After the defection of Hard Spun, five horses remain as “probable” contenders for Saturday’s $750,000 Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I), including Street Sense, Great Hunter, Zanjero, Dominican, and Teuflesberg. Starbase, from the stable of trainer D. Wayne Lukas, is also possible for the field.
Trainer Larry Jones took Hard Spun out of consideration for the Blue Grass due to changes in the colt’s training schedule brought about by the recent unseasonably cold weather.
Trainer Carl Nafzger reported that Street Sense will breeze five-eighths of a mile at Churchill Downs on Tuesday morning in his final work before the Blue Grass. Regular rider Calvin Borel will be aboard for the move. Plans call for the son of Street Cryto go to the track between 7:30-8:30 a.m., depending on the weather. Nafzger said Street Sense galloped 1 1/4 miles on Monday morning at Churchill.
J. Paul Reddam’s Great Hunter arrived at Keeneland on Saturday afternoon and is now one of six horses in trainer Doug O’Neill’s barn there. The Aptitude colt, who won the Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland last October, jogged on Sunday morning and galloped 1 ½ miles on Monday, said assistant Sabas Rivera. Great Hunter is scheduled to gallop 1 ½ miles on Tuesday morning about 7:30 a.m., Rivera said. O’Neill has two other classic hopefuls here: grade II winner Cobalt Blue, seventh in Saturday’s Illinois Derby (gr. II), and grade II winner Notional, runner-up in the Florida Derby (gr. I).
Scott Blasi, assistant to trainer Steve Asmussen, reported Zanjero “worked great” Monday morning at Keeneland, going four furlongs over the main track in :50.20. Exercise rider Carmen Rosas was in the irons. Owned by Winchell Thoroughbreds LLC, Zanjero comes into Blue Grass off a third-place finish to Circular Quay in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) on March 10 at Fair Groounds. Zanjero was followed to the track this morning by stablemate Curlin, who worked four furlongs in :50.80. Curlin will ship later today from Keeneland to Hot Springs where he will start in Saturday’s Arkansas Derby (gr. II) at Oaklawn.
Trainer Darrin Miller said Dominican is now likely for the Blue Grass. The El Corredor colt worked five furlongs in :59.80 at Keeneland on Sunday morning. “He worked well, so we’ll point toward the Blue Grass,” Miller added.
Dominican was a five-length winner of the Rushaway Stakes at Turfway Park on March 24 in his last start.
Jones said his priority this week is to work Hard Spun at Churchill Downs to see if he likes the surface before he starts in the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I). Jones planned to work Hard Spun at Churchill on Tuesday, but unseasonably cold conditions at Churchill forced him to change his plans.
“Our number-one objective is to try to get to the Kentucky Derby,” Jones said of plans for the Lane’s End Stakes (gr. II) winner. “We really want to know if he’s going to handle the track (at Churchill Downs). We want to give him a fair chance and we want to give the Churchill track a fair chance to see if that’s where we need to be. If we do take him over and he does act like he does not care for it, we’ll apparently run here in the Coolmore Lexington (gr. II) (on April 21 at Keeneland) and then go to the Preakness (gr. I) from there. That’s the only two options we’re down to now.”
At Keeneland, Hard Spun galloped a mile on Sunday and galloped 1 ½ miles on Monday. When Jones feels the Churchill track is back to normal later this week, he will send Hard Spun there to work.
“If we’re going to the Derby, we’re going straight there, off the Lane’s End and this (week’s) work,” Jones said. “He’s where we want him to be going into the Derby. But if we feel like we have to miss the Derby like Churchill’s (track is) not going to agree with him, we’ll run in the Coolmore Lexington and go to the Preakness. If we’re going to the Preakness, we definitely want a race into him before that. Hopefully, in a perfect world, we’re going to have the Derby as the race prepping him for the Preakness.”