Derby / Oaks Update – Thursday, May 2, 2013

May 03, 2013 Churchill Downs Communications


BLACK ONYX – Sterling Racing’s Black Onyx galloped 1 ½ miles during the Derby and Oaks session while under regular exercise rider Aurelio Gomez. Trainer Kelly Breen was concerned that with the largest throng of morning onlookers yet his Spiral Stakes (Grade III) winner might finally get fazed by all the attention. Turned out, there was nothing to worry about.

“He jogged along the outside fence like those people have been there every day of his life,” Breen said. “His attitude around here is so laid-back. Things could be a lot worse going in here. You could have a high-anxiety horse that’ll be in that one post for a long time, but he’s been soaking it in. He’s just laid back, like it’s his fourth Kentucky Derby.”

Breen is the one who will be represented in his fourth Kentucky Derby but that experience hasn’t helped to calm the nerves. The trainer joked that whatever his mellow horse has been taking, he could use some it himself.

And yet, with all there is to worry about the week of the world’s most famous horse race, Breen refuses to lose sleep over Black Onyx’s post draw. Post No. 1 has come to be accepted as the most dreaded, even though it has produced eight winners, tied for second-most behind the 10-hole (nine winners). If the rail was good enough for Derby winners like War Admiral, Citation, Needles and, most recently, Ferdinand, then perhaps having the right horse is what really matters.

“It might not be an ideal post but I think we have a game plan,” Breen said. “The horse is doing well and horses have won from the one-post before. It has happened. It doesn’t concern me as much as you would think.

“There are things I’m seeing form the horse that have me at ease. You could have a super-nervous horse that’s anxious to go and you’re going to have to try to throttle him down. You’re going to have 150,000 people and this horse here, he’s like, it’s old hat.”

CHARMING KITTEN/OVERANALYZE/PALACE MALICE/REVOLUTIONARY/VERRAZANOThere was a one-Derby-horse-for-one-Oaks-horse swap at the Todd Pletcher barn Thursday morning, but otherwise the stable’s collection of Kentucky Derby (GI) runners turned in another good morning of training leading up to their runs in Saturday’s American classic.

At the request of owner Mike Repole, Pletcher held back his Oaks filly Unlimited Budget when his three other Oaks fillies went out with the first set at 6 o’clock to train. Instead, the conditioner had his fifth Derby horse – Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Charming Kitten – go early with the fillies, while Unlimited Budget went late with the colts during the 8:30-8:45 special training period for Derby and Oaks horses, thus allowing Repole to be on hand and watch his filly exercise.

In the 6 a.m. session, Charming Kitten was handled by exercise rider Patti Krotenko for a mile and three-eighths gallop that started at the finish line and ended at the five-furlong pole. The son of Ramsey stallion Kitten’s Joy will be ridden by Edgar Prado Saturday and they’ll break from post 15 in the 20-horse field. The Blue Grass Stakes third-place-finisher has been listed at 20-1 in the morning line.

Pletcher’s other Derby colts showed good energy in their training efforts and the conditioner gave them all a thumbs up following their exercise. Verrazano, listed as the 4-1 second choice in the Derby morning line, covered a mile and three-eighths under exercise rider Humberto Zamora. Louisiana Derby (G2) winner Revolutionary galloped a mile and a quarter for Nick Bush, while Arkansas Derby (GI) hero Overanalyze went the same distance for Obed Perez.  Finally, Blue Grass Stakes second-place finisher Palace Malice galloped his 10 furlongs under Jake Nelson.

The trainer re-emphasized he was quite happy with the Derby post draws for his colts (Revolutionary No. 3; Overanalyze No. 9; Palace Malice No. 10; Verrazano No. 14, and Charming Kitten No. 15.) and then answered a question about possible rain and the effects of an “off” track on his runners.

“The possibility of rain doesn’t change anything we’ll do with them getting ready for the race,” he said. “That will all be exactly the same. As to how they might do, well, none of them have any experience on an ‘off’ track. I’ve never breezed one of them on one; just never had the opportunity to. But of all of them, I get the impression that Revolutionary might be the one to relish an ‘off’ track.”  

FALLING SKYNewtown Anner Stud, James Covello and Joseph Bulger’s Falling Sky galloped 1 3/8 miles under exercise rider Cassie Garcea “as good as we could want it,” reported trainer John Terranova.

Falling Sky, who won the Sam F. Davis (GIII) at Tampa Bay Downs in his 2013 debut, has come up short after setting the early pace in his two most recent races, a third-place finish in the Tampa Bay Derby (GII) and the Arkansas Derby (GII). The 1 ¼-mile distance of the Kentucky Derby will be Terranova’s main concern Saturday.

“Obviously with all of them, and with him, maybe more so from what we’ve seen, distance is the question mark,” Terranova said. “We’ll see. He seems to love Churchill Downs. He trains brilliantly over the track, so we’ll see what he can do.”

Terranova may have lingering doubts about the Derby distance, but he remains very confident in the son of Lion Heart’s talent.

“We’ve obviously got some concerns, but at this point, I wouldn’t have changed anything we’ve done coming into the race. The horse gives us 100 percent. I have no doubts he’s a very good horse who will try and give us an honest effort. We’re just hoping for a nice clean trip and a little bit of racing luck,” Terranova said. “I think the post (No. 13) is fine. We drew outside some potential speed horses. I’m not concerned with the rain. An off track may actually help him.

Luis Saez, who won an allowance race at Gulfstream aboard Falling Sky in December, has the Derby mount.

FRAC DADDY/JAVA’S WAR – Magic City Thoroughbred Partners’ Frac Daddy and Charles Fipke’s Java’s War both came out during the Derby and Oaks training session for what trainer Ken McPeek described as “an easy day.”

Arkansas Derby (GI) runner-up Frac Daddy – consistently the more aggressive of the duo this week – jogged one mile and galloped one mile under exercise rider Hugo Garcia. Meanwhile, Blue Grass Stakes (GI) winner Java’s War jogged two miles with exercise rider Marvin Abrego aboard.

Frac Daddy was outfitted with earplugs, which he has worn every day during training and will also wear to the gate Saturday.

“It’s just to keep him calm,” McPeek said. “Every now and then he’ll hear a noise and he gets a little spooky. It helps him to keep quiet. He’ll probably wear them all the way to the gate on Saturday.”

Once Frac Daddy arrives at the gate, the rider aboard his escort pony will be responsible for removing the earplugs.

GIANT FINISH – Sunrise Stable and Partners’ New York-bred colt Giant Finish arrived at Churchill Downs at 8:48 a.m. Thursday after a 12-hour trip from the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md.

Ray Handle, assistant to trainer Anthony Dutrow, accompanied Giant Finish on his journey and led the chestnut son of Frost Giant off truck to his stall in Barn 42. Handle, 24, stayed with Giant Finish in the back of the truck and said the colt handled the trip well.

“He was so great about it. Just professional. That’s how he is about everything,” Handle said. “He’s a cool guy.”

Giant Finish was third in the Spiral (GIII) at Turfway Park on March 23. When a few horses with more qualifying points were declared from the field this week and Giant Finish moved up to the 20th and final position, the ownership group decided to enter him in the Derby.

While compiling a 2-1-1 record in his five career starts, Giant Finish has shown that he prefers being on or near the lead.

“He’s a little bit of a one-paced type of horse,” Handle said. “He doesn’t really get tired, but he doesn’t have a great kick. He’ll probably be forwardly placed and hopefully he can out-stay them and be there at the finish.”

Jose Espinoza will ride Giant Finish in the Kentucky Derby.

GOLDENCENTSThe Santa Anita Derby (GI) winner Goldencents continued to move forward toward his Saturday date with Kentucky Derby (GI) destiny with another good gallop at Churchill Downs during the special Derby/Oaks training period following the track’s morning renovation break.

The bay son of Into Mischief first visited the paddock under exercise rider Jonny Garcia, then put in a strong gallop in the warm Kentucky sun. The horse’s trainer, Doug O’Neill, was a pleased observer, as was his rider, Kevin Krigger.

Krigger, the only rider the horse has known in his six-race career, will break from post eight in the 20-horse Derby field and has been listed as the 5-1 third choice in the morning line.

O’Neill had recovered from his golfing date Wednesday at nearby Valhalla Golf Club with two of his colt’s owners, one of them being University of Louisville NCAA champion basketball coach Rick Pitino.

“Someone said they’d heard I’d shot 71,” O’Neill said. “I said ‘Yeah, but that was for the first four holes.’

“But that’s a beautiful golf course; world class. Even though I don’t play much golf, it was a treat to play there. And Coach hits it pretty good. He’s a good golfer.”

With rain forecast for Derby Day and the possibility of an “off” track looming, O’Neill was asked how he thought his charge might handle such conditions.

“Well, he’s never raced on an ‘off’ track, so you can’t be sure about that,” he said. “But we breezed him on a wet track that had been sealed one time this spring at Santa Anita and he skipped right over it. He’s a sure-footed horse and nothing seems to bother him.

“And from what I know about this track, it handles water real well. As long as we don’t have any gushers just before or during the race, I think we’ll all be all right.”          

GOLDEN SOUL – Charles Fipke’s Golden Soul hasn’t raced on an off track, and trainer Dallas Stewart said Thursday that he’d prefer dry conditions for the Kentucky Derby.

“I think most trainers are looking at the weather,’’ Stewart said. “I don’t know, are we fretting? Are we concerned? It is what it is, as they say. But I hope (rain) misses.’’

Golden Soul, by Perfect Soul out of Hollywood Gold by Mr. Prospector, hasn’t worked on muddy tracks but has galloped often in mud, Stewart said.

“He’s out of a Mr. Prospector mare. They tend to run well in the mud. Perfect Souls – I don’t really know.’’

The Churchill Downs track handles water well, said Stewart, who is based at the track. “It’s the best on training, this and the Fair Grounds, in my opinion. They do a great job. You know, we’ll just have to see if it rains during the races. …

“If it’s raining while we’re not training or racing, they keep it sealed, and the water runs off, which is good. We’ll just have to see. Nobody can predict the weather.’’

Perfect Soul galloped Thursday under exercise rider Emerson Chavez.

ITSMYLUCKYDAY Trilogy Stable and Laurie Plesa’s Itsmyluckyday galloped 1½ miles under exercise rider Peter Shelton Thursday morning at Churchill Downs.

Itsmyluckyday will enter the Derby with a second-place finish behind Orb in the Florida Derby (GI) last time out. Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. said the Gulfstream Park Derby and Holy Bull (GIII) victor will be better prepared for a rematch with Orb Saturday.

“The whole plan was to get him here on the first Saturday in May in the best possible condition he could be in, and part of that process was 62 days between the Holy Bull and the Florida Derby. As important as it was for us to win the Florida Derby, it wasn’t our goal. Our goal was always to win the Kentucky Derby,” Plesa said. “In my mind he probably wasn’t 100 percent fit for the Florida Derby. He was probably closer to 95 percent fit. When you’re running against a horse like Orb, you better be 100 percent fit.  So going into this race, I don’t think, I know my horse is 100 percent. It’s going to be an interesting race for everybody involved.”

Plesa raised the possibility that the early pace of the Derby may be slower than years past.

“Since the point system has been put into effect, it kind of takes a couple factors out of the race. Certainly, a sprinter is not going to be in this race and a filly isn’t going to be in this race. So with that being said, that does change the pace on paper,” Plesa said. “It looks like the pace may be a slower pace than we’ve seen in the past. As far as my horse is concerned, my horse has tactical speed and can do whatever needs to be done.”

Elvis Trujillo has the return mount aboard Itsmyluckyday.

LINES OF BATTLE The well-traveled colt owned by Joseph Allen, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith, walked the shedrow in the quarantine barn Thursday morning.

The Kentucky-bred son of War Front arrived from Ireland on Wednesday and entered the quarantine area at Barn 48. T.J. Comerford, assistant to trainer Aidan O’Brien said the colt will go out on the track under exercise rider Laura McInerney at about 6 o’clock Friday morning after clearing quarantine.

“He walked this morning and he’ll walk this evening. That’s all we can do today,” Comerford said. “He’s not going to do a whole lot when he goes to the track, just canter around there. He’s got all his galloping done.”

Lines of Battle earned his Derby qualifying points with a victory in the UAE Derby (GII) on March 30 in Dubai. He returned to O’Brien’s Ballydoyle training center in Ireland before his trip to Kentucky.

O’Brien will not attend the Kentucky Derby. He has three starters in the 2,000 Guineas , the English classic Saturday at Newmarket: Christoforo Colombo, George Vancouver and Mars. He also has two fillies in the 1,000 Guineas on Sunday.

MYLUTE – GoldMark Farm and Whisper Hill Farm’s Louisiana Derby (GII) runner-up Mylute went to the track at 5:45 a.m. for some light exercise under regular exercise rider Maurice Sanchez.

 “We galloped two miles,” Sanchez said. “I warmed him up jogging one mile the wrong way, then the two miles. It was a nice, easy morning. He’s very relaxed.”

Sanchez has played a major role in Mylute’s emergence as a Kentucky Derby contender. After finishing seventh in the Risen Star Stakes (GII) – the second in a three-race series of graded 3-year-old stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots – trainer Tom Amoss and GoldMark general manager Todd Quast agreed that further adjustments to both his equipment and style might help the Midnight Lute colt realize his full potential.

“In his training before the Risen Star he was very laid-back, very lazy,” Quast said. “That’s why we put all the equipment on him – the blinkers and the shadow roll. We did that on purpose, knowing that we were going to have a chargier horse. We put an aggressive gallop rider on him to train him in the mornings to get into him while he worked. In the Risen Star it was counter-productive and Shaun (Bridgmohan) had to fight him.

“But we knew we were only about 80 percent and we knew we were trying to peak in the third race off the layoff. After that race Tom and I decided we needed to adjust and what we did was take the blinkers off and put Maurice – a more mellow gallop rider – back on him. We went back to the slow, long-distance gallops, doing the works so they were slow early.”

Mylute stalked the pace in the Risen Star, laying fourth in the early going but leaving himself with nothing left to kick home. In the Louisiana Derby, having trained to relax early, Mylute was as much as 11 lengths off the pace down the backside and saved his best running for the stretch, collaring Revolutionary approaching the sixteenth pole but without quite being able to go by.

“If you had to fault him anywhere it would be that he kind of hangs a little bit,” Quast said.

However, Amoss tried to address that by setting up Mylute to pass horses in his last major work before the Derby, the half-mile in :47.80 on April 21.

“He started eight lengths behind a pair and finished eight lengths in front,” Quast said. “He had his ears perked and went right on by.”

NORMANDY INVASION – Fox Hill Farms’  Wood Memorial (GI) runner-up Normandy Invasion schooled in the gate Thursday and had a spirited 1 ½-mile gallop with exercise rider Javier Herrera.

The Tapit colt galloped in the middle of the track and was aggressive for two or three furlongs.

“After he stood in the gate he wanted out to go out and gallop a little strong, but he pulled up good and came back good,” trainer Chad Brown said. “That’s him. He’s really sharp right now. We’re happy.

“His ended his gallop a little quick, but I’m OK with it.

Normandy Invasion has a history of coming out of the gate slowly and Brown said the visit to the gate was a reminder of what is ahead.

“In the Wood he did good after we stood him,” Brown said. “So we did the same routine that we did before the Wood.”

Brown said he was satisfied with drawing post No. 5 for the Kentucky Derby and that position would give jockey Javier Castellano some flexibiity.

“I’m not going to request that Javier put this horse in any specific spot. I want to leave it up to him,” Brown said. “I just want him to break cleanly and give him the option to put him where he wants.”

Brown said the Normandy Invasion is handling the surface well.

This horse is so sharp right now, you just have to hold him on the ground,” he said. “He’s really full of himself.”

Describing the colt as “sharp” is a positive, Brown said 

“If you’ve seen his other races and his come-from-behind style, this horse has been maybe a little lethargic early. It takes him a while to get interested and come with his late run,” Brown said. “Right now he really has running on his mind from the word go. We started to see that before the Wood and he placed himself in a good spot early and gave himself a chance to win. I think we’re going to see more of that in the Derby. I think he’s going to place himself in a good spot.”

Normandy Invasion’s owner, Rick Porter, is hosting four World War II veterans with connections to Normandy for the Kentucky Derby. Porter said that Alan Reeves of San Diego, who saw action at Normandy, reached out to ask whether there would be any involvement with veterans with the horse. Porter liked the idea and has invited Reeves and three veterans of the D-Day landing at Normandy, J. J. Witmeyer of New Orleans and two Ohioans, Ray Woods and Bill Wilch, to be his guests for the weekend.

“I just want to shake their hands, give them a Normandy Invasion hat and make them feel welcome,” Porter said.

Porter said the project is likely to draw some attention to what happened when Allied troops stormed the beaches of Normandy on June 6, 1944.

“I’m hoping that it will bring some awareness to young people because so many people watch the Derby,” he said. A lot of young people don’t realize what the D-Day was and the Normandy invasion and I hope this brings some more focus to it.”

ORB Stuart Janney III and Phipps Stable’s Orb, the 7-2 morning-line favorite for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, galloped 1 ¼ miles under exercise rider Jennifer Patterson Thursday morning at Churchill Downs.

Trainer Shug McGaughey, whose Florida Derby winner drew the No. 16 post position, has envisioned what jockey Joel Rosario might expect during the running of Derby 139.

“I think there’s going to be horses that show a little more speed than maybe it shows on paper. I’m just going to tell Joel to play the break and see what happens and try to hold some kind of position so when the time comes we got a chance to make that run,” McGaughey said. “Hopefully, he’ll get a clean trip around the first turn, which I think is very important. That’s where all the jamming up comes. Going down the backside, hopefully, he can ease in and save a little ground, but not be down in there and not be able to make a run when the time comes.”

One race prior to the Derby on Saturday’s card, McGaughey is slated to saddle turf star Point of Entry for a highly anticipated clash with Horse of the Year Wise Dan in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI). With so much attention focused on Orb during Derby week, the multiple Grade I stakes winner has been training at Churchill somewhat under the radar.

“He’s not under our radar,” McGaughey said. “We’re looking forward to running him. He’s been a great pleasure around here for us and he still is. I don’t know how he could be doing any better. We’ll see how it goes.”

OXBOW/WILL TAKE CHARGE Four-time Derby winning trainer D. Wayne Lukas said he is weighing strategy for a race even before the post position draw is over.

“You know, when you’ve got five or six or seven holes sitting out there, you say, ‘You know what? I got so and so in hole five and so and so in seven, and six is still available; I’d like to get right between those two,’ ’’ Lukas was saying Thursday morning, “If you get the two – there’s not much speed (nearby)  – we can live with that. So you start analyzing it immediately.

“Of course, you lay awake all night and analyze it.’’

Calumet Farm’s Oxbow, who generally shows early speed, drew No. 2, and Willis Horton’s Will Take Charge, a late runner, drew No. 17. Lukas said he’ll continue to weigh race plans for them until meeting with Gary Stevens, Oxbow’s jockey, and Jon Court, Will Take Charge’s rider, for strategy sessions.

“I get into it pretty good,’’ Lukas said of his strategizing. “Once I talk to Gary and Jon, I’ll pretty much turn them loose and say, ‘Look, this isn’t going to be a Hollywood script. I mean, this is not going to happen the way I’m describing it to you, but make the best of it. I always tell ’em at the end, ‘Hell, just do what you want.’

The sessions also will be for psyching up the riders, Lukas said.

“It’s the coach in me,’’ said Lukas, who was a basketball coach before becoming a trainer. “We have a little locker-room talk. You know, play ‘Rocky’ tapes and give ’em B-12 shots.’’

Oxbow, under exercise rider Rudy Quevedo, and Will Take Charge, with exercise rider Taylor Carty aboard, galloped Thursday.

VYJACK – Pick Six Racing’s Gotham (GIII) winner Vyjack worked three furlongs in :37 under trainer Rudy Rodriguez Thursday morning. Rodriguez had been planning to give the Into Mischief gelding a crisp little blowout a couple of days before the race and decided to do it on the fast track.

“We’re happy. We’ve accomplished what we came to do,” Rodriguez said. “We did the three-eighths and galloped. I think we went very, very good, very comfortable.

“I wasn’t worried about the time. It was a little maintenance thing that we were scheduled to do. I’m happy that we were able to do it. If it had rained, I may not have done it. Luckily, the track was in very good shape and we took advantage of it.”

Rodriguez said the short work was intended to put the horse on his toes two days before the race. It’s something of an old-school approach that Rodriquez learned from trainers he worked for during his career as a jockey and exercise rider, Dick Dutrow and his son, Richard Dutrow Jr., and the Hall of Famer Bobby Frankel.

“I didn’t want to go to fast. I didn’t want to go and blow everything out of him,” Rodriguez said. “I wanted to sharpen him up a little bit. I think we accomplished that.”


BEHOLDERTrainer Richard Mandella sent his Kentucky Oaks filly Beholder through a mile and three-eighths gallop Thursday morning, her last serious bit of training prior to her start Friday in the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (GI).

The bay daughter of Henny Hughes, America’s 2-year-old filly champion in 2012, went through her paces during the special Derby/Oaks training period at Churchill Downs Thursday morning under jockey-turned-exercise rider David Nuesch, then returned to her temporary home in Barn 45.

Prior to the exercise, Mandella, the Hall of Fame trainer who will be seeking his first victory in the Run for the Lilies, played host to a contingent of visitors that included University of Louisville football coach Charlie Strong and New England Patriots all-pro defensive lineman Vince Wilfork. The conditioner also fielded a few questions about his ace filly and her Oaks run.

As far as her ability to run the nine furlongs of the Oaks:

“Well, I remember last year it was a question of whether she could get six furlongs. And she did. And she got far enough in the Breeders’ Cup (mile and one-sixteenth). Every time I’ve asked her to do something, she’s done it. I really don’t think the mile and an eighth is going to make that big a difference. And, you know, I wouldn’t trade her for any of the others.”

And would he have any special instructions for rider Garrett Gomez, the only jockey she’s known in her eight-race career:

 “I won’t have to say much to him. He knows her; he’s been on her in the afternoons and he’s breezed her some in the mornings. He also knows how I think. We won’t need to have any long conversations.”

 And would he do anything special with her Oaks morning:

“I might walk her with a rider up around the barn, or I might put her out for a short gallop during the special time (5:45-6 a.m.) for Oaks and Derby horses tomorrow. I’ll play it by ear and decide in the morning.”

Beholder is slated to break from post three in the 10-horse Oaks field. She is a 7-2 co-second-choice for the rich headliner.  

CLOSE HATCHES Juddmonte Farms LLC’s undefeated Close Hatches was on the track for a final contained gallop during the Oaks and Derby training session with regular exercise rider Joanna Trout aboard.

With Bill Mott stablemate Flashy Gray officially declared from the Oaks, the outside filly Close Hatches will move in one stall in the starting gate and break from post 10.

“If we had a choice we would probably take somewhere in the middle but Ron Anderson said he’s delighted with it,” said Juddmonte farm manager Garrett O’Rourke, referring to jockey Joel Rosario’s agent. “He’s probably spinning a little bit of positive into it, but you can sit outside of them and watch them.

“I heard Joel say that if they didn’t want to go (to establish the early lead) he would go, but I think that’s an unlikely scenario given that Beholder and Midnight Lucky drew inside. I can’t see them taking back.

“The worst-case scenario is that everyone has the same idea and then we all get hung wide on the outside but hopefully that won’t happen.”

One piece of conventional wisdom regarding the Oaks and Derby is that the eventual winners can’t have any hiccups in the weeks leading up to their races. Count Close Hatches among those that have had zero issues.

“Everything is a go and we’re very happy with her,” O’Rourke said. “Everything so far has gone very smoothly with her preparation. She’s training well, she’s sound, she’s happy, she’s aggressive and she’s ready for action.”

DREAMING OF JULIA / PRINCESS OF SYLMAR / SILSITA / UNLIMITED BUDGETThree of the four Todd Pletcher fillies were out with the trainer’s first set at 6 o’clock Thursday morning, each galloping well for their regular exercise riders on the day before their dates in the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (GI).

The fourth – the undefeated Unlimited Budget – was held back until the special 8:30-8:45 training session at Churchill Downs for Derby and Oaks runners. Owner Mike Repole had asked that his filly go late in order for him to be able to take in the drill, so instead of sending out his five Derby colts at 8:30 as-per-usual, he sent one of them – Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Charming Kitten – out with the fillies early and Unlimited Budget with the colts late.

Unlimited Budget, most recently the heroine of the Fair Ground Oaks, was sent a mile and three eighths by Patti Krotenko, stretching out from the finish line to the five-eighths pole. The dark bay daughter of Street Sense did it in stylish fashion.

Earlier, the trio of Dreaming of Julia (with Humberto Zamora up), Princess of Sylmar (Jake Nelson) and Silsita (Obed Perez) had galloped on the illuminated racetrack just as a bright red glow began to fill up the sky to the east of the historic Churchill grounds.

Pletcher said he will not put his Oaks fillies on the racetrack Friday morning.

MIDNIGHT LUCKY Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman’s undefeated Midnight Lucky galloped after the renovation break with exercise rider Jorge Alvarez up for trainer Bob Baffert.

The gray filly bred by Pegram won in her first try against maidens and rolled to a decisive win in the Sunland Park Oaks.

“We knew she was going to be a nice filly,” Pegram said. “As a 2-year-old she had some trouble; that’s the reason she did not run. 

“She’s from the family of Hookedonthefeelin, Jimmy Creed and Pussycat Doll. None of those horses wanted to stretch out, but probably the real surprise when you look at this horse is how stretchy she is and how she trains. She showed them at Sunland that distance wasn’t going to a limitation. The biggest surprise is how well she’s handled the added distance.”

PURE FUN – Magdalena Racing’s Pure Fun could not be more relaxed on the eve of the Kentucky Oaks. The Hollywood Starlet (GI) winner was sound asleep in her stall at about 8:30 a.m. Thursday, even while Ken McPeek’s barn was buzzing with activity after the trainer’s Kentucky Derby contenders came back from the track.

“She’ll snore sometimes,” said Peter Edwards, a partner in McPeek’s Magdalena Racing syndicate headed by Ken McPeek and his wife, Sue McPeek. “She loves to sleep. She had a good three-eighths down the lane yesterday, walked today, and she’s good to go. Now it’s just a matter of dropping back and hoping the speed takes over.”

Walking the shedrow the day before a race has always been part of Pure Fun’s routine. 

“She absolutely loves this track,” Edwards said. “She’ll be running at the end. If someone gets out to an easy lead then so be it, it is what it is, but I have to hope that two or three of them go together.”

ROSE TO GOLD Kathleen Amaya and Raffaele Centofanti’s Rose to Gold walked the shedrow Thursday morning at Barn 43. She will not go to the track Friday morning.

Rose to Gold passed her paddock schooling test of Wednesday afternoon to the satisfaction of trainer Sal Santoro.

“She went over with the horses in the first race yesterday and with (Derby favorite) Orb, who was in the schooling stall next to her,” Santoro said. “He must have gotten up on the wrong side of the stall or something because he got agitated and was kicking the back of the stall. But she just stood there and wasn’t bothered at all.”

Rose to Gold has been on or near the lead in the majority of her races and trainer Sal Santoro was asked how he envisioned the Oaks unfolding Friday. 

“We are going to have to see what the big three — Dreaming of Julia, Beholder and Unlimited Budget – do,” Santoro said. “If any of them get free rein and left alone, the party is over.

“Hopefully, going into the first turn we will get a good position. Talking to people that have raced here for years, I know the track will be lightning fast and you don’t want to be too far back. I can see a tight pack to the head of the stretch and then have everybody fan out.”

Santoro was asked if he had scouted the opposition during morning training hours.

“No. We got busy back here this morning with people coming in,” Santoro said. “I will see them in the paddock tomorrow and that will be soon enough.”

SEANEEN GIRL It was “a no brainer’’ to retire as a New Orleans Police detective to become a full-time horse trainer, Bernie Flint was saying Thursday.

“They don’t shoot at you,’’ Flint said of why he left the police force in 1976 after 16 years on the job. “People shooting at you, and then coming out here playing with horses and good people, it’s a different world. … I was in robbery, burglary, homicide and narcotics. I got all the shooting I needed in my life.’’

He said he never was shot. “Fortunately no, but I lost two people with me,’’ he said.

Flint, 73, saddled has won 3,289 races. His first victory came in 1969 at the Fair Grounds.

“I was always training horses,’’ Flint said. “I always had a second job of training horses while I was on the police.’’

Naveed Chowhan’s Seaneen Girl, who galloped Thursday under exercise rider Edward “Rocky’’ Seely, will be the third Oaks starter for Flint, seeking his first Oaks victory. Rosie Napravnik, the Fair Grounds’ leading rider, has the mount.

Flint said he doesn’t spend much time strategizing.

“Not really, because it’s going to pan out how it’s going to pan out,’’ he said. “You can’t say what’s going to happen in a race – who’s doing what. You can never figure out what’s going to happen when the gates open. All that, that’s the way it goes. That’s why I got Rosie. I mean, she’s going to run with the ball.’’

– END –

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