James Cassels and Bob Zollars' Arkansas Derby (gr. II) winner Private Emblem arrived at Churchill Downs Sunday morning to continue preparing for the May 4 Kentucky Derby (gr. I). Team Valor's Rebel Stakes (gr. III) winner Windward Passage, a Steve Asmussen trainee like Private Emblem, was also on the flight from Arkansas and will be entered in the Derby as well.
Windward Passage finished in a dead heat for third in the Arkansas Derby. Those two joined stablemate Easyfromthegitgo, who is set to run in Keeneland's Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) and has been stabled at Churchill.
"They shipped great," said assistant trainer Scott Blasi, who oversees Asmussen's Churchill Downs operation. "It's good to have all the big guns here."
Easyfromthegitgo is scheduled to work Tuesday for the 1 1/16-mile Lexington.
Asmussen also shipped Fantasy Stakes (gr. II) runner-up Lake Lady to Churchill for the Kentucky Oaks.
"I'm taking both colts to the Derby," Asmussen said, of his Arkansas Derby starters. "Private Emblem, of course, deserves to be there, and I have to give him a big shot. Windward Passage ran a big race, and he should like the mile and a quarter. And Lake Lady, who should have won the Fantasy, is a go for the (May 3) Kentucky Oaks. She loves Churchill Downs."
Asmussen named Donnie Meche to ride Private Emblem in the Derby and Lake Lady in the Oaks, but Windward Passage needs a Derby pilot as Arkansas Derby rider Chris McCarron is booked to Came Home.
"There are several prospects," said Asmussen. "I don't expect any problems finding a rider."
Trainer Todd Pletcher remains on the fence regarding a Derby start for Arkansas Derby runner-up Wild Horses.
"We're on the fence, but (owner) John Ford is leaning toward running," Pletcher said.
Jockey Rene Douglas lost his whip during the Arkansas Derby and used his goggles to urge the son of Saint Ballado during the stretch run. Pletcher said the Belmont Stakes (gr. I) winning jockey will still have the mount if they chose to enter the Derby.
"Hopefully, there's a Derby with Bay Monster's name on it, but it's not the Kentucky Derby," trainer Steve Wren said of the co-third-place finisher of the Arkansas Derby. "Most likely, we'll send him to Texas for the Lone Star Derby. In the meantime, I'm ecstatic at how he ran in the Arkansas Derby."
Ninth-place finisher It'sallinthechase will also likely be pointed to the Lone Star Park race.
Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) third-place finisher Ocean Sound arrived in Louisville by van Sunday. Other Derby contenders at Churchill include Harlan's Holiday, Request for Parole, Easy Grades, and War Emblem. Perfect Drift is at Churchill's Trackside training center.
Trainer Ken McPeek said Blue Grass winner Harlan's Holiday is "doing great" the morning after his decisive victory. He added that Ashland Stakes (gr. I) winner Take Charge Lady will likely work mid-week ahead of the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I).
Request for Parole will likely work Wednesday for trainer Steve Margolis, who decided to skip the Blue Grass in favor of training the son of Judge T C up to the Derby.