Daily Derby Notes: May 1

Daily Derby Notes: May 1
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Rick Dutrow, Jr. has been all smiles as he prepares Big Brown for the May 3 Derby.
ADRIANO – Lane’s End Stakes (GII) winner Adriano galloped two miles under exercise rider Alice Clapham Thursday morning after visiting the starting gate and schooling in the paddock in preparation for a start in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands.
            “We kept him in a routine,” said Motion, who has schooled Adriano in the Churchill Downs paddock each morning this week to get the hot-blooded colt comfortable in his surroundings. “Everything went well.”
            Courtlandt Farms’ Adriano, who was scheduled to return to the paddock during Thursday afternoon’s racing program, will break in the first stall in the auxiliary starting gate from the No. 15 post position – inside speedsters Big Brown, Recapturetheglory and Gayego.
            “It’s odd the way the race sets up. What worries me a little bit is that everybody’s going to be cutting over pretty quick. Hopefully, we’ll have plenty of room inside of us. That’s one of the things about the 15 hole is that you’ve got that gap,” Motion said. “I’m not too worried about it. I could find a hundred things to worry about. Once I solve one thing, I think of something else.”
            Hall of Fame jockey-elect Edgar Prado, who rode him to an impressive victory in the Lane’s End over Turfway Park’s Polytrack surface, will have the return mount aboard Adriano.

– Anak Nakal and Cool Coal man galloped 1½ miles Thursday morning at Churchill Downs after schooling in the paddock to the satisfaction of trainer Nick Zito. Four Roses Thoroughbreds’ Anak Nakal was ridden by Heather Stark, while Megan Smillie galloped Cool Coal Man.
            “Both of them were very professional,” Stark said.
            Zito had no complaints about the post positions he selected Wednesday with the seventh and 18th picks, which resulted in the No. 3 (Anak Nakal) and No. 1 post (Cool Coal Man). Although the rail post position hasn’t produced a winner since 1986 (Ferdinand) and is generally avoided by trainers at the selection ceremony, Zito didn’t have much choice for his Fountain of Youth (GII) winner Cool Coal Man.
“I think we’re OK. For him, it’s certainly better than 20 or 19. That worked out as good as we could with what we had,” said Zito, who saddled Strike the Gold (1991) and Go for Gin (1994) for victories in the Derby. “Anak Nakal got a good post, so that worked out too.”
Cool Coal Man will be ridden in the Derby by Julien Leparoux, while Rafael Bejarano will be aboard Anak Nakal.

BIG BROWN – The last timed work for a horse entered in Kentucky Derby 134 was turned in Thursday by morning-line favorite Big Brown, who covered three furlongs in :35.40.
            The unbeaten colt owned by IEAH Stable and Paul Pompa Jr., went to the track at 8:30 a.m., just following the renovation break. The son of Boundary turned in fractional times for the eighth-of-a-mile segments of :12 and :23.80 under Michelle Nevin.
 “It looked good to me. I watched it from the frontside and I was as happy as I could be watching it,” trainer Rick Dutrow said. “I could see when he turned around with the pony that right away he was just a little too aggressive, which you can expect, I think.
 “It just went as good as it could have possibly went. It didn’t look like he did too much. It looked like he was well within himself. He cooled out well at the barn. It look like he’s as happy as he can be.”
The 35.40 was a bit faster than the :36 to :37 range Dutrow talked about Wednesday, but he said the time wasn’t a problem.
“I think maybe the track was a little bit fast and so is our horse,” he said. “You can’t get everything perfect all the time. It looked like a very good move to me. I’m not going to blame this work if he gets beat. It looked very good to me. I was very happy with it.
“I’m sitting on go here. We’re ready.”
Big Brown is scheduled to school in the paddock during the third race today.
            Dutrow said he didn’t know if people were making too much out of his horse’s post position. At the post position draw Wednesday, Dutrow passed on two deep inside positions, as well as 18 and 19 to select 20, the farthest outside spot. He said he and the owners were not concerned about the post.
            Hall of Fame rider Kent Desormeaux guided Big Brown to a decisive victory in the Florida Derby (GI) from the far outside post and talked about the task he faces Saturday.
            “Well, the Florida Derby and this race are like apples and oranges,” Desormeaux said. “I had 50 feet to get to the first turn; we’ve got five-sixteenths of a mile. The camp talked about it. I think it’s the perfect post for the horse after being dealt the 16 card to draw.
            “For me, it works out perfect because I can catbird someone, whoever leads me into the first turn. If not, I think we talked about that, too, when the doors open I’m just going to feel it. I don’t know where I’m going to be. It’s just one of those things. Does pace make race? Yes, pace makes race, but my horse’s pace, his ultimate maximum cruising speed is where I want to set him up at. That’s just something I’m going to feel. I don’t know where it’s going to be. Big Brown will tell me where that is.”
            Desormeaux acknowledged, though, that he cannot let the colt dictate how he will run because he will go too fast.
            “He’s the kind of horse if you turn him loose he’s going to step it out. Michelle (Nevin) who rides him in the morning, and I both know that. But he’s very intelligent and he works off our hands. She’s done a great job of teaching him what we need from him as a rider. For me in the afternoon, he’s very attentive to my needs. I’m definitely going to rein him in or he’s going to go :21, :44.
            Desormeaux gave a one-word answer to the question of whether he is as confident as Dutrow.
            “Yes,” he said.
            Dutrow laughed and clapped his hands.
            Desormeaux passed on the request to say more and said Big Brown will do the talking.
            “I think we’ll let him elaborate,” Desormeaux said. “He’ll elaborate Saturday.”

BIG TRUCK/TALE OF EKATI – Big Truck enjoyed an uneventful 1½ -mile gallop under exercise rider Kristen Troxell Thursday morning. Stablemate Tale of Ekati’s scheduled 1½ -mile gallop did not proceed without incident.
            “He had to be pulled up because of a loose horse on the track,” trainer Barclay Tagg said, “so he only galloped about a mile-and-a-quarter. But everything’s OK.”
            Tale of Ekati, who captured the Wood Memorial (GI) at Aqueduct in his last start, is owned by geologist and diamond-mind explorer Charles Fipke. The British Columbia
native discovered the Ekati Mine 200 miles north of Yellowknife in Canada’s Northwest Territories in 1998. The Ekati Mine is one of the world’s largest diamond mines and commands the highest prices because of the high quality of the gems.
            “We actually don’t explore for diamonds by looking for diamonds. We explore for diamonds by looking for minerals that grow with them that are more abundant than the diamonds themselves. Diamonds originate 200 kilometers down,” explained Fipke. “Each of the formations have very unique minerals that have chemistry that we can analyze and tell whether or not they grow diamonds. We follow the trail. The Ekati trail started along the McKenzie River and we followed it for 380 miles to find the mine.”
            Fipke owns a large band of broodmares and the Darby Dan stallion Perfect Soul, as well as 30 horses in training. Tale of Ekati is the first and only horse that he’s given Tagg to train.
            “All my horses are schooled with J.B. McKathan in Ocala, and (Tale of Ekati) was my best horse and he was a dirt horse. A lot of my horses go to Roger Attfield, who trains on Polytrack or turf,” he said. “This particular horse was a dirt horse, so I went looking for a trainer. I got all the statistics on all the trainers, and Barclay came up pretty high. Bob Baffert comes up pretty high too, but he’s going to be on Polytrack. So I knew Barclay would have a lot of access to dirt.”

BOB BLACK JACK – The Santa Anita Derby (GI) runner-up was out for a mile and one-half gallop with exercise rider Joe Deegan just prior to the mid-morning renovation break. Trainer James Kasparoff looked on.
            “Just a nice, easy gallop for him,” the conditioner said. “We’re not breaking any records out there. That track was a little on the rough side this morning, so you didn’t want to push it. His ears were pricked and he was having fun.”
            Bob Black Jack, a California-bred son of the Bertrando sire Stormy Jack who races for Kasparoff’s brother Tim and partner Jeff Harmon, will be ridden Saturday by veteran Richard Migliore. They drew post No. 13 in the 20-horse lineup with the logical “speed” horses all positioned outside them.
             With a natural speed horse of his own packing the ability to make the lead in most any race, Kasparoff was asked what he thought might be a possible pace scenario in Kentucky Derby 134.
            “It’s going to be interesting,” he offered with a smile.

COLONEL JOHN –  Following the Santa Anita Derby (GI) winner’s trip to the track Thursday morning, trainer Eoin Harty delivered another upbeat review.
“I’ve liked what I’ve seen since I got here and I have no reason to change my opinion,” Harty said.
Colonel John went to the track shortly after training resumed at 8:30 a.m. following the renovation break. Harty had the WinStar Farm homebred and second choice in the Kentucky Derby morning line visit the gate for a  while before galloping about 1 ½ miles. 
“He just stood in there and relaxed,” Harty said. “It’s just something I like to do with my horses before I run them. And everything went well.”
Colonel John is Harty’s first Derby starter as a head trainer. The 45-year-old native of Dublin, Ireland, is no Derby rookie, though. He was Bob Baffert’s assistant when Baffert finished second in 1996 with Cavonnier and won the Silver Charm in 1997 and Real Quiet in 1998.
Harty said that experience in the 1990s has told him that Colonel John is ready for America’s biggest race.
“I truly believe that this horse will be competitive on Derby Day,” Harty said. “He’s shown me all the signs that Real Quiet and Silver Charm did.”
Smiling as he spoke, Harty acknowledged there is a world of difference between being the head trainer and an assistant.
            “I’m going to be a hero or a zero,” he said “It’s my name on the program and the results are going to hang on my head, one way or the other. Before, I was in the background and no matter what happened I didn’t have to take the fall for it.
            “This is something I always wanted to do and I’m very glad and feel very fortunate to be in this position.”
            Harty had an early selection in the post position draw and placed Colonel John in post 10 in the field of 20. While Colonel John was being bathed after his trip to the track, Harty talked about the trip he would like jockey Corey Nakatani to give the colt.
“There is a little speed on the inside, but most of it is stacked to the outside,” Harty said. “If they break well, it’s obvious that they’re only going to go one way and cross over in front of the field to make it to the first turn in front.
 “Hopefully we can avoid all that carnage because you know that if those speed horses don’t break as fast as they like and they are hustled to the lead, there might be a logjam going into the first turn. I think the race is going to be dictated by what happens on that first turn. I’d like to save some ground and get around that first turn safely.
Harty said he hopes Nakatani can place the Tiznow colt in a stalking position for the trip through the backstretch.
“I’d like to be about mid-pack, about seven or eight lengths off the lead, saving some ground and not taking too much dirt in the face,” he said.
Still, Harty said he expects Nakatani to react as the race unfolds and not to be tied to the prerace instructions.
“I have a very good rider and he can call an audible if he needs to,” he said. “I’ve got great faith in him and he’s got great confidence in the horse. There’s not much more that I can hope for.”

COURT VISION/Z HUMOR – Trips to the paddock and gallops of 1 1/2 miles were on the morning menu around the stable of Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott. Both Wood Memorial (GI) third-place finisher Court Vision and Illinois Derby (GII) third-place finisher Z Humor were reported to be in excellent shape two days out from Derby 134.
Court Vision will race with blinkers on for the first time on Saturday. He has been outfitted with blinkers in two spirited Kentucky Derby workouts at Churchill Downs.
”The blinkers haven’t made him overly nervous or anything,” Mott said. “If anything, he’s been more push-button – going when he’s asked. But if they were to put him into the race a little bit more early on, that would be fine.”
Meanwhile, Z Humor continues to look sharp in his morning gallops while under the radar of his higher-profile stablemate.
“He’s always been a little bit of a strong galloper; that’s nothing new, he’s always been that way,” Mott said. “He’s doing very well here.”
IEAH Stable and WinStar Farm’s Court Vision will try to give the nation’s top stakes-winning jockey, Garrett Gomez, his first Triple Crown race victory. Court Vision starts in post No. 4 and is 20-1 on the morning line.
Zayat Stables’ Z Humor will break from post 11 in Saturday’s main event with Rene Douglas in the saddle. Douglas never has won the Derby, but did win the 1996 Belmont Stakes aboard Editor’s Note. Z Humor opens at 30-1 in the morning line.

COWBOY CAL/MONBA – The Todd Pletcher-trained duo got their first leg-stretchers at Churchill Downs this year Thursday morning with exercise rider Patti Krotenko aboard both for mile-and-a-quarter gallops on a warm and sunny Kentucky morning.
            Monba, who races under the banner of Starlight Stable, Lucarelli and Saylor and will break from post No. 14 in the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field, was out first at 6 a.m. just as the light brightened in Louisville. Cowboy Cal, the Stonerside Stable runner who will come from post No. 17 Saturday, followed at about 6:30.
            Four-time Eclipse Award winner Pletcher, who has been fighting a cold but says he’s starting to win that battle now, led both horses from Barn 34 to the track and both had their yellow Derby towel under their saddles.
            The trainer was asked if he thought the racing and training that Monba and Cowboy Cal had had recently at Keeneland on its Polytrack – where they had run 1-2, respectively, in the April 12 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (GI) – may have helped leg them up for the 10-furlong Derby.
            “I’m not sure if it legs them up more or not,” he stated, “but we’ve had some luck training on synthetics and then running on conventional dirt tracks. Last year out in California we did well with horses who trained on Hollywood Park’s (Cushion) track, then ran over on the dirt at Santa Anita.”
            One of the horses in the Pletcher stable that followed that routine in 2007 was Rags to Riches, who went on to win the Kentucky Oaks, then beat colts in the Belmont Stakes en route to being named 3-year-old filly champion.
            In Kentucky Derby 134, Monba will be handled by Ramon Dominguez, while Cowboy Cal has the saddle services of John Velazquez.

DENIS OF CORK – Mr. and Mrs. William K. Warren Jr.’s Denis of Cork visited the starting gate and then galloped a mile and a half with trainer David Carroll up after the renovation break Thursday morning at Churchill Downs.
            “He wanted to do a little more than I wanted him to,” Carroll said. “He is feeling very well; he’s a happy horse.”
With a happy trainer?
            “A tired trainer,” Carroll said with a laugh.
            Carroll, who never has had a Kentucky Derby starter, said Denis of Cork may school at the gate again in the morning.
            “He has never had a problem at the gate,” Carroll said. “I school all my horses at the gate and if you don’t see me there with one, you know something is wrong.”
            Denis of Cork will break from post position 16 under Calvin Borel.
            “I am happy with the 16,” Carroll said. “We have speed to the outside of us and Calvin should be able to drop back and stay in the clear.”

EIGHT BELLES – Trainer Larry Jones was aboard Fox Hill Farm’s Eight Belles on Thursday morning, taking her to the paddock prior to a half-mile jog and a half-mile gallop.
            Jones and Fox Hill’s Rick Porter selected post position five for Eight Belles in the Derby, in part to give her more time in the starting gate.
            “What’s happened with her in the races where she was last or next to last to load, she’s jumped up at the start,” Jones said.  “It takes her a little while to get settled and being where she’s at, she’ll be settled long before the horses get in (post positions) 10 or 20.”
            Asked if they had a minimum performance in the Derby in mind for Eight Belles to continue racing against the “boys” after Saturday’s race, Jones said, “We’ll ask ourselves that question Sunday morning.”
            Jones campaigned Fox Hill Farm’s Hard Spun last year through the Triple Crown, so he’s no stranger to the excitement of Derby week and all that ensues.  But is running a filly in the race any different?
            “This year is not as overwhelming for me,” said Jones.  “This year, I know more what to expect. 
“I’ve gained a reputation for having a lot more good fillies than colts, so it would be very special to win the Derby with a filly.  I’ve talked with (trainers) Wayne Lukas and LeRoy Jolley about this.  Both said this year may be a good year to try, because there’s no one outstanding individual, except Big Brown, according to his trainer.  They are two Hall of Fame trainers and I respect their opinion.”
Lukas was the last trainer to win the Kentucky Derby with a filly, Winning Colors in 1988.  Jolley sent out Genuine Risk to win the 1980 “Run for the Roses.”  Jones feels fortunate to get the feedback from those two trainers, but hasn’t been able to channel James Rowe Sr., trainer of Regret the first filly to win the Kentucky Derby in 1915.
Jones is in the enviable position of attempting an Oaks / Derby double, as he also sends out Brereton Jones’ Proud Spell in the Kentucky Oaks on Friday.  Two trainers in history have pulled off the feat, including the legendary Ben Jones in 1949 and 1952.  There is no relation between Ben Jones and Larry Jones (nor Brereton Jones, for that matter), although Larry said, “Indian Charlie has suggested that I’m inbred five by four to Ben Jones.”
Eight Belles’ owner Rick Porter maintains a web site for Fox Hill Farm at www.rockportharbor.com, where he posts his own daily comments.

GAYEGO – The Arkansas Derby (Gr. II) winner, who races in the silks of Cubanacan Stables, had a day off Thursday and only walked the shed at Barn 33. Trainer Paulo Lobo, the Brazilian whose methods may be a bit different – but have proven very effective – felt that was the right way to go with his energetic son of Gilded Time.
            “He’s done enough and he’s plenty ready,” Lobo said. “He’s ready; very ready.”
            The trainer noted that the run-up to the Kentucky Derby has been a much easier row to hoe for him and his husky, dark colt than their preparations at Oaklawn Park for the Arkansas Derby.
            “We flew in there Monday and the weather was so ‘off’ all week we couldn’t really train at all,” he said. “I only got to jog him a couple of days and it wasn’t until Friday when I actually had a chance to gallop him. Still, he was fit enough that he ran fine.
            “He’s doing fine here, too. He’s surely a fit horse. I’ll jog him and gallop him a mile and a quarter tomorrow and then we’re all done. Then it’s racing time.”

PYRO/Z FORTUNE – Trainer Steve Asmussen broke from his normal, predawn pattern just a bit Thursday morning with his Derby 134 contenders, Pyro and Z Fortune, taking them to the track around 7:15 a.m. for their morning regimen. Each schooled in the starting gate and galloped an easy mile while on the track in tandem.
Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Pyro was feeling good, bouncing and prancing over the Churchill Downs surface. Zayat Stables’ Z Fortune was the more laid-back of the duo. Asmussen said both handled their gate lessons well and are slated to school in the paddock this afternoon along with the field for race seven.
“It’s as much for us to practice the walkover,” the trainer said with a laugh. “We need to be in shape so we’re not winded walking the horses over on Saturday. I don’t want friends texting me and telling me I’m fat and winded.”
Pyro was installed the 6-1 third choice in Mike Battaglia’s Kentucky Derby 134 morning line. He will break from post nine under Shaun Bridgmohan, who will be out to notch his first victory in a Triple Crown race.
Z Fortune will start from post position No. 6 in the Derby and will have Robby Albarado in the irons seeking his first Derby victory and second career score in a Triple Crown race. He piloted the Asmussen-trained Curlin to last year’s Preakness score. Z Fortune opens at 15-1 on the morning line.

RECAPTURETHEGLORY – It looked like a backyard football game around the Louie Roussel III barn Thursday morning as the Illinois Derby (GII) winner’s trainer and jockey drew their Kentucky Derby 134 race strategies in the dirt. Roussel diagrammed the break with his car keys as he and his Derby rookie rider, E.T. Baird, discussed what might happen in the early stages of the race.

Afterward, Baird commented on what it’s like to be in his first Derby and what the potential Derby pace scenario might look like.
“It’s a fantastic experience and time for me, especially since I’ve never been here before,” Baird said. “I’ve ridden races at Churchill Downs, but the Derby is a different game. But you have to remember as a rider that it’s just another horse race and ride your horse accordingly.
“I can only ride my horse and feel the way he’s running. With those other horses outside of me (Gayego and Big Brown, who also have good early speed), we’ll just have to see how things fall out of the gate. Louie and I just ran through different scenarios and you have to ready for anything.”
So what’s the best-case scenario?
“Oh, how about a half in, say, :50, and three-quarters in 1:15?” Baird joked.
When Roussel was asked what he thought the Derby’s opening half-mile actually would be run in, without hesitation, he responded “forty-five, forty-five-and-change.”
Recapturetheglory galloped two miles and is expected to school in the paddock Friday afternoon. He breaks from post No. 18 on Saturday and opens at 20-1 on the morning line.

SMOOTH AIR– Mount Joy Stable’s homebred Smooth Air blew out three-eighths of a mile in an easy :38.20 Thursday morning under exercise rider Susie Milne. 
“He just needed to blow out some of this Kentucky air,” said trainer Bennie Stutts Jr.  “I’ve never blown him out in the past (two days before a race); I always breezed him.  But we had to do something different this time.  What I see, I like.  I’d rather that he go slower than faster at this point.  He’ll go to the track again tomorrow.  But he’s dead fit.”
Smooth Air never has been worse than third in seven starts and Stutts said, “He has honest form.  He’s run over three different tracks.  And from what I see here (at Churchill Downs), he’s running on top of the dirt, just floating over it.  I want him to come out of this race the way he’s going into it.  If he hits the board, I’ll be tickled to death.”
Commenting on Smooth Air’s second-place finish behind the popular Big Brown in the Florida Derby, Stutts described the event as if it were two races in one. “Big Brown won the ‘first’ Florida Derby; we won the ‘second’ one by 7 ½ lengths.”
Stutts, 70 and a third-generation horseman, was at Churchill Downs only one other time in his life.  “In 1959, I watched the Kentucky Derby from the backstretch sitting on top of a car.”

VISIONAIRE – After drawing the outside post in both the Gotham Stakes (GII) at Aqueduct and the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (GI) at Keeneland, Visionaire was picked as the first horse for which a post position would be selected for the Kentucky Derby. Wednesday’s good fortune has made trainer Michael Matz happy about Saturday’s race.
            “You’re darn right (I’m happy),” Matz said. Visionaire will break from post eight, the same post that launched Barbaro’s 6 ½-length victory for the trainer in 2006.
            Now Matz is hoping for a clean trip for Visionaire, a son of Grand Slam who races for Team Valor International and Vision Racing LLC.
            “This horse is going to have to come through some traffic,” he said. “I think right now, the way it is, I’m just hoping we get around the first turn fine and get in a spot where he can be put in a position to use the stretch. That’s all you can ask for.”
            Visionaire, who jogged a mile and stood in the starting gate on Thursday, is 20-1 on the morning line. He again will be ridden by Jose Lezcano.
“At the beginning of the year, when he had only broken his maiden, I never thought he’d be at the Derby,” Matz said about Visionaire, who won an allowance race in January by 5 ½ lengths to step into the Triple Crown picture. “But I think that’s the nice thing about this horse. He has a big heart and I think he’ll try the best he can. Whether he’s good enough, who knows? But stranger things have happened.”

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