Two days prior to the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), Wood Memorial (gr. I) runner-up Normandy Invasion displayed some overly eager behavior in what was slated to be an easy morning gallop May 2 at Churchill Downs.
With exercise rider Javier Herrera in the saddle, Fox Hill Farms' son of Tapit schooled in the gate and then galloped comfortably in the middle of the track. He broke into a full, aggressive gallop down the backstretch, however, and was pulled up with the aid of an outrider after about two to three furlongs.
Trainer Chad Brown didn't seem too concerned about the incident.
"After he stood in the gate he wanted out to go out and gallop a little strong, but he pulled up good and came back good," Brown said. "That's him. He's really sharp right now. We're happy. He ended his gallop a little quick, but I'm OK with it."
Normandy Invasion has a history of coming out of the gate slowly, and Brown said the visit to the gate was a reminder of what is ahead.
"In the Wood he did good after we stood him," Brown said. "So we did the same routine that we did before the Wood."
In his most recent official breeze April 27, Normandy Invasion breezed five furlongs in :59 flat. Churchill clockers caught the Derby contender in splits of :11 4/5, :23 1/5, :34 4/5, and :46 3/5, with a six-furlong gallop out in 1:11 4/5 under Herrera.
Brown said he was satisfied with drawing post 5 for the Kentucky Derby and that position would give jockey Javier Castellano some flexibility.
"I'm not going to request that Javier put this horse in any specific spot. I want to leave it up to him," Brown said. "I just want him to break cleanly and give him the option to put him where he wants."
Brown noted Normandy Invasion is handling the Churchill surface well.
"This horse is so sharp right now, you just have to hold him on the ground," he said. "He's really full of himself.
"If you've seen his other races and his come-from-behind style, this horse has been maybe a little lethargic early," Brown continued. "It takes him a while to get interested and come with his late run. Right now he really has running on his mind from the word 'go.' We started to see that before the Wood and he placed himself in a good spot early and gave himself a chance to win. We're going to see more of that in the Derby. I think he's going to place himself in a good spot."
Normandy Invasion was bred in Kentucky by a partnership of Betz, Kidder, Gainesway, Graves, D. J. Stable, and Cole, and was purchased for $230,000 at the 2010 Keeneland April 2-year-olds in training sale.