ALPHA – Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin confirmed that Godolphin Stable’s Alpha will be ridden by jockey Rajiv Maragh in the Kentucky Derby. Maragh was aboard for the Bernardini colt’s sharp work (:59.40 for five furlongs) at Belmont Park on Saturday.
McLaughlin said that Alpha schooled in the gate before galloping about 1 ½ miles Wednesday morning. Alpha acted up in the gate before the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Grade I) at Churchill Downs in November, but has been fine in each of his three starts in 2012.
“He stood great,” McLaughlin said. “He was perfectly behaved.”
BODEMEISTER/LIAISON – Zayat Stables LLC’s Bodemeister schooled in the starting gate and galloped about a mile under exercise rider George Alvarez.
According to The Jockey Club, the Empire Maker colt has had three names since he was purchased for $260,000 by Ahmed Zayat at the 2010 Keeneland September yearling sale. In January 2011, the name Bradelberry was approved by The Jockey Club. The name was changed to Graham N Spike in August 2011. One month later, the colt was named Bodemeister, which is a nickname for trainer Bob Baffert’s 7-year-old son, Bode.
Zayat said Wednesday that the original name was for Brad Weisbord, his racing manager at the time. When Weisbord left the organization, the name was changed Graham N Spike. Virginia resident Graham Mandl is a Zayat family friend and Spike is Mandl’s dog. Zayat and his son, Justin, had second thoughts about Graham N Spike being an appropriate name if the colt developed into a prominent horse that might go on to a career as a stallion and made the second change.
Arnold Zetcher’s Liaison jogged 1½ miles Wednesday morning. The CashCall Futurity (GI) winner breezed five furlongs on Monday and walked the shedrow on Tuesday.
CREATIVE CAUSE – Creative Cause followed his normal routine in walking the second straight day after a workout, trainer Mike Harrington said Wednesday morning.
The colt, runner-up to I’ll Have Another in the Santa Anita Derby and third to Hansen and Union Rags in the 2011 Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI), schooled for a second straight day in the paddock during the second race.
The colt seemed to get a little hot in the paddock Tuesday, but that caused no concern to Harrington, who excused it with a quick, “That’s just him. And it was hot that day.”
DADDY LONG LEGS – The globe-trotting colt owned by Michael Tabor, Mrs. Susan Magnier and Derrick Smith completed his journey from Ireland to Louisville Wednesday morning when he arrived at Churchill Downs at approximately 4:30.
The UAE Derby (GII) winner began a 48-hour quarantine and will not be able to go to the track until Friday.
Daddy Long Legs, a Kentucky-bred son of Scat Daddy, has won three of five career starts, including the Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes (GII) at Newmarket. He participated in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) in November at Churchill Downs and finished 12th.
DADDY NOSE BEST/SABERCAT – Trainer Steve Asmussen’s pair of hopefuls for Kentucky Derby 138 – Cathy and Bob Zollars’ Daddy Nose Best and Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Sabercat – returned to the track for the first time since Monday’s half-mile breezes. Each galloped one mile under exercise rider Carlos Rosas, with Sabercat going first just before 6 a.m. and Daddy Nose Best following in the next set at 6:15 a.m.
Asmussen said both colts came out of their works “extremely good” and continue to impress in the mornings.
“I think we’re very fortunate with their physical condition,” he said. “I like the races they’re coming off of and how they’ve trained over this racetrack and how we are three days away.”
The pair reacquainted themselves with the Churchill Downs paddock – where they started their careers at last year’s Spring Meet – in a schooling session during Tuesday’s sixth race. Team Asmussen took Daddy Nose Best and Sabercat through the same paces they’ll experience Saturday, faithfully recreating the process down to the tack and custom saddle towels they’ll carry in the Kentucky Derby.
“They’re two very good horses to run in a race like this,” Asmussen said. “There’s quite a bit to them and they act like it.
“I think that’s a very comfortable thing with both of these horses. Look at Sabercat going to Delta. That’s not an easy place to go – night, bullring, so many things. They’ve already accepted a lot of the variables that are important to being able to run your race in the circumstances the Derby’s run under.”
Team Asmussen has long emphasized controlling as many of those variables as possible. Maintaining a regimented and detail-oriented routine, from training patterns to feeding to schooling, is what keeps the sprawling operation humming and keeps the horses comfortable day after day.
Asmussen’s successes have included two Eclipse Awards for Outstanding Trainer, two Preakness wins, a Kentucky Oaks score and three Breeders’ Cup victories. His best Kentucky Derby finish from 10 starters was a second last year with Nehro, who briefly held the lead in midstretch before Animal Kingdom roared past, but at 46 with who knows how many Derby entrants still ahead of him one would think it will be his day eventually.
“It is definitely on the bucket list,” Asmusssen said with a laugh. “If I were in this position enough years in a row, I could do it. You just hope this is the year. I like my horses, love how they’re doing, feel that they’re going to run real good Saturday, but have no control over everybody else.
“It’s like last year – Nehro ran great, Animal Kingdom ran a little bit better. You think about it a lot because of the fact that you haven’t won one, and then you think of what you would do differently. Like Curlin’s year – Liquidity comes off the fence at the quarter-pole, Street Sense gets through and Curlin gets stopped. There are so many things that have to go right other than being good.
“If you’re in this position enough times, with two healthy horses going in the right direction, it’s going to come to you, whether it’s this year or another.”
DONE TALKING – The Illinois Derby (GIII) winner Done Talking galloped 1 ½ miles this morning after the renovation break with James “Bobo” Brigmon aboard, and will be sent to the paddock for a schooling session with the horses in today’s second race. “He’s already had all of his hard work,” trainer Hamilton Smith said. “That’s the extent of it.”
As for Done Talking’s Derby chances, Smith surmised, “He’ll be a longshot and rightfully so.”
As for the pace scenario in Derby 138, Smith said, “I’m hoping he can be five or six lengths off the lead with three-eighths of a mile to go. There are some fast horses in here. Trinniberg may be 10 in front.”
Given his deep-closing style and longshot status, Done Talking won’t be one of the buzz horses at this evening’s post position draw.
“I don’t think post position will be a big issue for him like some of the others,” Smith said. “Anywhere in the middle should be OK.”
Smith has seen top young riders of yesteryear venture through Maryland to hit the big time and said that his Derby 138 pilot Sheldon Russell, 24, will be the next. “From Chris McCarron to Kent Desormeaux to Edgar Prado to Ramon Dominguez, I rode them all a lot in Maryland. This kid is doing it the right way. He’s not in a hurry. He’s like Edgar in that regard. When he’s ready for the big time, he’ll go.”
DULLAHAN – No one will accuse Dullahan of loafing this week in the lead-up to the Derby. He bypassed the usual day off following his final workout, and this morning his routine 1 ½ mile gallop included a little extra sizzle. “He had a strong gallop around there this morning and we let him open-it up around the turn and through the lane a little bit,” trainer Dale Romans said. “He’s been training so eager and we’ve been watching him to keep him improving. Today is the best he’s looked out on the racetrack all week. We want him to peak at the right time.”
Clockers did not credit Dullahan with an official “blow-out” work, but Romans said it was a little more than just the meat-and-potatoes gallop under Faustino Aguilar.
Dullahan will school in the paddock on Thursday.
Romans joked that the over/under on the number of questions about Dullhan’s ability to handle the dirt has gone “way over” the number, whatever it was. When asked what the Derby win would mean to a Louisvillian, he replied, “It’s like a guy from Augusta putting on the green jacket (after winning the Masters).”
Three-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Kent Desormeaux will be back aboard after a successful closing journey in the Toyota Blue Grass (GI) at Keeneland.
“He got a great ride (in the Blue Grass),” Romans said. “That’s why we try to ride a Hall of Fame jockey.”
EL PADRINO/GEMOLOGIST – Let’s Go Stable’s El Padrino and WinStar Farm’s Gemologist were sent to the racetrack Wednesday morning after arriving from Palm Meadows Training Center in Boynton Beach, Fla., Tuesday afternoon.
El Padrino with Melvin Hernandez up and Gemologist with Hector Ramos aboard both galloped 1 ¼ miles following the renovation break at Churchill Downs.
“They all shipped in really well,” said trainer Todd Pletcher, who included Broadway’s Alibi, who will run in Friday’s Kentucky Oaks (GI). “They all galloped well over the track today. I’m very pleased.”
Gemologist, who will put an undefeated record in five starts on the line in the Derby, hasn’t quite received the media buzz that usually surrounds unbeaten horses.
“He’s done everything he could possibly do, but part of it might be because the 2-year-old races he ran in weren’t the Breeders’ Cup races. He was a little late in developing. His first stake was in the Jockey Club here.”
After breaking his maiden by Turfway and winning a two-turn allowance at Churchill Downs, Gemologist captured the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) by 1¾ lengths to conclude his juvenile season. After winning an allowance race at Gulfstream by seven lengths, the son of Tiznow posted a game victory by a neck over Alpha in the Wood Memorial (GI) at Aqueduct last time out.
“I think after the Wood, everybody know what he’s about,” Pletcher said.
Returning to Churchill Downs, where Gemologist was victorious twice around two turns, gives Pletcher considerable confidence heading into the Derby.
“It’s enormous. Anytime you’ve had success over this track in the past, it bodes well for the future,” Pletcher said.
Javier Castellano will have the return mount on Gemologist, while Rafael Bejarano will be aboard El Padrino for the first time.
HANSEN – Kendall Hansen and Skychai Racing’s Hansen galloped at his trainer Mike Maker’s home base, the Trackside Training Center, Wednesday morning and was shipped to Churchill Downs later in the morning.
All Kentucky Derby runners are required to be in the grounds at Churchill Downs by Wednesday. Hansen, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile over the track in November, was the last to arrive, at 11:45 a.m.
Skychai Racing partners Dr. Harvey Diamond and James Shircliff, were part of the group that greeted Hansen when he reached Barn 42. Diamond said the Derby really comes into focus once you step on the grounds at Churchill Downs. He said the colt is ready.
“There is pressure and there is stress,” Diamond said. “Pressure is when you have studied well for an exam and you need to do good. Stress is when you haven’t studied, but you still need to do good. We’re feeling the pressure.”
I’LL HAVE ANOTHER – It was a gallop day like any other gallop day for I’ll Have Another – high octane sustained speed. The colt altered the routine just a bit by going into the paddock before heading back to the barn.
Trainer Doug O’Neill remains upbeat about his Santa Anita Derby (GI) winner’s training. O’Neill He talked about the colt’s progression since O’Neill’s brother, Dennis, bought the horse at the 2011 OBS 2-year-old training sale, pointing out that Team O’Neill, including owner J. Paul Reddam were high on the colt from the outset.
Their enthusiasm was rewarded as the son of Flower Alley broke his maiden at first asking and they followed up with a second to fellow Kentucky Derby prospect Creative Cause in his next start, the Grade II Best Pal Stakes at Del Mar.
Following an out-of-the-money finish in Saratoga’s Grade I Hopeful Stakes, the chestnut colt got time off to allow sore shins to heal.
From there, Reddam and the training team plotted the course that has led to a two-for-two record this year and his shot at the Run for the Roses.
“When he broke his maiden in his first race, we all believed we were on to something,” O’Neill said. “He’s turned out to be an absolute pleasure to train. He’s intelligent and he does everything we ask of him. He really enjoys training, and, obviously, that’s a plus.”
Asked if he thought about changing the colt’s training style; his high cruising style while galloping? “Not at all,” he said. “He’s always been like that; a long-striding horse. Our philosophy is let the horses do what’s best for the horse. You can’t train them all alike.”
MY ADONIS – George and Lori Hall’s My Adonis, to be first in line on the Kentucky Derby “Also-Eligible” list when entries are drawn, arrived on the scene shortly after 1 a.m. following a 13-hour van ride from Monmouth Park. Trainer Kelly Breen flew into Louisville and was aboard the Pleasantly Perfect colt for a one-mile jog at 6:30 a.m.
“He felt awesome,” Breen said. “He was on his toes and came back looking good. With the van ride and everything I thought he would be a little bit tired but he got on the track and he knew what was going on right away.
“I haven’t been on him for awhile so for me to be on him today and for him to pull on me like he did was a good feeling. I don’t feel misrepresented by him in any way. He’s a good-looking horse, he’s coming in feeling good, and it’s up to the racing gods now to see if I can race him here.”
Breen and the Halls could be making their third Kentucky Derby in four years. They were here last year with Pants On Fire, who finished ninth, and had two starters in 2009, West Side Bernie (ninth) and Atomic Rain (16th). Of those, Pants On Fire was the most highly regarded, having come off a win in the $1 million Louisiana Derby (GII).
“They’re two totally different animals,” Breen said when asked to compare My Adonis and Pants On Fire. “This guy here is much more laid-back. The other horse is probably a full hand taller than this one, a little bit longer and lankier. This one here, though, has got a lot of heart.”
Breen and the Halls can do little more than wait to see what develops between now and Friday morning, when any defections would have to be announced by in order for the Gotham Stakes (GIII) runner-up to draw in.
“His trip so far has been uneventful,” Breen said. “It’s all been positive for him as far as training; now I just need it to be not-so-positive for one of the other 20.”
OPTIMIZER – Late-running Optimizer will be Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas’ 45th career Derby starter, most of any trainer all-time. But it will be the first run for the roses by a horse owned by Brad Kelley’s Bluegrass Hall LLC. Lukas said his dealings with Kelley have centered around the chance to repeat history.
“He told me ‘You took Calumet back to the top of the heap in the 1980s, can you do it again?’,” Lukas said this morning. “Brad Kelley has got a lot of skin in this game.”
Kelley has been the subject of media reports in the past month that he is the next suitor for the historic Calumet Farm in Lexington, which has been represented by a record eight Derby winners as an owner. The sale has not been finalized to date.
Optimizer galloped 1 ½ miles today after the renovation break and will school in the paddock during race six today.
“The only time I school horses in the paddock is during Derby and Preakness,” Lukas said. “You can’t duplicate that circus with all the drunks, but it does help some.”
Lukas remains realistic about his longshot chances. “It is what it is,” he said. “I know my horse is doing good, but this is the best bunch I’ve seen in a long time. I was out there riding next to some of them today, and let me tell you, this is a hell of a group.”
PROSPECTIVE – The steady-moving Tampa Bay Derby (GII) winner Prospective continued his paces with a 1 ½-mile gallop this morning under exercise rider Juan Bernardini. Trainer Mark Casse looked on and commented that the sultry morning temperatures and pending forecast could play a factor in Saturday’s Derby.
“It’s hot out here today,” Casse said. “A lot of horses got hot today, but not this one. He’s a cool cucumber. The hot weather may be to our advantage. There are some hot-headed horses in this field that it could hurt. My horse stays calm and cool.”
Casse indicated that the reason they opted for the Toyota Blue Grass (GI) on Polytrack vs. the Wood Memorial (GI) on dirt for Prospective’s final prep was about logistics and necessity.
“If we thought we needed the earnings, we would have gone to the ($1 million) Wood Memorial,” he said. “The question Mr. Oxley said to me is, ‘How do we get to the Derby and be at our very best?’ That was very easy with the Blue Grass so close by.”
ROUSING SERMON – Rousing Sermon, owned by breeders Mr. and Mrs. Larry D. Williams and trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, walked the shedrow Wednesday following a five-furlong workout Tuesday.
The Idaho natives, who own Tree Top Ranches in Parma, Idaho, about 40 miles west of the capital city of Boise, were at the barn Wednesday to watch their first Kentucky Derby horse. The California-bred colt comes to the Derby from a third-place finish in the $1-million Louisiana Derby (GII) at Fair Grounds.
Hollendorfer, still in search of his first Kentucky Derby victory but three-time winner of the Kentucky Oaks, said the colt followed his walking stint with some grazing in the grassy area outside the barn.
The colt will school in the paddock during Wednesday’s race day, according to Christina Jelm of Midway, Ky., who has been helping Hollendorfer with Rousing Sermon’s training.
“Everything is going well,” Hollendorfer said Wednesday morning. “No problems so far.”
As for Wednesday’s post position draw, Hollendorfer said, “I’m not real concerned about that, but I’m not keen on an inside draw.”
Hollendorfer’s victories in the Oaks came with Lite Light in 1991, Pike Place Dancer in 1996 and Blind Luck in 2010.
TAKE CHARGE INDY – With his owners, Chuck and Maribeth Sandford, watching from the bleachers along the backstretch at Churchill Downs, Take Charge Indy galloped 1 5/8 miles under jockey Calvin Borel Wednesday during his first visit to the track this year.
The A.P. Indy colt was flown to Louisville from West Palm Beach, Fla., on Tuesday. Trainer Pat Byrne said the trip was uneventful.
Byrne said his Florida Derby (G1) winner is ready for the race and his versatility will allow him to react and adjust to how the race is being run.
“Everyone knows there is going to be a lot of speed and Calvin can put his horse wherever he wants to be put,” Byrne said. “Hopefully he will have a clean break and won’t get knocked around. That’s what makes the Derby the Derby. It’s 20 horses, everybody is vying for position early.
“I think he’ll break sharp. He’s a good gate horse. Hopefully, he’ll get position early. By saying that, I don’t mean on the lead. But if they want to go and throw a couple of :11s in early, he’ll sit back and go in maybe :12 and change four or five lengths off the pace. It all depends on the pace scenario.”
Byrne said he’s prepared the colt and Borel will have to make the decisions once the gate opens.
“It’s all up to the jock. I’ve done my bit,” he said. “We’ll train him here up to Friday. Calvin wants to get on him. We’ll ride him around the shedrow early Saturday morning, just because he asks to get the tack on him. It’s up to Calvin. Calvin has won three of these. This is my first time here. I’m not going to tell him how to ride the race.”
Byrne said that Take Charge Indy is ready for his assignment Saturday in America’s biggest race.
“We couldn’t be any happier with him,” Byrne said. “The horse is doing fantastic. I wouldn’t trade him for any other horse in the race.”
TRINNIBERG – Shivananda Parbhoo’s Trinniberg galloped two miles under exercise rider Sabastian Garcia Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs.
An unseasonably warm morning and forecasts for very warm temperatures on Saturday were of no concern for the connections of the South Florida-based Kentucky Derby entrant.
“It doesn’t bother him. It won’t be an issue. If it were 100 degrees it wouldn’t bother him. We have 100-degree days in South Florida, and still they go and race,” Parbhoo said. “It’s no problem. I don’t worry about him. He went straight for the feed bucket today, so that’s good.”
Trinniberg, who has won the Swale (GIII) at Gulfstream and the Bay Shore (GIII) at Aqueduct this year, will be ridden by Willie Martinez on Saturday.
UNION RAGS – Chadds Ford Stable’s Union Rags stood in the starting gate before galloping 1½ miles at Churchill Downs Wednesday morning. The colt’s owner and breeder Phyllis Wyeth, who arrived by flight from Pennsylvania Tuesday, was on hand for the daily exercise.
“She told me the other day she got on the plane to come down here and she cried,” said trainer Michael Matz, noting how much happiness Union Rags’ participation in the Derby is giving to his owner.
Union Rags is coming off a third-place finish as the 2-5 favorite in the Florida Derby (GI), in which he was trapped behind and between horses and lacked running room until the deep stretch. Although Matz has been critical of the ride by Julien Leparoux, he didn’t make a big issue of it with Union Rags’ jockey following the disappointing result at Gulfstream.
“I’ve never ridden a race in my life, so who am I to say, ‘He should have done this,” Matz said. “It’s easy in hindsight for people to say, ‘You should have done this; You should have done that.’ I think he felt the same way, so for me to beat him up, what good would that do?”
Leparoux, who rode Union Rags for a four-length victory in the Fountain of Youth (GII) prior to the Florida Derby, has the return mount for the Derby.
WENT THE DAY WELL – Team Valor International and Mark Ford’s Went the Day Well schooled in the starting gate with blinkers on before galloping 1 ¾ miles under exercise rider Zeke Castro Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs.
Trainer Graham Motion saddled Animal Kingdom for a victory in the Kentucky Derby last year, but his first success in the Run for the Roses is hardly a fading memory.
“The year’s gone by very quickly. It just seems like we’re back awfully quick. I don’t know why, but it’s good to be back,” Motion said.
The past year has been a whirlwind for Motion, and one during which he has become an active participant in major stakes.
“Professionally, it’s been the most successful year of my life. It’s been very satisfying. There’s been a lot of attention on us, which is something I’m not familiar with and something I try to stay away from. But generally it’s been mostly positive,” Motion said.
Went the Day Well, a New York-bred who raced in Europe last year, has run three times this year, including a maiden score at Gulfstream on March 3 and a 3 ½-length triumph in the Vinery Racing Spiral (GIII) at Turfway Park on March 24.
“He’s somewhat of an immature horse. I feel like he’s still maturing and he’s got a ways to go, but he’s getting there. It’s very similar to last year with Animal Kingdom,” said Motion, who saddled Animal Kingdom for a victory in the Spiral prior to his Derby triumph.
“It’s very different having won it. I’m probably more relaxed about it than I was last year, having won it. It’s definitely a different feeling,” said Motion, noting that his desire to win the Derby “has not been tarnished.”
John Velazquez, who was aboard for Animal Kingdom’s Derby win, has the mount aboard Went the Day Well.
Churchill Downs, the world’s most legendary racetrack, has conducted Thoroughbred racing and presented America’s greatest race, the Kentucky Derby, continuously since 1875. Located in Louisville, the flagship racetrack of Churchill Downs Incorporated (NASDAQ: CHDN) also operates Trackside at Churchill Downs, which offers year-round simulcast wagering at the historic track. Churchill Downs will conduct the 138th running of the Kentucky Derby on May 5, 2012, and its Spring Meet is scheduled for April 28-July 1. The track has hosted the Breeders’ Cup World Championships a record eight times. Information about Churchill Downs can be found on the Internet at www.churchilldowns.com.