Mr and Mrs William Warren’s Denis of Cork tuned up for a run at unbeaten Triple Crown contender Big Brown in the June 7 Belmont Stakes (Grade I) with a strong five-furlong workout on Monday at Churchill Downs.
Jockey Robby Albarado was in the irons as the 3-year-old son of Harlan’s Holiday, who finished a late-running third to unbeaten Triple Crown candidate Big Brown in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI), zipped the five-furlong distance over a “fast” track in :59.80. Denis of Cork galloped out six furlongs in 1:13. The move by trainer David Carroll’s colt ranked as third-fastest 21 on the day.
“He’s training beautifully,” said Carroll. “For two weeks after the Derby it just took him a little bit of time to get back on his feet and get his energy back, but the last week he’s training beautifully. He had a good work last week, but this week we wanted a bit more from him. I just told Robby to let him go off ‘twelves’ and let him finish up and gallop out, and he did everything beautifully.”
The work marked the first time that Albarado had been in the saddle aboard Denis of Cork since the colt’s victory in the Southwest Stakes (GIII) at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 18. Albarado, who is the leading rider of the Spring Meet and bidding for his first “leading jockey” title at Churchill Downs, will ride Denis of Cork in the 1 ½-mile Belmont after Calvin Borel had been in the saddle for his third-place run in the Derby.
“He went really well, I thought it was a great work for him,” said Albarado. “It was a nice, long maintenance work. He went fast, too, and was within himself. I’m excited about him and it sets him up great for the Belmont.”
Albarado has won nine Grade I races at Belmont Park, but just missed in his bid for his first Belmont win last year when rode eventual “Horse of the Year” and 3-year-old champion Curlin to a close runner-up finish to champion filly Rags to Riches. He was impressed by the development of Denis of Cork since his Southwest victory.
“He’s matured a lot and gotten a lot stronger,” Albarado said. “He must have a big set of lungs on him because he gallops out really well and he refuses to pull-up. I mean he just wants to keep going and going. So I think the mile-and-a-half (of the Belmont) is going to be conducive to his style.”
Denis of Cork is scheduled for a final pre-Belmont breeze next Monday, and he will board a flight for New York and Belmont Park on the following day. Albarado is anxious to get another shot at Big Brown in the final jewel of the Triple Crown.
“It’s a tall order against Big Brown,” said Albarado. “We’ve all seen how impressive he was in the first two legs in the Derby and the Preakness, but they become vulnerable in that Belmont for some reason. It’s a totally new dimension at a mile-and-a-half and a new set of fresh horses going at him. I’m not going to count Denis of Cork out. We’ve got a big chance and I’m going to ride him with a chance.”
Denis of Cork will be looking to snap a two-race losing streak in the Belmont. He won his first three career starts, faltered in a fifth-place finish in the $500,000 Illinois Derby (GII) at Hawthorne, and then rebounded with his strong run to gain third in the Kentucky Derby.
‘HORSE OF THE YEAR’ CURLIN SHARP IN SIX-FURLONG WORK – Stonestreet Stables and Midnight Cry Stables’ Curlin, the reigning “Horse of the Year” and winner of the $6 million Dubai World Cup (GI) on March 29, continued to train toward his return to competition with a strong six-furlong work on Monday at Churchill Downs.
The 4-year-old son of Smart Strike, who worked in company with 4-year-old stakes veteran Forty Grams, finished on even terms with his workmate and covered the distance under exercise rider Carlos Rosas over a “fast” track in 1:12.20. His workmate turned in the same clocking for the distance.
The two works by the Asmussen trainees were the only six-furlong moves on the Monday morning work tab.
It was the fourth published work for trainer Steve Asmussen’s colt since he returned to serious training with an easy half-mile move on May 5. Asmussen was at Churchill Downs to watch the work, and then boarded a flight to Texas to saddle his stable’s multiple entries on Lone Star Million Day at Lone Star Park.
“I think he went well,” said Asmussen. “He wasn’t as smooth as he is when he’s perfect, but he went really well.”
The $750,000-added Stephen Foster Handicap (GI) on June 14 at Churchill Downs has been mentioned by Stonestreet Stable’s Jess Jackson as the likely next start for Curlin, but that is not yet the colt’s definite target.
Curlin has a record of 8-1-2 in 11 races that also includes victories in last year’s $5 million Breeders’ Cup Classic Powered by Dodge (GI) and the Preakness (GI). He has earned $8,807,800.
Several of Asmussen’s stars worked on Monday at Churchill Downs. Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Pyro, winner of the Louisiana Derby (GIII) and a disappointing 8th in the Kentucky Derby, breezed five furlongs in 1:03.60. He breezed in company with Canadian 2-year-old champion Kodiak Kowboy, a Grade III winner in the Bashford Manor and Saratoga Special, who covered the distance in the same time. Pyro is scheduled to run next in the $175,000 Northern Dancer (GIII) on June 14 at Churchill Downs.
Zayat Stables’ Z Fortune, winner of the Lecomte (GIII) at Fair Grounds and 10th in the Kentucky Derby, breezed four furlongs in :50.40.
Fantasy (GII) runner-up Alina breezed four furlongs in :50 in preparation for Saturday’s $100,000-added Dogwood (GIII) at Churchill Downs, while Churchill Downs (GII) runner-up and Mr. Prospector (GIII) winner Noonmark breezed a half-mile in :49.20 in a prep for Saturday’s $125,000-added Aristides Handicap (GIII).
BARN TALK – Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider’s Lattice, winner of Saturday’s 71st running of the $150,000-added Louisville Handicap (GIII), will make his next start in the $175,000-guaranteed Stars & Stripes (GIII) at 1 ½ miles on turf on July 4 at Arlington Park. The Louisville Handicap win by Lattice was his first attempt at the 12-furlong distance and trainer Al Stall Jr. said the 4-year-old son of Arch came out of the race well and the Stars & Stripes was a logical spot for the colt. Lattice and the other horses trained by Stall for Claiborne are stabled at Keeneland and train over the Polytrack surface at the Lexington track. … Trainer John Glenney said Louisville Handicap runner-up Transduction Gold came out of the race well. Glenney was not sure where Transduction Gold would run next, but he said he could look for a 1 1/8-mile allowance race later in the Spring Meet for the 5-year-old son of Formal Gold who was an upset winner of Keeneland’s Sycamore (GIII) in 2007. … Steve Asmussen won Sunday’s 10th race with Stonestreet Stable’s Knock Out Cat to edge closer to leader Ken McPeek in the race for leading trainer of the Spring Meet. McPeek leads Asmussen 16-13 heading into Monday’s Memorial Day holiday racing program. Tom Amoss is third in the standings with 12 victories. … Robby Albarado maintained a narrow edge over Julien Leparoux in the battle for “leading jockey” honors during the 52 day meet. Albarado led Leparoux 27-26 heading into Monday’s racing. Just behind the top pair were Miguel Mena (23 wins), Shaun Bridgmohan (22) and Calvin Borel (21).
WORK TAB (Track: FAST) – Razorback Handicap (GIII) winner Jonesboro breezed five furlongs in :59.60, the second-fastest of move of 21 works at the distance. … Acoma, a 3-year-old daughter of Empire Maker and winner of two of three starts for trainer David Carroll, breezed five furlongs in 1:04.
Through Sunday, May 25
Jockeys Starts 1-2-3
Robby Albarado 105 27-11-12
Julien Leparoux 149 26-26-27
Miguel Mena 145 23-20-21
Shaun Bridgmohan 99 22-19-12
Calvin Borel 157 21-21-24
Jesus Castanon 113 15-11-11
Jamie Theriot 96 10-12-9
Brian Hernandez, Jr. 75 7-12-8
Elvis Trujillo 27 7-4-6
Corey Lanerie 87 6-15-7
John McKee 64 6-10-10
Larry Sterling, Jr. 41 6-5-7
Kent Desormeaux 31 5-8-6
Tracy Hebert 56 5-3-5
Ken McPeek 37 16-5-4
Steve Asmussen 55 13-10-10
Tom Amoss 36 12-6-5
Mike Maker 26 8-4-2
Ian Wilkes 21 7-5-3
Dale Romans 58 6-13-9
Greg Foley 38 6-7-4
Five (5) trainers tied with five (5) wins
Ken and Sarah Ramsey 25 8-3-4
Zayat Stables, LLC 26 5-5-5
Maggi Moss 14 5-2-3
Richard, Elaine & Bert Klein 18 4-4-1
Padua Stables 6 4-1-0
Heiligbrodt Racing Stable 7 4-0-0
Four (4) owners tied with three (3) wins