WinStar Farm LLC’s Arkansas Derby-winner Creator, who finished 13th in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I), breezed five furlongs in 1:02 Monday over a fast main track at Churchill Downs in preparation for his next start in the $1.5 million Belmont Stakes (GI) on June 11.
Working in company with stable mate Gold Hawk, the son of Tapit recorded fractions of :13 and :37.80, and galloped out six furlongs in 1:15 and seven-eighths of a mile in 1:28.80 with Florent Geroux in the irons.
"He felt really good,” Geroux said. “That was my first time on his back. It was a steady work; nothing crazy, but it was nice and steady and he felt very good.”
Trainer Steve Asmussen designed Monday morning’s work to prepare Creator for the Belmont’s mile-and-a-half distance.
“We wanted to keep him in a nice long rhythm,” Asmussen said. “The Belmont on his agenda obviously, so staying is going to come into play. I thought that he put in a nice, smooth work today and galloped out really well. I think that his weight has rebounded nicely since the Derby and we plan on sending him up to Belmont tomorrow. That will give us a shot to get a little look of the Belmont racetrack and hope for the best.”
Asmussen believes that Creator’s breeding will help him handle the Belmont's demanding distance.
“You get a lot of comfort from his pedigree and how much stay is in his pedigree,” Asmussen said. “He is a very efficient horse. I’m just a little concerned right now with the possible pace scenario with this year’s Belmont. He’s a really nice horse. I think we’ve seen his attitude has improved and his energy level is very high right now. We’re excited about this prospect for the Belmont.
“I think for us the race is from Point A to Point B and you have to do what’s right for the individual. The lack of pace is a concern or the possibility of it. Sometimes a lack of pace on paper sets it up.”
Asmussen’s confidence in Creator was high heading into the Kentucky Derby.
“I liked his chances in the Derby, it’s just that the trip didn’t work out,” Asmussen said. “I think when horses are this well matched, being good enough is one of the scenarios but how the racetrack sets up and how the pace sets up have to be favorable to us as well.”
Asmussen has chosen jockey Irad Ortiz Jr. to pilot Creator in the Belmont Stakes.
“Belmont Park is a unique place so we couldn’t do any better for somebody who knows the racetrack better than Irad,” Asmussen said.
Also on the work tab Monday for Asmussen was Kentucky Derby third-place finisher Gun Runner, who is pointing to the $100,000 Matt Winn (GIII) at Churchill Downs on the June 18 “Downs After Dark” Stephen Foster Night undercard. Gun Runner went five furlongs in 1:01 with fractions of :12.60, :24.40 and :36.40 and a gallop out in 1:14.60 and 1:28.40.
“With Gun Runner and Creator there is a lot of the year left and they’re both top class horses so we’ll get to prove that before the year is over,” Asmussen said.
2014 Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) victor Untapable also breezed for Asmussen and went five furlongs in 1:00.20 in company with Divine Interventio recording splits of :13, :25 and :36.60. She galloped out in 1:13 and 1:27.20. The daughter of Tapit will make her next start in the $200,000 Fleur de Lis (GII) at Churchill Downs on June 18. Also, Union Jackson went a half mile in :51 in preparation for Saturday’s $100,000 Aristides (GIII).
BAFFERT'S CUPID, AMERICAN FREEDOM BREEZE; NEXT STARTS TO BE DETERMINED – The Bob Baffert-trained duo of American Freedom and Cupid put in works on the Churchill Downs main track Monday morning. American Freedom, who recorded his first work since a triumph in the Sir Barton Stakes on the May 21 Preakness Stakes undercard, went a half mile in :49.60 while Cupid went five furlongs in :59.20. Both horses had Florent Geroux in the irons.
Churchill Downs clockers caught American Freedom’s first quarter in :25.20 and he galloped out five furlongs in 1:02.20. Cupid started one back of Toews On Ice (:59.60) and finished one in front after splits of :12.40, :24.40 and :35.80 with a gallop out of 1:11.60 and 1:24.40.
Trainer Bob Baffert hasn’t decided where either horse would make their next starts, but indicated that Cupid is a possibility for stakes action at Belmont Park on June 11.
“We’re not sure what we’re doing yet, we’ll maybe go to New York,” Baffert said via telephone. “We’ll definitely run them in a stakes somewhere next time. American Freedom’s work was just a maintenance work and we’re just getting Cupid going.”
Baffert said he would have a better idea of where both horses would make their next starts at some point next week.
STEWART SENDING TWO FOR BELMONT STAKES UNDERCARD – Trainer Dallas Stewart will not have a starter in the Belmont Stakes (GI) on June 11, but he will be at the New York oval on June 11 with high hopes of tasting graded stakes success when he sends out multiple graded stakes-winning filly Forever Unbridled in the $1.25 million Ogden Phipps Handicap (GI) and Tom’s Ready, 12th in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI), in the $500,000 Woody Stephens (GII).
“They’re on schedule and very healthy and have been training real well,” Stewart said. “They both have traveled a little bit so they both know what’s going on with that. I’m very happy with them so I know they’re going to be tough races but they’re on the top of their game to participate.”
Forever Unbridled will be looking for her fourth consecutive victory when she runs in the Ogden Phipps. Previously, the 4-year-old daughter of Unbridled’s Song won the Comely (GIII) at Aqueduct on Nov. 28, the Houston Ladies Classic (GIII) at Sam Houston on Jan. 30 and the Apple Blossom (GI) at Oaklawn Park on April 15.
“We’re taking one thing at a time,” Stewart said. “It’s a marquee race, a million-dollar race at Belmont. She’s won on three different tracks hopefully this will the fourth and well go from there.”
Forever Unbridled is the daughter of 2006 Kentucky Oaks winner Lemons Forever, who also produced Grade I winner Unbridled Forever. All three were trained by Stewart.
“She’s different from her sister and her mother,” Stewart said. “They’re just all completely different horses. (Forever Unbridled) is more aggressive. She’s nice in the stall but tough on the track.”
EAGLE PUTS IN ‘MAJOR WORK’ FOR STEPHEN FOSTER – William Farish’s Eagle continued serious preparation for the $500,000 Stephen Foster (GI) at Churchill Downs on June 18 in what trainer Neil Howard described as his “major work” for the race. The 4-year-old son of Candy Ride went six furlongs in 1:12.60 over a fast main track at Churchill Downs on Monday morning.
Churchill Downs clockers caught Eagle in splits of :12.40, :24.60, :36.40 and :48.40 before galloping out seven furlongs in 1:25.80 with regular rider Brian Hernandez Jr. up.
“He had a nice breeze this morning so we’re right on schedule,” Howard said. “It’s still a ways off but that (Stephen Foster) is the plan. He doesn’t need a lot. Today was a major work. He had a maintenance work after the Alysheba and I gave him of plenty of time after that race, but his major work was today.”
Howard said that Eagle would likely breeze twice more before the Stephen Foster.
DOWN THE STRETCH – Congratulations to jockey Robby Albarado and his wife Paige, who gave birth to their son Liam Chase on Monday morning. Liam Chase weighed in a 7 lbs., 10 oz. … Churchill Downs has a stakes doubleheader Saturday with the $100,000 Aristides (GIII) for 3-year-olds and up at six furlongs and the $67,000-added Mighty Beau Overnight Stakes for 3-year-olds and up at five furlongs on turf. Black Hawk Stable’s Alsvid, the defending Aristides champ and runner-up to Rocket Heat in the Twin Spires Turf Sprint (GIII) on the Kentucky Oaks undercard, could surface in either race, according to stakes coordinator Dan Bork. Other known possible starters in the Aristides are Barbados, Dirt Monster, Limousine Liberal, Toews On Ice and Union Jackson. … Monday marks the halfway mark of the 38-day Spring Meet. … Julien Leparoux entered Monday with 28-27 leader over Corey Lanerie in the jockey standings. Albarado is third with 18 winners. … Mark Casse leads all trainers with 13 wins. Mike Maker is second with 11 and Kenny McPeek and Chris Richard are tied for third with seven wins. … Ken and Sarah Ramsey lead all owners with seven wins, one more than John C. Oxley. … Pioneer Justice, the winner of Sunday’s opener, became the eighth horse to collect two wins at the Spring Meet. The other dual winners are Bullards Alley, Diva Express, Dynazar, High Heeled Girl, Prado Dash, National Defence and Tanzen. … Following Monday’s 11-race Memorial Day card, Churchill Downs will be dark Tuesday and Wednesday. Racing resumes Thursday at 5 p.m. (all times Eastern) with an eight-race “Twilight Thursday” program. …Friday’s nine race card at 12:45 p.m. includes a one-mile allowance-optional claiming event for 3-year-olds that attracted promising May 14 maiden special weight winner The Player and “Road to the Kentucky Derby” participants Unbridled Outlaw, Lookin for a Kiss and That Makes Sense. The race goes as Race 7 at 3:47 p.m.