Asmussen Breezes Trio of Derby Contenders; Mark Valeski Works Five Furlongs

Apr 23, 2012 Travers Manley & Gary Yunt

Zayat Stables LLC’s Bodemeister galloped 1 ½ miles under exercise rider George Alvarez after the morning renovation break.

The Arkansas Derby (Grade I) winner is scheduled to work Tuesday morning with trainer Bob Baffert expected to be on hand to supervise the move.

DADDY NOSE BEST / ISN’T HE CLEVER / SABERCAT Bob and Cathy ZollarsDaddy Nose Best, undefeated in two starts this year with victories in the El Camino Real Derby (GIII) and Sunland Derby (GIII), breezed six furlongs on a fast Churchill Downs track Monday morning prior to the renovation break in 1:14 for trainer Steve Asmussen.

Working under Garrett Gomez on the outside of Z Dager, Daddy Nose Best recorded fractions of :13, :25.40, :37.60, :50 and 1:01.80 and galloped out seven furlongs in 1:27.20.  

It was the first time Gomez has been aboard the bay son of Scat Daddy and he will also be in the irons on Kentucky Derby Day.

“Steve wanted me to get a feel for him,” Gomez said. “He is quite a nice ride. He jumped a shadow when we broke off, but I don’t think there will be any shadows that afternoon (on Derby Day). It was a nice three-quarter (of a mile) work. He did it very well.”

Monday marked the third work at Churchill Downs for Daddy Nose Best since he arrived at the Louisville track on March 28.

“He’s a nice horse and does everything he’s supposed to,” Asmussen said. “He has a lot of experience over this racetrack and he’s very comfortable on it. He’s a very healthy horse and he’s doing extremely well.”

Working just a few minutes after Daddy Nose Best was Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC’s Sabercat, who is also trained by Asmussen.

Under exercise rider Carlos Rosas on the outside of Major Hope, Sabercat breezed five furlongs in 1:02.80. The dark bay son of Bluegrass Cat, who most recently finished third in the $1 million Arkansas Derby (GI), recorded fractions of :13.40, :26, :38.40 and :50.60 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:16.40.

“It was his first work back from the Arkansas Derby so we did a little less with him,” Asmussen said. “He’s also very comfortable over this racetrack. He’s happy and I’m pleased with the way he’s coming up to this race.

“Our concerns now are the quality of the rest of the field and the kind of trips they can work out. But we’re excited about the way both horses are coming into the Derby. I definitely feel like Daddy Nose Best and Sabercat are going to show up in the Derby and run the best races of their lives when it matters the most.”

Another possible Derby contender from the Asmussen barn breezed Monday morning following the renovation break. J. Kirk and Judy Robison’s Isn’t He Clever, runner-up to Daddy Nose Best in the Sunland Derby and most recently eighth in the Arkansas Derby, breezed four furlongs in :51.60.

“We will let the horse tell us where to go,” Asmussen said. “There is no pressure from the owners to run in the Derby. The Derby will be on a Saturday and more than likely Isn’t He Clever will breeze that following Monday and we’ll look at the Preakness or something else.”

DULLAHAN Donegal Racing’s Dullahan, winner of the $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass (GI) in his most recent start, galloped 1 ½ miles around the Churchill Downs oval under Faustino Aguilar on Monday after the renovation break during the training period reserved for Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks contenders. 

HANSEN – Eclipse Award winner Hansen galloped early Monday morning at the Trackside Training Center under exercise rider Joel Barrientos.

Owned by Kendall Hansen and Skychai Racing and trained by Mike Maker, Hansen is scheduled for his final work on Saturday at Trackside.

MARK VALESKI – With owner Brereton Jones looking on from the front side of the track, Louisiana Derby (GII) runner-up Mark Valeski worked five furlongs in :59.60 under jockey Rosie Napravnik.

Working in the company with the unraced 3-year-old Hamiltonian who was piloted by retired jockey Larry Melancon, the fifth all-time leading rider at Churchill Downs, Mark Valeski started a length behind Hamiltonian on the outside, drew even at the quarter pole and finished about a length in front.

Fractions for Mark Valeski were :12.60, :24.20, :36, :47.40 and out six furlongs in 1:14.60. The move was the second fastest of 31 at the distance over a fast track.

“He worked excellently,” said Napravnik, who minutes prior to the Mark Valeski work had piloted stablemate Believe You Can through a bullet five-eighths in :59. “He is more laid back (than Believe You Can), but come race day, he is on his game as soon as they break.”

 Trainer Larry Jones was happy with the work.

“When you work here, you wonder how they will handle the racetrack and both of them did in their works today,” Jones said. “I picked both of them up and neither of them was breathing excessively.”

Jones said that Mark Valeski likely would have his final work for Derby 138 next Monday with exercise rider Jen Brasser likely to handle the breeze.

OPTIMIZER – Bluegrass Hall’s Optimizer, sitting 22nd in graded stakes earnings among the horses under consideration for Derby 138, worked a half-mile in :48.60 under jockey Jon Court after the morning renovation break.

Working on his own, Optimizer posted fractions of :12, :24.20, :36.60 and out five furlongs in 1:02.40. The work was the sixth fastest of 45 at the distance Monday morning.

“It was a good work,” trainer D. Wayne Lukas said. “I was pleased with it, but all the guys are saying that. The main thing is to keep him happy and see how he’s doing. I hope he gets in and I think there is a pretty good chance that he will. If we don’t, we don’t.”

The Kentucky Derby field is limited to the top 20 horses that pass the entry box in terms of graded earnings.

“We had an opportunity (in the Arkansas Derby in which Optimizer finished ninth), but didn’t do too well for whatever reason,” Lukas said. “I think the mile and a quarter (of the Run for the Roses) will be perfect for him.”

Lukas said if Optimizer earns a spot in the starting gate Court would have the mount.

“He’s the hometown guy,” Lukas said of Court, who has ridden Optimizer in his past two starts. “He gets along well with him and he is not an easy horse to ride.”

PROSPECTIVE John Oxley’s Prospective, winner of the Tampa Bay Derby (GII) on March 10 and most recently sixth in the Toyota Blue Grass (GI) at Keeneland, galloped 1 ½ miles under regular exercise rider Juan Bernardini following the renovation break.

WORK TAB – Two horses trained by Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas posted bullet works Monday morning before the renovation break. Westrock Stable and Barry Butzow’s Hamazing Destiny, prepping for the $400,000-added Churchill Downs Presented by Navistar (GII) on May 5, breezed three furlongs in :35.20, best of eight at the distance.

Briland Farm’s Absinthe Minded, working toward the $300,000-added La Troienne Presented by Steelcase and ORI (GII) on May 4, worked a half-mile in :47.40, best of 45 at the distance.

Churchill Downs, the world’s most legendary racetrack, has conducted Thoroughbred racing and presented America’s greatest race, the Kentucky Derby, continuously since 1875. Located in Louisville, the flagship racetrack of Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ: CHDN) also operates Trackside at Churchill Downs, which offers year-round simulcast wagering at the historic track. Churchill Downs will conduct the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 5, 2012, and its Spring Meet is scheduled for April 28-July 1. The track has hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships a record eight times. Information about Churchill Downs can be found on the Internet at

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