield televisions.
Guests can enter Churchill Downs through the Paddock Gate and should park for free in the nearby White Lot for convenient entry. Guests will be directed to Sections 115-117 to watch the morning workouts.
No outside food and beverage is allowed. Churchill Downs’ Paddock Grill will be open each morning with breakfast food and beverage options.
Also, the Churchill Downs Store will be open daily featuring all of the best official race merchandise, collectibles, drinkwear, party supplies, gifts, apparel and gear for men and women in advance of the Kentucky Derby.
The 148th runnings of the $1.25 Longines Kentucky Oaks (Grade I) and $3 million Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (GI) will be held Friday, May 6 and Saturday, May 7, respectively. Opening Night of Derby Week and the 44-day Spring Meet is Saturday, April 30.
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