Kentucky Derby Notes: Wednesday, May 3

A daily update on the candidates for the May 6 Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) at Churchill Downs.

A.P. WARRIOR - Stan Fulton's Kentucky-bred colt returned to his home state from California Tuesday and on Wednesday morning he got his gallop around Churchill Downs.

The A.P. Indy colt had regular exercise rider Steve Willard attached for the mile and three-quarters journey around the big oval at about 9:15 with trainer John Shirreffs looking on.

"He shipped fine, he galloped fine and everything's fine," said the conditioner, who also flew in from his Southern California headquarters Tuesday.

Shirreffs, of course, won the Kentucky Derby last year with a California shipper named Giacomo for Mr. and Mrs. Jerry Moss. He was stabled in Barn 45 for and is back there again with A.P. Warrior.

BARBARO - Trainer Michael Matz planned a busy morning for the Lael Stables' undefeated Barbaro Wednesday. In addition to galloping 1 1/2 miles, the Florida Derby (gr. I) winner was brought to the starting gate, where he stood for a while to become acquainted with it. After being brought back to Barn 42 to get a bath and cool out, Barbaro schooled in the paddock before Wednesday's racing card.

Barbaro has a temperament that should help him handle the Derby Day excitement, but his trainer is trying to take care of every detail in preparing his colt for the Derby.

"Nobody knows how their horse is going to react," Matz said. "There could be some surprises Saturday."

BLUEGRASS CAT/KEYED ENTRY/SUNRIVER - Things were "strong" at the Todd Pletcher barn Wednesday morning when it came time to discuss his Kentucky Derby colts.

The two who will start in Saturday's Run for the Roses drew the strong comments from their exercise riders following gallops around Churchill Downs on a sunny Kentucky morning.

Bluegrass Cat, who'll be handled by Ramon Dominguez in the 1 1/4-mile classic, had regular exercise rider Luis Castillo aboard for a 10-furlong traverse of the track at approximately 7:30.

And how did his horse feel, Castillo was asked? "Strong, real strong," the exercise rider said.

Keyed Entry went to the track just before the 8 a.m. renovation break to gallop about a mile and spend some time behind the starting gate. On Saturday, Patrick Valenzuela will be the Honour and Glory colt's rider, but his morning drills are handled by Jacob Roberts.

How'd he go, Jake? "He's feeling strong," the exercise rider stated.

Unfortunately, in the case of the third stable hopeful, Aaron and Marie Jones' Sunriver, there won't be a chance to strut his stuff on Saturday.

The Saint Ballado colt was one position away from earning a berth in the 20-horse Derby field. Pletcher had galloped Sunriver Wednesday 1 3/8 miles under Angel Cordero Jr., but conceded that his charge's next race is likely to be in another venue.

"I've got to talk to his owners," he said, "but we're probably looking at taking him to New York and running him in the Peter Pan at Belmont ($200,000, gr. II, nine furlongs, May 20). That race should give us a line on whether we can think about him in terms of possibly running in the Belmont (Stakes)."

BOB AND JOHN/POINT DETERMINED/SINISTER MINISTER - The California Boys – trainer Bob Baffert's pair of Bob and John and Point Determined – made their Kentucky debuts Wednesday shortly after the 8 a.m. renovation break for a gallop around the Churchill Downs oval on a sun-filled Louisville morning.

The two colts galloped strongly for about 1 3/8 miles and drew approving comments from their riders as Baffert oversaw their return to Barn 33.

Shortly afterward, Baffert held court for a media horde interested in the white-haired conditioner's opinion of his two Kentucky Derby charges.

"They looked good out there," Baffert offered. "But then, they're good horses; they're supposed to look good. We didn't bring any scraps here."

Earlier in the morning, the trainer's third Derby starter, Blue Grass Stakes (gr I) winner Sinister Minister, had gone trackside for a 1 3/8-mile gallop.

Baffert indicated that both Bob and John and Point Determined, who had flown in from their Southern California base Tuesday, would spend time schooling in the paddock Wednesday afternoon. Not so with Sinister Minister, who has been at Churchill since winning the Blue Grass.

"He's already done his paddock work," the trainer said.

BROTHER DEREK - Trainer Dan Hendricks and rider Alex Solis were interested observers trackside Wednesday morning at approximately 7:30 as their rooting interest for Saturday's Kentucky Derby, Cecil Peacock's Brother Derek, came out for a gallop on a clear and sunny Kentucky day.

The handsome bay colt had exercise rider Angel Rangel up for a 1 1/2-mile tour around the big oval, galloping forwardly and taking to the Churchill oval kindly. He gave all appearances of being a happy horse just three days in front of his big dance.

"He's doing fine; I have to be happy with the way things are coming along," Hendricks said.

Hendricks had paddocked Brother Derek during the races Tuesday and indicated he'd be back with him again Wednesday afternoon.

CAUSE TO BELIEVE - Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer's charge had a busy morning as he visited the paddock, stood in the starting gate, and then galloped 1 1/2 miles under exercise rider DaRon Long.

"He had a good day galloping," said Hollendorfer, who was back on the scene after spending four days tending his sizable flock in Northern California. "He needed time to adjust to the changes in weather and track surface, but he's coming around now. He acts cool and calm on the track and at the barn."

Cause to Believe will be Hollendorfer's second Derby starter. His first horse to make it into the starting gate was Eye of the Tiger, who finished fifth behind Funny Cide in 2003, beaten about four lengths for all the money.

"Cause to Believe is a better horse than Eye of the Tiger," Hollendorfer said in a firm tone.

And coming from a trainer who has won more than 4,000 races, the opinion carries a lot of weight.

"The draw will be critical," Hollendorfer said. "I'd rather be outside than inside so the horse can be in the clear when it's time to move. If you get buried on the rail, you might never get out."

DEPUTY GLITTERS - Trainer Tom Albertrani sent his Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) winner to the track Wednesday morning for a five-furlong breeze in 1:03 1/5 under exercise rider Keith Allen.

"I was hoping for 1:01 and change, but basically I was looking for him to finish up and gallop out," Albertrani said. "He looked like he finished well, which is the important thing."

Albertrani, whose trainee finished far back in his only two races over an off track, said Deputy Glitters seemed to handle the track well during his work.

"The inside of the track looked good. It was wet in places, but he handled it quite well," said Albertrani, whose Derby candidate worked before the break. "Hopefully, the rain misses us."

FLASHY BULL/JAZIL - Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin's two Derby starters came out on the track separately after the break to gallop.

Jazil was out first, galloping 1 3/8 miles with exercise rider Desmond Farrell aboard. Flashy Bull followed, also galloping 1 3/8 miles, also with Farrell in the irons.

McLaughlin, wearing a Jazil cap and a West Point Thoroughbreds shirt for Flashy Bull, was happy with the way the colts looked and acted.

"Jazil looked great out there," the trainer said, "but Flashy Bull looked fabulous. I've never seen him look better. It was awesome."

Terry Finley, founder of the West Point Thoroughbreds LLC syndicate, was enjoying the glorious morning and soaking up all the atmosphere of his first Kentucky Derby experience.

"It really is thrilling to be part of Derby Week," he said. "I'm glad we got into the field so the syndicate members could be part of all this."

Flashy Bull was 21st on the graded stakes earnings list and needed Mister Triester's defection to make it into the starting field.

McLaughlin saddled Closing Argument to finish second in last year's Derby as a 71-1 outsider. Despite the fact that he was going in with a longshot, the trainer had a good feeling all pre-Derby week because he felt his horse would run well.

"I feel the same way this year," McLaughlin said. "The way they're coming up to this, I think they'll both run their race."

McLaughlin got no breaks in the post-position draw process. He will have the 18th selection for Flashy Bull and the 20th selection for Jazil.

LAWYER RON - With Owensboro, Ky., attorney Ron Bamberger on hand, his namesake, Lawyer Ron, continued his preparations for Kentucky Derby 132 by galloping two miles before the renovation break under exercise rider Betsy Couch.

Owned by the Estate of James Hines Jr., Lawyer Ron was scheduled for a paddock schooling session Tuesday afternoon but that was scrubbed when trainer Robert Holthus started battling a flu bug.

"I probably won't go, but the horse will go Thursday afternoon," Holthus said of the schooling session.

Bamberger, executor of the estate for Hines, held court with members of the media after Lawyer Ron completed his morning activity apprising them of a possible sale of the Langfuhr   colt.

"We are still in negotiations; that's it," Bamberger said.

Also stopping by to look in on Lawyer Ron was Ira Hanford, who rode Bold Venture to victory in the 1936 Kentucky Derby.

Hoping to follow in Hanford's footsteps in John McKee, who has ridden Lawyer Ron in 13 of his 14 starts. McKee has ridden in the past two Derbys on Holthus trainees, Pro Prado in 2004 and Greater Good last year. Both finished 13th.

"This is the calmest I have been coming into this race compared to the past two years," McKee said. "I'm excited about it; I'm confident about it. I have a lot of confidence in Mr. Holthus and I am really looking forward to Saturday.

"He (Lawyer Ron) is just thriving right now. He has taken well to his training; he worked really well last Saturday (a bullet five-furlong move in :58 4/5). Bob Holthus has this horse the best he can be coming up to this race. I hope God is on our side that day and I have a lot of racing luck."

McKee feels he is in a better spot this year than the past two Derbies.

"The last two years, Mr. Holthus had them as good as they could be, but I think with the level of competition, they were just a cut below," McKee said. "This horse is a cut above. I love my chances. I wouldn't trade my cards with anybody."

PRIVATE VOW/STORM TREASURE - Mike McCarty's colts trained by Steve Asmussen had a routine morning Wednesday at the track.

"They both galloped a mile," said Scott Blasi, Asmussen's assistant.

Blasi said Private Vow and Storm Treasure were in early sets sent out from the Asmussen barn. Regular rider Carmen Rosas was aboard for the gallops.

SACRED LIGHT - Amerman Racing Stable's Holy Bull colt breezed four furlongs in :50 Wednesday morning, two hours before he was excluded from the Derby field because of a lack of graded earnings.

Sacred Light was 22nd on the graded stakes earnings list and was unable to qualify for one of the 20 positions in the Derby field.

Hofmans said the colt will run on Saturday, though - in an allowance race on the Derby program. Sacred Light was entered in the Crown Royal American Turf (gr. IIIT) on Friday just in case the allowance race had failed to fill with enough entries.

Hofmans said he clocked the work in :49 3/5 and caught the colt galloping out five furlongs in 1:02.

"It was a great work," Hofmans said. "He's doing really well. He loves it here."

The Preakness at Pimlico on May 20 could be Sacred Light's next stakes appearance, Hofmans said.

"We'll see how we run and how the Derby shapes up and what the field is going to look like," Hofmans said. "If it looks like we have a chance, yeah, we'll go."

SEASIDE RETREAT - Owner William S. Farish Jr. was on hand with trainer Mark Casse for Seaside Retreat's 1 1/2-mile gallop at Churchill Downs Wednesday morning.

Farish bred the son of King Cugat in partnership with Centennial Farms Management Co. and purchased the colt at the 2004 Keeneland September Sales for $13,000.

"I owned a quarter of him going into the sales. He's not a flashy kind of colt, but he's straightforward and correct. I said to myself, 'I can't let him go for that. There's nothing not to like about him,'" Farish recalled.

Farish, who is sales director of his father's Lane's End Farm in Versailles, said his first Derby memory was standing in the paddock before the 1977 Run for the Roses.

"My father had a horse in the race called Nostalgia. I saw Seattle Slew come into the paddock in a full sweat, and I thought, 'Hey, we got a real chance,'" chuckled Farish, who noted that Nostalgia finished 13th while Seattle Slew captured the first jewel of his 1977 Triple Crown sweep.

Farish's two most special memories of the Kentucky Derby were Charismatic's triumph in 1999 – "My father was part-breeder" – and taking the walk to the paddock with Came Home, who was part-owned by his father while finishing sixth in 2002.

"The walk-over Saturday is going to be pretty amazing," said the father of five. "The kids are going to walk over this year."

SHARP HUMOR - Trainer Dale Romans sent Swale Stakes (gr. II) winner Sharp Humor out after the renovation break for a visit to the starting gate and then a mile gallop with a pony.

Exercise rider Faustio Orantes was aboard Sharp Humor, who is owned by Purdedel Stable and WinStar Farm (lessee).

Orantes is no stranger to the best horses in Romans' barn. He was a regular morning partner to Eclipse Award winner Kitten's Joy and Breeders' Cup Classic runner-up Roses in May in their 2004 campaigns. However, Orantes did not make the trip to Dubai in 2005 when Roses in May won the Dubai World Cup (UAE-I).

"I don't see any difference in the three of them. They are all good," said Orantes, who has been getting on Sharp Humor since the colt returned to Romans' Barn 4 in early April. "He trains a lot like Roses in May, but I think he is more aggressive than those two horses."

Mark Guidry, who has ridden Sharp Humor in his two starts of 2006, will have the mount Saturday.

SHOWING UP - After galloping 1 3/8 miles at Belmont Park to his trainer's satisfaction Wednesday morning, Showing Up was entered for the Derby.

"Everything's a go," said trainer Barclay Tagg, who reported that Showing Up is scheduled to be flown to Louisville Thursday on a 2 p.m. flight.

Tagg had been closely monitoring a puncture wound Showing Up had suffered in his right front leg during his Lexington Stakes victory.

Showing Up will be only the second Derby starter for Tagg, who saddled Funny Cide for victory in 2003.

"It's exciting. I just hope he's good enough and we have some luck," said Tagg, whose lightly raced colt will bring a 3-for-3 record into the Derby. "He's handled everything so far."

STEPPENWOLFER - After some schooling and his exercise Wednesday morning, the Arkansas Derby (gr. II) runner-up spent some quiet time outside, grazing behind Barn 41.

Trainer Dan Peitz answered questions about the morning schedule holding Steppenwolfer's lead shank while the gray/roan colt grazed.

"He galloped probably about a mile and five-eighths," Peitz said. "We actually backed him up and stood him at the gate again today. He was fine. They backed him out and loaded him back up again. He's already had one little schooling session before, but we wanted to do it again."

As usual, exercise rider Jody Pieper was up for Steppenwolfer's trip to the track.

"It couldn't have gone any better is what he said," Peitz said. "He got him a little company there with Cause to Believe. They had a little match gallop today."

Peitz postponed the schooling by a day because it was raining Tuesday morning. Due to a forecast of very warm weather Wednesday, Peitz said he was planning to wait until Thursday to school Steppenwolfer in the paddock.

"I don't want to get him over there and if it's 80 degrees he'll probably get a little hot," Peitz said. "I don't want to do that. I'd rather wait and have it be a little cooler. I don't anticipate it being any problem anyway."

Peitz said the colt, owned by Robert and Lawana Low, wasn't fazed by the crowds around the paddock prior to his three stakes appearances at Oaklawn Park and should be ready for the huge Derby crowd he'll encounter on Saturday.

With a horse that comes from far off the pace, Peitz said he doesn't have to be concerned about what gate Steppenwolfer will leave from, or much else, for that matter.

"I'm not a speed horse. I don't have to worry about whether I can get my horse back," he said. "I'm not really worried about the distance. I'm not worried about the post. I'm not worried about his pre-race demeanor. I don't have a lot of questions that I think a lot of people do have.

"It's been a pretty stress-free three weeks because I'm confident on everything but am I fast enough. I think the pace is going to help that whole scenario, too."

SWEETNORTHERNSAINT - Joseph Balsamo and Ted Theos' Sweetnorthernsaint galloped 12 furlongs shortly after 7 a.m. Wednesday with regular exercise rider Ernesto Ferdinand up.

"Everything is good," trainer Michael Trombetta said. "The track had a little moisture in it this morning. He will have a light gallop in the morning, then jog Friday and go out once Saturday ... in the afternoon."

Two-time Kentucky Derby winning rider Kent Desormeaux has the mount on Sweetnorthernsaint.

The winner of the Illinois Derby (gr. II) in his previous start, Sweetnorthernsaint is housed in Barn 42, along with Derby heavyweights Barbaro and Brother Derek.

"I have not looked at all the horses real hard, just a little bit," Trombetta said. "They are wonderful horses. Barbaro is a big, imposing horse. Brother Derek is a very handsome horse, but he does not have the size or scope of Barbaro. But his record speaks for itself."

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