As the clock winds down to the 135th running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, use Churchill Downs as your one-stop location for all the latest details on training schedules, workouts and more.
ADVICE / DUNKIRK / JOIN IN THE DANCE – The Todd Pletcher Derby trio of Advice, Dunkirk and Join in the Dance were out early, exercised and back in Barn 38 before 7 a.m. Thursday, missing the rains that splashed down on Louisville a bit later in the morning.
Kevin Willey handled both Advice and Join in the Dance in their gallops, while Patti Barry was up for Dunkirk’s exercise.
“They all went about a mile and three eighths,” Pletcher said. “It’s all good.”
Just before 8 a.m., the trainer and his right-hand man, Mike McCarthy, each with a shank on one side, led Dunkirk from the barn to a patch of grass near Longfield Avenue for about 20 minutes of grazing. The tall colt with the distinctive white and pink facial markings, was feeling good and dove into the Kentucky grass with gusto, eliminating any need for lawn mowing in the general area of Barn 41.
Dunkirk will be making only the fourth start of his career in Saturday’s Derby 135. The $3.7 million yearling did not start as a 2-year-old. Advice has six starts under his belt, including a tally in the Coolmore Lexington Stakes (Grade II) April 18 at Keeneland. He started three times as a juvenile. Join in the Dance has been to the post eight times, five of them coming during his 2-year-old season.
Advice breaks from post four and will be ridden by Rene Douglas. Dunkirk will start from post 15 and be handled by Edgar Prado. Join in the Dance will leave from post nine with Chris DeCarlo aboard.
ATOMIC RAIN / WEST SIDE BERNIE – Both Atomic Rain and West Side Bernie went out before the break for easy one-mile gallops with trainer Kelly Breen aboard Thursday morning.
“They’re both doing fine,” Breen said. “Atomic Rain is doing quite well considering he worked in New Jersey on Tuesday and then sat on a van for 13 hours to get here yesterday. The way he’s acting, I don’t think the trip meant much to him.”
Breen had the No. 20 selection for West Side Bernie and the only spot in the gate left to him was No. 1. On the other hand, he had the No. 9 selection for Atomic Rain and took post 14 for the colt, who will be ridden by Joe Bravo.
“Atomic Rain is in a good spot,” said George Hall, who with wife Lori owns both colts. “It’s a good post for his style. West Side Bernie is in a tougher spot. Strategy is all up to Stew (jockey Stewart Elliott) when the gates open.”
Hall bought 20 yearlings at the 2007 Keeneland September sale, 10 fillies and 10 colts.
“It’s pretty amazing to have two starters in the Kentucky Derby from the 10 colts we got at the sale,” the owner said.
West Side Bernie, a son of Bernstein, was a $50,000 purchase, and Atomic Rain, by Smart Strike, cost $170,000.
“When Atomic Rain broke his maiden and then ran second in the Remsen as a 2-year-old, we expected a lot from him,” Hall said. “We’ve been disappointed in a number of his starts since then. But we still think he has a lot of talent, and will be able to show it.”
As a 3-year-old, Atomic Rain has run seventh in the Sam F. Davis (Grade III) and fourth in the Wood Memorial (Grade I). West Side Bernie was second in the Wood.
Hall said his wife Lori names all the horses, and West Side Bernie is all Broadway.
“He’s by Bernstein, so she immediately thought of Leonard Bernstein, who wrote ‘West Side Story,’ ” Hall said. “So that’s how Bernie got his name. They’re putting on a revival of ‘West Side Story’ now, and we’re involved in that as a fundraiser for the Hearing Center at New York University.”
CHOCOLATE CANDY – “Best morning I ever had with this horse.”
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was upbeat Thursday morning at Churchill Downs after overseeing business with his Kentucky Derby contender Chocolate Candy. The tall bay by Candy Ride went trackside shortly after 7 a.m. under regular exercise rider Lindsey Molina, stood in the gate briefly, then galloped a good mile and five-eighths before coming off the six-furlong gap looking like a happy horse.
“I messed him up yesterday and he didn’t like it,” the Northern California-based conditioner stated. “I got him out there when all those people were around (after the 8 a.m. renovation break) and he got a little hot. But today we put him back in his usual routine and he was back to his old self. I’m really pleased with how it went today. He galloped strong and he’s doing great.”
The late-running colt was bred by the late Sid Craig and his wife, Jenny, who is, of course, the weight-loss queen. He currently races in the silks of Craig Family Trust and Saturday will break from post 11 with Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith aboard.
Chocolate Candy will be making the 10th start of his career in Derby 135. Six of those outings came during his 2-year-old season.
DESERT PARTY / REGAL RANSOM – The Godolphin duo of Desert Party and Regal Ransom had a typical morning. Shortly after the track opened at 6 a.m. they were sent out to gallop what trainer Saeed bin Suroor said was a mile and three furlongs.
“They did it well,” bin Suroor said. “They’re in good form. Happy. Sound. Healthy. No problem at all with them.”
Bin Suroor said the colts schooled in the paddock before the seventh race Wednesday.
“Regal Ransom was sweating for about 10 minutes because he could see the horses racing and he got excited,” bin Suroor said. “But after that he was cool. Desert Party was fine.”
Bin Suroor said his colts are ready for the Derby.
"They are going into this race 110 percent fit," he said. "There is no excuse afterwards for fitness. I hope no excuses happen in the race.”
FLYING PRIVATE – Flying Private went to the Churchill Downs track for a morning gallop under exercise rider Taylor Carty on Thursday morning. The son of 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus has been rated at 50-1 in the morning line, but trainer D. Wayne Lukas hardly views him as a desperate longshot.
Flying Private, who will break from the No. 20 post position, has won only one of 10 starts, but his trainer knows what it takes to win the Kentucky Derby, having saddled four Derby winners: Winning Colors (1988), Thunder Gulch (1995), Grindstone (1996) and Charismatic (1999).
“He’s as good as some of them I brought here, including some of them who’ve won,” the Hall of Fame trainer said. “Charismatic went on to be Horse of the Year, but at this stage, I think he’s every bit as good as Charismatic, and I think he’s better than Grindstone.”
When questioned about his opinion on synthetic surfaces, Lukas said that the new surfaces such as Keeneland’s Polytrack don’t just pose problems to those horses who don’t run their best over it.
“I’m not a synthetic person. I think it’s caused a nightmare for the bettors. The very lifeblood of our industry is the gambling public, and I think they’ve been put at such a disadvantage trying to sort this thing out,” Lukas said. “I think it’ll run its course, and maybe in a couple years, they’ll dig them all up and get back to natural dirt.
“They have that Gamblers Anonymous for people who have that bad gambling habit. Polytrack will take care of that. They won’t need to worry about that anymore. People will quit gambling.”
FRIESAN FIRE – Vinery Stables and Fox Hill Farm’s Friesan Fire galloped a mile after the renovation break with trainer Larry Jones aboard Thursday morning.
“It was a successful morning,” Jones said. “We got out around there and came back home. He was much more relaxed this morning than yesterday when he was a little anxious after the day off.”
Friesan Fire, who worked five furlongs under jockey Gabriel Saez on Monday morning, walked Tuesday and enjoyed a “goof-off” day Wednesday.
“Apparently some people didn’t get the memo on what we did yesterday,” Jones said. “I turned on the news last night and they were talking about Larry Jones’ unorthodox training methods.
“I galloped him to the gate and then galloped back to the paddock and he maybe did five-eighths (of a mile) total. He enjoyed it out there. I just let him play around a little and have a good time. Horses don’t have to go out and gallop a mile and a half every day.”
The fourth choice on the morning line at 5-1, Friesan Fire will break from post position six under Saez in Kentucky Derby 135.
GENERAL QUARTERS – Owner/trainer Tom McCarthy’s Toyota Blue Grass (Grade I) winner General Quarters jogged 1 1/2 miles Thursday morning under exercise rider Julie Sheets and was full of himself being led back to the barn by his 75-year-old trainer. Around a large gathering of well wishers, General Quarters enjoyed his bath and soaked in the surroundings.
“He likes people,” McCarthy said. “He sure enjoys the audience. That will help him Derby Day for sure, I’ll tell you that. A lot of people want to see him do well.”
The McCarthy stable handed out green General Quarters buttons to those who came by to visit the horse this morning, and among those who came by to check on the horse was Steve Bass, agent for General Quarters’ jockey Julien Leparoux and a former student of McCarthy’s in the Louisville school system.
HOLD ME BACK – Trainer Bill Mott sent WinStar Farm’s Hold Me Back out for a one-mile gallop Thursday morning.
“He had a good gallop,” Mott said. “We went early. The track was good. We went out before it was cut up. He went fine.”
Hold Me Back, the runner-up in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (Grade I) following a victory in the Lane’s End (Grade II), will be ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux.
Desormeaux is a three-time Kentucky Derby winner and will be seeking to become to the first rider to win back-to-back Derbys since Eddie Delahoussaye in 1982 and 1983.
I WANT REVENGE – I Want Revenge went to the track for some light exercise at Churchill Downs on Thursday morning, jogging in the chute, galloping once around and schooling in the paddock.
The son of Stephen Got Even was installed as the 3-1 morning-line favorite for the 135th Run for the Roses, a turn of events that trainer Jeff Mullins couldn’t have envisioned while advising the colt’s breeder, David Lanzman, at the 2008 Barrett’s 2-year-olds-in-training sale. Lanzman had consigned I Want Revenge to the sale and considered buying him back when the bidding slowed.
“I was actually telling him to sell him. At that time, he was an ugly horse,” Mullins said. “He had a pot belly and long hair.”
Lanzman didn’t heed his trainer’s advice and bought back I Want Revenge for $95,000.
“If we all wanted to buy the same horse at a sale, then everybody would just try to buy the same horse and all the others would be bought back. I had a lot of people who loved the horse. The farm people are all here and they loved him. They told me he’s a racehorse,” Lanzman said. “We thought he was something. We signed the ticket and I handed it to Jeff. He looked at me and said, ‘I wouldn’t have bought him for one of my clients.’ ”
Lanzman would eventually sell a big chunk of I Want Revenge to IEAH Stables and Puglisi Racing while retaining control of the colt’s racing career. IEAH bloodstock agent Nick Sallusto subsequently sold “a minute share as a favor to Jeff Singer.”
MINE THAT BIRD – Mine That Bird, the 2008 Canadian champion 2-year-old, galloped two miles Thursday around 7:30 a.m. and gave New Mexico-based trainer Chip Woolley reason for optimism, despite a 50-1 morning-line assignment at Wednesday’s post position draw.
“He went super and really got over the ground well today,” Woolley said. “I’m trying to keep a level keel as Saturday approaches. It’s been exciting from Day One, and I’m just happy to be here. His (morning) line was right what I figured, which is fine with me. Besides, I’ve never bet a horse I’ve run in my entire life. I don’t ever want anyone to worry about that kind of stuff with me.”
Woolley said he will gallop Mine That Bird again Friday and then probably “backtrack” him on raceday morning and let him jog a bit.
Calvin Borel, winner of the 2007 Kentucky Derby aboard Street Sense, will have the mount Saturday.
MR. HOT STUFF – The Tiznow colt Mr. Hot Stuff galloped smartly Thursday morning at Churchill Downs, covering a mile and a half under exercise rider Paul Turner. Bowing his neck and grabbing the bit, the dark WinStar Farm homebred looked a picture when he went through his exercises shortly after 7 o’clock.
Half of the WinStar connections – Bill Casner, along with his wife Susan – looked on alongside their trainer, Eoin Harty.
“He’s more relaxed today,” the trainer said. “Today’s Day 3 (his third day at Churchill Downs since coming in from California) and he’s got it figured out now. He knows what’s going on.”
The conditioner said that he had paddocked Mr. Hot Stuff on Wednesday afternoon and would again Thursday during the races.
“He doesn’t need to go to the gate,” he said. “He’s fine in there.”
Mr. Hot Stuff will be making the eighth start of his career Saturday and will break from post three under John Velazquez. Three of his starts came during his 2-year-old campaign.
MUSKET MAN – The Yonaguska colt Musket Man was out early for a mile-and-a-half gallop Thursday morning as he eases into the Kentucky Derby.
“He’s doing fine,” trainer Derek Ryan said of his charge, who has won five of six lifetime starts and comes into the Kentucky Derby off consecutive victories in the Tampa Bay Derby (Grade III) and the Illinois Derby (Grade II).
Ryan had selection No.18 and few options left at the post position draw, and took post two for Musket Man.
“Strategy will be all up to the jockey (Eibar Coa),” Ryan said. “But I expect he’ll be somewhere behind the leaders in the second tier heading into the first turn.
“I don’t want him on the lead. He does his best when he has some horses to run at. I usually work him in company because he needs a target to do his best.”
Musket Man showed speed in his first three races, all sprints, but always sat off the pace before making a late move. In the Tampa Bay Derby, he got into a world of trouble early, and had to make a big wide run to get up. In the Illinois Derby, he gained command on the stretch turn and held stoutly to the wire.
“He’s got a high cruising speed,” Ryan said, “but the great thing about him is that he also has a real kick for an eighth of a mile.”
NOWHERE TO HIDE – Trainer Nick Zito’s eleventh-hour Derby 135 entrant met jockey Shaun Bridgmohan for the first time Thursday with a quarter-mile blowout down the lane in :25.20. Nowhere to Hide tugged hard for more as Bridgmohan worked overtime to get him pulled up, even midway down the backstretch.
“Shaun just got familiar with the horse this morning,” Zito said. “That’s all I wanted. The good thing is that he didn’t want to pull up.”
The two-time Derby-winning trainer and his owner, Len Riggio of My Meadowview Farm, have been accused of a case of Derby fever, but Zito reasoned that horse racing is the ultimate game of chance.
“No one has a lock on this game – no one,” he said matter-of-factly. “He ran fourth three races in a row – the Risen Star, the Tampa Bay Derby and the Illinois Derby – and if he ran fourth in the Kentucky Derby, it would be all right by me,” Zito said. “We’ve been trying to get him here all along; we’ve taken him all over the country.”
PAPA CLEM – Arkansas Derby (Grade II) winner Papa Clem blew out three furlongs in :34 flat Thursday just before 7 a.m. with Derby 135 jockey Rafael Bejarano in the saddle.
In a true Stute family tradition, trainer Gary Stute said Papa Clem was now officially “Melvinized,” a term trainer Bob Baffert coined for the fast blowout works typically given by Stute’s father, Mel. The elder Stute was on hand to watch his son’s horse prepare for Saturday’s Run for the Roses and gave a smile of approval. It also brought good vibes to the younger Stute.
“You see me smiling, don’t you?” Gary Stute said. “If he gets beat, it’s all my fault.”
“He was so comfortable,” Bejarano said of the work, which drew splits of :11.20, :22.40 and a gallop-out of :47.20. “I didn’t have to push him or nothing. Past the wire, I just let him gallop out strong and stay up in the saddle.”
Thursday’s workout for Papa Clem perhaps stemmed the tide of a few unimpressive moves from the son of Smart Strike.
“Everyone has been criticizing his works,” Stute said, and then admitted, “I would have been worried if he didn’t work well today.”
Papa Clem will walk the shedrow for the next two days, Friday and race day. Stute indicated that if Papa Clem had worked slower this morning, he might have brought him to the track Saturday morning, but now feels they are ready to go.
PIONEEROF THE NILE – With owner Ahmed Zayat and trainer Bob Baffert watching from the gap closest to the five-eighths pole, Pioneerof the Nile galloped about a mile and a half right after the track reopened at 8:30 a.m. following the renovation break.
The Santa Anita Derby (Grade I) winner stood patiently for several minutes while people snapped photos before walking onto the track.
Baffert said the Empire Maker colt was moving toward the race according to plan.
“Everything is smooth and he looks good out there on the track,” Baffert said. “He’s been very relaxed. My whole mission was to get him here, keep the weight on him and keep his mind relaxed. He was getting a little racy on me at Santa Anita. I didn’t put any fast works into him, just decent works into him.
“He’s fit. He looks really fantastic, flesh-wise. His mind is great. He’s been handling everything. I want him to go up there and be a gentleman. I want him to walk into the gate. I don’t want him to get stirred up. So far, I haven’t seen that here. I’m really happy with that.”
Garrett Gomez will ride Pioneerof the Nile in the Kentucky Derby. Baffert used the fifth choice in the post position draw to select post 16.
SUMMER BIRD – Summer Bird, a lightly raced son of Birdstone, is one of the most relaxed horses on the Churchill Downs backside coming into the Kentucky Derby. Thursday morning the chestnut colt was lying down in his stall taking a nap at 7 o’clock because he wasn’t scheduled to go to the track until 8:30, after the break.
“He woke up early, ate up all his breakfast and then went back to sleep,” trainer Tim Ice said. “He is a very calm horse.”
Out on the track after the break, Summer Bird schooled in the gate, and then galloped one mile under jockey Chris Rosier.
Ice had selection No. 14 and chose post 17 for Summer Bird, who made his first start on March 1, broke his maiden on March 19, and finished third in the Arkansas Derby (Grade II) on April 11.
“Better 17 than post three,” Ice said. “I expect him to be mid-pack early, and make his way over toward the inside before the first turn. I think he’ll run well.”