Sterling Racing’s Black Onyx walked the shedrow at Barn 41 the morning after working a half-mile in :48.60. Exercise rider Aurelio Gomez reported that the Spiral Stakes (Grade III) winner came out of the work “good” and likely would return to the track Monday during the portion of training hours dedicated to Derby and Oaks contenders from 8:30 to 8:45 a.m. (all times Eastern).
CHARMING KITTEN (No. 19) / OVERANALYZE (No. 5) / PALACE MALICE (No. 13) / REVOLUTIONARY (No. 6) / VERRAZANO (No. 2) / WINNING CAUSE (No. 20) – Trainer Todd Pletcher had a much quieter morning Sunday after Saturday’s hustle and bustle in which he worked five Derby candidates and four Oaks hopefuls on the Churchill Downs strip.
Sunday, as a few light showers danced in and out of the Louisville area, the conditioner sent his Derby contingent back to the track for one-mile jogs under their regular exercise riders. Heavy rains had been expected to hit Saturday and then Sunday morning, but that proved to not be true, which provided advantages.
“We were a bit surprised and pleased by the weather and the condition of the track this morning,” Pletcher said. “They both were better than we thought and that’s why we went back out there with the horses.”
Jogging for the five-time Eclipse Award-winning conditioner Sunday were possible Derby favorite Verrazano, Louisiana Derby winner Revolutionary, Arkansas Derby winner Overanalyze, Blue Grass Stakes runner-up Palace Malice, Blue Grass Stakes third-place-finisher Charming Kitten and Lexington Stakes hero Winning Cause.
Winning Cause is slated to work Monday, after which a final decision on his possible Kentucky Derby status may become more clear.
The trainer indicated that his one-two finishers in Saturday night’s Derby Trial – Forty Tales and Capo Bastone – were “very unlikely” to be given Derby consideration.
“We’ll just play it by ear now for the rest of the week,” Pletcher said. “Everybody is doing fine and we’d like to keep it that way.”
CODE WEST (No. 21) / GOVENOR CHARLIE (No. 11) / POWER BROKER (No. 24) – Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said Sunday that Power Broker was no longer a candidate for the Derby, that a decision on Code West’s status will be made after he talks with owner Gary West about the colt’s breeze and that Govenor Charlie will work Monday morning.
Working in company with unbeaten Kentucky Oaks prospect Midnight Lucky, Code West completed five furlongs under Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith in 1:00.40. He turned in splits of :12.60, :24.80, :37 and :48.80, and galloped out six furlongs in 1:12.60. The work time was the sixth fastest of 42 at the distance.
“He worked nice today,” Baffert said. “He likes this track. He’s starting to do much better. He had a setback; the second time I took him to Louisiana (finishing sixth in the Louisiana Derby), he didn’t run well. I was really disappointed in his run, but now it looks like he’s coming back.
“Our options are the Derby, the Preakness, the Peter Pan. The Belmont has been the target for him. I’m just going to sit down and talk with Gary West today after I worked him and see what I thought. We’re going to go over it. There’s no rush to judgment yet.”
Power Broker was a Grade I winner as a 2-year-old last year, but has only made one start in 2013, a well-beaten fifth in the Santa Anita Derby (G1).
“Power Broker is a nice horse,” Baffert said. “He’s coming back and had that one out. Code West and him are going to get better with age. Mr. West does not want to compete unless he has a chance to win the race. He wants to be right there. That’s what you have to look at. Just leading them up there to be part of it, is not how he rolls. He wants to be competitive. When they turn for home, we want to be able to root.
“By the summer, they’re going to be really good horses.”
Governor Charlie has not breeezed since April 11 and was examined by Dr. Larry Bramlage after he was found to have a foot bruise and some soreness in his hind end. The Sunland Derby (GIII) winner has been given a clean bill of health, but Baffert has been careful not to push him.
“We’ll know more tomorrow,” Baffert said. “It was a nice track today and we let Govenor Charlie gallop a little bit. I just want to monitor him really well. If not here, he’ll go to the Preakness. You can’t have a hiccup and we had a little hiccup with him. I just want to see how he went. He looked good today, but there is no rush in making that call yet.”
However, Baffert said experience tells him to be cautious with Derby candidates.
“Govenor Charlie’s last out was pretty impressive,” he said. “It’s a shame that we had that little setback with him. He looks really good now, but I’m a little tight for time and I don’t want to press him. Everything has got to go smooth. Every time I’ve come with these Derby horses, you can’t miss a beat. It’s one of those things where I let the horse tell me.”
FALLING SKY (No. 18) – Newtown Anner Stud, James Covello and Joseph Bulger’s Falling Sky walked the shedrow of Barn 36 at Churchill Downs Sunday morning two days after turning in a five-furlong “bullet” breeze in :59.60. The John Terranova-trained colt had returned to the track on Saturday for a mile gallop on the morning after his breeze.
“Sometimes we’ll do that with certain horses. It depends on the horse,” Terranova said. “With the weather situation here, we weren’t sure there wasn’t going to be a washout today, so we decided Sunday was going to be a day off. Originally, we had planned on breezing Saturday, so it would have been that way anyway.”
Falling Sky, who captured the Sam F. Davis (GIII) at Tampa Bay Downs with a front-running performance, is coming off a fourth-place finish in the Arkansas Derby (GI), in which he set a pressured pace. The son of Lion Heart is expected to be forwardly placed in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.
“I’d just like to see him comfortable wherever he’s going to be, whether it’s on the lead or close. Knowing him, he’s going to be forwardly placed. There’s no getting around that fact,” Terranova said.
Falling Sky does not need the lead to run his best race, Terranova said.
“Obviously, he has that natural speed to him, but I don’t think he’s a rank type of horse. He’s never shown us he’s been a rank-type speed. He’s been able to relax on the lead.
FRAC DADDY (No. 15) / JAVA’S WAR (No. 4) – Magic City Thoroughbred Partners’ Frac Daddy and Charles Fipke’s Java’s War walked the shedrow at trainer Ken McPeek’s Barn 6 the morning after their final official works in advance of the Kentucky Derby.
“Everything’s in order,” assistant trainer Phil Bauer said. “We got through another day. We’re one day closer and everybody looks good this morning.”
Frac Daddy and Java’s War are expected to return to the track Monday during the Derby and Oaks training session.
GOLDENCENTS (No. 3) – Santa Anita Derby (GI) winner Goldencents got his first feel for the Churchill Downs strip Sunday when he jogged a mile during the designated Derby/Oaks training period following the mid-morning renovation break at the big oval.
Trainer Doug O’Neill was on hand for the exercise and indicated he has no special plans for his bay colt coming up to his date with destiny Saturday in the 139th Kentucky Derby.
“We’ll just keep him going forward and try to keep him happy,” O’Neill said. “He’s done his training and we’re happy right now.”
O’Neill gave the son of Into Mischief a final six-furlong work last Thursday at Santa Anita, a drill in which he was asked to accelerate late in anticipation of the extra furlong he’ll have to run beyond his nine-furlong Santa Anita victory. Though the final time of the work – 1:16.20 -- was nothing exceptional, it was just what the barn ordered in that he covered his final three furlongs in :36. His connections are convinced he’ll be able to finish well Saturday.
O’Neill flies the “Team O’Neill” banner when he goes on the road now and he comes with a posse attached. He’s assembled a 15-horse stable at Churchill and brought a party of 10 to work with them, led by his longtime assistant Leandro Mora and his current riding go-to-guy, Kevin Krigger.
But the focus remains on Goldencents and a possible double-up following the stable’s rousing victory with I’ll Have Another in last year’s Derby.
“We’ll take him to the gate one time during the week and we’ll take him to the paddock, too,” O’Neill said. “But otherwise we really aren’t going to do anything special with him. We think he’s good to go.”
GOLDEN SOUL (No. 23) – Trainer Dallas Stewart remained hopeful Sunday that Golden Soul, the fourth-place finisher in the Louisiana Derby (GII), would be able to draw into the body of the Kentucky Derby field. The colt ranks 23rd on the Derby leaderboard, and though it appeared Sunday that defections are possible and Golden Soul might reach the top 20, Stewart didn’t want to talk about such matters.
“It’s Sunday we don’t enter till Wednesday,’’ Stewart said. “We don’t make no predictions. We’ll just be ready if we get the chance.’’
If Golden Soul gets into the race, Stewart would be participating in his third Derby as a head trainer. Kimberlite Pipe finished sixth for Stewart in 1996, 2 ¾ lengths behind winner Charismatic. Stewart’s other starter was Dollar Bill, who finished 15th in 2001.
“Kimberlite Pipe ran well,’’ Stewart said. “Dollar Bill got in some trouble. Charismatic won that year,’’
As an assistant for D. Wayne Lukas, Stewart played a part in Derby victories by Winning Colors (1988), Thunder Gulch (1995) and Grindstone (1996).
Golden Soul jogged Sunday in his first day back on the track after working Friday.
ITSMYLUCKYDAY (No. 10) – Trilogy Stable and Laurie Plesa’s Itsmyluckyday made his first visit to the Churchill Downs racetrack Sunday morning after arriving by van from his Calder Race Course home on Saturday. The Gulfstream Park Derby and Holy Bull (GIII) victor galloped once around the track under exercise rider Peter Shelton.
“We took him out early. He goes out early at home, so we didn’t want to take him out late today and have him get all worked up in his stall,” Shelton said.
The Eddie Plesa Jr.-trained son of Lawyer Ron showed no signs of fatigue from the 18-hour van ride from his South Florida base.
“He was bouncing this morning. When I went to pull him up, he didn’t want to stop,” said Shelton, who has worked for Plesa for 14 years.
Assistant trainer Frankie Perez, who has worked for Plesa for 20 years, oversaw Itsmyluckyday’s morning exercise.
“Eddie’s a great person to work for. He’s a great trainer. He’s very good to his help and to his horses,” said Perez, who reported that Plesa is scheduled to arrive in Louisville on Monday.
Perez has been involved with two previous Kentucky Derby starters, the Frank Brothers-trained Dansil, who finished fourth in 1989, and Plesa-trained Three Ring, a filly who finished 19th against the boys after steadying sharply.
“This is very exciting. The other two horses have a place in my heart, and this horse is very special,” Perez said. “He does everything right; he’s very sweet. I say, ‘He’s the perfect horse that everyone wishes to have.’ ”
“To use trainer parlance, ‘It was just what we wanted,’ ” Amoss said, knowingly employing one of the greatest hits from the Trainer Interview Clichés catalog. “It was just an easy work. Tomorrow he’s going to jog, maybe make a trip to the paddock. He’ll just gallop into the race with probably a day of schooling in the starting gate, probably Thursday during the races.”
Amoss showed off the handsome Midnight Lute colt while emphasizing that he could not be doing better coming into the Derby.
“He’s got a lot of body to him and he’s just a pretty horse,” Amoss said. “Most people don’t realize he’s gray because he’s so dark.”
The Louisiana Derby (GII) runner-up will be ridden by Rosie Napravnik, racing’s current breakout star, who will be featured in a 60 Minutes profile airing tonight at 7 o’clock EDT. Napravnik was aboard Mylute for a 10-plus-length allowance win at Fair Grounds in December but was otherwise committed for both of his starts in 2013, when he was piloted by Shaun Bridgmohan.
“Rosie rode Mylute to his most recent win,” Amoss said. “Shaun did nothing wrong; the ownership just decided that Rosie would be the right pilot.”
Those hoping for a juicy price on a live longshot, though, should anticipate the horse being bet down by Napravnik’s growing fanbase, especially in light of her recent mainstream media attention, including a New York Times Magazine profile. The first time Rosie had a Derby mount, aboard Pants On Fire in 2011, she went off as the 8-1 second choice despite a 20-1 morning line.
“I think the ‘Rosie Effect’ puts Mylute somewhere around 15-1 instead of the 25-1 or 30-1 he should be,” Amoss said.
The Tapit colt had a typical light day after working five furlongs in :59 Saturday.
“He came out of his breeze bouncing around. I’m real happy,” trainer Chad Brown said. “We walked him for about 40 minutes in the shedrow and then got him out there on the grass for a half-hour. He’s full of himself, so I’m real happy how he took his breeze.”
Brown said the colt will trot on the track Monday morning.
“He was the most settled he’s been. He just stood quietly and took everything in. He galloped around there with his head down, happy – still bucking and playing, but happy,” Patterson said.
The Shug McGaughey-trained Fountain of Youth (GII) and Florida Derby (GI) winner wintered in the country setting at Payson Park in Indiantown, Fla.
“Everything was so quiet there, especially at the end when absolutely nothing was going on,” Patterson said. “Coming from Payson to here … To be honest, he’s handled it really well, but today was the first day, he was just happy to stand and look around. When he galloped, he was relaxed going to the pole.”
Orb is scheduled to breeze on Monday morning.
“I was glad today was such a relaxing day,” Patterson said.
OXBOW (No. 17)/WILL TAKE CHARGE (No. 9) – OXBOW/WILL TAKE CHARGE – Oxbow, under exercise rider Rudy Quevedo, and Will Take Charge, with exercise rider Taylor Carty aboard, jogged Sunday morning and are set for workouts Monday, trainer D. Wayne Lukas said.
“I don’t care for the jocks to work horses,’’ he said. “Oxbow, it’s not for me. It’s for Gary. I’m letting him try to get to know him a little better. I don’t to have the jocks work them. It’s like giving them a Ferrari and telling them to go out on the interstate here and don’t go over 40.’’
Lukas said that during the training time reserved for Derby and Oaks horses, he looks at the competition, but he declined to comment on specific rivals.
“I see four or five horses I think are really legit, and there’re some pretenders, like every year,’’ Lukas said. “I wouldn’t offend any of these guys. I get along with all of them.’’
Looking at the other horses has on impact on strategy, he said. “What they’ve done in the past, they’ll do Saturday,’’ he said. “Everybody talks about, ‘Well, we’re going to do this. We’re going to do that.’ But they’ll be doing what they’ve been doing all along. Don’t worry.’’
It was raining off and on Sunday. Although Will Take Charge lost by 18 lengths in the Southwest (GIII) on a sloppy track at Oaklawn Park, Lukas said he doesn’t think a wet track would hamper him.
“I think he stumbled, got away bad that day. He wears blinkers. He got all that slop in his face and everything, and I think he wasn’t seasoned enough to maybe handle it. Don’t worry. He’s an Unbridled’s Song, and they usually handle wet. I hope it’s dry, obviously.’’
“Oxbow doesn’t care – crushed glass, Coke bottles broke up, sawdust – he’ll run on anything.’’
The gelding worked Friday, walked Saturday and entered Derby week with another non-taxing morning.
“A little jogging, a little schooling and freshening him up a little bit,” Rodriguez said.
Vyjack spent very little time on the track during the period reserved for Derby and Oaks horses at 8:30 a.m.
“I jogged to the gap and stood him there for a little bit, took him to the paddock and walked around there a few times,” Rodriguez said. “He looked like he was happy and enjoying himself. He came out of there feeling good. Then I took him to the gate. He stood there then they backed him up and put him back in. Everything was very good.”
Rodriguez said all the pre-Derby preparations are going smoothly.
“So far, so good,” he said. “I wish the race was tomorrow.”
KENTUCKY OAKS UPDATE – SUNDAY, APRIL 28, 2013
On her back was former jockey and current exercise rider David Neusch and at her side was her Hall of Fame conditioner, Richard Mandella, who like his 2-year-old filly champion has set up shop in Kentucky for the week with Friday’s Kentucky Oaks (GI) squarely in their sights.
“We galloped her a mile and one eighth,” Mandella said afterward, which just happens to be the same distance she’ll be asked to run in the $1 million Kentucky Oaks. “We might let her pick up her gallop a little bit later in the week, but I’m pretty happy with where we are right now. I worked her seven-eighths at Santa Anita (last Thursday in 1:27.80) and that’s about all we had left to do.”
Beholder, owned by the Spendthrift Farm of B. Wayne Hughes and a half-sister to the farm’s successful young stallion Into Mischief, has banked more than $1.5 million in her brief career thus far, including five wins (three of them Grade I stakes) in eight starts. She’ll once again be handled Friday by Garrett Gomez, the only rider she’s ever known.
CLOSE HATCHES (No. 5) / FLASHY GRAY (No. 6) – Juddmonte Farms LLC’s undefeated Close Hatches completed her serious Kentucky Oaks conditioning Sunday morning with a half-mile breeze in :47.40, timed from the half-mile pole to the wire, under exercise rider Joanna Trout.
Over a “fast” track that was drying out during the Oaks and Derby session, Churchill Downs clockers recorded splits of :11.40 and :23.20, as well as a five-eighths gallop-out time of 1:00.40. The speed-laden First Defence filly broke off sharply at the 4 ½-furlong marker and, combining that with her strong gallop-out into the first turn, effectively worked an effortless 5 ½ furlongs.
“What you saw is what I expected given her work last week,” trainer Bill Mott said. “We just let her go by herself. She’s aggressive and full of herself so I thought she didn’t need company to breeze with; she’d do enough on her own. I just told Jo to let her go off smooth, keep it as smooth as possible and to let her have a normal gallop out.”
Even coming into nine-furlong races such as the Oaks or her previous start, the Gazelle (GII), Close Hatches does not work longer distances.
“She’s on the aggressive side but that’s her game,” said Garrett O’Rourke, Juddmonte’s Kentucky farm manager. “That’s why we’re only going a half with her, because she gets a lot out of her gallops every day. When you break her off she’s immediately into her work and she gallops out well, too, so she gets a lot out of her daily routine and her workouts.”
The training regimen does not suggest that Close Hatches will amend her recent front-running style despite a predominance of speed in the Oaks. Her class, though, should help her to carry that speed regardless of who else is on the lead or how fast they go.
“It’s one of the greatest pedigrees in the stud book if you go back to, when we got involved in it, (third dam) Monroe. She was all speed. Then we’ve got Xaar, who was a champion 2-year-old, but more of a miler. Then you look at the whole family and you’ve got Blush With Pride, from the same family, and she won the Kentucky Oaks (in 1982). If you look at the whole family, there have been Grade I winners sprinting, milers, middle-distance horses, and there’s even a two-mile Group I winner in there, Chief Contender. This is a family that’s just good. With any speed horse there’s a distance concern but she’s already won the Gazelle and there’s no reason she can’t do it again.”
Meanwhile, West Point Thoroughbreds and Tom Keithley’s Flashy Gray went back to the track one day after posting a five-furlong move in 1:01.
“She came out good,” Mott said. “We gave her a mile jog just to get her a little light exercise and get her out of the barn. She seemed to be feeling good and we were pleased with her work yesterday. She worked in company – she’s a little more laid-back than the other filly – so we put her in company and gave her a little bit of a target. When asked, she drew away from her target the last eighth of a mile and galloped out nicely.”
DREAMING OF JULIA (No. 4) / PRINCESS OF SYLMAR (No. 7) / SILSITA (No. 9) / UNLIMITED BUDGET (No. 3) – The Todd Pletcher Oaks contingent all came out of their Saturday works well and went back to the racetrack Sunday morning when fears of an “off” track and unsavory weather conditions proved not true.
Gulfstream Oaks (GII) winner Dreaming of Julia, Bourbonette Oaks (GIII) heroine Silsita and Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) star Unlimited Budget jogged a mile on the Churchill Downs strip, which was termed “good” for their pre-break exercise. Stablemate Princess of Sylmar, second in the Gazelle Stakes (GII) last out, galloped a mile.
“Everyone is doing well,” Pletcher said.
Riding assignments on the trainer’s Oaks runners are locked in: John Velazquez for Dreaming of Julia, Gary Stevens for Silsita, Javier Castellano for Unlimited Budget and Mike Smith for Princess of Sylmar.
Pletcher will be seeking his third Kentucky Oaks (GI) victory. He won with two champions previously – Ashado in 2004 and Rags to Riches in 2007.
MIDNIGHT LUCKY (No. 8) – Trainer Bob Baffert had good things to say about Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman’s Midnight Lucky Sunday after she breezed five furlongs in :59.60 with exercise rider Dana Barnes in the irons.
Undefeated after two career starts, the gray filly prepped for Friday’s Oaks with the fourth fastest of 42 works at the distance. Starting about three lengths behind stablemate and Derby prospect Code West, she turned in split times of :12.40, :24.40; :36.60 and : 48. She finished about a half-length in front of Code West. The six-furlong gallop out time was 1:11.80.
“She’s always worked well and we’ve always been high on her,” Baffert said. “She’s an exceptional filly. She went really well today. She worked with Code West and sat off him coming down the lane. She worked really well and I really liked what I saw. She had to work well like that for me to throw her in with the wolves. She looks like she’s doing well, so she’s going the right way.”
Baffert said he had the filly work with Code West to keep her focused.
And Baffert said the Oaks will be a real test for his Sunland Park Oaks winner.
“It’s probably the toughest Oaks field I’ve seen,” he said. “You could just give the Eclipse Award that day.”
“We give them an easy day, for the help and the horses,” assistant trainer Phil Bauer said.
Pure Fun will not post an official breeze coming into the Oaks. The Pure Prize filly raced in the Coolmore Lexington (GIII) on April 20 and does not require much in the way of additional conditioning to run back 13 days later.
“She might do an aggressive gallop here or there this week but there are no works planned at this point,” Bauer said. “She seems to be hitting the ground good here.”
Pure Fun, winner of the Hollywood Starlet (GI) in December, will be back on the track Monday at 8:30 a.m. during the Derby and Oaks training session.
A three-time Grade III winner, Rose to Gold is scheduled to return to the track Monday after walking two days following a half-mile work in :47.80 under jockey Calvin Borel. That move was the second fastest of 51 that day at the distance.
Trainer Sal Santoro is scheduled to arrive in Louisville Monday night and be at the barn Tuesday.
SEANEEN GIRL (No. 10) – Jockey Rosie Napravnik, who picked up the mount on Seaneen Girl for the Oaks, will be working her shortly after the track opens for training Monday morning, trainer Bernie Flint said Sunday.
“I’m going to use the jockey this time as we get close to the race,’’ Flint said.
Martin Garcia rode Seaneen Girl when she finished third in the Fair Grounds Oaks in her most recent start.
“I’m probably going to gallop a mile and work her a half a mile, said Flint, who trains Seaneen Girl for Naveed Chowhan.
“She’s not small,’’ Flint said of Seaneen Girl, a chestnut daughter of Spring At Last. “She’s not big. She’s an average-sized horse. If you’re looking for a middle-of-the-road horse, that’s what you’re looking for.’’
Flint said that Seaneen Girl stands 15 hands, 2 to 3 inches. “But she’s only 2,’’ he said. “She won’t turn 3 until after the race. She was born in the latter part of May, like the 18th of May. She’s just a baby. I keep trying to tell that to people. You can’t keep on hammering on (her). …
“But then again, there’s an advantage to that. They stay sound, hopefully. She’s an athlete, and she loves the track. She loves the place. I know she’s going to love Rosie. As far as I’m concerned, she will. She’s a great rider. She’s on a good horse. You can’t ask for no more.’’
Under exercise rider Edward “Rocky’’ Seely, Seaneen Girl galloped Sunday during the training time reserved for Derby/Oaks runners. Flint said he does look at the competition.
“I just shake my head and walk back; that’s all,’’ he said. “I feel like Mine That Bird against all those Derby horses, you know. It makes me feel that way. He was just an average-sized, little horse. He wasn’t an average-sized horse. He was a little horse. Now, she’s an average-sized filly … but I look at them. I see them go around there. … Everybody’s out there at the same time. They’re all going around there. You look. ‘Look at this one. Look at this one.’ But my mare floats along the ground. She loves the place. Horses for courses I’ve said, and I’m going to say it again. It’s got to be beneficial to us. I’m just sure it’s going to be that way. I’ve got that feeling.”
In Seaneen Girl’s only start at Churchill, where she has been based since being purchased privately last fall, she won the Golden Rod (G2) on Nov. 24 in her last race as a 2-year-old.
- END -