Churchill Downs

Kentucky Derby 135 Monday Update - Friesan Fire Sizzles

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ADVICE / DUNKIRK / JOIN IN THE DANCE / TAKE THE POINTS – A trio of Todd Pletcher-trained Kentucky Derby “possibles” went through their final serious drills for the Saturday spectacular on Monday morning, putting a “put me in coach” spin on activities Pletcher’s Barn 38.

Pletcher took up a post in the grandstand and oversaw the activities, which began shortly after the renovation break ended at 8:30 a.m. (all times EDT) when Hall of Fame jockey-turned-jockey-agent-and-sometimes-exercise-rider Angel Cordero Jr. guided the Sky Mesa colt Join in the Dance through a five-furlong workout timed in 1:00.20.

Join in the Dance, stakes-placed and No. 21 on the Kentucky Derby “eligible” list based on graded stakes earnings starting out the day, has a good turn of foot and could be a solid forward factor in the full field if he gets to run.

“He’s an enthusiastic work horse, so it was good to see him settle and work well today,” Pletcher said afterward. “He should be ready now.”

Next from the Pletcher barn – just after 9 a.m. – came two other Derby candidates, the Coolmore Lexington Stakes (Grade II) winner Advice and the gray Even the Score colt Take the Points.

Advice went off first with exercise rider Kevin Willey up and covered four furlongs in :47.20, then galloped out an extra furlong in 1:00. He is already solidly “in” the Derby lineup based on graded earnings, should his connections – the WinStar Farm crew of Bill Casner and Kenny Troutt – decide they’d like a third horse in Derby 135. The Kentucky farm already has Hold Me Back and Mr. Hot Stuff scheduled to run in the 10-furlong classic, so the thought of wheeling Advice back in two weeks off his Lexington tally has been debated.

“I got him (Advice) finishing up that work in :23 and 1,” Pletcher said. “It was a good move for him.”

Shortly after Advice took care of business, exercise rider Horacio De la Paz had Take the Points ready to ramble five-eighths and he was joined – once again – by the unstarted potential star (he’s by Storm Cat out of champion Serena’s Song) Schramsberg, with Cordero on board. The pair had worked in company last week and they went at it again with the unraced chestnut youngster starting out a length or two in front as they went by the five-furlong marker.

The gray colt – who sits at No. 22 on the Derby “eligible” list --  took dead aim on his “rival” around the turn and by the time he’d gone by the wire in 1:00.20, he was well clear and drawing out on the less-experienced colt, who was given a final time of 1:01.60.

“I was happy to see the work by Take the Points,” Pletcher said. “He picked up his workmate and went right on by. He looked good doing it.”

The trainer said decisions on who might – and might not – be entered in the Derby on Wednesday morning would be made Tuesday. Possible jockey assignments will be fixed then, too.

“We’ll see how they come out of these works tomorrow morning,” the trainer said. “We’re happy with the overall activity today and it sets us up for lots of possibilities.”

The final Pletcher Derby candidate – and one of the possible favorites for the race – Dunkirk, spent his Monday morning shipping to West Palm Beach Airport for a flight to Louisville. He was expected to join the Pletcher barn Monday afternoon.

CHOCOLATE CANDY – Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer made a beeline from Barn 42 to the clocker’s stand on the Churchill Downs backside Monday morning just before 8:30 a.m. and the end of the track’s renovation break. He got there in time to watch Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith backtrack his colt Chocolate Candy from the six-furlong gap to the eighth pole, then turn and ease on in to a five-furlong workout.

As the work began to unfold on the backstretch near the five-eighths pole, a two-horse collision near the finish line occurred and sent track sirens wailing. It also sent Hollendorfer – and everyone else at the track – into moments of high anxiety. Fortunately for the Chocolate Candy connections the unhappy incident did not disrupt their business and the tall, bay son of Candy Ride clipped off a drill of :59.20, galloping out an extra furlong in 1:12.80. (Clockers caught the early splits in :12, :23.60, :35.60 and :47.)

“We both saw the horses down,” Smith said afterward. “Luckily, it happened over by the outer rail. He (Chocolate Candy) just looked that way for a second, but he turned back and kept on going. We both were able to focus and complete what we had to do.”

A slightly shaken Hollendorfer was happy to have the work and the incident behind him.

“We were lucky we got to finish the work,” he said heading back to the barn. “So many things can happen. It is worrisome.

“I had told Mike ‘Just like Santa Anita’ (a reference to a :59.20 work turned in by the pair at the California track on April 12). He hit it right on. Now I think my horse has a chance to run well here. He can handle this track and now we know he can run well here. Handling the track is key and he’s show us he can.”

Smith had little doubt about that subject.

“Sure, he’ll handle this track,” the rider said. “He’ll handle anything. He’s a nice colt. His work today felt just like the one at Santa Anita. He’s ready to go.”

Chocolate Candy is a winner of four of nine starts and $532,500. He was bred by the late Sid Craig and his wife Jenny and currently races for the family’s Trust.

DESERT PARTY / REGAL RANSOM – Trainer Saeed bin Suroor watched his Kentucky Derby prospects jog a mile shortly after the track opened for training at 6 a.m.

The Godolphin duo turned in the two fastest five-furlong works Saturday morning: Regal Ransom in :59.20 and Desert Party in :59.60. Sunday morning they walked the shedrow at Barn 41.

“They came out of their work in good form. No problem,” bin Suroor said. “They are perfectly, sound, happy, fresh. No problems at all.”

The veteran trainer said the colts would gallop Tuesday morning. Both colts started their racing careers in the United States last year, spent the winter in Dubai and competed in the international race meet at Nad al Sheba race track. Regal Ransom, who had finished second to Desert Party in the first two races at Nad al Sheba, pulled off a bit of an upset in the UAE Derby on March 28, beating his stablemate by a half-length.

“Both of these horses are much better than they were in Dubai,” bin Suroor said. “They each had three runs in Dubai. They handled the travel very well.”

Alan Garcia will ride Regal Ransom and Ramon Dominguez has the assignment on Desert Party in the Derby.

FLYING PRIVATE – Robert Baker and William Mack's Flying Private worked four furlongs in :47.40 after the renovation break Monday. Robby Albarado, who has the mount for Derby 135, was aboard for the move that featured fractions of  :23.80 for the quarter and :35.80 for three-eighths.

“He went well,” Albarado said. “It was just a maintenance work with company. Wayne (trainer D. Wayne Lukas) wanted to get a good finish and that's what we got.”

FRIESAN FIRE – Larry Jones had said he did not expect Friesan Fire to work as fast in his final Derby drill as Hard Spun did two years ago.

He was right. Friesan Fire worked bullet five furlongs in :57.80 with jockey Gabriel Saez up. Hard Spun had worked in :57.60 under Jockey Mario Pino on the Monday of Derby Week.

“A fifth of a second off,” Jones said, adding with a laugh, “that’s good, people would have said I worked him too fast.”

Working immediately after the renovation break over a “fast” track, Friesan Fire reeled off fractions of :11.20, :22.20, :33.60, :45.20 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.

“I was very happy with it,” Jones said. “Gabe said he thought he went in about a minute. If I could have written the perfect script, I would have had him gallop out in 1:12, but he has been watching those tents every day (on the backside) and I wanted to put the blinkers on to keep him more focused.”

Jones, whose horses have run second in the past two editions of the Kentucky Derby, was asked if he felt the Derby gods might smile on him this year.

“I feel blessed to have run in the past two Kentucky Derbys and have horses run well,” Jones said referring to Hard Spun and Eight Belles. “If the gods want to smile on me, I’m gonna grin from ear to ear.”

Jones said Friesan Fire would walk Tuesday, jog Wednesday and then gallop up to Derby 135.

“Wednesday is going to be an easy day,” Jones said. “He may go to the paddock and the gate and walk around and see some folks. We’re fine (after this work); he wasn’t blowing at all when he came back.”

Friesan Fire is owned by Vinery Stables and Fox Hill Farm, the same partnership that owns Kodiak Kowboy who worked five furlongs in :59.80 immediately after Friesan Fire as a prep for a run in Saturday’s Grade II Churchill Downs. Saez was aboard Kodiak Kowboy and also worked Just Jenda, owned by Jones’ wife Cindy, a half-mile in :48 in preparation for the Eight Belles on Saturday.

GENERAL QUARTERS – Owner/trainer Tom McCarthy looked on as his Toyota Blue Grass (Grade I) winner turned in a second straight spirited gallop mid-track under exercise rider Julie Sheets. McCarthy said he won’t change plans with his one-horse stable and continue to just gallop General Quarters up to Derby 135.

“He’s a strong galloper, maybe too strong sometimes,” McCarthy said moments after this morning’s 1 1/2-mile exercise.

General Quarters does not have the prettiest conformation or stride, especially in the right-front foot, which is why he sold for just $20,000 as a yearling. But, as McCarthy noted, “It does not affect him when he gallops or runs, there’s no doubt about that. You have to do something corrective when they are a baby, or just live with it. He’s always had it and always will.”

One area where McCarthy won’t have to worry about his horse is familiarity with Churchill Downs. McCarthy said because General Quarters has raced, trained and stabled here in the past, “He knows his way around. There’s no need to school him in between races in the paddock or do too much with him at this point.”

HOLD ME BACK – Typically, horses spend a day away from the track the morning after a timed workout. Not WinStar Farm’s Hold Me Back, who needed more action than a stroll around trainer Bill Mott’s shedrow.

Sunday morning, the Toyota Blue Grass (Grade I) runner-up worked five furlongs in 1:01.60 under Hall of Fame jockey and three-time Kentucky Derby-winner Kent Desormeaux. At 6:55 a.m. Monday, Mott led the colt and assistant trainer Kenny McCarthy to the track, where they galloped a mile.

“He doesn’t like to walk,” Mott said. “He’d rather train. He’s full of energy and gets anxious. He wants to get out and do a little something.”

I WANT REVENGE – One day before he’s scheduled for his final tune-up for the Kentucky Derby, I Want Revenge jogged a mile and galloped a mile under exercise rider Joe Deegan at Churchill Downs on Monday morning.

“I think he’s just peaking now,” trainer Jeff Mullins said. “He looks just as good as he did in New York, maybe a little better. For as much traveling as he’s done for a young horse, he hasn’t missed a beat. I don’t think he’s ever come out of his feed tub one time.”

Mullins will send the Kentucky-bred colt to the track Tuesday morning right after the renovation break, although he said he hadn’t decided whether the workout will be four or five furlongs.

While getting his morning bath following his exercise Monday morning, I Want Revenge looked like the picture of health, except for a few minor abrasions on his left knee.

“He got cast in his stall the night before his first work here,” said Mullins, whose colt has worked the two previous Tuesdays at Churchill Downs. “You can see the scapes on his head and everywhere else.”

I Want Revenge will be ridden by 19-year-old Joe Talamo, who guided him from last to first with a heads-up ride in the eventful Wood Memorial (Grade I) at Aqueduct in his final prep.

“He definitely moved up a couple notches in my book, that’s for sure. I knew he was a good rider, but to tell you the truth, I didn’t realize he was that young,” Mullins said. “I thought he was 20-something years old. To show that kind of confidence and patience, it’s pretty strong for a guy that age.”

Although the son of Stephen Got Even settled nicely in the back of the pack after a very slow start, Mullins isn’t so sure that his Wood Memorial winner necessarily showed a new dimension with his deep-closing effort at Aqueduct.

“That happened by accident. Sometimes you might not be able to make him do that,” he said. “He’s a strong-minded horse. If he breaks without any trouble, I don’t think you’re going to be able to wrangle him back.”

MINE THAT BIRD – Expected to be Canada’s first champion 2-year-old in the Kentucky Derby starting gate since Talkin Man in 1995, Mine That Bird drilled five furlongs in 1:02 flat Monday morning under jockey Calvin Borel. Churchill Downs clockers had the son of Birdstone galloping out an additional furlong in :13.20.

Mine That Bird was ponied to the five-eighths pole easily and broke off slowly for Borel, asked to run through the lane at trainer Chip Woolley’s instructions. Fractions were :13, :25.40, :37.40, :49.80 and 1:02 for the official clocking.

“Things went super,” Woolley said afterward. “I’m really happy with my horse. It’s pretty much exactly what I wanted – he started slower and finished up super-strong. He came back to the barn really playing. That’s as good as you are ever going to see him feeling. He’s not an animated horse.”

Mine That Bird will walk the shedrow Tuesday and “lope” up to the race the rest of the week. Woolley said his colt may school in the starting gate Wednesday, but will not be schooling in the paddock during racing days this week.

Monday’s exercise was delayed approximately 40 minutes because of an on-track accident that temporarily forced the track’s closure. Woolley said Mine That Bird was just about to be bandaged and ready to go out when the closure announcement was made.

“Luckily we weren’t all the way ready at the time,” he said. “It’s unfortunate for the horses and horsemen involved any time something like this happens. We just had to be patient.”

It was a big morning for Borel, who also worked Kentucky Oaks favorite Rachel Alexandra just moments before being hustled to the Woolley barn via golf cart to partner with his Derby 135 mount.

MR. HOT STUFF – WinStar Farm’s Mr. Hot Stuff was airborne from California on Monday, a day after drilling five furlongs in 1:00.40 at Santa Anita.

The stretch-running full brother to Travers Stakes (Grade I) winner Colonel John is trained by Eoin Harty, who shipped successfully to Kentucky on Sunday after overseeing the work.

Harty confirmed that the Eastern-based rider John Velazquez has taken the call on Mr. Hot Stuff for Derby 135.  Velazquez had been scheduled to ride Florida Derby (GI) winner Quality Road in the Kentucky Derby, but became available after that colt’s foot concerns took him out of Derby consideration on Monday morning.

NOTE: The plane carrying Mr. Hot Stuff from California was scheduled to arrive in Louisville at approximately 5 p.m., and the colt is expected to arrive on the grounds around 6 p.m.

MUSKET MAN – Illinois Derby (Grade II) winner Musket Man had another easy day Monday, and trainer Derek Ryan said the colt’s work is done until Saturday.

“He galloped an easy mile and a half today,” Ryan said, “and then he went to the gate to school at 7 a.m. That’s really it for him. He’ll just gallop up to the race now.”

Musket Man, a colt by Yonaguska–Fortesque, by Fortunate Prospect, had his last serious breeze for the Derby on Saturday, going five furlongs in 1:01.60 with jockey Eibar Coa aboard.

He is coming off back-to-back victories in the Tampa Bay Derby (Grade III) and the Illinois Derby and has only lost once in six career starts, a third-place finish in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (Grade III) at Tampa Bay in February.

Ryan bought the colt as a yearling in 2007 at Keeneland because he had trained Musket Man’s half-sister, a filly named Casablanca Babe.

“I gave $20,000 for her as a 2-year-old,” Ryan said. “She ended up getting claimed for $50,000, but she was a remarkable mare. She won on everything – dirt, mud, turf, synthetics – anything.

“So when I saw this colt in the book, I went to the sale to buy him. He’s turned out to be a runner like his sister.”

Casablanca Babe won 12 of her 46 career starts and earned more than $200,000.

PAPA CLEM – One of the potential Derby 135 pace players walked the shedrow Monday morning for the second straight day as scheduled. Papa Clem will return to the track Tuesday morning and will blow out on Thursday with a “quarter-mile breeze, maybe let him go out three-eighths,” trainer Gary Stute said.

“He came out of Saturday’s work perfect; his legs were ice cold,” Stute said. “When I work him alone like that, it takes nothing out of him. He’s really one who needs to see another horse to get serious. He’s never been one to impress you training, so we’ll find out Saturday for sure how he’s handling the track, honestly.”
With the defection of Quality Road Monday morning, the Derby’s pace scenario softened somewhat, which could benefit horses with solid early foot like Papa Clem.

“He can be up there or sit off the pace like we found out in Arkansas,” Stute said. “He pretty much runs his :47-and-change for the half. If it’s slow, that will put him up there. If it’s fast, he’ll be a few lengths off it. I wouldn’t mind a post somewhere in that 6-7-8 range.”

Stute will be making his Kentucky Derby debut, but he carries on a family legacy. His father, Mel, ran Snow Chief in the 1986 Derby. After an 11th-place finish in Louisville, Snow Chief rebounded to win the Preakness. The younger Stute will have family support this week.

“My mom and dad are coming in this week, and dad has Kitty in the Bag running Thursday in the 2-year-old stakes ($100,000 Kentucky Juvenile),” Stute said. “It figures to be an exciting week for all of us.”

PIONEEROF THE NILE – Regular exercise rider Joe Steiner guided Pioneerof  the Nile through a five-furlong work in 1:01 moments after the track reopened at 8:30 a.m. following the renovation break.

Trainer Bob Baffert watched the work from the front side of the track and, as is his custom, was in touch with the rider via radio. Pioneerof the Nile, owned by Zayat Stables, cruised through fractions of  :11.80. :23.80, :36 and :48.60. He was allowed to gallop out a long way and was timed in 1:13.40 for the six furlongs.

“He went really nice,” Baffert said. “There was a lot of wind. He left the half-mile pole, went five-eighths and he galloped out pretty strong all the way around there. He was moving really well and looked comfortable over the track.”

Pioneerof the Nile has won all four of his starts on synthetic surfaces in California since being moved to Baffert’s care late last year. The son of 2004 Kentucky Derby runner-up Empire Maker has trained well on dirt, but the Derby will be his debut on dirt.

“He’s got a long stride as it is, but he really moves better over the dirt, I think,” Baffert said. “His stride is just tremendous.”

Baffert was pleased with the way the colt performed in his final breeze before the Derby.

“He did it pretty effortlessly,” Baffert said. “I think he wanted to go a little faster; I wouldn’t let him. I was really happy with the work. I’m really excited about the work.”

Steiner gave the Santa Anita Derby winner high marks, too.

“It was a comfortable, smooth move,” Steiner said. “He just kind of coasted around there and we let him gallop out on his own. He felt perfect.”

Steiner, who has been a jockey for nearly 25 years, said he likes the way the colt is approaching the race.

“Mentally, he’s focused, he’s confident, he’s calm,” Steiner said. “The way you want a horse to act, he’s shown everything. He’s like a dream to gallop. He’s very kind.  I think the key at this point is being focused and confident. He’s handling all the media and all that stuff around him. It doesn’t faze him. And physically, he’s right on. With the combination of the two, now it’s up to luck.”

Steiner said Pioneerof the Nile feels the same way to him on the dirt track at Churchill Downs and the synthetic surfaces in California. The Derby will be Pioneerof the Nile’s first race on dirt.  “You couldn’t ask a horse to be doing any better than this.” Steiner said.

QUALITY ROAD – Trainer Jimmy Jerkens canceled his Kentucky Derby plans for Quality Road on Monday morning, reporting that the quarter crack in the right front hoof of his Florida Derby winner was still too sensitive to go forward with a scheduled workout at Belmont Park.

“It’s devastating,” said Jerkens, who had planned a six-furlong workout over the Belmont training track. “I don’t know if you can get another horse in the Derby with his credentials.”

The quarter crack had been patched by hoof specialist Ian McKinlay on Sunday morning before Quality Road was sent to the track for a 1¾-mile gallop. However, his Kentucky Derby future became tenuous when a tinge of blood was detected in the hoof upon his return to the barn.

“He’s really sensitive on the quarter. It’s not terribly bad, but it’s not right,”  Jerkens said. “Even if we could work him tomorrow, it’s hard to fathom that he can get sound enough to work and come out of it good.”

Quality Road had previously developed a quarter crack in his right rear leg at Gulfstream Park, but it was successfully patched and has not hindered his training.

Jerkens said that future plans for the son of Elusive Quality, who has won three of four starts, are on hold until he and McKinlay can successfully treat the half-inch crack in wall of the right front foot.

“We’ve got to get it right. I don’t know how long it will take,” he said. “We’ll re-patch it, but we can’t do that until all the soreness is out of it. This crack is a lot different than the other one (in the right rear). It’s a lot more sensitive.”

NYRA notes writer Jenny Kellner contributed to this report.

SQUARE EDDIE – The chestnut charger Square Eddie limited his fancy footwork to a walk around the shedrow at Barn 17 Monday morning following his four-furlong drill in :50.20 on Sunday.

“Quiet day; all’s good,” exercise rider Tony Romero said.

Trainer Doug O’Neill was an early visitor to the barn to check on his charge and he had noted that the horse was scheduled to go back to the track Tuesday for a light jog.

Romero confirmed that the Smart Strike colt would once again ship to Keeneland Monday afternoon to continue his “swimming” routine, using the pool and treadmill at a Lexington facility. The Square Eddie connections have attributed a fair share of their runner’s fitness and recovery from a small fracture suffered in California in February to his additional regular exercise in various pools.

SUMMER BIRD – Summer Bird, a son of 2004 Belmont Stakes (GI) winner Birdstone was out right after the track reopened at 8:30 Monday morning. He galloped a mile and a half around the Churchill Downs strip with jockey Chris Rosier aboard, and then went to school in the paddock. He was in the paddock when an accident occurred near the finish line, and he stayed there for 30 minutes until the track was clear.

“He had already finished his gallop and was in the paddock when the track was closed,” trainer Tim Ice said. “He was out of harm's way, and I told Chris just to stay there until everything was clear.  He’s doing great, and he’ll just gallop up to the race. He’ll school in the gate on Thursday.”

Summer Bird had his final breeze – six furlongs in 1:15.80 – at Churchill Downs on Friday.  The colt was bred by his owners, the husband-wife team of Drs K.K. and V. Devi Jayaraman. They had a Derby starter in 1989, when Irish Actor ran seventh behind Sunday Silence.

“We got to the Derby after being in the business six or seven years, and we thought how easy it was,” Dr. K.K. Jayaraman said with a smile.  “It only took us 20 years to get back here.”

The Jayaramans raced Summer Bird’s dam, the Summer Squall mare Hong Kong Squall. Although she failed to win in nine career starts, Hong Kong Squall has produced five starters and five winners in five years.

“She hasn’t missed a season,” Dr. Jayaraman said. “She has a 2-year-old by Jump Start who hasn’t run yet, a yearling by Johar, and she’s due to foal on May 11 from a cover to Friends Lake.

“When she does foal, she’ll be bred back to Birdstone. She’s been wonderful to us.”

WEST SIDE BERNIE – With trainer Kelly Breen aboard, West Side Bernie galloped a mile and three-eighths around the Churchill Downs oval Monday morning.

“He felt great out there,” Breen said. “The work (a half-mile in :48.20 on Saturday) set him up right for the race.”

This is Breen’s first Derby experience, but his rider Saturday will be Stewart Elliott, who won the Run for the Roses aboard Smarty Jones in 2004.

“Stew and I had dinner the other night,” Breen said, “and we started talking about what post we would want if we had this pick or that pick. I had some ideas, but Stew came up with some interesting stuff.  I think I’ve run the race a thousand times in my head to figure out what the best post will be. The draw will be interesting.”

West Side Bernie ran well to be third in the Holy Bull Stakes (Grade III) at Gulfstream Park in January, but then threw in a clunker when sixth in the Lanes End (Grade II) at Turfway Park in March.

“He just didn’t fire in that race, for whatever reason,” Breen said. “We knew we wanted to run in the Derby, and we wanted another race for him, so we settled on the Wood Memorial.”

In that Grade I event at Aqueduct on April 4, West Side Bernie made a big run around the turn and finished second, a length and a half behind I Want Revenge.

“Now everybody is giving me statistics,” Breen said. “Like the fact that both Monarchos and Funny Cide finished second in the Wood before they won the Derby.

“All I know is that you need the best horse, or the luckiest horse, to win the Derby. I hope that’s us.”

WIN WILLY – Win Willy, a son of Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos, came out on the track after the break Monday morning for his final serious work and was timed in 1:02.40 for five furlongs over the fast main track.

With exercise rider Eli Lopez aboard, Win Willy cruised through splits of :13.20, :25.60 and :37.80, and galloped out six furlongs in 1:15.60.

“He looked good, went along nice and smooth,” trainer Mac Robertson said. “It looked like he finished strong, which is what I wanted to see.”

Robertson said he deliberately used his regular exercise rider, who weighs 140 pounds, rather than jockey Cliff Berry because that particular plan had worked before with Win Willy.

“Coming into the Rebel (Grade II on March 14 at Oaklawn Park), Eli breezed him three times, in what looked like slow times,” Robertson said. “He went three-quarters in 1:15 4/5, then a half in :50, and a half in :51 2/5.  But that set him up perfectly for the race, and he won big (by 2 1/4, going away).  Then, coming into the Arkansas Derby, I had the jockey up in the breezes. It was just different for the horse. With Cliff up, he breezed a half in :48 2/5, and then a bullet half in :48 flat just before the race. And then, of course, he ran fourth in the race.  So I just thought I’d go back to what worked for us earlier in the year, and had Eli breeze him at Oaklawn last week (a half in :51.20) and then again today.  We’ve done all we can do, and now he’s gonna belong in there, or he isn’t.”

Kentucky Oaks 135 Monday Update - Rachel Alexandra Avoids Mishap, Sizzles

Follow your favorites for the 135th Kentucky Oaks daily at www.churchilldowns.com, where we provide updates on how each contender is progressing for the big race!

BE FAIR / TWEETER – Westrock Stables' Be Fair walked the shedrow at Barn 44 a day after working five furlongs in 1:00.20 in her final major drill for Friday’s 135th running of the $500,000-added Kentucky Oaks (Grade I).  Exercise rider Omar Golon was aboard for the work on Sunday.  Rafael Bejarano has the riding assignment Friday in Kentucky Oaks 135.

“She's doing excellent,” trainer D. Wayne Lukas said.

Lukas’ other Oaks possibility, Marylou Whitney Stables' Tweeter, “breezed down the lane” according to the trainer. Exercise rider Taylor Carty was in the irons.

FLYING SPUR – Under exercise rider Joanna Trout, Flying Spur worked four furlongs in :48.40 and was timed in 1:01.80 galloping out another furlong.

“It looked nice,” trainer Bill Mott said. “We had a long wait before we worked, but she handled it well. It turned out OK. It was not a problem.”

Flying Spur’s breeze was scheduled to take place after the track reopened at 8:30 a.m. right after the renovation break, but was delayed when a loose horse ran into another horse in the stretch.  Garrett Gomez has the Oaks riding assignment on Mike Rutherford’s filly.

GABBY’S GOLDEN GAL – The morning after she worked five furlongs in 1:00.40, the Medaglia d’Oro filly’s exercise for the day was limited to walking the shedrow at trainer Bob Baffert’s barn.  Baffert said the Sunland Oaks winner was fine the day following the breeze.

“She came out great,” Baffert said. “She looked great today.”

Owned by Arnold Zetcher, Gabby’s Golden Gal will be ridden in the Oaks by Victor Espinoza.

Baffert said he was impressed by the unbeaten Rachel Alexandra, who worked Monday morning.  “Man, she just looks fantastic,” Baffert said. “What a racemare. She’s a superstar.”

JUSTWHISTLEDIXIE – After walking the shedrow for the previous two mornings, Justwhistledixie was sent to the track to gallop 1 1/2 miles just before the renovation break at Churchill Downs on Monday morning. Exercise rider Danny Wright was aboard the daughter of Dixie Union, who had worked four furlongs in :49 on Friday.

“She was happy today. She was fresh,” said Neal McLaughlin, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin’s assistant and brother. “She was excited. She didn’t want to stand and look like she normally does; she just wanted to get on with her gallop. That’ll get her back into her routine. (Tuesday) I’m sure she’ll stand longer and relax, but she’s real happy right now.”

Although exuberant about her morning exercise Monday, Justwhistledixie poses no problems for her connections.

“She’s really laid back. She’s really easy on herself. She’s not a difficult to train. She doesn’t try to do too much. She’s just very smart and very easy to train. She does everything right,” McLaughlin said. “In her races, she’s more of a stalking filly. If there’s no pace, she can be up front. If there’s pace, she can sit back. She doesn’t need anything, where a lot of other horses need the pace to themselves or other horses to go out there to set a lot of pace so they can close. She dictates her own race, so that’s really nice to have in a big race like this.”

Julien Leparoux, who was aboard Justwhistledixie for the first time during her victory in the Bonnie Miss (Grade II) at Gulfstream Park, has the return mount aboard the filly who will be seeking her sixth straight win in the Oaks.

NAN – J. Paul Reddam's Nan galloped 1 1/8 miles with exercise rider Jose Castanon aboard.

“She's doing very well,” Aimee Dollase said. Aimee is the sister and assistant to trainer Craig Dollase.

Aimee says she's enjoying the experience of Derby Week. It was Derby Week 1996 when she first came to Churchill Downs as a full-time employee in her family's stables. Her father, Wally, brought Alyrob to the Derby that year and they also had Jewel Princess, an Eclipse Award winner, running on Oaks Day.

“It was fascinating,” Aimee said. “Derby Week is like the Super Bowl. I was so caught up in all the excitement I thought it was like this all the time around here.”

RACHEL ALEXANDRA – Everything was ready to roll and Rachel Alexandra was preparing to break off for a half-mile work when the horn sounded signifying a loose horse on the track.

“Damn,” trainer Hal Wiggins muttered as he exited the clocker’s stand and headed to the track to take his stable star back to Barn 30.

A training accident closed the track for nearly 30 minutes, and during that time Rachel Alexandra cooled her heels back in the barn.

“I just wanted to keep her walking because I was worried she might tie up,” Wiggins said.

When the track reopened, Rachel Alexandra and jockey Calvin Borel returned to the track and sizzled a half-mile in :46.40, the fastest move of 26 at the distance over a track rated as “fast” on Monday morning.

Clockers caught Rachel Alexandra in fractions of :11.60, :23.20, :34.80, out five furlongs in :58.40 and six furlongs in 1:10.60.

“I had her in :46 and 2, :58 and 4 and 1:12 and 3,” said Wiggins, who was looking for a work in the 48-second range from the probable Kentucky Oaks favorite.  “I thought she went too fast, but Calvin swears she does that every time.  That is what she did at Oaklawn Park before the Fantasy; she worked in 47 and 3, but that’s just the way she is. I am glad to have one that can go that fast.”

Rachel Alexandra, owned by L and M Partners, is scheduled for a walk day on Tuesday and maybe Wednesday and then will gallop up to Friday’s race.

“At Oaklawn, I had postponed her work a day because the track was sloppy and I walked her two days after the work and then galloped the day before the Fantasy,” Wiggins said. “I’ll decide on Wednesday whether she’ll walk another day or go to the track."

Churchill Downs, Jacksons Unveil Sculpture of 2006 Kentucky Derby Winner Barbaro

With owners Roy and Gretchen Jackson looking on, a life-sized sculpture of ill-fated 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro was unvieled on Sunday, April 26 at Churchill Downs.

The Jacksons were joined by trainer Michael Matz and Dr. Dean Richardson, the equine surgeon from the New Bolton Center at the University of Pennsylvania who worked so valiantly to save Barbaro's life, and hundreds of well-wishers as the work by sculptor Alexa King was formally unveiled.  King also participated in the ceremonies.  The sculpture is the dominant portion of a memorial to Barbaro, who was seriously injured in the early stages of the Preakness, the second jewel of racing's Triple Crown, just two weeks after the then-unbeaten colt had scored the most lopsided victory in the Kentucky Derby in 60 years.

Richardson and his team had managed to save Barbaro despite massive damage to a rear leg, but the colt succumbed to the hoof disease laminitis in early 2007.  His eight-month battle for life garnered world-wide attention from media, racing fans and horse lovers around the globe.

Barbaro was cremated and his remains are interred at the memorial site at Churchill Downs' Gate 1.  The site is located a short distance from the one-mile track at Churchill Downs where Barbaro, ridden by Edgar Prado, scored the greatest victory of his brief career.  

The Barbaro Memorial is located in an open area outside of the admission gates at Churchill Downs.  There is no charge to visit the memorial site.

Unbeaten Champion Zenyatta Bound for Louisville Distaff

Unbeaten Eclipse Award champion Zenyatta, a finalist for ‘Horse of the Year’ honors in 2008, is scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs on Monday, April 27 to run in the $350,000-added Louisville Distaff (Grade II) on Friday’s Kentucky Oaks Day program at Churchill Downs.

Trainer John Shirreffs confirmed Zenyatta’s participation via telephone Sunday afternoon and Mr. and Mrs. Jerome Moss’ 5-year-old daughter of Street Cry is scheduled to board a Louisville-bound plane after leaving Shirreffs’ barn at Santa Anita on Monday.

Zenyatta, who is perfect in nine career races and has not raced since her emphatic victory in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic (GI) over Santa Anita’s Pro-Ride surface in late October, will stabled in Barn 45.  Shirreffs and the Mosses enjoyed success in that barn when Giacomo, their winner of the 2005 Kentucky Derby (GI), was stabled there.

Shirreffs and the Mosses finalized the decision to bring their unbeaten champion to Churchill Downs after she turned in a sharp five furlongs in :59 over the synthetic  Cushion Track surface on Sunday morning at Hollywood Park.  The Oaks Day race would be only Zenyatta’s second appearance on conventional dirt.  All of her other victories have been scored on synthetic tracks in California.

The brilliant mare earned the Eclipse Award for the top older filly or mare of 2008 following a campaign in which she was perfect in seven races.  All of her 2008 wins came in stakes races and four were in Grade I events.

Zenyatta’s primary challenger in the 1 1/8-mile race is One Caroline, an unbeaten daughter of Unbridled’s Song owned by G. Watts Humphrey Jr. and trained by Rusty Arnold.  The 4-year-old filly is coming off an easy win in the Rampart Handicap (GII) at Gulfstream Park, her fifth consecutive victory.  Others considered possible for the Louisville Distaff, formerly known as the Louisville Breeders’ Cup, include Falls City Handicap (GII) winner Miss Isella, Bear Now, Dawn After Dawn, Stealin' Kisses, Sugar Mint, Swift Temper, Unbridled Belle, and Unforgotten.

Other stars scheduled for stakes appearances during the Kentucky Oaks program on Friday, May 1 and the Kentucky Derby Day stakes on May 2 include Einstein, Indian Blessing, Laragh, Fabulous Strike, Kodiak Kowboy and Macho Again.

The versatile and accomplished Einstein is scheduled to defend his 2008 $500,000-added Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI) on Kentucky Derby Day.  The 7-year-old son of 1965 Kentucky Derby winner Spend A Buck is coming off a victory in the $1 million Santa Anita Handicap (GI) at Santa Anita, a race that marked his debut on a synthetic racing surface.  A three-time Grade I winner on grass, Einstein also won last fall’s Clark Handicap (GII) and finished second to two-time “Horse of the Year” Curlin in the $1 million Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) on the dirt surface at Churchill Downs.

Others expected to contest the 1 1/8-mile Woodford Reserve Turf Classic include Cowboy Cal, Court Vision, Artiste Royal, Proudinsky, Zambezi Sun, Yate’s Black Cat, Just as Well and Furthest Land.

The Grade I $300,000-added Humana Distaff, a seven-furlong Derby Day test for older fillies and mares on the main track, will be headed by Patti and Hal Earnhardt’s Indian Blessing, runner-up to Big City Man when she tested males in the Dubai Golden Shaheen at Nad Al Sheba in late March.  The Bob Baffert-trained daughter of Indian Charlie has a 9-4-0 record in 13 races and is expected to face a talented group of rivals that include Game Face, Secret Gypsy, Informed Decision, Royale Michele, Sugar Mint and Tiz To Dream.

The Grade II, $250,000-added Churchill Downs Stakes Presented by Carewise Health (GII) for 4-year-olds and up on Derby Day shapes up as showdown between sprint stars Fabulous Strike and Kodiak Kowboy, Other possible contenders in the seven furlong race include Ide Like A Double, My Pal Charlie, Paul's Hope, Riley Tucker, Silver Edition, Sok Sok, Spotsgone, and The Roundhouse.

The $100,000 Eight Belles Presented by GE Consumer & Industrial (GIII), formerly the La Troienne, will match 3-year-old fillies over 7 ½-furlongs on Derby Day.  Now named in honor of the ill-fated Fox Hill Farms’ filly who was runner-up to Big Brown in the 2008 Kentucky Derby, the Eight Belles is expected to attract a field that could include the Steve Asmussen-trained duo of Auspicious and Four Gifts, the Larry Jones-trained Just Jenda, Arlington-Washington Lassie (GIII) winner C.S. Silk, Dave's Revenge, Diamond Tags, Gatorette, Lady's Laughter, Luster, and Warrior Maid.

The remaining race on the Kentucky Derby Day schedule of six stakes events is the $100,000 Churchill Downs Distaff Turf Mile (GIII) Presented by American Commercial Lines (GIII).  The one-mile test for older fillies and mares on the Matt Winn Turf Course could include Ballymore Lady, Elusive Lady, Flibberjibit, Lady Carlock, Lemon Chiffon, Rustic Flame, Sugar Mint, Sweeter Still, and Tizaqueena.

Along with the 135th running of the Kentucky Oaks and the Louisville Distaff, the four other stakes races on the Oaks Day card will attract star-studded fields. 

The $100,000 American Turf Presented by HRTV (GIII) is expected to mark the stakes debut of the promising Affirmatif as the Todd Pletcher-trained colt faces stakes veterans Battle of Hastings, Bittel Road, Jack Spratt, Orthodox, Skipadate, Stormalory and Turfiste in the 1 1/16-mile test on the Matt Winn Turf Course.

New Orleans Handicap (GIII) and 2008 Preakness (GI) runner-up Macho Again heads the 1 1/16-mile Alysheba Presented by ZirMed (GIII).  The 1 1/16-mile race for older horses could also include 2008 Kentucky Derby veteran Cool Coal Man, Ready Set, Acting Zippy, Bullsbay, Prom Shoes, Dr. Pleasure, Golden Yank, Star Guitar and Limestone Edge.

The $100,000-added Edgewood Presented by Recreonics Inc.could attract Laragh, winner of the Hollywood Starlet (GI) on the synthetic Cushion Track course at Hollywood Park and third to Stardom Bound in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies.  Other possible starters include Abbott Hall, Banker's Choice, Kiss Mine, Magical Affair, Speed Dating, Stone Legacy and Walloon.

The $100,000-added Aegon Turf Sprint (GIII) for 3-year-olds and up at five furlongs on grass is expected to attract star turf sprinter Smart Enough and rivals that include Accredit, Castles in the Sky, Chitoz, Due Date, Jazz Nation and Silver Edition.

Grade III Kentucky Juvenile Attracts Precocious Field of Nine

Six debut winners at Keeneland, a record-setting filly from Maryland and a West Coast invader highlight a field of nine 2-year-olds entered Sunday for Thursday’s 21st running of the $100,000-added Kentucky Juvenile (Grade III) at Churchill Downs.

    The five-furlong event, which has been won seven times by fillies, serves as the first graded stakes of 2009 for 2-year-olds. Five fillies have been entered for Thursday’s race, including Jealous Again and Gator Prowl.

    Jealous Again, owned by Robert Abrams, Mitch Dutko and Wesley Ward and trained by Ward, won the first 2-year-old race of the recently concluded Keeneland meet by 11 ¼ lengths on April 3. Rene Douglas will be aboard Thursday and break from post position two.

    Gator Prowl, owned by Danny Divver and John Salzman Jr. and trained by Salzman, won her debut at Laurel Park on April 9 by 11 ½ lengths and broke a 45-year-old track record in the process for the 4 ½-furlong distance with a clocking of :52.11. Jonathan Joyce, who was aboard for that win, has the riding assignment on Thursday.

    Other debut Keeneland winners in the field are Steven Bell’s Aegean, Heiligbrodt Racing Stable’s Heavenville and Kinsolving, Twin Creek Racing Stable’s Mission Impazible and J. Kirk Robison’s Western Smoke. Aegean and Kinsolving are fillies.

    Coming in from Southern California is Elizabeth and Patrick Everard’s Kitty in the Bag, a 3 ¼-length winner at Santa Anita over two furlongs on April. The filly is trained by veteran Mel Stute and will be ridden by Joe Talamo from post position three.

    Trainer Steve Asmussen, who has saddled the Kentucky Juvenile winner five times, will be represented by Heavenville, Kinsolving and Western Smoke. Two-time race winners Robby Albarado and Shaun Bridgmohan will be aboard Heavenville and Kinsolving, respectively.

    The field for the Kentucky Juvenile, from the rail out, is as follows: Aegean (Elvis Trujillo, 117 pounds), Jealous Again (Rene Douglas, 117), Kitty in the Bag (Joe Talamo, 117), Western Smoke (Brian Hernandez, 120), Kinsolving (Shaun Bridgmohan, 117), Heavenville (Robby Albarado, 120), Mission Impazible (John Velazquez, 120), Seattle Court (Calvin Borel, 118) and Gator Prowl (Jonathan Joyce, 117).

Kentucky Oaks 135 Notes - Gabby's Golden Gal Breezes

Follow the preparations of your favorite Kentucky Oaks contender every morning with the Churchill Downs Notes Team, providing daily updates on the contenders for Kentucky Oaks 135!

BE FAIR / TWEETER – Thomas Van Meter and Charles Kidder’s Be Fair worked five furlongs in 1:00.20 under exercise rider Omar Golon. The move, taking place shortly after the track opened, was the fourth-fastest of 24 at the distance over a track rated as “fast.”

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas, a four-time winner of the Kentucky Oaks, said, “She went just perfect.”  Lukas added, “Have you ever heard a trainer not like a horse’s work?”

Marylou Whitney Stables’ Tweeter galloped shortly after the track opened at 6 a.m.  Lukas is still not definite on her final work plans, but has indicated it would come Monday or Tuesday.

FLYING SPUR – Mike Rutherford’s Flying Spur galloped a mile and quarter under exercise rider Joanna Trout before the renovation break Sunday morning.

Trainer Bill Mott indicated Flying Spur, runner-up in the Grade II Fair Grounds Oaks to Rachel Alexandra, would work Monday morning, probably before the renovation break.

Garrett Gomez, winner of the 2007 Kentucky Oaks on Rags To Riches, has the riding assignment on Flying Spur.

GABBY’S GOLDEN GAL – The lightly raced (four starts) winner of the Sunland Park Oaks, Gabby’s Golden Gal, had her final major move for Friday’s Kentucky Oaks at Churchill Downs Sunday morning when she clipped off five furlongs in 1:00.40 shortly after the renovation break.

With trainer Bob Baffert taking it in from the track’s grandstand, the smallish daughter of Medaglia d’Oro had former rider Joe Steiner in the tack as she went generously through the drill.

The thoughtful Steiner gave the move a literal and figurative thumbs up.

“She just cruised around there for me,” he said. “And she galloped out strong. I said ‘OK, that’s good,’ when we finished up. She’s just a little thing, but she feels big under you. She’s coming up to it right; doing all she can do. She’ll be hooking into a tough one (solid favorite Rachel Alexandra), but she’s going to be ready to do her part. Sometimes it’s just a matter of being ready and getting lucky.”

Victor Espinoza has the call on Gabby’s Golden Gal for the nine-furlong Oaks.

JUSTWHISTLEDIXIE – West Point Thoroughbreds’ Justwhistledixie walked the shedrow at Barn 42 for a second consecutive morning. The Kiaran McLaughlin trainee worked a half-mile in :49 on Friday and is scheduled to go back to the track in the morning.

Julien Leparoux, who rode Justwhistledixie to victory in the Grade II Bonnie Miss on March 27 in her most recent start, has the Oaks riding assignment.

NAN – J. Paul Reddam’s Nan returned to the track for a light jog under exercise rider Jose Castanon after walking the shedrow on Saturday.

The Craig Dollase trainee had her final pre-Oaks work on Friday with a five-furlong drill in company in 1:00.20.

Corey Nakatani, a two-time Kentucky Oaks winner, has the riding assignment on Nan.

RACHEL ALEXANDRA – L and M Partners’ Rachel Alexandra galloped a mile and half before the renovation break under exercise rider Rudy Gallegos.

The probable Kentucky Oaks favorite is scheduled to work a half-mile after the renovation break in the morning with jockey Calvin Borel up.

“I am looking for her to go in about :48 and maybe let her gallop out,” trainer Hal Wiggins said.

Wiggins, whose horses occupy most all of Barn 30, will have plenty to keep him busy this week along with Rachel Alexandra. “I’ve got one in on Tuesday, I’m entering one for Thursday and we’re running Abbott Hall in the Edgewood on Friday,” Wiggins said.

Abbott Hall is owned by Dolphus Morrison, breeder and co-owner of Rachel Alexandra.

Kentucky Derby 135 Update - Hold Me Back, Square Eddie Work

Keep tabs on your favorite Kentucky Derby 135 contender through Churchill Downs, as we offer daily updates on the training, workouts, and preparations of all the Derby hopefuls!

ADVICE / DUNKIRK / JOIN IN THE DANCE – At Churchill Downs, assistant trainer Mike McCarthy had two of trainer Todd Pletcher’s candidates for the 135th Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) out for exercise early on a beautiful morning beneath the Twin Spires.

With the first set, shortly after the track opened at 6 a.m., Join in the Dance and exercise rider Kevin Willey took a mile and three-eighths tour of oval, galloping along in the dark with only a few other Thoroughbreds joining them on the mile oval.

At about 6:30, Willey switched tack to Advice and took him roughly the same distance. They had more company on the big strip for their leg-stretching just as daylight began to arrive on the scene.

Pletcher was scheduled to fly from Florida on Sunday and oversee Derby preparations for Join in the Dance and Advice, which will include works for each on Monday. Advice is slated to work a half-mile and Join in the Dance will breeze five furlongs.

Meanwhile, at Palm Meadows training center in Florida, another Pletcher charge – this one being the $3.7 million dollar yearling sales purchase Dunkirk – went back to the track for a light jog following his five-furlong drill in 1:01.05 on Saturday.

“He came out of that work in great shape,” Pletcher said. “His energy level was good this morning and we’re pleased with where he is.”

Dunkirk will ship to Louisville by air Monday.

Pletcher also will work Take the Points five furlongs after the break Monday. The Even the Score colt has $85,000 in graded stakes earnings and would need a couple of defections from the list of Kentucky Derby probables to secure a starting gate slot.

CHOCOLATE CANDY – Chocolate Candy ambled to the racetrack Sunday morning at 7 o’clock under exercise rider Lindsey Molina, stopping along the way to take in the scene, eyes bright and ears pricking.

“He’ll get there, one of these days,” stable overseer Galen May said with a smile, knowing that his big, easy-going son of Candy Ride liked to take his time about going about his business.

Chocolate Candy did, in fact, make it to the track in fairly short order and go for a good gallop of a mile and a half. Molina nodded when he walked off into the six-furlong gap. “He’s doing good,” she said.

May noted that trainer Jerry Hollendorfer would be in from his Northern California headquarters later Sunday and would no doubt be at the barn early Monday morning to call the shots for Chocolate Candy’s final major work heading toward Kentucky Derby 135 on Saturday.

“He’ll probably go out early,” May said. “Jerry likes to get things done as soon as he can.”

May, who for 31 years ran the testing barns at the Northern California tracks before “retiring” in 2003 and signing on as Hollendorfer’s “head traveling lad,” noted that this was his fourth trip to the Derby in that role.

“Eye of the Tiger (fifth in 2003) was my best finish so far,” May said. “But this colt – he’s special. He might be able to do better."

DESERT PARTY / REGAL RANSOM – The Godolphin duo of Regal Ransom and Desert Party walked the shedrow at Barn 41 a day after putting in five-furlong works.

Henry Spiller, an assistant to trainer Saeed bin Suroor, said both colts came out of their works well and would return to the track to jog in the morning with Regal Ransom going out first at 6 o’clock and followed soon after by Desert Party.

The duo posted the fastest works of 30 at the distance on Saturday with Regal Ransom going in :59.20 and Desert Party in :59.60. Exercise rider Bob Chapman handled both works.

Both colts broke their maidens in their first attempts with Regal Ransom debuting at Saratoga and Desert Party at Arlington Park. Alan Garcia, who rode Regal Ransom in his first two starts and partnered him again to victory in the UAE Derby (Grade II), has the Derby riding assignment on that colt. Ramon Dominguez will get a leg up for the first time on Desert Party in Derby 135.

FLAT OUT – Oxbow Racing’s Flat Out has been injured and is off the Kentucky Derby trail.

Trainer Charles “Scooter” Dickey said a precautionary exam performed at Lexington’s Hagyard-Davidson-McGee Equine Clinic on Saturday revealed a stress fracture in the colt’s shoulder.  Flat Out, winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes this January at Oaklawn Park, will be sidelined “about four months,” Dickey said.

Flat Out stood 22nd on the graded earnings list and would’ve needed a couple of defections to make the field for Derby 135.

FLYING PRIVATE – Robert Baker and William Mack’s Flying Private galloped under exercise rider Taylor Carty.

Trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who has enlisted the services of Robby Albarado for Kentucky Derby 135, said Flying Private will work “Monday or Tuesday.”

FRIESAN FIRE – Vinery Stables and Fox Hill Farm’s Friesan Fire galloped a mile and a half under trainer Larry Jones after the renovation break.

Jones plans to work Friesan Fire five furlongs on Monday after the renovation break with jockey Gabriel Saez up.

“We just want him to go out and come back good,” Jones said when asked what he was looking for on Monday. “I’d just like to see him get over the track without a lot of effort.”

Friesan Fire will work in blinkers in the morning.

“He’s looking around now and the last two days he has not been focused,” Jones said. “Hopefully the blinkers will help.”

Friesan Fire’s final works before his three races at Fair Grounds this year ran the gamut, but the end result was always the same: a stakes victory.

“His work before the LeComte (:48.60 for a half, second-best of 69) was the first time Gabe got on him,” Jones said. “Before the Risen Star (1:04.40 for five furlongs), people thought it was too slow and before the Louisiana derby (:58.20 for five furlongs), people thought it was too fast.”

Jones is following a similar pattern with Friesan Fire as he did two years ago with Hard Spun, who would finish second to Street Sense in Derby 133. Hard Spun worked a mile at Keeneland in 1:42.40 on April 23 before shipping to Churchill Downs and then worked five furlongs in :57.60  on April 30. Friesan Fire worked a mile in 1:39.60 at Keeneland on April 19.

“I think he’ll work well, but not like Hard Spun did,” Jones said. “They are different types of horses. I just don’t want him going in 1:04 after seven weeks off.”

Immediately after the Friesan Fire work tomorrow, Jones and Saez will return to the track to work Kodiak Kowboy for Vinery and Fox Hill. Winner of the Grade I Carter in his most recent start on April 4, Kodiak is being pointed to Saturday’s $250,000 Churchill Downs (Grade II) at seven furlongs.
     
GENERAL QUARTERS – Former Louisville high school principal Tom McCarthy, owner/trainer of this year’s Toyota Blue Grass (Grade I) winner, did not hand out any demerits or discipline Sunday, but rather waited patiently for exercise rider Julie Sheets to arrive at Barn 37. General Quarters, however, was not as patient, pulling McCarthy’s son, Tom, around the barn with high energy and eventually going back into his stall before teaming with Sheets and heading to the track.

General Quarters showed much more spark than in recent days, but relaxed nicely as he was hand led to the track by the elder McCarthy. Once into his 1 ½-mile gallop, it was clear that the son of Sky Mesa was feeling fresh. Said McCarthy as his colt cruised by, “He’s full of himself today. Easy Julie!”

“We only gave him a lackadaisical five-eighths work to keep some fire in the tank,” McCarthy said trackside, referring to last week’s workout, which was intended to be the horse’s last before the Derby. “Apparently, there’s plenty of gas still in there.”

If General Quarters remains this fresh, McCarthy said that he could give the colt a blowout later this week “if we need to take the edge off.”

Julien Leparoux will have the mount in the Derby. His first time getting a leg up on General Quarters will be when they call for “riders up.”

“That’s nothing new,” McCarthy said. “Julien rides a lot of horses that way. We’ll go over a few things right before the race.”

HOLD ME BACK – WinStar Farm’s Hold Me Back closed out his serious training for Kentucky Derby 135 by working five furlongs in company in 1:01.60 under three-time Kentucky Derby-winning rider Kent Desormeaux.

Working before 7 a.m., Hold Me Back reeled off fractions of :13,:25.20, :37.20 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.80 while working in company with Flying Warrior. The move was the 13th-fastest of 24 at the distance over a track rated as “fast.”

Hold Me Back broke off about a length and half behind Flying Warrior at the five-eighths pole, caught up to his workmate at the head of the stretch and moved by before the eighth pole.

“I thought the work was very good,” trainer Bill Mott said. “He was under a hold the whole way and finished well on his own. He appeared to handle the track very well and that is a good sign. Kent said he still wanted to gallop out after a mile.”

Hold Me Back’s lone race on a dirt track resulted in a fifth-place finish in the Grade II Remsen at Aqueduct to close out his 2-year-old campaign.

“He had trained well there, but he just didn’t show up that day,” Mott said. “He was immature at the time and I am willing to give him the benefit of doubt. He trained well on dirt before and has since.”

I WANT REVENGE – Wood Memorial (Grade I) winner I Want Revenge stayed on edge with a two-mile open gallop around the fast main track Sunday morning. Regular exercise rider Joe Deegan was aboard. I Want Revenge was scheduled to school in the paddock before the first race Sunday.

“He went really well this morning,” said trainer Jeff Mullins, who arrived on the Derby scene Saturday night from California. “We plan to breeze him on Tuesday, either a half or five-eighths, I haven’t decided yet.”

The colt by Stephen Got Even, who will be one of the favorites on Saturday, has breezed the last two Tuesdays at Churchill Downs, getting a half-mile in :50 flat on April 14, and five furlongs in 1:01.60 on April 21.

I Want Revenge, owned by the partnership of David Lanzman, IEAH Stables, Charles Winner and Puglisi Racing, has won his past two starts, the Grade III Gotham and Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. Joe Talamo, who has been aboard in all the colt’s victories, has the mount Saturday.

MINE THAT BIRD – With his final major Kentucky Derby 135 workout looming Monday morning, Mine That Bird turned in an easy 1 ¾ miles Sunday, jogging a quarter-mile and “loping about a mile and a half,” trainer Chip Woolley said. Mine That Bird, last year’s Sovereign Award winner as Canada’s top juvenile colt, is scheduled to work at 8:50 a.m., but that time could be pushed back a few minutes given the busy schedule of jockey Calvin Borel.

“He’s working the big mare (Oaks favorite Rachel Alexandra) at 8:30 and then my horse at 8:50,” Woolley said. “We’ll work five-eighths and I want to see him finish. I’d like to see something in about a minute-and-one (fifth); something that won’t kill him, but show he’s sharp. The main part of the work I want to see is how he does down the lane.”

Woolley is among a sizable list of Kentucky Derby rookie trainers this year, but they follow great company in recent history. Five of the past six Derbies have been won by trainers making their debut in the race (Barclay Tagg, John Servis, John Shirreffs, Michael Matz and Rick Dutrow).

MR. HOT STUFF – WinStar Farm’s Mr. Hot Stuff worked five furlongs in 1:00.40 over the synthetic Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita on Sunday morning and will board an airplane for Churchill Downs on Monday with Kentucky Derby plans on his agenda.

Trainer Eoin Harty oversaw his charge’s drill in California and termed it “a nice, easy move.”

“We didn’t ask him to do too much today,” the transplanted Irishman said. “He just went about it in good fashion and finished up well. He’ll fly tomorrow.”

The brother to Colonel John, the sixth-place finisher in the 2008 Kentucky Derby, will be stabled in Barn 41.
Harty, who was flying to Louisville himself Sunday, said rider plans still have not been finalized for Mr. Hot Stuff.

“We’re still working on it,” he said. “We’ll have one by Wednesday morning.”

Entries for Kentucky Derby 135 will close at 10 a.m. on Wednesday with the order of post position selection starting at 12:04 p.m. and the actual post position selections beginning at 12:15 p.m.

MUSKET MAN – The day after working five furlongs in 1:01.60, Musket Man had an easy morning Sunday, walking under the Barn 41 shedrow.

Trainer Derek Ryan said he will bring Musket Man up to the Derby with daily gallops, and has scheduled a session at the gate for Wednesday.

This is the first Derby for Ryan, who trains primarily at Monmouth Park in New Jersey during the summer and Tampa Bay Downs in the winter. Musket Man came into prominence by winning the Pasco Stakes and Tampa Bay Derby (Grade III) this winter, and then added to his resume by taking the Illinois Derby (Grade II) at Hawthorne in his most recent start on April 4. The colt has won five of six career starts.

This will be the third Derby mount for jockey Eibar Coa, who finished fifth on Eye Of The Tiger in 2004, and fourth on Tale of Ekati last year.

Eric Fein, who owns the horse in partnership with Vic Carlson, has a starter in the Derby for the second straight year. He made the big show last year with Big Truck, who finished 18th.

PAPA CLEM – No news was good news around the barn of the Arkansas Derby (Grade II) winner, one day after he worked seven furlongs in 1:29.20. The Gary Stute trainee was given an easy morning walking the shedrow and is scheduled to walk for a second straight day Monday before returning to the track Tuesday.

Rafael Bejarano will ride Papa Clem on Saturday in search of his first Derby score. A leading jockey in California and Kentucky, Bejarano’s best Triple Crown race finish was his second-place run aboard Andromeda’s Hero in the 2005 Belmont Stakes.

PIONEEROF THE NILE – Santa Anita Derby (Grade I) winner Pioneerof the Nile was out early on the racetrack Sunday for a mile and a half gallop under exercise rider George Alvarez.

“He went good,” Alvarez said enthusiastically afterward. “He’s doing really well. He couldn’t be doing any better. I gallop him in California, too, and this is the best he’s felt."

Pioneerof the Nile, an Empire Maker colt, will partner with two-time Eclipse Award winner Garrett Gomez in Derby 135 and is scheduled for his final major breeze Monday morning.

QUALITY ROAD – “Tinges” of blood appeared twice on the pesky right-front quarter crack of potential Kentucky Derby favorite Quality Road on Sunday morning as trainer Jimmy Jerkens, hoof specialist Ian McKinlay and owner Edward Evans continue to race against the clock. All in all, it was an eventful Belmont Park morning for the Florida Derby (Grade I) winner, who galloped 1 ¾ miles after McKinlay outfitted him with an acrylic patch and drain.

After galloping sound and going over the ground well under exercise rider Juan Moreno, Quality Road returned to the Jerkens barn with a “tinge” of blood seeping from the newly patched quarter crack.

“Everything had been stabilized,” McKinlay said. “When I changed the wires today, the crack opened up a bit during the process. A bit of sensitive tissue was aggravated. Hopefully tomorrow when he breezes there won’t be a tinge of blood.”

The Quality Road camp will press on toward Monday’s scheduled workout over the Belmont training track. If the son of Elusive Quality is to travel to Churchill Downs on Tuesday and be entered in the Run for the Roses on Wednesday, he’ll have to pass Monday’s 9:20 a.m. test with flying colors. The six-furlong breeze will determine his Derby fate.

“He has to work to our liking and come out of it perfect,” Jerkens said. “If he takes one bad step anywhere, forget it. I would have liked to have seen no blood (this morning), but it didn’t surprise me because he was still tender.”

“It’s not a soundness issue,” McKinlay said, adding, “He is well on the mend. This is live tissue; we’re not changing a flat tire. There are a lot of judgment calls.”

Quality Road’s original right-hind quarter-crack patch has held perfectly and has not been problematic. Still, the latest set-back looms over his Derby 135 .

“I’m optimistic it’s going to work out,” Evans said.
-- NYRA notes writer Jenny Kellner contributed to this report.
 
SQUARE EDDIE – Following a mile and one-half gallop around the big Churchill Downs oval, Square Eddie put it in drive for exercise rider Tony Romero and drilled four furlongs in :50.20 Sunday morning.  The son of Smart Strike broke off  at the three-eighths pole and finishing up at the seven-eighths, with a solid gallop-out around the clubhouse turn.

The move was accomplished shortly after the morning renovation break at approximately 8:30 with trainer Doug O’Neill, along with his brother Dennis, in the grandstand overseeing the exercise. The O’Neills arrived Saturday evening and are signed on to stay through Derby 135 on Saturday.

Clockers timed the move with the following early splits -- :12.80, :25, :37.60 – then a gallop-out time 1:03.20.

“I thought it was an awesome work,” Doug O’Neill said afterward. “We’re very pleased with it. We know we’re asking a lot of this horse, but we think he’s up to it. Obviously, when you want a horse to come back in two weeks (off his third-place finish in the Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 18) following a three-month break in his racing schedule (his prior start was the San Rafael at Santa Anita on Jan. 17) to run in a race as tough as the Kentucky Derby, you’re asking a lot. The only way you could do that is to think you’ve got a ‘super’ horse. And in our minds that’s what he is – a ‘super’ horse.”

The trainer indicated that Square Eddie would get a day off tomorrow and merely walk the shedrow, followed by a jog day Tuesday, gallop days Wednesday and Thursday, then jogs on Friday and Saturday as his final preparations for the Run for the Roses.

Corey Nakatani will get a leg up on Square Eddie in Derby 135 next Saturday, the first time he’s handled the Canadian-bred, who’ll be making the ninth start of his career and first on a pure-dirt surface.

SUMMER BIRD – Summer Bird, a son of 2004 Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone, jogged two miles around the Churchill strip Sunday morning with jockey Chris Rosier aboard.

Trainer Tim Ice was on hand to supervise the exercise after traveling to Lone Star Park Saturday to saddle runners in two stakes. Affirmed Truth ran third in the Richland Stakes, while Catmantoo finished out of the money in the Texas Mile, both with Rozier aboard.

This is the first Derby experience for Ice, a 34-year-old Ohio native who went out on his own just this year after serving as assistant to Morris Nicks, Cole Norman and Keith Desormeaux.

“To make it here to the Derby in my first year as a trainer is extraordinary,” Ice said Sunday while watching Summer Bird graze behind the barn. “Just extraordinary. I’m thrilled to be here.”

Summer Bird, a good-looking chestnut, has had just three lifetime starts, his only win in maiden company at Oaklawn Park on March 19. He went right from that race into the Grade II Arkansas Derby, where he finished a fast-closing third behind Papa Clem and Old Fashioned.

Summer Bird’s final breeze, six furlongs in 1:15 4/5 on Friday, was dismissed by some observers as too slow, but the trainer was satisfied.

“He got what he needed out of the work,” Ice said. “He’s looking and acting really well. I look for him to run good Saturday. He won’t disappoint me no matter what he does.”

The colt was bred by his owners, the husband-wife team of Drs. K.K. and V. Devi Jayaraman. They had a Derby starter in 1989, when Irish Actor ran seventh behind Sunday Silence.

WEST SIDE BERNIE – West Side Bernie who had his final Derby breeze on Saturday, just walked under the shedrow Sunday morning.

“He cooled out well, and he’s got the right demeanor today,” said trainer Kelly Breen, who is experiencing his first Derby. “He ate good, and he’s acting good. That’s all I can ask.”

The son of Bernstein, a $50,000 yearling purchase by Breen on behalf of George and Lori Hall, breezed a half-mile in :48.20 Saturday with jockey Stewart Elliott aboard. In his most recent start, West Side Bernie ran second to I Want Revenge in the Grade I Wood Memorial.

WIN WILLY – Win Willy, a red-roan son of Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos, had a busy Sunday morning, schooling at the gate and then galloping a mile and a half around the Churchill Downs oval.

Trainer Mac Robertson, who will be participating in his first Derby, is still at Canterbury Downs, bedding down a large string of horses that will race there this summer. His wife, Cyndi, a veterinarian, was on hand Sunday to supervise preparations with the aid of groom Luis Moldonado and exercise rider Elias Lopez.

“Mac will work him either Monday or Tuesday,” Cyndi said. “Whatever day he gets here, the horse will have his final breeze.”

Win Willy took the Grade II Rebel at Oaklawn Park, with Old Fashioned more than two lengths behind, but then finished fourth behind that rival in the Arkansas Derby. He has not worked yet at Churchill Downs since shipping in from Arkansas.

The colt is owned by Jerome and Marlene Myers, who campaign as the Jer-Mar Stable, and was a $25,000 yearling purchase at Keeneland.

The 35-year-old Robertson got his start on the racetrack working for his father, trainer Hugh Robertson, who campaigns at the Chicago-area tracks.

Unbeaten Hull Wins Grade III Derby Trial as Churchill Downs Opens Spring Meet, Derby Week

Heiligbrodt Racing Stable and Team Valor International and Gary Barber’s undefeated Hull ran his winning streak to three with a four-length victory over Kensei in the 85th running of the $112,000 Derby Trial (Grade III) on opening day of the 52-day Churchill Downs Spring Meet.

Trained by Dale Romans, who posted his 20th career stakes victory at Churchill Downs, Hull swept past dueling leaders Silver City and Checklist at the head of the lane and then repulsed a late bid by Kensei, who was ridden by Robby Albarado.

Ridden by Miguel Mena, who scored his second career Churchill Downs stakes victory, Hull returned mutuels of $8.80, $5.40 and $4.40. Kensei, owned by Stonestreet Stables and Gulf Coast Racing, paid $13.80 and $7.40 in finishing 1 ¾ lengths ahead of  Starlight Partners’ Checklist, who held third over Rendezvous by a half-length under Shaun Bridgmohan, paying $9 to show.

Silver City and Checklist dueled through fractions of :21.78 and :44.29 with Hull racing three-wide just off the pace. Mena pulled even with the leading duo midway around the final turn and began opening daylight on Checklist as the field straightened for the wire.

Completing the field in order were favored Silver City, Gato Go Win, Santana Six and Tintim Por Tintim.  Time for the 7 ½ furlongs over a track rated “fast” was 1:30.21.

A Kentucky-bred son of Holy Bull out of the Chimes Band mare Band Queen, Hull’s victory was worth $67,357 and increased his career earnings to $107,800.

DERBY TRIAL STAKES QUOTES

DALE ROMANS (trainer of first-place finisher Hull) – “I loved what I saw out there today. He relaxed off the pace, and when the rider asked him to run, he really exploded. He’s as good as anybody around right now. He’s opened up in all three of his races. We entered in the Lexington but we had this race as our backup. Everything had to be perfect if he ran in that race (Lexington), because he was coming back so soon after the Turfway race (on April 2), and when he drew post 12, we didn’t hesitate to scratch him and point for this. We’ll take a look and see what happens in the Derby, who goes on from there and who doesn’t. The Preakness is a possibility for him right now.”

MIGUEL MENA (rider of first-place finisher Hull) – “It went great. There were really fast fractions, but he broke good and was in the bridle happy. I didn’t take to take him back and break his momentum.”

On handling the fast fractions and finishing:
“It’s just unbelievable. Not any horse can do it – only special horses.”

On how far Hull might be able to run:
“I breeze him in the morning and think he can run any distance.”

ROBBY ALBARADO (jockey of second-place finisher Kensei) – “I had a good trip. I was right in there behind the horse who was the eventual winner. We both kicked at the same time. He kicked away from me. The winner is a nice horse, but I like my horse, too.”

JULIEN LEPAROUX (jockey of fifth-place finisher and favored Silver City) – “He came away good and he ran hard early. He just got tired. That’s all.”

Kentucky Oaks 135 Update - Baffert's Gabby's Golden Gal Set for Sunday Work

Follow your favorite contender for the 135th running of the Kentucky Oaks with the Churchill Downs Notes Team!

BE FAIR / TWEETER – Thomas Van Meter and Charles Kidder's Be Fair galloped an unspecified distance Saturday morning at Churchill Downs according to trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

Lukas said the filly will work “possibly tomorrow” in her final major move leading up to Oaks 135.

Marylou Whitney Stables' Tweeter also galloped Saturday morning and Lukas said Tweeter will work Monday or Tuesday for a possible Oaks run.

Rafael Bejarano has the Oaks riding assignment on Be Fair, who was fourth in the Grade I Ashland at Keeneland on April 4 in her most recent start.

FLYING SPUR – Mike Rutherford’s Flying Spur galloped a mile and a quarter under Joanna Trout before the renovation break Saturday morning.

Trainer Bill Mott expressed satisfaction with the morning’s activity that occurred the same time Mott was on the track with Kentucky Derby contender Hold Me Back.

Garrett Gomez has the riding assignment on Flying Spur, who is expected to work on Monday.

GABBY’S GOLDEN GAL – The heroine of the Sunland Park Oaks, Gabby’s Golden Gal, was out and doing some leg stretching at 6:45 Saturday morning, building up steam toward her date in Friday’s Grade I Kentucky Oaks.

Exercise rider George Alvarez was at the controls and took the Medaglia d’Oro filly through a mile and one-half gallop.

The Arnold Zetcher homebred is scheduled to have one more work prior to her date on the national stage. When would that work takes place, her silver-haired conditioner was asked?

“Sunday,” said Bob Baffert. “Looks like we’ll work her on Sunday.”

JUSTWHISTLEDIXIE – West Point Thoroughbreds’ Justwhistledixie walked the shedrow at Barn 42 a day after working a half-mile in :49.

“Everything looks good this morning,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “She ate up good and probably will walk again in the morning.”

Julien Leparoux has the Oaks riding assignment on Justwhistledixie, who has won five consecutive races.

NAN – J. Paul Reddam's Nan walked the shedrow after putting in a five-furlong work Friday morning in 1:00:20.

Aimee Dollase, sister and assistant to trainer Craig Dollase, said “she came out of the work great and is looking great.”

Corey Nakatani has the Oaks riding assignment.

RACHEL ALEXANDRA – L and M Partner’s Rachel Alexandra galloped a mile and a half under exercise rider Rudy Gallegos shortly before 7 o’clock Saturday morning.

“I have been getting on her since last May and she just keeps getting better and better and stronger,” Gallegos said.

Trainer Hal Wiggins, along with his wife, Renee, and his mother, Joyce, watched the morning activity.
“I had a clocker at Oaklawn Park tell me he watches her every day and it is the same every day,” Wiggins said of the strong gallops put in by Rachel Alexandra.

Wiggins, a trainer for more than 30 years, plans to work Rachel Alexandra a half-mile on Monday morning after the renovation break with jockey Calvin Borel up.

No paddock or gate schooling is planned for Rachel Alexandra.

“Her disposition is so good, she won’t do either,” Wiggins said.

Kentucky Derby 135 Update - Godolphin Duo Sharp

How are your favorite contenders training up to the first Saturday in May?  Check back daily with the Churchill Downs Notes Team for all the latest.

ADVICE / DUNKIRK / JOIN IN THE DANCE – Trainer Todd Pletcher sent his chief Derby threat Dunkirk through a five-panel drill in company at the training center at Palm Meadows in Florida on Saturday morning – and he was tickled with the outcome.

Clockers gave the Unbridled’s Song colt a final time of 1:01.05 for the drill, while his workmate – the 3-year-old stakes-placed Munnings – was given a time of 1:01.25.

“I was very, very pleased with the work,” Pletcher said. “I caught him (Dunkirk) in splits of :12 4/5, :24 4/5, :36 4/5 and 1:01, and I had him galloping out in 1:14 2/5. He started out about a length and a half or two lengths behind the other horse, then he finished up about a half-length ahead. It was a very good move for him.”

The five-time Eclipse Award winner as the nation’s top trainer said he couldn’t be happier with the way his $3.7 million yearling was coming up to Derby 135.

“We couldn’t be more pleased with the way things have gone as he’s come up to this race,” Pletcher said. “Everything has fallen into place. Every one of his works has taken place when we wanted it to and they have all come off the way we hoped. He’s coming up to the race right and we’re feeling very good about him. We couldn’t be happier.”

Pletcher said Dunkirk would ship by air from Florida on Tuesday. Pletcher himself was coming to Louisville late Sunday.

Coolmore Lexington Stakes (Grade II) winner Advice galloped a mile and three-eighths at Churchill Downs under exercise rider Kevin Willey shortly after the 8:30 renovation break.

Pletcher’s right-hand man, Mike McCarthy, oversaw the exercise out of their Barn 34 headquarters.

Advice, a son of Chapel Royal, is scheduled to have his final blowout toward his possible Derby start on Monday. To this point, no rider has been assigned to the colt, who is owned by WinStar Farm.

Join in the Dance, expected to be a serious forward factor in Derby 135 if he gets to run, continued his training toward next Saturday’s race with a mile and three-eighths gallop under Willey.

Join in the Dance is currently No. 21 on the graded stakes list and would need one of the horses ahead of him to withdraw prior to the taking of entries on Wednesday if he is to get to dance.

CHOCOLATE CANDY – The big bay colt with the mellow disposition came trackside under exercise rider Lindsey Molina Saturday at 7 a.m., but Chocolate Candy wasn’t in any rush. He stepped into the clearing near the six-furlong chute and stopped to look around. He moved forward a few yards and halted to take it all in again. And then he did it once more before walking through the chute and going about his business.

“He’s such a big, easy goin’ fella,” said Galen May, the right-hand man on the scene for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. “Nothing bothers him. That’s why I like him so much.”

Chocolate Candy took a tour of the paddock, then galloped a solid mile and a half, doing it in his low-key style out in the middle of the track.

Hollendorfer, the king of Northern California racing, had a busy day at Golden Gate Fields where he was going to saddle – among others – Our Partner the San Francisco Mile. He was scheduled to travel to Louisville on Sunday.

DESERT PARTY / REGAL RANSOM – With exercise rider Bob Chapman up, the Godolphin duo of Regal Ransom and Desert Party put in their final works for Kentucky Derby 135.

Regal Ransom was first out shortly after the track opened at 6 a.m. Accompanied by a pony, Regal Ransom backtracked to the front side then galloped to the backstretch where he broke off at the five-eighths pole. Churchill Downs clockers caught Regal Ransom in fractions of :12.40, :23.80, :35, :47 and completing the five furlongs in :59.20 for the fastest clocking of 30 at the distance.

Regal Ransom galloped out six furlongs in 1:12.40 and pulled up seven-eighths in 1:27 over a track labeled “fast.”

Desert Party came out without a pony after the renovation break and worked in :59.60, second-fastest of the morning. Fractions for the work were :12.60, :24.60, :36.40 and :48.20 with a six-furlong out time of 1:12.40 and up seven-eighths in 1:25.80.

Chapman, who has been wearing a finger watch for 10 years when working horses, had Desert Party covering the final quarter mile in :22.91.

“They both worked nicely this morning,” trainer Saeed bin Suroor said. “They are really in good form here and that is a good sign. They will walk tomorrow, jog Monday and then gallop up to the race. They both may go to the gate and paddock one time next week.

“Regal Ransom goes out with a pony because he is always keen in the morning. Desert Party is a more laid back and relaxed and always easy to train.”

The works were the second for each at Churchill Downs. Regal Ransom worked five furlongs in :59.80 and Desert Party 1:00.20 last Saturday.

Desert Party and Regal Ransom will represent the sixth and seven Kentucky Derby starters for Godolphin. They had three starts in Dubai before shipping to Churchill Downs and only one of the stable’s previous starters had had more: Curule, who had four starts in Dubai in 2000 before running seventh here.

“They are fit and ready to go,” bin Suroor said in explaining why this year may be different than in previous Derby attempts. “There will be no excuses for our horses.”

Alan Garcia will have the Derby riding assignment on Regal Ransom and Ramon Dominguez is on Desert Party.
    
FLAT OUT – Oxbow Racing's Flat Out was taken to Lexington's Hagyard-Davis Equine Clinic on Friday afternoon and underwent a precautionary scan Saturday morning.

“He's fit and there is no problem,” trainer Charles “Scooter” Dickey said. He said the owners just wanted the scan as a precaution to make sure the heel bruise he suffered in the Southwest Stakes on Feb. 16 is not redeveloping.

Flat Out is scheduled to return to Churchill Downs early Sunday morning in hopes of making it on the track before training hours are over.

He is currently 22nd on the graded earnings list and needs a couple of defections in order to make the field for Derby 135.

FLYING PRIVATE Robert Baker and William Mack's Flying Private galloped under exercise rider Taylor Carty. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said Flying Private would likely work Monday or Tuesday depending on weather. Robby Albarado has the Derby riding assignment on Flying Private.

FRIESAN FIRE – Vinery Stables and Fox Hill Farm’s Friesan Fire made his first appearance on the track at Churchill Downs, galloping a mile and a half under trainer Larry Jones after the renovation break.

“Everything is good here,” Jones said. “I like the way he handled his first day here.”

Friesan Fire enters the Kentucky Derby on a three-race win streak, having taken the LeComte (Grade III), Risen Star (Grade III) and Louisiana Derby (Grade II) at Fair Grounds this winter. Friesan Fire had been stabled at Keeneland for a month before shipping to Churchill Downs on Friday afternoon.

Gabriel Saez, who has been aboard for Friesan Fire’s past three victories, has the Derby riding assignment and is scheduled to work Friesan Fire on Monday morning after the renovation break.
Friesan Fire worked three times at Keeneland.

GENERAL QUARTERS – Toyota Blue Grass (Grade I) winner General Quarters galloped 1 ½ miles just after 7:30 a.m. Saturday, tugging at exercise rider Julie Sheets. Today’s routine will become ”routine” for the Sky Mesa colt, who had what is expected to be his final Derby 135 workout on Thursday.

Owner-trainer Tom McCarthy said General Quarters will gallop up to the Derby in all likelihood.

General Quarters was calm and composed walking to and from the track, led by hand by McCarthy, a retired Louisville teacher and principal who has become the Derby darling of 2009. On Friday night McCarthy was featured on ABC World News with Charles Gibson as the newscast’s “Person of the Week.”

“The phone has been ringing off the hook in all honesty,” McCarthy said of his recent fame. “Old friends, people I haven’t heard from in years, they’re all calling. It’s great, but it has not changed me. I just go on every day and keep doing what I do. Hope springs eternal. Everybody who trains horses hopes someday to be here. We’re going to enjoy it.”

General Quarters likely will become the most famous one-horse stable in America over the next seven days. But he won’t fly solo for long. McCarthy said he has a 3-year-old filly, Miss Sunshine, ready to come to the track this summer after the Derby hub-bub subsides.

HOLD ME BACK – WinStar Farm’s Hold Me Back went twice around under assistant trainer Kenny McCarthy before the renovation break.

Trainer Bill Mott said the winner of the Lane’s End (Grade II) would work “maybe Sunday; maybe Monday.”

Three-time Kentucky Derby-winning rider Kent Desormeaux will have the riding assignment next Saturday.
Hold Me Back has a record of three wins and a runner-up finish in four starts on synthetic surfaces. In his lone dirt try, Hold Me Back ran fifth in the Grade II Remsen.

“He was a big, tall, light 2-year-old who needed time to fill out,” said Elliott Walden, vice president and racing manager for WinStar. “His Ragozin number in the Remsen was the same he ran at Keeneland (in an allowance win).

“It would be reasonable to question that (his ability on dirt). But I am more confident in him than one would have just by looking at the past performances.”

I WANT REVENGE – Wood Memorial (Grade I) winner I Want Revenge galloped two miles Saturday morning with regular exercise rider Joe Deegan aboard.

Bobby Troeger, assistant to trainer Jeff Mullins, supervised the exercise. He said that Mullins was en route from California and was expected to arrive in Louisville at 7 p.m. Saturday.

I Want Revenge, a Stephen Got Even colt, has been working on Tuesdays the past month, and is expected to have his final Derby breeze this Tuesday. He’s worked twice at Churchill Downs, a 1:01.60 breeze on April 21, and a :50 half-mile on April 14.

MINE THAT BIRD – Last year’s Canadian champion 2-year-old Mine That Bird logged two miles Saturday morning, jogging a quarter-mile before galloping 1 ¾ miles under exercise rider Charlie Figueroa.

“He looks like he’s getting over the ground a little better than yesterday and better than the day before,” trainer Chip Woolley said “That’s what we’re hoping to see – him getting better each day until next Saturday.”

The son of Birdstone will breeze five furlongs Monday (approximately 8:50 a.m.) with Calvin Borel in the irons. Woolley said that he never has had Borel aboard one of his horses in a race, but that the rider of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense makes a lot of sense.

“We just weighed our options of riders out there and kept coming back to him,” Woolley said. “I’ve always liked him and thought he’d fit this horse. He’s patient and that’s the trip we’re likely to get if we’re to do any good in the Derby.”

Woolley has spent much of his training career with Quarter Horses, but said the increased chances to run Thoroughbreds in slots-rich New Mexico was part of the reason his stable has branched out in breeds in recent years. Plus, he said, “The Quarter Horse game can be awfully tough. You do everything right; but one bad break, and you’re done. It’s different with Thoroughbred racing. Look at I Want Revenge in the Wood. He stumbled, but still had a chance to run to his ability. In Quarter Horse racing, he would have been done in at the start.”

MR. HOT STUFF – WinStar Farm’s Mr. Hot Stuff, third in a pair of graded stakes at Santa Anita in his most recent starts, will put in his final Kentucky Derby drill Sunday morning at the Los Angeles track.

“He’ll go five eighths with one of our exercise riders up,” said his trainer, Eoin Harty, via phone, from a working trip in Chicago. “We’ll work him tomorrow and he’ll fly out Monday. I’ll be flying to Louisville Sunday afternoon.”

Mr. Hot Stuff, a son of Tiznow, is still missing a jockey for Derby 135 after his regular rider, Corey Nakatani, chose to jump ship and ride Square Eddie.

“We don’t have a rider yet,” Harty said, “but we’ve got lots of time to get one. We will. You can be sure of that."

MUSKET MAN – The Yonaguska colt Musket Man had his final Kentucky Derby breeze Saturday morning, and the move was a little more exciting than trainer Derek Ryan would have liked.

“A horse crossed in front of him when he broke off,” Ryan said, “and that got him a little excited. Then, near the eighth pole, some guy going the wrong way of the track ducked over toward the rail. A little excitement, but no big deal. Nothing happened.”

With Derby jockey Eibar Coa aboard, Musket Man broke off at the 5 ½-furlong pole and breezed straight through the wire to the 15/16ths pole. He was credited with a move of five furlongs in 1:01.60, out the six furlongs in 1:14.80.

“It was a good work, just what we wanted,” Ryan said. “I didn’t want him to do too much a week before the race.”

This was the second time Musket Man had worked over the Churchill Downs strip. The Illinois Derby winner breezed six furlongs in 1:13 flat last Saturday.

“I was happy with him today, and I know Coa was more impressed this morning than he was last week,” Ryan said.

“I was happy with him this morning,” Coa said. “He was more aggressive than usual, I think because that horse crossed in front of us when we broke off. He’s usually a very quiet horse.”

Musket Man has now won stakes at a mile and a sixteenth and a mile and an eighth his past two starts. Ryan, who is participating in his first Derby, has no doubts the colt can get a mile and a quarter.

“I’ve been hearing about his distance limitations since October,” the trainer said. “So far he’s handled every track and every distance. He’s improved off his last start each time, and each race he gets a little better.”

Coa rode Musket Man for the first time in the Illinois Derby and has been impressed since.

“He’s an easy horse to ride,” Coa said. “He’ll sit behind horses and wait. He runs better with a target. He’ll have plenty of targets Saturday.”

Ryan purchased Musket Man for $15,000 as a yearling from the Keeneland September Sale in 2007 on behalf of owners Eric Fein and Vic Carlson.

PAPA CLEM – Arkansas Derby (Grade II) winner Papa Clem worked seven furlongs in 1:29.20 Saturday just after the renovation break in what could be his final major preparation for Derby 135. Trainer Gary Stute said that the Bo Hirsch home-bred could blow out a quarter-mile in the final day or two before the Derby “if he’s biting and kicking.”

“The main goal was just to get him tired,” Stute said of Saturday’s drill, which went in splits of :12.60, :24.80, :37.00, :49.60, 1:02.40 and 1:15.40. “He broke off kind of fast and got a little ‘late’.”

Exercise rider Mundo Gonzalez was aboard for the workout and had a few anxious moments at the gap as Papa Clem bucked before heading onto the track and also was stirred up on the front side.

“With him,” Stute said, “I always take him with a pony. He gets to feeling pretty good.”

Fitness should not be a question with Papa Clem, who has rattled off four consecutive route races (three in stakes company) since the opening of the Santa Anita winter-spring meeting. But while the first three of those races went in moderate paces with easy trips for Papa Clem, Stute said the Arkansas Derby (Grade II) provided the most education.

“He had trouble on the first turn and got dirt in his face,” Stute said of the Oaklawn experience. “Everything wasn’t just handed to him. He had to work for it.”

Papa Clem will walk the shedrow next two days and is expected to return to the track Tuesday morning. Rafael Bejarano will be in from California for the mount Saturday.

PIONEEROF THE NILE – Looking an absolute picture on a sunny and warm Kentucky morning, the dark son of Empire Maker went trackside under exercise rider George Alvarez immediately after the morning renovation break at 8:30. Assistant trainer Jim Barnes astride his pony led Pioneerof the Nile on a backtrack to the frontside, then let him do his thing – and do it he did.

Galloping well out in the middle of the track, the Zayat Stables’ homebred was strong, then stronger, going through his mile and a half exercise, finishing up just as well as he started in an impressive display or readiness for his upcoming 10-furlong task.

“He’s doing good,” said his trainer, Bob Baffert, the man who just had his ticket punched to racing’s Hall of Fame. “He likes it here. In fact, I think he might like this track more than he does Santa Anita (where he is a three-time graded stakes winner this year). He seems to lower his head and stride out even better here.

“But he’s in a tough race with some nice horses and we’ll need some luck. Twenty horses; anything can happen. We’ll need some luck.”

Pioneerof the Nile, a winner of five of his eight starts and $1,234,200, is scheduled to have his final Derby work Monday morning.

QUALITY ROAD – Florida Derby (Grade I) winner Quality Road jogged 1 ¾ miles at Belmont Park, just one day after a second quarter crack appeared. Quality Road’s latest malady appeared in his right front hoof, adding to the quarter rack he suffered in his right hind hoof after his signature win at Gulfstream Park on March 28.

“Jogging is obviously a lot easier on the horse in all ways, respiration-wise and on the legs, than galloping is,” trainer James Jerkens said of the reduced workload this morning. “It’s not quite as good of a conditioner … but it was all we could do to be on the safe side. He came back and the crack was dry and (there was) no blood seeping from it. We’re planning on patching him at 7 o’clock tomorrow morning and galloping him at about 9:20 after the second harrow break.”

According to the NYRA Press Office notes, noted hoof specialist Ian McKinlay reported, “There was no blood and he’s sound. He’s feeling good and I couldn’t be happier.”

McKinlay “laced” the half-inch quarter crack Friday and treated it with antiseptic and a “hoof toughener,” Jerkens said.

Jerkens addressed a national media teleconference Saturday morning and said the Kentucky Derby still remains in Quality Road’s crosshairs. “The way things are going, I’m pretty confident,” Jerkens said, then admitted, “I’m usually negative about everything by nature.”

If Quality Road gallops sound on Sunday, he’ll advance on to a serious workout Monday. “Tomorrow is the big day in finding out where we’re going,” Jerkens said, adding that the acrylic patch will be tested for pressure by the gallop.

Quality Road last worked five furlongs April 10 in 1:02.19 at Belmont, but Jerkens said more will need to be done to be Derby-ready.

“That was quite a while ago and we’ll definitely have to do something by Monday to be prepared,” he said. “A mile-and-a-quarter against the best horses in the country, you don’t want to be going in short of conditioning. That’s for sure.”

Jerkens said the quarter-crack problems may have more to do with pedigree and Quality Road’s build than anything. “For a horse his size,” Jerkens said, “(his feet) in comparison to the rest of him, are a little on the small side. His (hoof) walls are kind of thin.”

He said Quality Road’s three-quarter sister, Kobla Road, was a quarter-crack nightmare. “We had a horrible time with her. We were forever patching quarter-cracks up.” Her racing career had to be cut short and now is a broodmare.

While the quarter crack remains a serious concern, Jerkens said, “He hasn’t been weight-bearing sore on it.”

Quality Road will ship to Churchill Downs Tuesday if all goes well over the next two days.

SQUARE EDDIE – Square Eddie was out for a very easy jog once around the Churchill oval Saturday morning at 6:30. Exercise rider Tony Romero did the honors, moving easily alongside a big pony.

“Nice and easy today,” said assistant trainer Leandro Mora, who is holding down the fort until chief trainer Doug O’Neill makes the scene. “He’s going to work tomorrow morning after the break, so we want him fresh for that.”

Square Eddie announced his return to the racing wars with a swooping move to the front in the Coolmore Lexington Stakes on April 18 at Keeneland, only to fall back and finish third behind winner Advice. That start was the first in three months for the Smart Strike colt, who last year won the Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity (Grade I) at Keeneland and then finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Grade I) at Santa Anita.

Square Eddie is scheduled to work Sunday morning. Mora wasn’t sure whether or not his new rider, Corey Nakatani, would be coming from California for the exercise.

Mora noted further that Square Eddie’s conditioning for his comeback has been supplemented by “swimming” on an equine treadmill.

“His work routine wouldn’t have been enough to get him ready for this race on his own,” he stated. “The swimming has been a big help. In fact, we’re going back over to Keeneland with him this afternoon and let him ‘swim’ for 45 minutes or so. We’ll try to keep that up during the week, but it may be that we won’t be able to take him out of here (because of security concerns) as we get closer to the race. But we’ll keep ‘swimming’ him as long as we can. He loves it.”

Mora, a veteran of the Southern California racing scene, remembered another case of a “swimming” Derby horse.

“I was at Hollywood Park back in 1983 when David Cross Jr., had Sunny’s Halo. He’s only had a few races prepping for the Derby and a lot of people didn’t think he could be ready. But I saw David ‘swim’ that horse for 40 straight days at the old pool and treadmill they had there and I knew he was going to be fit. And he was.”

Sunny’s Halo, with only two 3-year-old prep races coming into Kentucky Derby 109, was always prominent under Eddie Delahoussaye and drew clear to win by two lengths.

SUMMER BIRD – The lightly raced colt by Birdstone who had his final major Derby work on Friday here (6 furlongs in 1:15.80) just walked under the shedrow Saturday morning.

Trainer Tim Ice and jockey Chris Rosier were off to Lone Star Park in Texas, where the trainer has three horses entered, including Catmantoo in the Texas Mile Stakes and Affirmed Truth in the Richmond Hills Stakes.

Both trainer and rider are due back in Louisville on Sunday. Before Ice left at 6:30 he had a chance to take in the pre-dawn work of Godolphin’s Regal Ransom.

WEST SIDE BERNIE – West Side Bernie had his final Kentucky Derby breeze Saturday morning, drilling a half-mile over the fast main track in :48.20 with jockey Stewart Elliott aboard.

“I told ‘Stew’ to go in :48, so it was just what I wanted,” trainer Kelly Breen said of the move. “Better a fifth slower than a second too fast.

“The track has been kind of dull, so I think that was a very good work. And ‘Stew’ told me that he had a lot of horse left when he passed the wire. So I was happy he stayed well within himself today, instead of leaving his race on the track.

“He got something out of the work without knocking himself out. The time was as close to the plan as you can get, so I’m happy.”

Breen, who will be saddling his first Kentucky Derby starter, said that West Side Bernie will gallop up to the race now.

This was the first recorded breeze West Side Bernie has put in since he drilled a half in :48.80 at Palm Meadows on March 12. He went on to run second in the Wood Memorial (Grade I) on April 4.

“I want to have a sharp horse in the Derby,” Breen said. “That’s why he worked a half-mile.”

Elliott, who won the Derby aboard Smarty Jones in 2004, said he thought the work was perfect.

“He went just like we wanted him to,” the rider said. “A very good work.”

And was the rider happy to be back at Churchill Downs?

“Thrilled,” he said. “It’s great to have a horse in the Derby.”

Breen gave $50,000 for West Side Bernie at the Keeneland September yearling sale in 2007 on behalf of George and Lori Hall.

WIN WILLY – Win Willy, a son of 2001 Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos jogged a mile and galloped a mile Saturday morning with exercise rider Elias Lopez aboard.

Luis Moldonado, who is caring for the horse at Churchill Downs, said that trainer Mac Robertson is due in Monday or Tuesday to supervise final preparations for Win Willy, who won the Rebel Stakes and then ran fourth in the Arkansas Derby. Cliff Berry, who was aboard in those races, will again be the rider next Saturday.

Moldonado said that Robertson was in the process of moving his entire string of some 60 horses from Oaklawn Park to Canterbury Downs, his summer headquarters.