Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) and Preakness Stakes (GI) winner American Pharoah returned to the Churchill Downs racetrack Thursday morning for a once-around clockwise jog around the one-mile oval. The 3-year-old, preparing for a sweep of the Triple Crown in the 147th running of the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (GI) on June 6, walked around Barn 33 on Wednesday after breezing a half-mile in :48 the day before.
“He felt great, no different,” said exercise rider Jorge Alvarez. “He’s a running machine; all he wants to do is run. When we go to a different track, nothing changes. He doesn’t have to take his racetrack with him. He’ll run on anything.”
Jimmy Barnes, assistant to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, also was pleased with how Zayat Stables’ homebred 3-year-old jogged during Churchill Downs’ special 8:30-8:45 a.m. (all times Eastern) training session exclusive to Belmont Stakes contenders.
"From what we saw I thought he looked very good,” said Barnes, who rode Baffert’s pony Smokey alongside American Pharoah during the exercise. “He jogged almost every step of the way and felt strong. He looked super good. I’ve been asked just about every question so far except for the big one: ‘Can he do it?’ and I think that he can.”
Barnes said American Pharoah is scheduled to resume galloping Friday at 8:30 a.m.
Baffert, who was in town for Tuesday’s workout, is scheduled to return to Louisville from his Southern California base on Saturday night. Baffert said Tuesday that American Pharoah could work Sunday or Monday. Barnes speculated on Thursday that Sunday at 8:30 a.m. is the more likely of the two options.
In other local Belmont Stakes news, Conquest Stables’ Conquest Curlinate has been withdrawn from Belmont Stakes consideration. Norman Casse, assistant to his father Mark, said that the horse did not have high energy on Thursday morning and simply wasn’t training in his normal manner.
"It isn’t a soundness issue,” Norman Casse said. “He just wasn’t training the way that we wanted him.”
The Ontario-bred son of Curlin instead will be pointed to the $1 million Queen’s Plate on July 5, a race that his stable mate Danzig Moon, fifth in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI), also is targeting.
Donegal Racing’s Keen Ice, who breezed six furlongs in 1:13.60 on Wednesday, walked around the shed row of trainer Dale Romans’ barn on Thursday.
BELMONT STAKES POSSIBLE FIELD – The possible 10-horse Belmont Stakes lineup (with jockey and trainer): Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner American Pharoah (Victor Espinoza, Bob Baffert); Blue Grass champ and Kentucky Derby 10thCarpe Diem (undecided, Todd Pletcher); Blue Grass fourth and Kentucky Derby 11thFrammento (Mike Smith, Nick Zito); Wood Memorial and Kentucky Derby 4thFrosted (Joel Rosario, Kiaran McLaughlin); Louisiana Derby 4th and Kentucky Derby 7thKeen Ice (Kent Desormeaux, Dale Romans); Peter Pan winner Madefromlucky (undecided, Todd Pletcher); Florida Derby champ and Kentucky Derby 6thMateriality (undecided, Todd Pletcher); UAE Derby winner and Kentucky Derby 8thMubtaahij-IRE (Irad Ortiz Jr., Mike de Kock); Preakness runner-up Tale of Verve (Gary Stevens, Dallas Stewart); and recent Belmont Park first-level allowance winner The Truth Or Else (Edgar Prado, Kenny McPeek).
FANS INVITED TO WATCH SPECIAL 8:30-8:45 A.M. TRAINING FOR BELMONT CONTENDERS – With Triple Crown hopeful American Pharoah and three other Belmont Stakes contenders stabled on the grounds, Churchill Downs Racetrack is offering a special 8:30-8:45 a.m. training period for those horses through Tuesday. Additionally, area horse racing fans are invited to watch those colts train from the first floor of the facility, including the new Courtyard area, free of charge.
Churchill Downs Racetrack will open its Gate 17 entrance between 8-9 a.m. each morning through Tuesday so the public can watch Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner American Pharoah and rival Keen Ice prepare for the 1 ½-mile third jewel of horse racing’s Triple Crown – the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (GI) on Saturday, June 6.
Churchill Downs’ concessionaire Levy Restaurants will have coffee, juice, soda, water and doughnuts available for purchase near the Aristides Garden. Also, video of the exercises will be shown on the Big Board and infield video screens.
Those unable to attend can watch an online live stream of the daily exercises at http://www.kentuckyderby.com/workouts/live from 8:30-8:45 a.m. through Tuesday. Also, clips of the activity will be uploaded on the Kentucky Derby YouTube channel. A graphic with each horse’s name will appear on the screen with the corresponding horse, although a majority of the focus will be on American Pharaoh.
SPECIAL BELMONT STAKES DAY BOX SEAT PACKAGE – Churchill Downs has a special box seat package for the June 6 Belmont Stakes simulcast. For $24, fans can get an undercover box seat, official program, a domestic beer or souvenir soda and a custom, limited-edition Kentucky Derby 141 T-Shirt that features a victorious American Pharaoh. Fans can purchase the package by visiting the online box office at www.ChurchillDowns.com/Tickets.
CHAMPION SPRINTER WORK ALL WEEK RETURNS IN SATURDAY’S GRADE III ARISTIDES – American’s reigning Champion Sprinter and defending Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI) winner Work All Week will make his 6-year-old debut Saturday against six rivals in the $100,000 Aristides (GIII) at Churchill Downs.
Work All Week, owned by Midwest Thoroughbreds Inc. and trained by Roger Brueggemann, has won 12 of his 15 lifetime starts and $1,357,571. The chestnut gelding has been preparing for Saturday’s six-furlong sprint at Churchill Downs’ nearby Trackside training center and hopes to follow a stellar 2014 campaign that featured five victories in six starts.
Work All Week landed the outside post and was made the 6-5 morning line favorite by oddsmaker Mike Battaglia.
A half-dozen will be looking to upset the Illinois-bred son of City Zip including Black Hawk Stables’ Alsvid, who is coming off a victory in the Count Fleet Sprint (GIII) at Oaklawn Park. Trainer Chris Hartman says his horse is coming into the race well but admitted that the presence of a champion sprinter will make the race much tougher.
“It would be nice to have a graded stakes win at Churchill with this being my first meet but it’s a tough race,” Hartman said. “To beat the best you’ve got to be in with the best so with Work All Week, we know what his accolades are so we’re going to try to outrun him, that’s for sure.”
Harry T. Rosenblum’s Gentlemen’s Bet also will attempt to challenge Work All Week. Last time out, the Florida-bred son of Half Ours was a troubled fourth in the Churchill Downs (GII) and last found the winner’s circle in the Hot Springs Stakes at Oaklawn on March 7. Trainer Ron Moquett said there is a chance the horse could scratch from the race if the track comes up sloppy.
“Weather permitting we will run,” Moquett said. “If it rains we’ll find something else for him.”
The Aristides field from rail out (with jockey and morning line odds): Alsvid (Chris Landeros, 3-1); Viva Majorca (Brian Hernandez, Jr., 15-1); Googleado-ARG (Corey Lanerie, 20-1); Gentlemen’s Bet (Ricardo Santana, Jr., 7-2); Nate’s Mineshaft (Rafael Mojica, Jr., 9-2); Good Lord (Robby Albarado, 15-1); and Work All Week (Florent Geroux, 6-5).
The Aristides, which goes as Race 8 on Saturday at approximately 4:18 p.m. ET, is named in honor of Hal Price McGrath’s Aristides who in 1875 won the Kentucky Derby in its inaugural running defeating stable mate Chesapeake, who was said to be the better of the two. He was trained by Ansel Williamson and ridden by Oliver Lewis. A statue of the inaugural Kentucky Derby winner stands in Churchill Downs’ garden area across from the paddock.
DEPARTING TRIES TURF IN SATURDAY’S $65,000-ADDED OPENING VERSE – Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Departing will make his first start since a seventh-place effort in last year’s Clark Handicap Presented by Norton Healthcare (GI) in Saturday’s $65,000-added Opening Verse, a 1 1/16-mile overnight stakes on the Matt Winn Turf Course. Although this will be the 5-year-old gelding’s first time on grass, trainer Al Stall, Jr. thinks that he will take to turf very well.
“He had two nice works on the grass and looked very comfortable both times,” Stall said. “Normally, we don’t want to start back in a stakes race but we don’t have any conditions left and so we’ll see how he does.”
Stall also feels that the layoff shouldn’t be much of an issue with the son of War Front pointing out that he had won off of a layoff in the past.
“Last year he had a long layoff and won a race Derby week and he actually ran a really good race,” he said. “He won his first race, too, so he’s a horse that seems to run pretty well off a length of time off. He’s coming in in good shape and if it comes off the turf we’ll run on the dirt, also.”
Robby Albarado has the mount on Departing and will break from post 5 as the 7-2 morning line co-second choice.
Vinery Stables’ Regally Ready is the 3-1 early choice and looks to defend his Opening Verse title. The son of More Than Ready made his most recent trip to the Churchill Downs winner’s circle when he won this race last year as the 3-5 favorite. He is coming off a fifth-place effort in an allowance optional claiming event at the Fair Grounds. Jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr. has the mount for trainer Steve Asmussen.
The Pizza Man is the 7-2 co-second choice and, like Departing, will be making his first start of the year. Last time out, the Illinois-bred son of English Channel was last seen running third in the Hollywood Turf Cup (GII) at Del Mar behind Finnegan’s Wake. His most recent victory came last August in the American St. Leger Stakes at Arlington. Florent Geroux will be in the irons for trainer Roger Brueggemann.
The Opening Verse field from rail out (with jockey and morning line odds): Frac Daddy (Corey Lanerie, 9-2); Ultimo Trago (Francisco Torres, 20-1); Hip Four Sixtynine (Calvin Borel, 30-1); Guys Reward (Shaun Bridgmohan, 6-1); Departing (Robby Albarado, 7-2); The Pizza Man (Florent Geroux, 7-2); Enterprising (Channing Hill, 15-1); Key to Power (Miguel Mena, 20-1); R. Great Adventure (Jamie Theriot, 15-1); and Regally Ready (Ricardo Santana, Jr., 3-1).
The race goes as Race 9 Saturday at 4:49 p.m. ET and is named in honor of Opening Verse who triumphed at Churchill Downs in the 1991 Breeders’ Cup Mile (GI) and the Early Times Turf Classic (GIII). He was trained by Richard Lundy and owned by Allen E. Paulson.
LOUISVILLE REGIONAL BASEBALL FANS CAN RECEIVE FREE ADMISSION TO CHURCHILL DOWNS – Guests attending this weekend’s Louisville Regional for the 2015 NCAA Baseball Tournament at neighboring Jim Patterson Stadium will receive free general admission to Churchill Downs Racetrack by showing their game ticket or ticket stub. The University of Louisville, the No. 3 national seed, hosts Morehead State on Friday at 6 p.m. ET, a little more than an hour after Friday’s ninth and final race that’s scheduled for 4:48 p.m. ET. Bradley and Michigan play earlier at 2 p.m. More games are scheduled Saturday and Sunday.
DOWN THE STRETCH – Bill Cubbedge’s Molly Morgan is off to the breeding shed for her next career as a broodmare. The 6-year-old daughter of Ghostzapper who most recently won the Grade I La Troienne on Kentucky Oaks Day, sustained a cracked sesamoid bone in her left front leg during a recent workout. Molly Morgan won six of 14 starts over the Churchill Downs main track, three of which came against graded stakes company. Overall, she won eight of 29 and banked $882,159. No breeding plans have been made as of yet. … The weekly “Who’s the Champ? Handicapping Contest” continues Sunday in Churchill Downs’ ITW area on the second floor of the Clubhouse. Bettors can enter for $35 ($30 for TSC Elite members) and are required to make mythical $2 Win/Place bets on Races 3-8. The highest bankroll will win a $1,000 cash voucher or free entry to the Churchill Downs Challenge on June 13. Second place is a $500 voucher and third is a $250 voucher. Registration takes place Sunday between 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. at the top of the Gate 17 escalators.