Keep tabs on your favorite Kentucky Derby 135 contender through Churchill Downs, as we offer daily updates on the training, workouts, and preparations of all the Derby hopefuls!
ADVICE / DUNKIRK / JOIN IN THE DANCE – At Churchill Downs, assistant trainer Mike McCarthy had two of trainer Todd Pletcher’s candidates for the 135th Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) out for exercise early on a beautiful morning beneath the Twin Spires.
With the first set, shortly after the track opened at 6 a.m., Join in the Dance and exercise rider Kevin Willey took a mile and three-eighths tour of oval, galloping along in the dark with only a few other Thoroughbreds joining them on the mile oval.
At about 6:30, Willey switched tack to Advice and took him roughly the same distance. They had more company on the big strip for their leg-stretching just as daylight began to arrive on the scene.
Pletcher was scheduled to fly from Florida on Sunday and oversee Derby preparations for Join in the Dance and Advice, which will include works for each on Monday. Advice is slated to work a half-mile and Join in the Dance will breeze five furlongs.
Meanwhile, at Palm Meadows training center in Florida, another Pletcher charge – this one being the $3.7 million dollar yearling sales purchase Dunkirk – went back to the track for a light jog following his five-furlong drill in 1:01.05 on Saturday.
“He came out of that work in great shape,” Pletcher said. “His energy level was good this morning and we’re pleased with where he is.”
Dunkirk will ship to Louisville by air Monday.
Pletcher also will work Take the Points five furlongs after the break Monday. The Even the Score colt has $85,000 in graded stakes earnings and would need a couple of defections from the list of Kentucky Derby probables to secure a starting gate slot.
CHOCOLATE CANDY – Chocolate Candy ambled to the racetrack Sunday morning at 7 o’clock under exercise rider Lindsey Molina, stopping along the way to take in the scene, eyes bright and ears pricking.
“He’ll get there, one of these days,” stable overseer Galen May said with a smile, knowing that his big, easy-going son of Candy Ride liked to take his time about going about his business.
Chocolate Candy did, in fact, make it to the track in fairly short order and go for a good gallop of a mile and a half. Molina nodded when he walked off into the six-furlong gap. “He’s doing good,” she said.
May noted that trainer Jerry Hollendorfer would be in from his Northern California headquarters later Sunday and would no doubt be at the barn early Monday morning to call the shots for Chocolate Candy’s final major work heading toward Kentucky Derby 135 on Saturday.
“He’ll probably go out early,” May said. “Jerry likes to get things done as soon as he can.”
May, who for 31 years ran the testing barns at the Northern California tracks before “retiring” in 2003 and signing on as Hollendorfer’s “head traveling lad,” noted that this was his fourth trip to the Derby in that role.
“Eye of the Tiger (fifth in 2003) was my best finish so far,” May said. “But this colt – he’s special. He might be able to do better."
DESERT PARTY / REGAL RANSOM – The Godolphin duo of Regal Ransom and Desert Party walked the shedrow at Barn 41 a day after putting in five-furlong works.
Henry Spiller, an assistant to trainer Saeed bin Suroor, said both colts came out of their works well and would return to the track to jog in the morning with Regal Ransom going out first at 6 o’clock and followed soon after by Desert Party.
The duo posted the fastest works of 30 at the distance on Saturday with Regal Ransom going in :59.20 and Desert Party in :59.60. Exercise rider Bob Chapman handled both works.
Both colts broke their maidens in their first attempts with Regal Ransom debuting at Saratoga and Desert Party at Arlington Park. Alan Garcia, who rode Regal Ransom in his first two starts and partnered him again to victory in the UAE Derby (Grade II), has the Derby riding assignment on that colt. Ramon Dominguez will get a leg up for the first time on Desert Party in Derby 135.
FLAT OUT – Oxbow Racing’s Flat Out has been injured and is off the Kentucky Derby trail.
Trainer Charles “Scooter” Dickey said a precautionary exam performed at Lexington’s Hagyard-Davidson-McGee Equine Clinic on Saturday revealed a stress fracture in the colt’s shoulder. Flat Out, winner of the Smarty Jones Stakes this January at Oaklawn Park, will be sidelined “about four months,” Dickey said.
Flat Out stood 22nd on the graded earnings list and would’ve needed a couple of defections to make the field for Derby 135.
FLYING PRIVATE – Robert Baker and William Mack’s Flying Private galloped under exercise rider Taylor Carty.
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who has enlisted the services of Robby Albarado for Kentucky Derby 135, said Flying Private will work “Monday or Tuesday.”
FRIESAN FIRE – Vinery Stables and Fox Hill Farm’s Friesan Fire galloped a mile and a half under trainer Larry Jones after the renovation break.
Jones plans to work Friesan Fire five furlongs on Monday after the renovation break with jockey Gabriel Saez up.
“We just want him to go out and come back good,” Jones said when asked what he was looking for on Monday. “I’d just like to see him get over the track without a lot of effort.”
Friesan Fire will work in blinkers in the morning.
“He’s looking around now and the last two days he has not been focused,” Jones said. “Hopefully the blinkers will help.”
Friesan Fire’s final works before his three races at Fair Grounds this year ran the gamut, but the end result was always the same: a stakes victory.
“His work before the LeComte (:48.60 for a half, second-best of 69) was the first time Gabe got on him,” Jones said. “Before the Risen Star (1:04.40 for five furlongs), people thought it was too slow and before the Louisiana derby (:58.20 for five furlongs), people thought it was too fast.”
Jones is following a similar pattern with Friesan Fire as he did two years ago with Hard Spun, who would finish second to Street Sense in Derby 133. Hard Spun worked a mile at Keeneland in 1:42.40 on April 23 before shipping to Churchill Downs and then worked five furlongs in :57.60 on April 30. Friesan Fire worked a mile in 1:39.60 at Keeneland on April 19.
“I think he’ll work well, but not like Hard Spun did,” Jones said. “They are different types of horses. I just don’t want him going in 1:04 after seven weeks off.”
Immediately after the Friesan Fire work tomorrow, Jones and Saez will return to the track to work Kodiak Kowboy for Vinery and Fox Hill. Winner of the Grade I Carter in his most recent start on April 4, Kodiak is being pointed to Saturday’s $250,000 Churchill Downs (Grade II) at seven furlongs.
GENERAL QUARTERS – Former Louisville high school principal Tom McCarthy, owner/trainer of this year’s Toyota Blue Grass (Grade I) winner, did not hand out any demerits or discipline Sunday, but rather waited patiently for exercise rider Julie Sheets to arrive at Barn 37. General Quarters, however, was not as patient, pulling McCarthy’s son, Tom, around the barn with high energy and eventually going back into his stall before teaming with Sheets and heading to the track.
General Quarters showed much more spark than in recent days, but relaxed nicely as he was hand led to the track by the elder McCarthy. Once into his 1 ½-mile gallop, it was clear that the son of Sky Mesa was feeling fresh. Said McCarthy as his colt cruised by, “He’s full of himself today. Easy Julie!”
“We only gave him a lackadaisical five-eighths work to keep some fire in the tank,” McCarthy said trackside, referring to last week’s workout, which was intended to be the horse’s last before the Derby. “Apparently, there’s plenty of gas still in there.”
If General Quarters remains this fresh, McCarthy said that he could give the colt a blowout later this week “if we need to take the edge off.”
Julien Leparoux will have the mount in the Derby. His first time getting a leg up on General Quarters will be when they call for “riders up.”
“That’s nothing new,” McCarthy said. “Julien rides a lot of horses that way. We’ll go over a few things right before the race.”
HOLD ME BACK – WinStar Farm’s Hold Me Back closed out his serious training for Kentucky Derby 135 by working five furlongs in company in 1:01.60 under three-time Kentucky Derby-winning rider Kent Desormeaux.
Working before 7 a.m., Hold Me Back reeled off fractions of :13,:25.20, :37.20 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.80 while working in company with Flying Warrior. The move was the 13th-fastest of 24 at the distance over a track rated as “fast.”
Hold Me Back broke off about a length and half behind Flying Warrior at the five-eighths pole, caught up to his workmate at the head of the stretch and moved by before the eighth pole.
“I thought the work was very good,” trainer Bill Mott said. “He was under a hold the whole way and finished well on his own. He appeared to handle the track very well and that is a good sign. Kent said he still wanted to gallop out after a mile.”
Hold Me Back’s lone race on a dirt track resulted in a fifth-place finish in the Grade II Remsen at Aqueduct to close out his 2-year-old campaign.
“He had trained well there, but he just didn’t show up that day,” Mott said. “He was immature at the time and I am willing to give him the benefit of doubt. He trained well on dirt before and has since.”
I WANT REVENGE – Wood Memorial (Grade I) winner I Want Revenge stayed on edge with a two-mile open gallop around the fast main track Sunday morning. Regular exercise rider Joe Deegan was aboard. I Want Revenge was scheduled to school in the paddock before the first race Sunday.
“He went really well this morning,” said trainer Jeff Mullins, who arrived on the Derby scene Saturday night from California. “We plan to breeze him on Tuesday, either a half or five-eighths, I haven’t decided yet.”
The colt by Stephen Got Even, who will be one of the favorites on Saturday, has breezed the last two Tuesdays at Churchill Downs, getting a half-mile in :50 flat on April 14, and five furlongs in 1:01.60 on April 21.
I Want Revenge, owned by the partnership of David Lanzman, IEAH Stables, Charles Winner and Puglisi Racing, has won his past two starts, the Grade III Gotham and Wood Memorial at Aqueduct. Joe Talamo, who has been aboard in all the colt’s victories, has the mount Saturday.
MINE THAT BIRD – With his final major Kentucky Derby 135 workout looming Monday morning, Mine That Bird turned in an easy 1 ¾ miles Sunday, jogging a quarter-mile and “loping about a mile and a half,” trainer Chip Woolley said. Mine That Bird, last year’s Sovereign Award winner as Canada’s top juvenile colt, is scheduled to work at 8:50 a.m., but that time could be pushed back a few minutes given the busy schedule of jockey Calvin Borel.
“He’s working the big mare (Oaks favorite Rachel Alexandra) at 8:30 and then my horse at 8:50,” Woolley said. “We’ll work five-eighths and I want to see him finish. I’d like to see something in about a minute-and-one (fifth); something that won’t kill him, but show he’s sharp. The main part of the work I want to see is how he does down the lane.”
Woolley is among a sizable list of Kentucky Derby rookie trainers this year, but they follow great company in recent history. Five of the past six Derbies have been won by trainers making their debut in the race (Barclay Tagg, John Servis, John Shirreffs, Michael Matz and Rick Dutrow).
MR. HOT STUFF – WinStar Farm’s Mr. Hot Stuff worked five furlongs in 1:00.40 over the synthetic Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita on Sunday morning and will board an airplane for Churchill Downs on Monday with Kentucky Derby plans on his agenda.
Trainer Eoin Harty oversaw his charge’s drill in California and termed it “a nice, easy move.”
“We didn’t ask him to do too much today,” the transplanted Irishman said. “He just went about it in good fashion and finished up well. He’ll fly tomorrow.”
The brother to Colonel John, the sixth-place finisher in the 2008 Kentucky Derby, will be stabled in Barn 41.
Harty, who was flying to Louisville himself Sunday, said rider plans still have not been finalized for Mr. Hot Stuff.
“We’re still working on it,” he said. “We’ll have one by Wednesday morning.”
Entries for Kentucky Derby 135 will close at 10 a.m. on Wednesday with the order of post position selection starting at 12:04 p.m. and the actual post position selections beginning at 12:15 p.m.
MUSKET MAN – The day after working five furlongs in 1:01.60, Musket Man had an easy morning Sunday, walking under the Barn 41 shedrow.
Trainer Derek Ryan said he will bring Musket Man up to the Derby with daily gallops, and has scheduled a session at the gate for Wednesday.
This is the first Derby for Ryan, who trains primarily at Monmouth Park in New Jersey during the summer and Tampa Bay Downs in the winter. Musket Man came into prominence by winning the Pasco Stakes and Tampa Bay Derby (Grade III) this winter, and then added to his resume by taking the Illinois Derby (Grade II) at Hawthorne in his most recent start on April 4. The colt has won five of six career starts.
This will be the third Derby mount for jockey Eibar Coa, who finished fifth on Eye Of The Tiger in 2004, and fourth on Tale of Ekati last year.
Eric Fein, who owns the horse in partnership with Vic Carlson, has a starter in the Derby for the second straight year. He made the big show last year with Big Truck, who finished 18th.
PAPA CLEM – No news was good news around the barn of the Arkansas Derby (Grade II) winner, one day after he worked seven furlongs in 1:29.20. The Gary Stute trainee was given an easy morning walking the shedrow and is scheduled to walk for a second straight day Monday before returning to the track Tuesday.
Rafael Bejarano will ride Papa Clem on Saturday in search of his first Derby score. A leading jockey in California and Kentucky, Bejarano’s best Triple Crown race finish was his second-place run aboard Andromeda’s Hero in the 2005 Belmont Stakes.
PIONEEROF THE NILE – Santa Anita Derby (Grade I) winner Pioneerof the Nile was out early on the racetrack Sunday for a mile and a half gallop under exercise rider George Alvarez.
“He went good,” Alvarez said enthusiastically afterward. “He’s doing really well. He couldn’t be doing any better. I gallop him in California, too, and this is the best he’s felt."
Pioneerof the Nile, an Empire Maker colt, will partner with two-time Eclipse Award winner Garrett Gomez in Derby 135 and is scheduled for his final major breeze Monday morning.
QUALITY ROAD – “Tinges” of blood appeared twice on the pesky right-front quarter crack of potential Kentucky Derby favorite Quality Road on Sunday morning as trainer Jimmy Jerkens, hoof specialist Ian McKinlay and owner Edward Evans continue to race against the clock. All in all, it was an eventful Belmont Park morning for the Florida Derby (Grade I) winner, who galloped 1 ¾ miles after McKinlay outfitted him with an acrylic patch and drain.
After galloping sound and going over the ground well under exercise rider Juan Moreno, Quality Road returned to the Jerkens barn with a “tinge” of blood seeping from the newly patched quarter crack.
“Everything had been stabilized,” McKinlay said. “When I changed the wires today, the crack opened up a bit during the process. A bit of sensitive tissue was aggravated. Hopefully tomorrow when he breezes there won’t be a tinge of blood.”
The Quality Road camp will press on toward Monday’s scheduled workout over the Belmont training track. If the son of Elusive Quality is to travel to Churchill Downs on Tuesday and be entered in the Run for the Roses on Wednesday, he’ll have to pass Monday’s 9:20 a.m. test with flying colors. The six-furlong breeze will determine his Derby fate.
“He has to work to our liking and come out of it perfect,” Jerkens said. “If he takes one bad step anywhere, forget it. I would have liked to have seen no blood (this morning), but it didn’t surprise me because he was still tender.”
“It’s not a soundness issue,” McKinlay said, adding, “He is well on the mend. This is live tissue; we’re not changing a flat tire. There are a lot of judgment calls.”
Quality Road’s original right-hind quarter-crack patch has held perfectly and has not been problematic. Still, the latest set-back looms over his Derby 135 .
“I’m optimistic it’s going to work out,” Evans said.
-- NYRA notes writer Jenny Kellner contributed to this report.
SQUARE EDDIE – Following a mile and one-half gallop around the big Churchill Downs oval, Square Eddie put it in drive for exercise rider Tony Romero and drilled four furlongs in :50.20 Sunday morning. The son of Smart Strike broke off at the three-eighths pole and finishing up at the seven-eighths, with a solid gallop-out around the clubhouse turn.
The move was accomplished shortly after the morning renovation break at approximately 8:30 with trainer Doug O’Neill, along with his brother Dennis, in the grandstand overseeing the exercise. The O’Neills arrived Saturday evening and are signed on to stay through Derby 135 on Saturday.
Clockers timed the move with the following early splits -- :12.80, :25, :37.60 – then a gallop-out time 1:03.20.
“I thought it was an awesome work,” Doug O’Neill said afterward. “We’re very pleased with it. We know we’re asking a lot of this horse, but we think he’s up to it. Obviously, when you want a horse to come back in two weeks (off his third-place finish in the Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland on April 18) following a three-month break in his racing schedule (his prior start was the San Rafael at Santa Anita on Jan. 17) to run in a race as tough as the Kentucky Derby, you’re asking a lot. The only way you could do that is to think you’ve got a ‘super’ horse. And in our minds that’s what he is – a ‘super’ horse.”
The trainer indicated that Square Eddie would get a day off tomorrow and merely walk the shedrow, followed by a jog day Tuesday, gallop days Wednesday and Thursday, then jogs on Friday and Saturday as his final preparations for the Run for the Roses.
Corey Nakatani will get a leg up on Square Eddie in Derby 135 next Saturday, the first time he’s handled the Canadian-bred, who’ll be making the ninth start of his career and first on a pure-dirt surface.
SUMMER BIRD – Summer Bird, a son of 2004 Belmont Stakes winner Birdstone, jogged two miles around the Churchill strip Sunday morning with jockey Chris Rosier aboard.
Trainer Tim Ice was on hand to supervise the exercise after traveling to Lone Star Park Saturday to saddle runners in two stakes. Affirmed Truth ran third in the Richland Stakes, while Catmantoo finished out of the money in the Texas Mile, both with Rozier aboard.
This is the first Derby experience for Ice, a 34-year-old Ohio native who went out on his own just this year after serving as assistant to Morris Nicks, Cole Norman and Keith Desormeaux.
“To make it here to the Derby in my first year as a trainer is extraordinary,” Ice said Sunday while watching Summer Bird graze behind the barn. “Just extraordinary. I’m thrilled to be here.”
Summer Bird, a good-looking chestnut, has had just three lifetime starts, his only win in maiden company at Oaklawn Park on March 19. He went right from that race into the Grade II Arkansas Derby, where he finished a fast-closing third behind Papa Clem and Old Fashioned.
Summer Bird’s final breeze, six furlongs in 1:15 4/5 on Friday, was dismissed by some observers as too slow, but the trainer was satisfied.
“He got what he needed out of the work,” Ice said. “He’s looking and acting really well. I look for him to run good Saturday. He won’t disappoint me no matter what he does.”
The colt was bred by his owners, the husband-wife team of Drs. K.K. and V. Devi Jayaraman. They had a Derby starter in 1989, when Irish Actor ran seventh behind Sunday Silence.
WEST SIDE BERNIE – West Side Bernie who had his final Derby breeze on Saturday, just walked under the shedrow Sunday morning.
“He cooled out well, and he’s got the right demeanor today,” said trainer Kelly Breen, who is experiencing his first Derby. “He ate good, and he’s acting good. That’s all I can ask.”
The son of Bernstein, a $50,000 yearling purchase by Breen on behalf of George and Lori Hall, breezed a half-mile in :48.20 Saturday with jockey Stewart Elliott aboard. In his most recent start, West Side Bernie ran second to I Want Revenge in the Grade I Wood Memorial.
WIN WILLY – Win Willy, a red-roan son of Kentucky Derby winner Monarchos, had a busy Sunday morning, schooling at the gate and then galloping a mile and a half around the Churchill Downs oval.
Trainer Mac Robertson, who will be participating in his first Derby, is still at Canterbury Downs, bedding down a large string of horses that will race there this summer. His wife, Cyndi, a veterinarian, was on hand Sunday to supervise preparations with the aid of groom Luis Moldonado and exercise rider Elias Lopez.
“Mac will work him either Monday or Tuesday,” Cyndi said. “Whatever day he gets here, the horse will have his final breeze.”
Win Willy took the Grade II Rebel at Oaklawn Park, with Old Fashioned more than two lengths behind, but then finished fourth behind that rival in the Arkansas Derby. He has not worked yet at Churchill Downs since shipping in from Arkansas.
The colt is owned by Jerome and Marlene Myers, who campaign as the Jer-Mar Stable, and was a $25,000 yearling purchase at Keeneland.
The 35-year-old Robertson got his start on the racetrack working for his father, trainer Hugh Robertson, who campaigns at the Chicago-area tracks.