Larry Williams' homebred Rousing Sermon was the lone Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) worker the morning of May 1. The California-bred son of Lucky Pulpit worked five furlongs in 1:00 2/5 for Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.
Jockey Jose Lezcano was aboard for the move under the Twin Spires that went in :12 3/5, :25, :36 3/5 and :48 2/5. Rousing Sermon galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.
"I wanted Jose to go between 1:00 and 1:01, so he did a great job rating the horse and did exactly what we wanted," Hollendorfer said. "He galloped out nice. I'm pleased with the work and it seems like the horse took to the racetrack.
"He goes straight and true every day and, knock wood, he's remained sound as long as I've had him,"Hollendorfer said of the chestnut colt out of the Awesome Again mare Rousing Again.
Rousing Sermon is one of the more seasoned horses in the Derby field with a 2-2-4 mark from nine starts and $404,000 in earnings. He made his first four starts against state-bred competition then ran second in both the Real Quiet Stakes and CashCall Futurity (gr. I) at Hollywood Park (now known as Betfair Hollywood Park). In the CashCall he was beaten a neck by fellow Derby entrant Liaison .
Rousing Sermon has made three starts this year, starting with a fourth-place finish behind I'll Have Another in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II). He then ran fifth in the San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita prior to shipping to Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots in New Orleans where he rallied from 11th to finish third in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II).
He's been ridden by five different jockeys, but will be ridden by Lezcano for the first time in the May 5 Run for the Roses.
"Jose skipped a couple of things he had planned to come in and work this horse," Hollendorfer said. "Now he knows a little bit about him. You have to prompt him to get him.
"I chose Jose because he's a fearless rider and because he's ridden against most of these boys in the race, and he's been in any number of big-time races and won a number of those also. A lot of people think he's one of the finest riders in the country."
For now, Rousing Sermon will walk the shed Wednesday, then jog Thursday, and gallop on Friday. He'll also get a few trips to the Churchill Downs paddock for schooling during the week. Hollendorfer knows his horse is a cool customer, but just wants to make sure his colt is used to being in the paddock with a crowd.
"He's a real steady horse who does everything the same every day, and he's very relaxed and laid-back,"he said. "When he goes to the post, you'd never know he was going to run in a horse race because he goes there as calm as can be."
And Hollendorfer is remaining calm until the draw for post positions on Wednesday.
"Post position and where you are in the race means everything," he said "If you're behind horses and checking down the lane, it doesn't matter how many gears you have. You need a guy in the race that knows what's going to happen. Especially if you're inside and there is speed on the outside, they're going to try push everything down and you can get pushed onto the rail and never get out of there."
Hollendorfer should know. It's not his first trip to the rodeo. He's won the Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) three times with Lite Light in 1991, Pike Place Dancer in 1996, and with Blind Luck in 2010. He's brought six horses from California to run in the Derby, but only four have started.
Hollendorfer had perhaps his best shot with Event of the Year, a colt who would have likely been the favorite in 1998 before it was discovered he had a fractured knee following a five-furlong workout the week before the Derby. Two years later Hollendorfer came to Churchill Downs with Globalize who was scratched the Thursday before the Run for the Roses after being kicked by his stable pony.
"Every trainer wants to win the Derby," Hollendorfer said. "We get few opportunities to do it, but most of us, when we get the opportunity, we're going to be here. That's why I'm here and that's why the horse is here.
"The Derby means a lot to everybody. It's America's biggest race. We all try to get that prize if we can."