Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) winner American Pharoah and third-place finisher Dortmund returned to the track Thursday for the first time since Saturday’s Run for the Roses.
Going to the track in trainer Bob Baffert’s second set at 6:15 on a warm Kentucky morning, Zayat Stables’ American Pharoah was first on the track with regular morning partner Jorge Alvarez aboard. Following right behind was Kaleem Shah’s Dortmund with Dana Barnes in the saddle.
The two colts jogged once around the track.
“Everything is good here. Everybody is happy,” said Jimmy Barnes, assistant to Baffert.
Baffert is scheduled to return to Louisville from his Southern California base late Sunday.
Coming out to the track a little more than a half-hour later was Arnold Zetcher’s Firing Line, the Kentucky Derby runner-up. With regular exercise rider Humberto Gomez aboard, Firing Line jogged around to the front of the grandstand where he stood for 10 minutes and then jogged a bit more alongside Perfect Drift, the 16-year-old who finished third behind War Emblem in the 2002 Kentucky Derby.
Trained by Simon Callaghan, Firing Line is scheduled to resume galloping Friday morning.
Gomez, who was part of trainer Doug O’Neill’s team with I’ll Have Another for the 2012 Kentucky Derby, has been getting on Firing Line for a little more than a month.
“He was good this morning, a lot of energy and feeling good,” Gomez said. “He has a lot of confidence in himself. He is so professional. He is the kind of horse that makes you look good.
"He stood on the front side for 10 minutes with horses jumping all around him and he didn’t pay any attention to them. He has held his weight since the Derby and (assistant trainer) Carlos (Santamaria) says he is eating good.”
John Oxley’s Danzig Moon, fifth-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby, galloped a mile early Thursday morning under William Cano. Norman Casse, assistant to his father trainer Mark Casse, said, “No decision (has been made on the Preakness). It hasn’t been talked about.”
MR. Z ‘PROBABLE’ FOR PREAKNESS; TALE OF VERVE POSSIBLE – Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said “we are probable” for the Preakness with Zayat Stables’ Mr. Z, the 13th-place finisher in the Kentucky Derby.
“Mr. (Ahmed) Zayat is going to evaluate the field and the quality of it, but I would say we are probable,” said Lukas, a six-time winner of the Preakness. “The horse is doing really well. He came out of the race beautifully and we will read him throughout the week.”
Mr. Z galloped early Thursday morning with regular exercise rider Edvin Vargas aboard.
Meanwhile, trainer Dallas Stewart said he is thinking about a Preakness bid for Charles Fipke’s homebred Tale of Verve, who was entered in the Kentucky Derby but did not draw into the race from the also-eligible list.
Tale of Verve broke his maiden going 1 3/16 miles in his most recent start at Keeneland on April 23.
“He had a perfect setup for the Derby (with the win at Keeneland),” Stewart said. “What a coup that would have been. We wanted to run. I thought he would have run well. He had been training well here with two five-eighths works in :59 and change before that.”
Tale of Verve worked five furlongs in 1:01.20 here Monday and is slated for another breeze Sunday or Monday.
“He is a come-from-behind horse; a big good-looking horse like (2014 Derby runner-up) Commanding Curve,” Stewart said. “I think the Belmont may be better for him but he needs to run before then. He may run in the Preakness. I’ll talk it over with the owner.”
Stewart also said that Lemon Drop Title, a maiden winner at Churchill Downs last week, is under consideration for the $100,000 Sir Barton on May 16 at Pimlico going 1 1/16 miles.
FREE AS A BIRD SET TO FLY IN SATURDAY’S UNBRIDLED SIDNEY – Elizabeth J. Valando’s homebred mare Free as a Bird is entered for Saturday’s featured event, the Unbridled Sidney as the 2-1 morning-line favorite.
In her most recent start, the daughter of Hard Spun ran fourth in the Giant’s Causeway at Keeneland that put an end to her six-race winning streak. She worked a bullet last Saturday over the main track at Churchill Downs breezing four furlongs in 46.80.
Trainer Ian Wilkes says that his mare is coming into Saturday’s race in good order and that he believes her last race may have come up a little too quickly.
“She’s doing good,” Wilkes said. “The race before probably took a little too much out of her and I think I may have ran her back too quickly. Hindsight is easy; I’m a genius after the race. I probably should have waited, skipped that race (at Keeneland) and waited until the next one.”
Before losing last time out, Free as a Bird made her 2015 debut in the Captiva Island Handicap at Gulfstream Park in March. She will be facing a field of nine other fillies and mares, including four opponents from her most recent outing. Katie’s Eyes, Fioretti, Gal About Town and Richies Party Girl who ran against Free as a Bird in the Giant’s Causeway, also are entered in Saturday’s five-furlong test on the Matt Winn Turf Course.
Wilkes is planning on sending two horses to Pimlico to race Preakness Stakes weekend, which will feature 14 other stakes races outside of the middle jewel of the Triple Crown.
Randal L. Bloch, Phil Milner and Six Column LLC’s homebred gelding Senor Grits is scheduled to compete in the Chick Lang on the Preakness undercard, and his filly Sweetgrass will make her stakes debut in the Black-Eyed Susan (GII) the day before.
Last time out, Senor Grits, a son of Elusive Quality, ran a close second behind Bill and Corinne Heiligbrodt’s Cinco Charlie in the William Walker Stakes on Opening Night. Wilkes expects the horse to run a big race next Saturday.
“He’s a very talented colt, I expected him to run good,” Wilkes said. “He’s actually improved and gotten better and better with more races and he’s had six starts.”
In four starts, Sweetgrass never has made a start against stakes company, but will see her first start against such competition in the Black-Eyed Susan, the feature race run the day before the Preakness. Wilkes says that he is very pleased with how the daughter of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense has been doing and that he thinks she will do well stretching out. Last time out, she won an allowance race at Keeneland going seven furlongs.
“The race would be a good test for her, and I think she wants to go long,” he said. “I think that it is a good spot for her. I want to see if she belongs with the good horses because it will be a step up. The Black-Eyed Susan will be no pushover. It’s going to be a tough race.”
AFTER HUGE DERBY WEEKEND, TEAM CASSE LOOKS TOWARD BIG SUMMER – Team Casse enjoyed a successful Kentucky Derby weekend with their stakes horses, headlined by Tepin who scored a victory in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile (GII).
The Casse stable also ran second with Noble Bird in the Alysheba (GII) and was beaten a nose in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI) with Sky Captain, who was then disqualified to fourth because of interference in the stretch.
Norman Casse, who oversees his father Mark Casse’s string of horses at Churchill Downs, says that he is looking to send the trio of horses to Belmont Park to compete on the Belmont Stakes undercard.
Tepin, who beat a loaded field in the Churchill Distaff Turf Mile that included seven graded stakes winners, possibly will make her next start in the Just A Game (GI) on the Belmont Stakes undercard.
“We’ve really had an eye on her from Day One so it’s really rewarding for her to run that way on Derby Day,” Casse said. “We’ll look at possibly running her on Belmont day.”
The daughter of Bernstein is a graded stakes winner on two surfaces. As a 2-year-old, she won the Delta Downs Princess (GIII) on dirt.
Casse also spoke highly of Sky Capitan who suffered a tough loss losing a photo finish in the Woodford Reserve to Finnegans Wake.
"I think he showed that he belongs with Grade I horses across the country so we’ll probably look at the Manhattan for him next,” he said.
John Oxley’s Noble Bird, beaten just a head by Protonico in the Alysheba, is possible for the Met Mile on the Belmont Stakes undercard. Casse said that the Stephen Foster (GI) run at Churchill Downs June 13 also is an option for the son of Birdstone.
“This is exciting for us because we have a lot of good older horses this year,” Casse said.
BARN TALK – Nominations close Saturday for two Memorial Day weekend stakes – the $100,000 Louisville Handicap (GIII) on May 23 and the $100,000 Winning Colors (GIII) on May 25. The Louisville Handicap is for older horses going 1 ½ miles on the Matt Winn Turf Course and the Winning Colors, named for the 1988 Kentucky Derby winner, is for fillies and mares going six furlongs on the main track.