Adriano was one of several Derby hopefuls to work out at Churchill Downs Sunday morning.

Adriano was one of several Derby hopefuls to work out at Churchill Downs Sunday morning.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Daily Derby Notes: April 27

Busy day of Derby works at Churchill Downs

ADRIANO – Lane’s End Stakes (GII) winner Adriano had his final workout for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands, negotiating five furlongs Sunday at Churchill Downs in 1:00.80 in company with stablemate Cherokee Artist.
            Regular exercise rider Xavier Azipuru was aboard Adriano, who will be ridden by Edgar Prado in the Run for the Roses.
            “Xavier worked him all winter on dirt and turf,” said trainer Graham Motion, whose Derby hopeful produced splits of :12.20, :24.40 and :36.60 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.40. “He said he worked as good or better than he’s worked all year. I caught him in :24 or maybe a little bit better for the last quarter, and I was pleased with that. I wanted to see him finish up like that.”
            Courtlandt Farm’s Adriano captured the Lane’s End over Turfway Park’s Polytrack surface, so his workout over Churchill’s conventional dirt track received particular attention.
            “I was encouraged to see Dallas’ horse come back and win the Derby Trial, which legitimizes the race somewhat,” said Motion, referring to the Dallas Stewart-trained Macho Again, who struggled on the Polytrack surface at Turfway in the Lane’s End. “But (Adriano) certainly couldn’t have won more comfortably.”
            Because Adriano had previously run poorly in his only start on dirt at Gulfstream Park in the Fountain of Youth (GII) and had all of his success on turf, his trainer hesitated to commit to a Derby start directly after the Lane’s End.
“I was trying to make a decision with my head not with my heart. It’s always easy to get caught up in it as soon as you win one of those races, but I wanted to be sure we were doing the right thing,” Motion said. “I think after we analyzed it for three or for weeks and talked it over, it became more and more logical.”
Motion said Adriano’s ninth-place finish in the Fountain of Youth could well have been a result of his colt’s prerace misbehavior in the paddock.
“He’s very hot-blooded. That’s why we brought him here early. We schooled him in the paddock (Saturday) and we brought him to the paddock this morning before he breezed,” Motion said. “I can’t believe the difference in him. I’m not saying he’s going to be perfect on Derby Day with 150,000 people, but I’m really impressed with how he’s handled it the more he’s done it.”
Adriano was scheduled to visit the paddock between races Sunday and will school again in mid-week.

ANAK  NAKAL/COOL COAL MAN – Both of trainer Nick Zito’s Kentucky Derby hopefuls galloped 1 ½ miles at Churchill Downs Sunday morning.
            Anak Nakal went to the track with exercise rider Heather Stark before the renovation break, while Cool Coal Man’s morning exercise under Megan Smillie was delayed from directly after the break until much later.
            “There were a lot of big workers out there after the break. I figured too much would be going on to take him out at his usual time,” said Zito while following his Fountain of Youth winner to the track. “This way, we’ll have the track to ourselves.”
            Zito expressed confidence in his Fountain of Youth winner, choosing to attribute his ninth-place finish in the Blue Grass to a dislike for the synthetic surface at Keeneland.
            “Let’s look at it: you had Cool Coal Man, the Fountain of Youth winner; Pyro, the Louisiana Derby winner, Big Truck, who won the Tampa Bay Derby, and Visionaire, the Gotham winner; and none of them finished on the board,’’ Zito said. “Something’s not right.”
            Four Roses Thoroughbreds’ Anak Nakal will be ridden by Rafael Bejarano, while Julien Leparoux will have the mount aboard Cool Coal Man, owned by Robert LaPenta.

BEHINDATTHEBAR/COWBOY CAL/MONBA – Trainer Todd Pletcher, working out of his Barn 34 at Churchill Downs, reported that his three Derby candidates – currently stabled at Keeneland – went about their preparations as expected Sunday morning six days in front of the Run for the Roses.
            “Monba and Cowboy Cal both walked,” Pletcher said, “and Behindatthebar galloped a mile and a quarter.”
            Monba and Cowboy Cal had both worked the day before on the Lexington track’s Polytrack surface, the former going five furlongs in 1:02.60 and the latter the same distance in 1:00. Behindatthebar most recently captured Keeneland’s Coolmore Lexington Stakes (GII) on April 19.
            “We’ll ship them over here on Wednesday,” the trainer offered. “And we’ll be making a decision on Behindatthebar (running in the Kentucky Derby) in the next little while.”
            Derby riding assignments for the three colts are Ramon Dominguez on Starlight, Lucarelli and Saylor’s Monba, John Velazquez on Stonerside Stable’s Cowboy Cal and David Flores on Padua Stables, Michael Shustek and Don Stanley’s Behindatthebar.

BIG BROWN – Trainer Richard Dutrow sent Big Brown to the track at the Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida for a once-around gallop under Michelle Nevin Sunday morning.
            Dutrow said that his undefeated Florida Derby winner’s estimated time of arrival at Churchill Downs is 5 p.m. Monday.
            Big Brown, who’ll be ridden by Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux Saturday, is scheduled to gallop Monday morning before shipping to Louisville. Owned by the IEAH Stables and Paul Pompa Jr., Big Brown is slated for a workout at Churchill Downs on Thursday morning.

BIG TRUCK/TALE OF EKATI – The Barclay Tagg-trained duo of Big Truck and Tale of Ekati were introduced to the Churchill Downs racetrack Sunday morning during their respective 1½-mile gallops under exercise rider Kristen Troxell.
            “They both went really good. The nice cool weather has moved them up, and I think they like the change in surfaces,” said Tagg, whose pair of Derby hopefuls arrived by van from Keeneland Saturday afternoon.
            Big Truck, who entered the Derby picture with a victory in the Tampa Bay Derby (GIII) in March, finished 11th in the Blue Grass Stakes on the Polytrack surface at Keeneland over which a few other prime candidates for the Run for the Roses also struggled.
            “I hope that’s all it is,” said Tagg of Big Truck’s disappointing effort on the synthetic surface at Keeneland. “He seemed to handle it in the morning going a half-mile, but he didn’t handle it in the afternoon.”
            Tale of Ekati will enter the Kentucky Derby on a far more positive note, having captured the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct by a half-length over War Pass, the 2007 juvenile champion.
            “He kept digging. He ran a good race. It was a slow time, but that probably had more to do with the track than anything else,” Tagg said.
            Prior to his Wood victory, Tale of Ekati ran a disappointing sixth in his 2008 debut in the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds in March.
“He had a little trouble out of the gate and it was his first race after a long layoff. I’m not trying to make excuses for him, but I don’t think he ran his ‘A’ race that day,” Tagg said.
Eric Fein’s Big Truck, who will be ridden by Javier Castellano, is scheduled to work out on Monday, while Charles Fipke’s Tale of Ekati, who will have Eibar Coa aboard in the Derby, is slated to work on Tuesday.

BOB BLACK JACK – The Santa Anita Derby runner-up shipped into Churchill Downs Saturday and got his first feel for the track Sunday morning shortly after the renovation break with exercise rider Joe Deegan aboard. The rider took the dark colt first to the paddock, then galloped him a mile and a half around the big oval.
            Trainer James Kasparoff, who trains the California-bred sophomore for his brother Tim and his partner Jeff Harmon, was happy with how his charge took to his new surroundings.
            “He’s doing fine,” James Kasparoff said. “He’s going to work tomorrow morning, but nothing special. He won’t be breaking any records. ‘Mig’ (rider Richard Migliore) will come in to work him and I’m looking for five furlongs in about 1:01. He doesn’t need a lot right now. He worked last Monday at Santa Anita in 1:10 and four so he’s fine.”
            Weather reports for the Louisville area are calling for a sizable rainfall Sunday evening, leaving the possibility that the track could be “off” for Monday morning works.
            “A wet track won’t bother him,” James Kasparoff noted. “In fact, I think it’ll move him up. His sire line – Bertrando – loves the ‘off’ and I’ve trained him on the wet in California and he never had any problems with it.”
            The conditioner added that Migliore was scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs from his California base at approximately 8:30 or 8:45 Monday morning. “We’ll do the work as soon as he makes it,” he added.

COLONEL JOHN – WinStar Farm’s multiple-stakes winner registered a nifty five-furlong drill at Churchill Downs in his final major conditioner prior to his date in Saturday’s 134th Kentucky Derby.
            The tall colt had exercise rider Karine Lhuillier attached for his move shortly after the renovation break and they proved quite a team on a clear and crisp morning. Breaking off at the five-eights pole, the son of Tiznow went right about his business and – without any serious urging from his rider – registered a time of :57.80, which was clearly the best of a total of 62 works at the distance.
            By anyone’s accounting it was impressive, especially so in light of the fact the California-based youngster had raced and trained almost exclusively on synthetic surfaces in the Golden State since beginning his career at Del Mar last summer.
            “I’m happy with the way he did it,” said his conditioner, Eoin Harty. “He did it within himself and that’s what I liked. That track was fast today; maybe faster than it should be. But everyone else was working fast, so that’s part of my thinking. And she (Lhuillier) wasn’t pushing on him.”
            Harty was asked if the work dispelled any thoughts about his colt’s possible inability to handle a dirt surface.
            “Dirt is not an issue,” the trainer said. “I thought he handled it well today. He trained on dirt as a two-year-old and he handled it well then. I’ve been confident in him in that regard all along.”
            Clockers registered split times on the homebred’s drill, catching him along the way in :12, :23.20, :34.60 and :46. He was tabbed at 1:11.20 on the six-furlong gallop out.
            The next-best five-furlong work of the morning was turned in by the crackerjack filly Eight Belles, who covered the distance in :58.20. The tall, gray miss could well be on the track again with Colonel John, as she’s being pointed for a start against all the boys in the Kentucky Derby.
            Harty had originally scheduled Colonel John’s work for Monday morning, but the forecast of heavy rains in the area for Sunday night caused him to move it up a day.
            “On first take, he appears to have come out of this well,” the trainer said. “He’s blowing some, but that’s to be expected. We’ve got some time to work with him the rest of the week, if need be. But all in all, I’m pleased.”
            Colonel John will be handled in the 10-furlong Derby by California-based Corey Nakatani, who has been aboard in four of the colt’s six starts.

COURT VISION/Z HUMOR – Trainer Bill Mott reshuffled the schedule with his Derby duo Sunday, moving up workouts he had tentatively slated for Monday or Tuesday. Both WinStar Farm’s Court Vision and Zayat Stables’ Z Humor turned in their final Derby 134 breezes under the Twin Spires at five furlongs.
First up was Court Vision, who drilled the five panels in 1:00.80 while working in company. The son of Gulch rattled off splits of :13, :25.60, :37.20 and :48.80, while galloping out an extra furlong in 1:14.
After the renovation break, Z Humor, with Neil Poznansky up, also worked in company for five furlongs, getting the distance in 1:01.20. The Distorted Humor colt posted splits of :25.40, :37.20 and :49.20, galloping out six furlongs in 1:14.80.
“I had originally wanted to work Monday or Tuesday, but with the forecast, I decided to move them up,” the Hall of Fame trainer said, joking, “and, besides, I didn’t know which day of the week was better in the first place. Now we have six days to recover.
“I asked for a work in the neighborhood of one minute. We just wanted a decent, useful work. On my watch, I had Court Vision in 1:00.20 and Z Humor in 1:00.60, so we were just about right on.”
“Court Vision went well,” Mott said after training hours. “He worked good and cooled out very quickly. He only took one deep breath and everything’s looking pretty good.”
“Z Humor is doing equally as well,” Mott said. “He had a good work this morning, finished up well and looked smooth doing it. Anytime you have a horse on the improve, anything can happen.”
Both colts are expected to walk the shedrow Monday following their breezes, Mott said, adding that each will school in the paddock during raceday sometime in the coming week.

DENIS OF CORK – Mr. and Mrs. William K. Warren Jr.’s Denis of Cork galloped a mile under trainer David Carroll before the renovation break Sunday morning.
            Carroll took the winner of the Southwest Stakes (GIII) out earlier than usual.
            “It’s my son’s first communion today and we have to be at church by 9,” Carroll said.
            Denis of Cork is scheduled to work Monday, and even though several trainers moved up planned works to beat the weather, Carroll is still going in the morning.
            “He is just going to have an easy work. Last week (five furlongs in 1:00) was the key work,” Carroll said. “The track will be good. It takes water well and never gets really bad.”
            Calvin Borel, who is scheduled to ride Denis of Cork in the Derby if he makes the field, will be aboard for the work that is scheduled after the break.

GAYEGO – The Arkansas Derby winner was a handful as he walked the shedrow Sunday morning at Churchill Downs following his five-furlong drill in 1:01 the previous day under Derby rider Mike Smith.
            The dark, husky colt – owned by a pair of partners who race under the name Cubanacan Stables -- ate “everything” last night according to his groom, Martin Morales, who has worked for Gayego’s trainer, Paulo Lobo, for the past seven years. “He’s doing good,” the groom added.
            Morales and Lobo are not newcomers to Louisville. They were here in 2002 with a filly named Farda Amiga. That time they came away winners of the Kentucky Oaks in a surprise with rider Chris McCarron at the controls. 
            Both Smith and McCarron have spots in the racing Hall of Fame.

HALO NAJIB – Trainer Dale Romans put his Kentucky Derby 134 contender through a 1 ½-mile gallop Sunday morning under exercise rider Gennero Garcia. With entry day Wednesday for the “Run for the Roses,” Halo Najib remains outside the potential field of 20 based on graded earnings.
“Everything’s fine and we’re just waiting,” Romans said. “I still haven’t decided on Monday or Tuesday for his work yet. We’ve got 24 hours to see what happens with the field.”
If Halo Najib does not make the field for the Derby, the Zayat Stables’ colorbearer will be entered in the Crown Royal American Turf (GIII) on Friday’s Oaks Day card. Entries for that race will be taken Tuesday.

PYRO/Z FORTUNE – Trainer Steve Asmussen returned to Kentucky to oversee his Derby pair Sunday, one day after saddling Derby 133 alumnus Zanjero to a second-place finish in the Lone Star Mile in Texas. Both Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Pyro and Zayat Stables’ Z Fortune galloped two miles in advance of key workouts Monday morning.
Not only will the stable’s Derby contenders grace the Downs with a drill Monday, but so will 2007 Horse of the Year and recent Dubai World Cup winner Curlin. Last year’s Kentucky Derby third-place finisher will be making his first major morning appearance since returning from the Middle East.
Pyro and Z Fortune are slated to breeze a half-mile early Monday morning. Pyro heads to the track with the barn’s second set and Z Fortune with the third. Both are scheduled to school in the paddock over the coming week -- in the morning and on live race days -- though Asmussen said no dates are set until after he sees how they come out of Monday’s workouts.
Asmussen said his Derby aspirants are opposites of sorts, one “coming off the best race of his life (Z Fortune)” and one “coming off the worst race of his life (Pyro).”
Pyro exits an inexplicably poor performance in the Blue Grass Stakes as the even-money favorite over Polytrack.
“Going into the first turn, he wanted to be closer and he wasn’t capable of getting closer,” Asmussen said of Pyro’s Blue Grass no-show. “We hadn’t seen that from him.”
As for his ability to bounce back, Asmussen said you can’t compare Pyro to others.
“They’re all individuals,” he said. “The variable you have in the Blue Grass is more than most (Polytrack).”
Z Fortune was able to bounce back from a dull effort in the Rebel and run a bang-up second in the Arkansas Derby. Asmussen said Oaklawn Park’s sandy track with a lot of kickback is a very similar dress rehearsal for what horses face at Churchill Downs, and, along with large field sizes, a key component as to why horses from that race have had so much Kentucky Derby success in recent years.
“He’s coming off a very good race in the Arkansas Derby,” Asmussen said of Z Fortune. “He’ll have to move forward to win the Derby, but I think he is one of the horses fast enough (to win).”

RECAPTURETHELGORY – The quiet before the storm could be the way to describe most Sundays at Churchill Downs on Derby Week. It also applies to the Illinois Derby (GII) winner’s camp, where Recapturetheglory spent a placid morning walking the shedrow for 45 minutes. Affable and loquacious trainer Louis Roussel dropped by the barn for only a few minutes to check on his charge, who remained under the care of assistant Lara Van Deren.
Owned by Roussel and Ronnie Lamarque, Recapturetheglory has completed his major preparations for Derby 134 and is expected to return to the track Monday morning for the first time since Friday’s final workout.

SMOOTH AIR–  Mount Joy Stables’ Smooth Air went back to the track Sunday, jogging a little bit more than a mile alongside a pony before the renovation break with Susie Milne up.
            The Smooth Jazz colt has been fighting a low grade fever and had not been to the track since Thursday.
            “I didn’t sleep well last night, but I will tonight,” trainer Bennie Stutts Jr. said. “I came in this morning and saw that empty feed tub and knew he was all right.”
            With owner Brian Burns of Mount Joy looking on, Smooth Air took three and a half turns around the shedrow led by groom Adeladia Geigel before heading to the track. As the colt neared the gap, a black cat ran right in front of the horse.
            “He always goes twice around,” Stutts said. “This is probably the first time in more than six months that he hasn’t. He loves to train, but this morning I didn’t want him to get too hot. He will go around twice tomorrow and you will see a different horse.”
            On the way back to the barn, another black cat ran behind Smooth Air.
            “If I hadn’t seen it, I wouldn’t have believed it,” Burns said. “Maybe two black cats mean good luck. I think it was a setup for us that they had the cats in a cage and just let them out when we went by.”

VISIONAIRE – Team Valor and Vision Racing’s Visionaire made his first appearance on the Churchill Downs racetrack Sunday morning, galloping 1 ½ miles as Derby-winning trainer Michael Matz looked on from horseback. Visionaire vanned to the Downs from Keeneland on Saturday afternoon, and Matz reported that all went well during the short ride.
“He’s a fine colt with a nice disposition,” said Matz, who is a perfect 1-for-1 in his Derby career after saddling Barbaro to victory in 2006. “Everything is going fine and he’s a happy horse here.”
When asked if Visionaire liked the track following his first gallop, Matz smiled and said, “I sure hope so. He went perfectly fine. We’ll find out.”
Matz had indicated that Visionaire would work Monday in his original plans, but said Sunday that he could be flexible.
“We’re going to take it day-by-day and let him tell us what to do,” Matz said, while also aware of forecasted overnight rain that could impact the racetrack Monday morning.