KENTUCKY DERBY UPDATE – TUESDAY, APRIL 30, 2013
“It was a little bit longer gallop, a little bit stronger at the end,” trainer Kelly Breen said. “He came out of it looking dynamite.”
Black Onyx will be ridden by “Jersey” Joe Bravo, who has won both his starts aboard the Rock Hard Ten colt since Breen took over as trainer this year. Bravo – like Breen, a native of New Jersey – has 4,826 career wins, good for 34th all time and 15th among active riders. He’s a 13-time leading jockey at Monmouth Park.
“And he’s only 41 years old,” Breen said. “He’s had a great career and horse-backing is second nature to him. It’s a plus to have a guy who knows where the finish line is at and where the winner’s circle is at.”
The Spiral Stakes (Grade III) winner Black Onyx will be Bravo’s third Kentucky Derby mount after finishing 16th on both of his previous mounts – Spanish Chestnut in 2005 and Atomic Rain in 2009.
“This is going to be my third Derby and the trainer’s third Derby, so hopefully three’s a charm,” Bravo said. “He keeps improving day by day, just looking at him. Don’t know how good he is but we’ll find out real soon. It looks like we have plenty of pace in there. Another factor is going to be this weather. We don’t know who is going to get ahold of a muddy track but we’re going to find out about 7 o’clock Saturday night.”
CHARMING KITTEN (No. 18)/OVERANALYZE (No. 5)/PALACE MALICE (No. 13)/REVOLUTIONARY (No. 6)/VERRAZANO (No. 2) – The “Todd Squad” all went trackside through the six-furlong gap at Churchill Downs Tuesday morning right after 8:30 at the conclusion of the track’s renovation break.
The five sparkling bays trained by Todd Pletcher were going to take advantage of the special Oaks/Derby 15-minute period where the runners in those races have the track all to themselves for training. And train they did, four of them galloping a mile and a quarter and one just jogging one time around the sun-splashed oval.
The jogger was Louisiana Derby winner Revolutionary, the son of War Pass who had exercise rider Nick Bush attached for his leg-stretching. He was around and headed back to Barn 34 well before his stablemates.
Following him were the foursome of Verrazano, Overanalyze, Charming Kitten and Palace Malice. Heeding the trainer’s start-and-finish-pole instructions – “Seven to the five” – they each had been galloped a mile and a quarter under their partners -- Humberto Zamora (Verrazano), Obed Perez (Overanalyze), Patti Krotenko (Charming Kitten) and Jake Nelson (Palace Malice).
Pletcher, who stood inside the gap with a set of binoculars to watch his charges go through their drills, simply said “All good” when asked about his crew as he returned to the barn.
The trainer noted further that he will “paddock” his Derby quintet with horses for Wednesday’s second race. He also had news about his rider for Verrazano, Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez, who hasn’t ridden since sustaining rib and wrist injuries in a spill at Aqueduct in New York on April 7.
“I understand Johnny was to get on horses this morning at Belmont (Park),” Pletcher said. “Then he’s going to ride some races there tomorrow.”
“He was really into it. He’s always into it. He’s great. He likes to go out there and train. He just loves it. It’s all good,” trainer John Terranova said.
Falling Sky was purchased for $425,000 in January at the OBS Mixed Sale in Ocala.
“He had run three times and had already won two of three starts. He won an allowance race nicely at Gulfstream and we thought he’d stretch out nicely,” Terranova said.
Falling Sky was entered in the seven-furlong Hutcheson (GII) at Gulfstream and the 1 1/16-mile Sam F. Davis (GIII) at Tampa Bay on Feb. 2. His new connections opted for the Davis, and the son of Lion Heart won while stretching out around two turns for the first time.
“Everyone thought we would run in the Hutcheson, but we did the 180 at the last minute. We knew what we wanted to do and ended up going to the route. That worked out nicely,” Terranova said.
“He’s a real honest horse. He obviously has real talent. He’s a horse that’s a free-runner who likes to be out there. And he’s been pretty competitive in each start,” Terranova said.
Trained by Mike Maker at the nearby Trackside Training Center, Fear the Kitten enters the Derby off a fifth-place finish in the Blue Grass (GI) at Keeneland on April 13. Fear the Kitten worked a half-mile in :49.80 over a fast track at Trackside on Saturday, the eighth fastest of 19 at the distance that morning.
Claimed out of a maiden win in his debut at Keeneland, Fear the Kitten was a Churchill Downs allowance winner in his second start and has raced exclusively in graded stakes company since with a best finish of second in the Southwest (GIII).
“I am excited,” Irvin said. “The thing has really turned around in the last 23 ½ hours. Yesterday, we were aiming for the Belmont.”
Fear the Kitten is scheduled to come to Churchill Downs on Wednesday and will be housed in Barn 41, Stall 15.
FRAC DADDY (No. 14)/JAVA’S WAR (No. 4) – Magic City Thoroughbred Partners’ Frac Daddy and Charles Fipke’s Java’s War each galloped 1 ½ miles during the Derby and Oaks training session, picking up the pace noticeably through the lane, and visited the starting gate.
“All of them went super,” trainer Ken McPeek said, referring to his Derby team as well as Oaks contender Pure Fun.
Blue Grass Stakes (GI) winner Java’s War was ridden by regular exercise rider Marvin Abrego and had a “great day,” according to McPeek.
“Today was probably as good as I’ve ever seen him go over this surface,” the trainer said. “He really had great energy. He had a couple of light days in a row and I may go light with him the rest of the week because I want to see that kind of energy on Saturday.”
Concurrently, Derby jockey Victor Lebron was on Arkansas Derby (GI) runner-up Frac Daddy, who continues to show off his aggressive nature in the mornings.
“I was worried he was going to run off that second mile there,” McPeek said. “Victor had a tough time pulling him up.”
That aggression – or “high-spiritedness,” as Lebron calls it – could be a concern for Frac Daddy in a chaotic 20-horse race that is preceded by a litany of preparations and no small amount of pomp and circumstance in front of 160,000 screaming fans.
“He’s had a couple of episodes where things didn’t go his way and he didn’t perform all that well,” McPeek said. “But I think we’re in a good spot. His last race was super and he handled everything really well and I’m anticipating he’ll do it again.
“He still needs to show he can handle adversity a little bit better but physically he’s doing terrific.”
Frac Daddy earned four Kentucky Derby qualifying points as a juvenile when he finished second in the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) at Churchill Downs but had not added to that total going into the Arkansas Derby. His disappointing efforts in two Gulfstream Park stakes would have meant the end of the Derby road for many horses but the owners and trainer still saw a raw talent that just hadn’t put it all together yet.
“We gave him a sharp work right out of the Florida Derby and wheeled him back in Arkansas,” McPeek said. “I was a little reluctant to do it – it was a bit of an aggressive approach – but it was one of those deals where he needed to wake up quick. Carter Stewart (of Magic City) said to go with it, wanted to make it in, and we knew we needed to run second or third to make the race.
If Frac Daddy runs big on Saturday, that bullet breeze at Gulfstream eight days after the Florida Derby (five furlongs in 1:00.40 on April 7) will become known as the critical turning point for a 3-year-old many had written off. Six days later, after a good week of increasingly strong gallops at Oaklawn Park, he got up for second in the Arkansas Derby at 23-1.
“With him, nine-tenths of it was just getting in,” McPeek said. “He loves this racetrack and the mile-and-a-quarter won’t be a problem. We just needed to get him in and he punched his ticket there.”
Exercise rider Jonny Garcia was up for the exercise, accomplished with the colt’s usual panache during a full oval tour with a couple of furlongs farther thrown in. Trainer Doug O’Neill positioned himself in the grandstand to watch his charge and enjoyed the eyeful below him on the big Churchill strip.
The trainer noted that one of his several owners in the son of Into Mischief was going to make his first appearance at the track Wednesday morning for training.
“ ‘Coach’ is coming out tomorrow,” O’Neill said.
And when you say ‘Coach’ right now in the city of Louisville, it causes a major stir and points to only one man – NCAA champion and recent basketball Hall of Famer Rick Pitino. Though he owns only a small interest in Goldencents, he’ll have a big impact among fans and media types coming up to Derby 139. And it isn’t a case of beginner’s luck for Pitino. He has been in the game for better than 15 years and has been seen at racetracks regularly from Saratoga-to-Del Mar-to Churchill for most of that time.
Would Goldencents put on any kind of a special show for Pitino Wednesday?
“No, he’s not going to do anything special,” O’Neill said. “He’ll just train along as he has been doing. But each of his gallops is pretty special all on their own. He puts a lot into his mornings; a lot to each time he goes out on the track.”
Goldencents, a winner of four of six starts and more than $1.2 million in purses, will be handled by his regular pilot, Kevin Krigger, who will be making his Kentucky Derby debut.
Because of defections Monday from the possible field, Golden Soul moved into the top 20 horses, according to Derby points.
“They’re elated,’’ Stewart, said of his help. “They were excited. And they know he’s a good horse, and everybody, obviously, wants to be in the race.’’
Stewart said he is leaning toward a particular jockey for Golden Soul but will wait until Wednesday, entry day, to cement the decision.
“Well, I think I’ve got it pretty much narrowed down,’’ Stewart said. “I mean, we’ve got a couple of guys – one guy we’re real solid on. We’re just going to wait. If something was to happen (further defections), then the owner (Charles Fipke) wouldn’t step in and say, ‘Hey, how come we’re not using one of these guys?’ ’’
Golden Soul galloped Tuesday under exercise rider Emerson Chavez.
Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr., who arrived in Louisville from his South Florida base Monday afternoon, monitored the morning exercise. The Calder Race Course-based trainer reported that Itsmyluckyday will gallop up to the Derby and likely visit the starting gate on Wednesday. He has no plans to school the son of Lawyer Ron in the paddock.
“Nothing bothers him, so I don’t see any reason to do that,” said Plesa, whose Gulfstream Park Derby and Holy Bull (GIII) winner finished second behind Orb in the Florida Derby (G1) last time out.
Itsmyluckyday is slated to be the second Derby starter for Plesa, who saddled Three Ring for a 19th-place finish in 1999. The filly was bumped and had to be steadied sharply just after the break.
“She never had an opportunity. I felt really bad for the owners. If after the first eighth of a mile, you could hit pause and they could say, ‘Go on with the race or take the horse out,’ I would say, ‘Take the horse out,’ because there’s no way you’re going to overcome what had happened to her,” said Plesa, whose filly went on to win the Acorn (GI) before a fall in the Belmont paddock before the Mother Goose claimed her life.
Plesa said he and his wife, Laurie, will enjoy Derby Week, but come Saturday, he’ll be wearing his game face.
“I’ll be miserable to be around, as my wife will attest to, on the morning of the race,” Plesa said. “I don’t like to be bothered. Then, I’m focused and zoned in. Things just disrupt that, and I don’t like it. That’s not my usual demeanor, but for big races it is – not everyday races.”
MYLUTE (No. 15) – GoldMark Farm and Whisper Hill Farm’s Mylute jogged one mile and galloped two miles under exercise rider Maurice Sanchez at his usual time, just before 6 a.m. On Wednesday the Louisiana Derby (GII) runner-up will make his first appearance during the Derby and Oaks training session so he can take advantage of time to school in the starting gate.
Mylute ran his best race to date in the Louisiana Derby by settling early, as opposed to expending precious energy establishing position toward the front of the field, as he had tried to do in February’s Risen Star Stakes (GII) before weakening to a seventh-place finish.
“We made a conscious change in his style – try to take him back off the pace and make one run – and it worked well,” trainer Tom Amoss said. “So we’ve followed that same pattern for the Kentucky Derby. He’s had his big work, three weeks out, and he’s had his two minor works, which is how we did it for the Louisiana Derby. His big work here was really nice, just as it was before the Louisiana Derby, so we’re real comfortable with where we are.”
Being by Midnight Lute, the champion sprinter of 2007, it is easy to presume that Mylute could have distance limitations. However, the change in tactics helps to get the most out of Mylute’s speed by conserving him for the stretch as much as possible. The nine-furlong Louisiana Derby was Mylute’s farthest test yet and he passed most of the field in the final three-eighths.
“I have no fear regarding his fitness level or his understanding of getting a true distance of ground,” Amoss said. “I know that he’s physically ready to do that and that he’s had the training to do that.”
NORMANDY INVASION (No. 13) – Trainer Chad Brown liked what he saw when Fox Hill Farms’ Normandy Invasion galloped 1 3/8 miles Tuesday morning. It was the Tapit colt’s first vigorous exercise since he worked five furlongs in :59 Saturday morning.
“I thought he went super,” Brown said. “I was anxious to see him come out of that work to see how he would be moving and he couldn’t be moving any better. I’m getting excited about him.”
Brown was hoping for consistency and Normandy Invasion delivered.
“He galloped today the way he did prior to his last work,” Brown said. “That’s all I was looking to see because he was moving super since he has been at Churchill and in the week leading up to his final workout. When you’re breezing a horse for a big race like this and he has a serious work like he did, as a trainer you’re always curious to see how they’re coming out of there and how they’re moving. He’s moving just like he was prior to the work and I was excited to see him galloping today.”
Normandy Invasion earned the points he needed to qualify for a spot in the Derby field with a second-place finish in the Wood Memorial (GI) on April 6 at Aqueduct.
The Florida Derby (GI) winner was clocked in :47.80 Monday before galloping out five furlongs in 1:00.80 under exercise rider Jennifer Patterson, who remained motionless throughout the workout. His dazzling work has led to speculation that Orb may have wrested the Kentucky Derby favorite’s role from undefeated Verrazano.
“He had an awfully good work yesterday and he’s done awful well since he’s been at Churchill. Even before all that I wouldn’t have been surprised if he’d been the post-time favorite,” trainer Shug McGaughey said. “But Verrazano very much deserves to be the (morning-line) favorite. He probably deserves to be the post-time favorite.”
“He’s done nothing wrong. We’ve done nothing wrong over the winter. We got here and have done good and Verrazano has done very well. I saw him come off the track this morning and he thought he looked the picture. I thought he galloped very good over it,” McGaughey said. “So whatever they do, is fine with me. The biggest thing I’m hoping is we get there Saturday as well as we’re doing right now and get something done that afternoon.”
OXBOW (No. 16)/WILL TAKE CHARGE (No. 9) – Calumet Farm’s Oxbow and Willis Horton’s Will Take Charge – the Derby duo trained by D. Wayne Lukas – walked in the barn and grazed Tuesday morning. They had an off day after working five furlongs Monday – Oxbow in :59.80 and Will Take Charge in 1:01.00.
Will Take Charge rallied from mid-pack to win the Rebel (GII) on March 16 at Oaklawn Park in his most recent start. A big, chestnut colt, Will Take Charge appears built more for power than speed, and he ran from off the pace in all but one of his seven races. But don’t expect him to be at the back of the Derby pack, Lukas said.
“He lays a little closer than you think,’’ Lukas said. “When you look at him physically in the paddock, you’d say, ‘This horse is definitely going to come from way out of it.’ He’s got a little bit of a lick to him. I would say mid-pack. He’ll be in touch.’’
Lukas, who has won the Derby four times, said he doesn’t have a favorite Derby winner.
“Not really, because I represented four different clients,’’ he said. “That’s what made it special. Every time I won it, I never duplicated one of them. I got Bill Young (owner of Grindstone) where he wanted to be, Gene Klein (owner of Winning Colors), then Bob Lewis (owner of Charismatic) – right down the line. It was special because I was able to have that association with people I really am fond of.’’
“The same routine. We aren’t changing anything,” Rodriguez said. “We’ve been doing that since Day One and he got us here doing that so I don’t think we need to change anything.”
Vyjack cruised through his first four starts unbeaten and finished third, one length behind Verrazano, in the Wood Memorial (GI) on April 6 at Aqueduct. The Into Mischief gelding recovered from a minor lung infection discovered after the Wood and has made a smooth transition to Churchill Downs. Rodriguez said the gelding felt fine to him when they have been on the track in the morning.
“So far, so good. I’m very comfortable,” Rodriguez said. “He has been galloping like that all along. He doesn’t show us anything that he doesn’t like, but he’s still got to go and do it. We’re happy.”
Owner David Wilkenfeld purchased Vyjack as a 2-year-old for $100,000 at the May 2012 Fasig-Tipton sale at Timonium, Md. Vyjack proved to be a difficult horse when he was being prepared for the track at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md., and Wilkenfeld decided that Rodriguez was the right trainer for the assignment.
“I knew that Rudy could get on this horse in the morning and work with him,” Wilkenfeld said. “I saw that he had some nice 2-year-olds at Saratoga. It’s worked out great. He’s done a terrific job. The horse has relaxed.”
KENTUCKY DERBY UPDATE – TUESDAY, APRIL 30, 2013
BEHOLDER -- Reigning 2-year-old filly champion Beholder took another step down the road to further stardom when she galloped Tuesday at Churchill Downs in advance of her date Friday in the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (GI).
The racy bay daughter of Henny Hughes had more than a few interested parties on hand to see her strut her stuff, including her Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella, her owner and the guy behind Kentucky’s historic Spendthrift Farm, B. Wayne Hughes, and Spendthrift’s farm manager, Ned Toffey.
And she didn’t disappoint them. Sporting her usual black ear muff training hood and handled by jockey-turned-exercise rider David Nuesch, the $1.5-million earner skipped over the big oval in strong fashion, covering a mile and one-half before she was done.
Noting that he’d galloped her nine furlongs Sunday in her first appearance on the track following her trip in from California, then 10 furlongs Monday, dry-wit specialist Mandella smiled when he offered:
“We’re ready for the Belmont now.”
Mandella will give a leg up to rider Garrett Gomez Friday, then watch them break from the No. 3 post in the 11-horse Oaks lineup. She is the 7-2 co-second-choice on the morning line for the Oaks.
CLOSE HATCHES/FLASHY GRAY – Juddmonte Farms LLC’s undefeated Close Hatches and West Point Thoroughbreds and Tom Keithley’s Flashy Gray both walked through the paddock and had “normal gallops” of 1 ¼ miles during the Oaks and Derby session, according to trainer Bill Mott.
“I’d like to be somewhere between one and 11,” Mott deadpanned.
“I would say one of any five or six of these would be the favorite any other year,” Mott said.
DREAMING OF JULIA / PRINCESS OF SYLMAR / SILSITA / UNLIMITED BUDGET – Trainer Todd Pletcher had his four Kentucky Oaks (GI) fillies out early Tuesday morning, sending them trackside prior to 6 o’clock in his first set of the day, each with their regular exercise riders on board.
The gray Silsita and her partner Nick Bush had the easiest time of it on the illuminated Churchill Downs oval, merely jogging a mile as she moves toward her date in Friday’s $1 million headliner.
But the other three 3-year-olds each galloped a good mile and a quarter before they got to return to their Barn 34 stalls. Patti Krotenko did the steering on the undefeated Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) winner Unlimited Budget; Humberto Zamora was the pilot for the Gulfstream Park Oaks (GII) heroine Dreaming of Julia, and Princess of Sylmar, a winner of four of six starts and second last out in the Gazelle (GII) at Aqueduct, had her guy Jake Nelson in the boot.
Pletcher likes the way his quartet is coming up to their nine-furlong testing and has said it is only a matter of the minor details from here on out.
One of those details will happen this afternoon when horses come over for Churchill’s second race and all four of his fillies will “paddock” with them.
Dreaming of Julia, who will break from post position eight, was made the 3-1 morning line favorite by track handicapper Mike Battaglia. Unlimited Budget, the 7-2 co-second choice, will break from post position four, Silsita (20-1) from post one and Princess of Sylmar (20-1) from post six.
MIDNIGHT LUCKY – Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman’s unbeaten filly Midnight Lucky jogged and schooled in the gate in her return to the track Tuesday morning. She breezed five furlongs in :59.60 Sunday.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said his Sunland Park Oaks winner will be put to the test Friday against what he has described as a very strong field.
“She’s only had two outs; her weakness is her foundation,” Baffert said. ”There are some good fillies in there. She has to break well. She ran a sprint and went a mile. Now she’s going a mile and an eighth against the best fillies. She has her work cut out for her.”
Midnight Lucky, listed at 9-2 on the morning line, will break from post position two under Rafael Bejarano.
“The filly jogged off the right direction and galloped a mile-and-a-half,” trainer Ken McPeek said. “She picked it up from the three-eighths.”
McPeek’s Derby duo of Frac Daddy and Java’s War opened up their gallops at the quarter pole but Pure Fun is getting a little extra exercise because she has not put in an official work since her most recent start in the April 20 Lexington Stakes (GIII).
“She came out of it good,” McPeek said of the effort in Keeneland’s final 3-year-old stakes event. “I felt like she really needed the race over there. She was a bit behind the eight ball. We maybe laid her up a little longer than we should have or needed to. When we brought her back she gained more weight. The race did her more good than sitting on her and working her a couple more times so that sets her up good.”
Pure Fun’s past three starts have been on synthetic surfaces, including a win in December’s Hollywood Starlet (GI). In her most recent attempt on dirt, she won a Churchill Downs allowance in November by more than nine lengths. The runner-up in that race, Dancinginthecircle, dominated a six-figure stakes race in her next start.
Pure Fun, listed at 30-1 on the morning line, will break from post seven under Julien Leparoux.
“She will walk the next two mornings and not go to the track Friday morning,” trainer Sal Santoro said. “I have done the same thing for all of her races and if it isn’t broken I am damned sure not going to change it now.”
Santoro arrived in Louisville on Monday and saw his star filly for the first time since the day after she won the Fantasy (GIII) on April 10 at Oaklawn Park.
“I had some things that had to be taken care of at home but I had no worries at all with Denis here and (jockey) Calvin (Borel),” said Santoro, who has 20 horses stabled at Calder and another eight in Ocala.
Santoro is relishing the atmosphere leading up to the Oaks and Kentucky Derby.
“I’m excited. This is holy ground here,” said Santoro, standing outside Barn 43 which this week houses one of the favorites for the Derby in Orb and horses for Todd Pletcher. “There’s Shug (McGaughey), Todd … and me.”
The only bad performance on Rose to Gold’s seven-race resume is a 12th-place finish in the Alcibiades last October at Keeneland over the Polytrack surface.
“We are very confident that is what it was,” Santoro said referring to the all-weather surface. “There was no other reason for it. It was totally out of character for her.
“(Jockey Jesus) Rios said she would start to get going and her feet would slip. She kept getting frustrated and the harder she tried, the worse it got.”
Rose to Gold, 15-1 on the morning line, will break from post position nine.
The filly bounced out of her workout Monday – a half-mile in :48.80 – feeling spry, Flint said.
“Look at her,’’ he said. “She’s alert. Ears are up. … Look at my girl walk around there.’’
Flint and owner Naveed Chowhan will be participating in their third Oaks. They finished sixth with Red Cherries Spin in 2006 and sixth with Runway Model in 2005.
Flint claimed Red Cherries Spin for $75,000, and her next start was in the Oaks. She finished 5 ½ lengths behind winner Lemons Forever.
“A claiming horse,’’ Flint said. “I liked her. I figured we could take a shot and do some good. It’s amazing that you could claim one and bring her over there and see her run that well.’’
Runway Model was third in the Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) and second in the Ashland (GI) before running in the Kentucky Oaks, in which she finished 7 ¼ lengths behind winner Summerly. She made most of her money as a 2-year-old, winning the Alcibiades (GII) and finishing third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI).
“She was a fantastic 2-year-old, and I realized it,’’ Flint said. “This horse (Seaneen Girl) wasn’t used like that one was. When you do Breeders’ Cups and everything else, trust me, that’s squeezing that lemon pretty dry. (Runway Model) was a good 2-year-old, really a good 2-year-old. Made almost $800,000 with her and sold her for over $2 million. We paid $50,000 for her as a 2-year-old. I thought it was a pretty good deal.’’
The deal for Seaneen Girl has worked out well, too. Flint purchased Seaneen Girl privately in October at Woodbine -- for a price he wouldn’t disclose – after she finished second in the Mazarine (GII). In her two starts for Flint, she won the Golden Rod (GII) and finished third in the Fair Grounds Oaks (GII).
Listed at 20-1 on the morning line, Seaneen Girl will break from post position five under Rosie Napravnik in the Oaks.
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