Big Brown shortly after arriving at Churchill Downs Monday afternoon.

Big Brown shortly after arriving at Churchill Downs Monday afternoon.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Daily Derby Notes: April 28

Denis of Cork in after Behindatthebar skips Derby; five others turn in works.

ADRIANO – Lane’s End Stakes (GII) winner Adriano walked the shedrow Monday morning after gaining his trainer’s approval with a five-furlong work in 1:00.80 at Churchill Downs on Sunday.
            Trainer Graham Motion, who reported that Adriano came out of his final workout for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands in good order, said his “hot-blooded” colt continues to settle into his surroundings.
            “It’s just about getting him in a routine and I think he’s handled it really well,” said Motion, who plans to return Adriano to the paddock for another schooling session Tuesday or Wednesday. “Most of the places we’ve run, we haven’t had the opportunity to take him over there and school him as we’ve had here. We’ve always shipped, so it’s given us much more of an opportunity to prepare for (the Derby).
            Courtlandt Farms’ homebred colt has excelled on turf and Turfway Park’s synthetic surface, but the son of A.P. Indyfinished ninth in his only dirt start in the Fountain of Youth (GII) at Gulfstream Park. His trainer expects him to handle the dirt at Churchill Downs after watching his workout.
            “You’d be pretty unlucky to breed a horse to A.P. Indy and not get a horse that can handle the dirt,” said Motion with a smile.
            Edgar Prado, this year’s Hall of Fame electee, has the Derby mount on Adriano.

ANAK NAKAL / COOL COAL MAN – Trainer Nick Zito’s Derby duo of Anak Nakal and Cool Coal Man galloped 1½ miles at Churchill Downs Monday morning under exercise riders Heather Stark and Megan Smillie, respectively, and they will continue to gallop up to their respective starts on Saturday.
            “They’re not going to blow out. They’re not robust horses. They’re not big horses. Maybe if I had a bigger horse, I might blow him out,” Zito said. “Condition-wise, you can’t ask for horses more conditioned.”
            Both Four Roses Thoroughbreds’ Anak Nakal and Robert LaPenta’s Cool Coal Man won over the Churchill Downs track last year. They will be ridden by recent Churchill Downs riding-title winners, Rafael Bejarano and Julien Leparoux, respectively.
            “They’re my two jockeys. They both ride for me. Rafael, we helped get started, and we have a good rapport with Julien. I have a lot going for us in that way,” Zito said. “Last November, Julien won the last two races of the meet (for me): the Kentucky Jockey Club with Anak Nakal and the last race on Aquarian. He nailed Calvin Borel, who was second (in the standings), so I made him the leading rider.”

BEHINDATTHEBAR/COWBOY CAL/MONBA – Speaking from Belmont Park where he was overseeing the New York division of his stable, trainer Todd Pletcher stated Monday morning that the Coolmore Lexington Stakes (GII) winner would bypass the Kentucky Derby and instead point for the Preakness Stakes two weeks later.
            “I spoke with Mr. Sanan (Padua Stable owner Satish Sanan) today and we agreed that the best thing for the colt was to pass this race and point instead for the Preakness,” Pletcher said. “The Lexington was just April 19 and he’d run 16 days before that in California (winning an allowance race at Santa Anita) and asking him to come back again this Saturday would have just been too much.
            “We’ll go up to Baltimore with him and see what we can do there. We’ll see if we can get lucky.”
            Behindatthebar, a Forest Wildcat colt, was scheduled to be ridden in the Kentucky Derby by California-based rider David Flores. His defection now opens the door for Mr. and Mrs. William Warren Jr.’s Denis of Cork to start in the Run for the Roses. Calvin Borel, who won last year’s Kentucky Derby aboard Street Sense, has the call on the Harlan’s Holiday colt for trainer David Carroll. 
             Meanwhile, back at Keeneland, assistant Tristan Barry reported on the morning activities for the stable’s two remaining Kentucky Derby hopefuls, who are stabled at the Lexington, Ky., track. Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (GI) winner Monba and runner-up Cowboy Cal each walked the shedrow.  The Pletcher colts are scheduled to train at Keeneland on Wednesday morning and ship to Churchill Downs later that day.

BIG BROWN – The unbeaten colt began Monday in Florida, where he rose to prominence with two victories at Gulfstream Park, and was scheduled to end the day in Kentucky at Churchill Downs.
Trainer Richard Dutrow said the son of Boundary galloped at the Palm Meadows Training Center before being flown to Louisville. Dutrow said he would accompany the colt on the flight. Big Brown is expected to arrive at the track at 5 p.m.
Big Brown, owned by IEAH Stables and Paul Pompa Jr., is undefeated in three starts. He broke his maiden by 11 ¼ lengths in a turf race at Saratoga on Sept. 3. He was scheduled to make his 2008 debut in a turf race at Gulfstream on March 5, but wet conditions forced that race to be moved to the main track, where drew away to a 12 ¾-length victory. Dutrow elected to try Big Brown in the Florida Derby (GI) on March 29 and he rolled to a five-length win.

BIG TRUCK/TALE OF EKATI – Eric Fein’s Big Truck demonstrated a distinct fondness for the Churchill Downs racetrack Monday morning during a bullet five-furlong workout. The Barclay Tagg-trained colt, who finished 11th in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (GI) over Keeneland’s Polytrack surface last time out, was clocked in :59.40, posting the fastest of 22 works at the distance. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.
            “He worked very well,’’ said Tagg, whose colt captured the Tampa Bay Derby (GIII) over a conventional dirt track prior to his Keeneland disappointment. “He did everything right. He likes the surface.”
            Exercise rider Kristen Troxell was aboard for Big Truck’s final tune-up for the Run for the Roses.
            “He really went well.  He really likes this track more than (Polytrack),” she said following the work that included splits of  :11.80, :23.60 and :34.60 and :46.60.
            Troxell, who rode afternoons at Colonial Downs and the Maryland tracks in the past, has decided to focus on a career as an exercise rider.
            “I was riding a lot of bad horses,” said the New Jersey native, who worked Big Truck shortly before 7 a.m. “I’m getting on a lot better horses now, and I’m enjoying it”
            Tagg reported that Charles Fipke’s Tale of Ekati, who won the Wood Memorial (GI) at Aqueduct in his last start, will breeze Tuesday morning after galloping 1½ miles under Troxell before the renovation break Monday.
            Eibar Coa will ride Tale Of Ekati on Saturday, while Javier Castellano will be aboard Big Truck.

BOB BLACK JACK – “The Mig” watch went past 9 a.m. at Barn 45 Monday morning, but still no sign of the California-based rider who was jetting in to work the Santa Anita Derby (GI) runner-up at Churchill Downs. Then a minute later Richard Migliore was there, thanks to a quick ride from the Louisville airport from trainer James Kasparoff.
            “Got an 11:30 red eye out of California,” the affable veteran offered, “and this was as early as I could get here. I booked so late I was stuck back in coach between two guys and didn’t get a lot of sleep. But it went OK. Got to get this done, then go grab an 11:30 (a.m.) flight right back.”
            The rider and Bob Black Jack made it trackside at 9:30 and registered one of the final works of the morning on the big oval. Breaking off at the four-furlong pole, the dark son of the Bertrando sire Stormy Jack clipped off steady fractions of :12.20, :24.20, :36 and :48.60. The track’s clockers caught him galloping out five furlongs in 1:02.
            James Kasparoff, who conditions the colt for his brother Tim and partner Jeff Harmon, was happy with the move.
            “I was going to work him five-eighths, but it just seemed safer to go four,” the trainer said. “We’re only five days out from the race and he just went a mile and one eighth (Santa Anita Derby) and put in a good work (six furlongs in 1:10.80 April 21) out at Santa Anita last week. I decided I didn’t want to be too aggressive with him. This will be fine.”
            Migliore, who was aboard Bob Black Jack for his Santa Anita Derby second, was pleased with the move also.
            “He went good,” he said. “I think we’re in good shape.”

COLONEL JOHN – Trainer Eoin Harty said the Tiznow colt appeared to have come out of Sunday’s impressive workout in terrific shape. With little or no urging from exercise rider Karine Lhuillier, Colonel John turned in the fastest five-furlong breeze of Sunday morning: :57.80.
Colonel John, bred and owned by WinStar Farm, had a typical schedule on the morning after a workout: walking the shedrow.
“Everything is fine,” Harty said. “I didn’t look too hard, but he’s walking sound and he ate everything.”
Colonel John will be the first Derby starter for Harty, who was an assistant to Bob Baffert when Baffert won the 1997 Derby with Silver Charm and the 1998 Derby with Real Quiet.
Harty said Colonel John is the first horse that he has trained who worked five-eighths of a mile in under 58 seconds.
“I wasn’t expecting it,” Harty said. “Nobody ever expects a 57 and change, but I wasn’t surprised with the way he did it. That’s what he’s been working like since Day One at Keeneland last year when he first came in. I’ve never seen him come off the bridle in a workout.”
Baffert uses walkie-talkies to stay in contact with his exercise riders, but Harty said there was no need to do that with Lhuillier because she has such a keen sense of pace.
“I told her, ‘just do what you do in California,’ ” Harty said.  “That’s what she did, but the result was a little different.”
Harty smiled at the suggestion that with the workout Colonel John was touting people that a big performance was ahead.
“I’ve always had an awful lot of faith in this horse,” Harty said. “I felt that he belonged in this race for a long time. As of right now, I feel somewhat vindicated. However, he’s still got to go over there and he’s got to run in front of an awful lot of people.”
Corey Nakatani, who rode the colt to victory in the Santa Anita Derby, has the mount in the Kentucky Derby.

COURT VISION / Z HUMOR – Trainer Bill Mott provided a concise report of the colts’ activities Monday, the morning after their final breezes for the 134th running of the Kentucky Derby.
“They walked the shedrow, that’s all,” Mott said. “They looked good.”
WinStar Farm’s Court Vision worked five furlongs in 1:00.80 Sunday morning. A little later, Z Humor, owned by Zayat Stables, covered the same distance in 1:01.20.
“I thought they both had excellent works,” Mott said Monday. “I thought they were very good.”
Like some other trainers with Derby prospects, Mott moved the colts' scheduled works ahead a day to avoid rainy weather. Though a bit of rain fell overnight, the conditions were ideal Monday morning: cool, dry and sunny.
“It worked out fine. I’m glad we worked them,” Mott said, as he glanced at the blue sky overhead. “The forecast called for heavy rain. It sounded like we were in for some bad weather, so we went ahead and worked them.”
Mott said the colts will return to the track on Tuesday and both will spend some time schooling in the paddock Tuesday or Wednesday.

DENIS OF CORK – Mr. and Mrs. William K. Warren Jr.’s Denis of Cork worked a half-mile in :48 under jockey Calvin Borel over a “fast” track after the renovation break, but trainer David Carroll was not a happy man.
            “He worked so good. Nothing this horse does surprises me,” Carroll said after the work that was the fifth fastest of 44 at the distance Monday morning. Splits on the work were :12.80, :25, :36.80 and out five furlongs in 1:00.20.
  But with $165,000 in graded stakes earnings in the bank, Denis of Cork may not make it into the Kentucky Derby starting gate when entries are taken Wednesday because that figure would not place him in the top 20 graded stakes earners.
            “It’s a crime,” Carroll said. “It is very frustrating now seeing the way he has trained the past couple of weeks ... his work last week (1:00 on April 21 for five furlongs), his work today, the way he covers the ground, the way he is training on a daily basis.”
            Denis of Cork needed to have one defection from the prospective Derby field before Wednesday morning to get in the gate.
            He got that defection later Monday morning when Behindatthebar was taken out of Derby consideration.
            “I am over the moon,” Carroll said. “It’s great news and I am very happy for Mr. Warren and his family and for my staff and my family.
            “Mr. (Satish) Sanan called Mr. Warren this morning to tell him (about Behindatthebar) and then Mr. Warren called me. I’m excited. Now all we need is to get a good post.”
            Before hearing of Behindatthebar’s withdrawal from Derby consideration, Carroll was downcast.
            “I’m not certain (we won’t get in), and I wouldn’t want to wish ill on anybody else or any horse,” Carroll said. “Every horse that is in the race has earned the right to be there and we haven’t. If it is not meant to be, we will move forward.”
EIGHT BELLES – Fox Hill Farm’s filly Eight Belles walked the shedrow Monday morning for trainer Larry Jones since she worked five furlongs at Churchill Downs on Sunday. 
The gray comes into the Kentucky Derby riding a four-race win streak, dating back to a 15-length romp in an allowance race at Fair Grounds on Jan. 21.  Three straight stakes victories at Oaklawn Park followed.
Only 38 fillies have competed in the Derby, which celebrates its 134th running this year.  Three fillies have won the Run for the Roses: Regret (1915), Genuine Risk (1980) and Winning Colors (1988).
“We’re going in the Derby unless we get a sign from God,” said Jones, who will also enter Eight Belles in the Kentucky Oaks as a precaution.  He says a post position like 19 or 20 in the Derby field would definitely be “a sign” not to run in that race.
Entries for the Oaks are taken on Tuesday, while the Derby is drawn on Wednesday.
Jones will have both races covered, as he will enter Brereton Jones’ homebred filly Proud Spell in the Oaks.

GAYEGO – The Kentucky-bred colt who races for Cuban owners (Cubanacan Stables), a Brazilian trainer (Paulo Lobo) and is ridden by a jock from New Mexico (Mike Smith) returned to the racetrack Monday morning for a little jiggy jog.
            The dark runner left Barn 33 at 6:20 with exercise rider Jody Pieper attached and a pony alongside.
            How far you going to go, Pieper was asked?
            “If he’s a good boy we’ll go around twice,” the rider said. “If not, we’ll wrap him up and take him home after one.”
            Gayego proved to be a good boy and the horse and his pony partner navigated the big Churchill oval two times, backtracking in an easy fashion on the outer rail.
            The Arkansas Derby winner will return to galloping Tuesday as he moves toward his date in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.
HALO NAJIB – One of the last horses on the track for the morning, the OBS Championship winner galloped 1 1/2 miles Monday morning as trainer Dale Romans looked on from the trainer’s stand. Currently No. 21 on the graded stakes earnings list of likely Kentucky Derby entrants (after the defection of Behindatthebar), Halo Najib definitely will be entered Tuesday morning for Friday’s Crown Royal American Turf (GIII) as “Plan B,” Romans confirmed.
“If I don’t know for sure that we’re in the Derby by tomorrow morning, I’m just going to work him on the grass and forget about it,” Romans said. The trainer had indicated that a Tuesday dirt work could be in the offing if Halo Najib was likely to draw into the Derby 134 field.
Owned by Zayat Stables, Halo Najib would be making his turf debut if he were to run in the Crown Royal American Turf. Both of his career victories, however, have come on synthetic surfaces.

PYRO / Z FORTUNE – The “A Train” was rolling on the track Monday at Churchill Downs as trainer Steve Asmussen’s Derby 134 duo of Pyro and Z Fortune worked in back-to-back fashion. As Zayat Stables’ Z Fortune was pulling up from his half-mile breeze, Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Pyro rolled past him to kick off his half-mile move.
Pyro, the Louisiana Derby (GII) winner, posted a time of :49.80 for his half-mile drill, ranking 29th fastest of 44 at the distance on Monday morning. Under regular exercise rider Dominic Terry, the son of Pulpit clicked off splits of :13.20, :25.60 and :38 flat, galloping out in 1:03.40.
Z Fortune, the Lecomte (GIII) champ, preceded that move with a slower breeze in :51 flat, rating the 38th fastest worker at the distance for the morning. With Carmen Rosas in the irons, the son of Siphon posted splits of :13.60, :26.20 and :38.80. Official clockers did not give a gallop-out time as Z Fortune eased his way around the clubhouse turn.
“They went over the track well,” Asmussen said of his Derby hopefuls. “We were very fortunate with the weather and the track was in excellent shape this morning.”
Pyro perked up with cooler temperatures this morning, Asmussen said, adding, “If anything, he was a bit too sharp today ... He needs to relax. The Derby isn’t for showing off in the middle of the race. It’s for showing off after it.”
Asmussen said that Pyro’s responsiveness has been a tell-tale sign since his debacle in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (GI) as the even-money favorite.
“Responsive has been the one thing that he’s always been,” Asmussen said, adding that since the Blue Grass he and assistant trainer Scott Blasi have been monitoring the horse’s mental state. “He came out of it and ate well and didn’t go into a shell.”
Z Fortune “shows his youth,” Asmussen said, and his leggy nature makes him a “great, big Ichabod Crane character.” The colt’s hard effort when second in the Arkansas Derby was encouraging as to the horse’s talents, but is “a huge concern for us, a lifetime best with a big, leggy horse (having to run) three weeks later,” Asmussen said.
When asked about where his horses stood now, just five days from Derby 134, the trainer replied, “They either are ready or they aren’t.
“You want their focus to be where it needs to be and for them to be confident enough, relaxed enough, to get the job done.”

RECAPTURETHEGLORY – After 20 years, the breath of fresh air known as Louie Roussel III officially blew back into town Monday outside Barn 41. With co-owner Ronald Lamarque alongside belting out baritone lyrics, the camp of the Illinois Derby (GII) winner held court with the media as their contender cooled out from a two-mile gallop.
Roussel and Lamarque, best known for 1988 Preakness and Belmont winner Risen Star, still struggle with the reality that their former star runner lost the Derby that spring to Winning Colors and Forty Niner.
“When I came here in ’88, I thought I’d win the race and it would be very easy to win,” Roussel said. “But in the Derby, only one horse will be standing in the winner’s circle and 19 are going home.”
Roussel laughed off the notion that he knew Recapturetheglory was a Derby horse from day one and that he named him accordingly to gain Risen Star’s retribution.
“If I knew that, I’d be on Wall Street with you hustling stock tips,” he told reporters. Roussel said he had the name reserved for years and was waiting for the 20-year anniversary to find a horse to use it with, ultimately deciding to “throw it here.”
“Everybody says he’s a longshot,” Roussel said of his Derby 134 candidate. “As a trainer, you want to see them get better. There’s an old saying, ‘the women get better looking at closing time.’ You kind of play mind games with yourself – is he good enough, isn’t he good enough?”
A practicing attorney, Roussel returned to training horses this February after four years on the sidelines and three surgeries to correct back and neck problems. Why did he return? “I felt better,” he said flatly.
Recapturetheglory is slated to visit the paddock for a schooling session Tuesday morning along with his exercise regimen.

SMOOTH AIR – The connections of Smooth Air breathed easier at Churchill Downs on Monday morning after the colt resumed training activity following three days of uncertainty due to running a fever last Thursday and Friday.  Trainer Bennie Stutts Jr. sent Smooth Air to the track for a two-mile gallop under exercise rider Susie Milne, who said, “He’s back to himself.”  Owner Brian Burns of Mount Joy Stable was also present.
            Smooth Air had gone to the track on Sunday for a jog, accompanied by a pony.  “Yesterday he was a little wobbly,” said Stutts.  “We had given him a tranquilizer because we didn’t want him to get too hot and the pony just took him around there.  When he was back in the barn walking, though, he took a rip out of his blanket.  He was feeling good.”  Stutts’ wife Dianne was mending the blanket this morning with safety pins and masking tape.
            Accompanied by a pony to and from the track on Monday, Smooth Air appeared frisky and full of energy.  He galloped well and appeared to want more.
After the gallop, Stutts said, “Today you saw a racehorse out there.  He was the same horse from South Florida.  He’s a handful.  He’s a little horse, but he doesn’t know it.”
Incidentally, the same black cat that twice crossed Smooth Air’s path this week again scurried in front of him on his return to his barn.  Burns has come to accept “Fred” the cat’s presence and doesn’t seem the least bit superstitious.

VISIONAIRE – Trainer Michael Matz’s shot for a second Derby win in three years, Visionaire, turned in his final Derby 134 workout Monday morning under jockey Jose Lezcano. The Gotham (GIII) champion drilled a half-mile just after the renovation break in :48.40, ranking 11th fastest of 33 at the distance.
Owned by Team Valor and Vision Racing, Visionaire worked in company with the maiden filly Novel Twist, who will run on Oaks Day.
“He just needed a little target to go at; he’s not a very good work horse,” said Matz, who shortly thereafter added, “They don’t give away money for works before the race.”
Matz was in a powerful position with Barbaro in 2006, who came into the Derby unbeaten and one of the favorites, but Visionaire has a longshot look. He was fifth in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (GI) last time out.
“The pace was slow and I thought at the end he was the only one gaining on the leader at that point,” Matz said. “If he runs good on Saturday, we’ll all be happy with it (as a final prep).
“We’re going to take a shot like everyone else is.”