(from Churchill Downs)
ADRIANO – Trainer Graham Motion sent his Lane’s End Stakes (GII) winner to the Churchill Downs racetrack Friday morning for a 1½-mile gallop under Alice Clapham in preparation for Saturday’s 134th running of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands.
Adriano, who finished ninth in his only dirt start after acting up in the paddock prior to the Fountain of Youth Stakes (GII) at Gulfstream Park in February, has impressed his trainer during a string of schooling sessions in the Churchill paddock. The son of A.P. Indy behaved particularly well on Thursday afternoon, when he schooled between races along with Derby morning line favorite Big Brown.
“I was really pleased. The last day doing it, I didn’t want to get over there and have a bad experience. It was kind of his dress rehearsal,” said Motion, whose colt visited the paddock before Friday’s gallop. “There was a lot of action. I was glad.”
Motion, who saddled Chilito for an 11th-place finish in the 1998 Derby, said the presence of speed horses outside his colt’s No. 15 stall in the auxiliary starting gate makes it difficult to figure out how the Run for the Roses will set up.
“I’m going to talk to Edgar about it and get his thoughts on everything,” said Motion, referring to jockey Edgar Prado. “I think certainly the way Edgar rode him last time, I’d be surprised if he was in the front group, unless they go kind of steady. But he’ll certainly be in the second group or close to it.”
While Adriano’s ability to handle dirt tracks as well as he’s run over turf and Turfway Park’s synthetic track is still in question, his trainer has not doubts about the Kentucky-bred colt’s credentials to handle classic distances.
“The one thing I feel best about is that he’ll handle a mile and a quarter and with some of these horses, it’s going to be a question mark,” he said.
Zito said he didn’t have much of a handle on how the 20-horse Derby will be run, but he said he was somewhat intrigued by the presence of speed in stalls 18 (Recapturetheglory) and 20 (morning line favorite Big Brown) of the auxiliary starting gate.
“I think it’s going to be very interesting, because Recapturetheglory is just inside Big Brown, and I don’t see (Recapturetheglory) not going or trying to get the lead,” Zito said. “I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’d say it’s very interesting.”
Cool Coal Man, the Fountain of Youth (GII) winner at Gulfstream Park who disappointed on Keeneland’s Polytrack in the Blue Grass, will break from the No. 1 hole, two spots inside stablemate Anak Nakal and far inside the speed horses.
“I’d like him to get away and get comfortable somehow,” he said. “Luck is going to play a big part. You just hope he gets the chance at least to get close and be in a good position.”
Julien Leparoux will ride Cool Coal Man, while Rafael Bejarano will be aboard Anak Nakal.
BIG BROWN – The morning after his breeze, the Boundary colt walked the shedrow at Barn 22.
Trainer Rick Dutrow said the colt came out of his three-furlong work in :35.40 in fine shape. Dutrow said he has enjoyed the journey to America’s biggest race and is eager for race day to arrive.
“It’s been so much fun,” he said. “I just can’t wait until (Saturday) when they load him in the gate. It’s very exciting, over the top.”
Dutrow will make one equipment change for the Derby: Big Brown will wear wraps – bandages – on his front legs. It’s a precautionary move, Dutrow said, an attempt to prevent the colt from burning – or scraping the back of his right front heel again.
“It’s just going to help protect where he burns a little bit. There is no reason to try it again. I’m sure he’ll run the same race, but if he was to burn it might make us miss something, which we don’t need to deal with. So I’ll just protect him.”
Dutrow compared a horse burning a heel to the rubbing people feel when they wear a new pair of shoes.
“I should have put them on him last time because he burned again, but I didn’t,” Dutrow said. “It didn’t cost us anything. So, since he’s done it a couple of times, I might as well put the front bandages on to protect him.”
Big Brown wears the wraps daily and Dutrow said the colt is quite comfortable with them on.
“He’s got plenty of experience with the front bandages,” Dutrow said. “Even after he ran the first two times, I kept front bandages on him every day just because you need to protect that little spot when you want to train him. He’s very, very used to them.”
“They galloped a mile and a half, both of them,” said Tagg, whose colts were ridden by exercise rider Kristen Troxell. “They went out and stood there for a while, looked at the crowd. They jogged to the end of the grandstand; they turned around and galloped a mile and a half. Both of them did the same thing.”
Tagg said he didn’t have a clue how Derby 134 would unfold, unlike the ever-confident Rick Dutrow, trainer of morning line favorite Big Brown.
According to Dutrow, there’s Big Brown and some horses in the race. “I think it’s a wide-open race. Who knows? I don’t think anyone really knows except Dutrow,” Tagg said. “He, at least, says what he thinks; I’m not knocking him for it. He’s a friend of mine. I like Dickie Dutrow. He seems to know what’s going on better than I do.”
Tagg did have a best-case scenario for Big Truck, the Tampa Bay Derby (GIII) winner, and Tale of Ekati, who won the Wood Memorial (GI) at Aqueduct in his last start.
“My horses go to the front and lead the whole way and finish in a dead-heat to win,” he said.
The worst-case scenario would be that the Churchill Downs racing strip comes up muddy, said Tagg, whose Wood Memorial winner finished a distant fourth in the slop at Monmouth in last year’s Bessemer Trust Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) and whose Tampa Bay Derby victor checked in fifth in the Hutcheson (GII) in the Gulfstream slop.
“It’ll be a big factor. If it’s nice, I’ll be very happy. I’m not good with mudders,” he said.
Eibar Coa will be aboard Tale of Ekati, while Javier Castellano has the mount aboard Big Truck.
BOB BLACK JACK – The California-bred son of Stormy Jack was out at 7:15 Friday morning at Churchill Downs under exercise rider Joe Deegan, but there wasn’t any heavy lifting on his menu. The dark colt merely did a little jiggy-jog over to the starting gate, stood quietly in it for a while, then jogged back – finally returning to his temporary home in Barn 45.
“He did fine,” said Deegan. “No problems.”
Trainer James Kasparoff was happy with what transpired and noted that he would jog his charge once around the big oval Saturday morning at about 6:30 to take some of his Derby Day edge off.
The saga of Bob Black Jack started with him being bought as a yearling for a mere $4,500 in October 2006. James Kasparoff picks it up from there.
“My brother Tim and his partner, Jeff Harmon, were looking for a horse and this one got recommended to me,” he remembered. “He was out at a farm in Riverside County in a place called Romoland (midway between San Diego and Los Angles and about 75 miles from each) and in May (2007) we went out to take a look. I liked what I saw and the price they were asking was in our budget. We wound up getting him for $25,000.
“I knew early on he could run and I knew I didn’t want to put him in for a claiming price when we finally got to the races. I ran him with California-bred straight maidens last year at Del Mar and he fit. He’s been doing well ever since.”
In seven starts for his connections, Bob Black Jack has brought back a check every time, including three wins, and has banked $442,925. The winner of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby receives $1,451,800; second is worth $400,000; third $200,000; fourth $100,000, and fifth $60,000.
James Kasparoff makes no bones about it.
“This horse,” he says with a smile, “has exceeded expectations.”
Veteran Richard Migliore will handle Bob Black Jack in Derby 134 and they will depart from post No. 13.COLONEL JOHN – Trainer Eoin Harty watched the Tiznow colt move through a 1½-mile gallop during the two-hour-training period Friday that was shortened because the Kentucky Oaks program started in late morning.
“I sent him out at 6:30 because the track closed early,” Harty said. “I wanted to get a semi-decent track and I still wanted to be able to see him. When it was bright enough, I took him out there.”
Harty’s assessment: “He looked fantastic.”
Compared to the previous two days when dozens of people visited Barn 41, the Derby home of the WinStar Farm colt, it was very quiet Friday morning. Harty took care of chores, including picking up tickets, and spent some time chatting with Mike Pegram, owner of 1998 Kentucky Derby winner Real Quiet, and Mike Tice, the former NFL player and head coach, who is now on the staff of the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Harty said everything has gone according to plan with Colonel John for what will be his first Derby appearance as a head trainer.
“I’m excited,” he said. “It’s been a great couple of weeks. It’s a pity it has to end, but it does. That’s what we’re here for.”
Jockey Corey Nakatani, who has the mount in the Derby, stopped by the barn to say hello to Harty and take a look at the colt. Nakatani has ridden Colonel John in the four of the colt’s six races and guided him to a victory in the Santa Anita Derby (GI) on April 5.
Nakatani was aboard when Colonel John broke his maiden on Oct. 7 and has seen how the colt has developed during the past seven months.
“He’s just gotten better and filled out and matured with every step that he had a chance to,” Nakatani said. “That’s what you’re looking for in the younger two-year-olds and becoming three.”
In the Santa Anita Derby, Colonel John responded when Nakatani moved him to the outside and urged him to quicken and they caught Bob Black Jack to win by a half-length.
“There is no question that when I asked him he gave me what I was asking him for,” Nakatani said. “That’s what it takes. It takes a very special horse to be able to do those things from two to three. They may be really exceptional at 2 and then at 3 the other ones catch up, but he seems like he’s gotten better and progressed every time.”
Colonel John will be Nakatani’s 14th Derby starter. His best finishes were fourths with Green Alligator in 1991 and Halory Hunter in 1998. The veteran jockey is taking a pretty straightforward approach to this Derby assignment.
“I’m going to go out there and ride the horse and ride him to win,” he said.
COURT VISION/Z HUMOR – After a brief tour of the Churchill Downs paddock, Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott’s pair of contenders for Kentucky Derby 134 turned in 1 ½-mile gallops Friday morning in preparation for Saturday’s feature. Mott reported that all is well in his camp and that both runners had completed all of their paddock schooling.
“They will both train a little tomorrow morning on race day,” Mott said. “We’ll just take them out for something light to stretch their legs.”
IEAH Stable and WinStar Farm’s Court Vision, winner of last fall’s Remsen (GII) and most recently third in the Wood Memorial (GI), will try to follow the path of horses such as Real Quiet (1998), Funny Cide (2003) and Giacomo (2005), horses in the past decade who came into the Derby winless as 3-year-olds, but exited draped in roses.
Zayat Stables’ Z Humor will try to become the second offspring of Distorted Humor to win the Derby in the past six years, joining 2003 victor Funny Cide.
COWBOY CAL/MONBA – Trainer Todd Pletcher’s Derby duo had their final bit of exercise coming up to their mile-and-a-quarter run Saturday when they both went trackside Friday morning at Churchill Downs.
The dark gray Monba, who races for the partnership of Starlight Stable, Don Lucarelli and Paul Saylor, was out at approximately 6 a.m. and galloped about a mile and a quarter under Patti Krotenko. Stablemate Cowboy Cal, a homebred Stonerside Stable runner, also had Krotenko aboard for a two-mile jog.
Pletcher, who led his colts on and off the track at the six-furlong gap, reported that “everything was good.”
Monba, a Maria’s Mon offspring, will be ridden by Ramon Dominguez. Cowboy Cal, a son of Giant's Causeway , will have the saddle services of John Velazquez.
Four-time Eclipse Award winner Pletcher was asked if he would have any special instructions for his riders.
“Not a lot,” the trainer said. “They’re just going to have to feel their way around there through the early going. I’d expect Monba would be in a stalking position and that Cowboy Cal would be sitting right behind the front speed.”
DENIS OF CORK –Mr. and Mrs. William K. Warren Jr.’s Denis of Cork visited the paddock and starting gate and then galloped a mile and an eighth under trainer David Carroll.
“He did much better at the gate today,” Carroll said. “Yesterday he was on edge a little. He will go out and jog a mile and an eighth in the morning. He’s sitting on go. He’s on edge, but not over the edge. He is just looking to run”
Denis of Cork will break from post position 16 under Calvin Borel, who rode the Harlan's Holiday colt to victories in his first two starts.
Carroll, who never has had a Kentucky Derby starter, was asked what he would be looking for Saturday.
“I hope he gets a clean break and a good trip,” Carroll said. “The first turn is going to be pivotal. By the time they get to the first turn, I’m sure Calvin will be getting closer to the rail. After that, you are just looking for a clean trip.
“He will probably be 10 to 15 lengths out of it early. I am hoping it is a real legitimate pace and down the backside he can start picking his way through horses. He’s got a good cruising speed. I don’t know if Big Brown is the speed of the speed, but I’d love to see a 45 and change or 46 half to have a shot.”
Carroll, who gallops many of his horses, was asked which of the Derby entrants had caught his eye in the morning.
“Big Brown is a good looking horse, Colonel John and Pyro,” Carroll said.
The road to Kentucky Derby 134 was one that began to take shape at Churchill Downs in late November when Denis of Cork broke his maiden with an impressive, eight-wide move in a seven-furlong race.
The following morning that dawned raw and clear, Carroll was talking about Dogwood Stable’s Blackberry Road, who had run second in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (GII) the day, and Denis of Cork and the Derby dreams that were born.
“It was cold that morning, I remember it well,” Carroll said. I dreamed about it (The Derby) and thought about it and in December we thought about what we wanted to do with this horse and we had to come up with a game plan. We wanted to go the Arkansas route and that was December. He won an allowance and that was great; he won the Southwest and that was great and then nothing (in the Illinois Derby) and now we are here.
“We had a game plan and obviously he had to go out and execute it, but I thought he had potential. That’s why I thought it would have been tough not to have the opportunity to be in it. We’re ready.”
EIGHT BELLES – Trainer Larry Jones took Fox Hill Farms’ Eight Belles to the track earlier than usual Friday morning, jogging three-eighths of a mile and galloping another five-eighths.
“We may need to get a huge umbrella to hold over Churchill Downs,” Jones said of potential wet weather in the area. “She’s never run on an off-track, but a gray on the mud, that’s supposed to work.”
(“Bet a gray on a rainy day” is the actual saying.)
While Jones says he’s not a gambling man, he commented on how much backing the only filly in the Kentucky Derby will receive at the mutuel windows.
“I think about half the people will be rooting for her, whether their husbands like it or not.
“I understand that (U.S. Senator) Hillary (Clinton) is backing Eight Belles. I heard that on TV,” he said.
Numerous media outlets have carried the news of Clinton’s selection in the Kentucky Derby and former first daughter Chelsea is expected to attend Churchill Downs on Saturday.
Eight Belles will stay in the barn Saturday morning and, like most Derby contenders, simply walk the shedrow.
“He went good,” Pieper noted afterward. “It’s all in Mike Smith’s hands now.”
Smith, the Hall of Fame jockey who has ridden the dark colt in all five of his starts to date, will be back aboard the quick sophomore when he breaks from post No. 19 in Saturday’s 134th Kentucky Derby. He’ll wear the silks of the Cubanacan Stables of Carlos Juelle and Dr. Jose Prieto.
Smith was on hand from his California base to observe the exercise and he and trainer Paulo Lobo walked back to Barn 33 with the colt following the leg-stretching.
“We’re all set,” said Smith.
“Perfect,” was Lobo’s comment.
“Everything is good,” the trainer added. “I gave him that day off Thursday (when he only walked the shedrow) as was my plan; as I always do. I probably won’t put him on the track in the morning.”
PYRO/Z FORTUNE – The next time trainer Steve Asmussen’s Derby duo sets foot on the Churchill Downs surface it will be to walk over for Saturday’s 134th running of the Kentucky Derby. Both Pyro and Z Fortune turned in their final pre-Derby conditioning drills Friday morning by galloping 1 1/4 miles. Asmussen said they will walk the shedrow Saturday morning in advance of the main event.
Both Pyro and Z Fortune schooled in the paddock during Thursday’s racing program, among a large crowd that has become the Derby Week Thursday norm.
“The paddock went very well for both,” Asmussen said. “They’ll be left alone today – no more schooling is necessary.”
Zayat Stables’ Z Fortune exits a second-place finish in the Arkansas Derby (GII) in which he ran a career-best effort, according to his trainer. How he bounces back from that effort holds the key to his success or failure Saturday. Meanwhile, Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Pyro, the third choice at 6-1 in Mike Battaglia’s Derby 134 morning line, exits a career-worst effort in the Toyota Blue Grass (GI).
So does Asmussen have any clearer answers to the status of Pyro after his three weeks of training, post-Blue Grass?
“Not until he runs,” the trainer flatly said. “We’re as interested to see as everyone else.”
RECAPTURETHEGLORY – After several days of very strong gallops, trainer Louie Roussel III opted to take the edge off his Illinois Derby (GII) winner Friday morning with a short blowout down the lane. Under exercise rider and assistant trainer Lara Van Deren, Recapturetheglory was let loose a bit for a three-sixteenths of a mile drill through the long Churchill Downs stretch. Roussel caught the last furlong in :13.20.
“The next 24 hours will just be time to relax and enjoy it all,” the affable conditioner said. “We’ve done everything we can and now it’s just up to Recapturetheglory. We’re armed and dangerous for tomorrow. We’ll just hope he gets into the feed tub and does everything right.”
Co-owned by Roussel and his longtime pal, New Orleans car dealer Ronald Lamarque, Recapturetheglory will be the connections’ first Derby starter since Risen Star finished third in this race 20 years ago. Kentucky Derby rookie rider E.T. Baird will try to emulate 2004 Derby-winning jockey Stewart Elliott, who is the only rider since Ronnie Franklin in 1979 to wear the roses following his first attempt at racing’s Holy Grail.
SMOOTH AIR – Trainer Bennie Stutts Jr. sent out Mount Joy Stable’s Smooth Air to the track Friday morning to jog a half-mile and gallop 1 ½ miles under exercise rider Susie Milne.
Smooth Air had an easy work Thursday, going three-eighths in :38.20. “It was just a nice, easy blowout,” said Stutts. “That was just a maintenance work yesterday to open his lungs up. A reporter asked me why he went back to the track today. This was an easy gallop, nothing hard. He’ll walk tomorrow.”
Smooth Air will be reunited with jockey Manoel Cruz in the Kentucky Derby. The Brazilian-born rider has been aboard the colt in all seven of his races. While this marks Cruz’ first mount in the Derby, he has ridden two winners at Churchill Downs from five mounts, including a win here Thursday.
“I feel calm and confident,” said Cruz on Friday from the jockeys’ room, where he was preparing for his two mounts on the day’s 11-race card. “It’s very important to ride in this race. It is a race that everybody wants to ride in. I’m grateful for the opportunity.”
Cruz has been a leading rider in his homeland as well as at Tampa Bay Downs and Calder Race Course in Florida. He has won 1,767 races in the United States since arriving here in 2000.
VISIONAIRE – Brandon and Diannah Perry of Vision Racing looked on as their Kentucky Derby contender, Visionaire, received a bath outside trainer Michael Matz’s barn on Friday morning after galloping 1 ½ miles. Vision Racing, which co-owns the Grand Slam colt with Barry Irwin’s Team Valor International, also includes John and Jill Stephens of Florida.
“It’s been great,” said Brandon Perry about the experience of having a horse in the Derby for the first time. “We’re trying to soak it all in.”
Brandon’s previous experience with horses came in the show ring with American Quarter Horses. He met Diannah, who introduced him to Thoroughbred racing, in 2000, and the two were married three years later. Today, the Perrys own Paragon Farms, a 200-acre commercial breeding operation in Lexington, Ky. Diannah also introduced Brandon to the Stephenses, who own a training center in Marion County, Fla, where they break young horses for such owners as Roy and Gretchen Jackson. Among their graduates is 2006 Kentucky Derby winner Barbaro, who was trained by Matz.
The Perrys and the Stephenses formed Vision Sales (www.visionsalesllc.com) as a pinhooking operation, buying yearlings and reselling them as two-year-olds. In their first year together, the team acquired Visionaire for $300,000 at the 2006 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga Select Yearling Sale. Visionaire was consigned to two sales in 2007, but was repurchased each time. A deal to privately sell the colt, who already had undergone surgery to remove a chip in a knee, didn’t materialize. Visionaire went to Matz to begin his racing career for Vision Racing.
At the time, the Kentucky Derby was an event the Perrys wanted to attend as racing fans.
“At first, we thought wouldn’t it be great to just go to the Kentucky Derby,” Brandon Perry said. “To even have a thought of having a horse associated with you in the Derby--truly it wasn’t realistic at the time. We were just trying to make a living. We try to sell good horses and hope they do well.”
Visionaire’s allowance win in January at Gulfstream Park in the colt’s third career start impressed his connections and a few others in the industry.
“Up until that point, Michael had had him for six months, and he was a nice horse,” Brandon Perry said about Visionaire. “He was so laid back it was hard to get a read on him. I was down at Gulfstream for that race. When he burst on the rail and won by (5 1/2) lengths that day, I could tell Michael was excited and that we really had something. I think that was the first time that it entered our mind that maybe there’s a shot (to be in the Derby).”
After that race, Vision sold 51 percent interest in Visionaire to Team Valor, and the colt was on the Triple Crown trail.
Matz said Visionaire would jog a mile on Saturday morning.