Colonel John grazing with trainer Eoin Harty.

Colonel John grazing with trainer Eoin Harty.

Anne M. Eberhardt

Daily Derby Notes: April 26

Gayego Works, Smooth Air fights Fever, Monba and Cowboy Cal work at Keeneland.

(from Churchill Downs)

ADRIANO – Lane’s End Stakes (GII) winner Adriano galloped 1 ½ miles under exercise rider Xavier Azipuru at Churchill Downs Saturday morning. The Graham Motion-trained colt is scheduled to breeze shortly after the renovation break Sunday in preparation for a start in the $2 million-guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) on May 3.

“That’s the plan, as long as we get some nice weather,” said assistant trainer Alice Clapham, looking up at the clearing skies with obvious approval. “We’ll find out when Graham gets here what he’s going to do.”

Motion was scheduled to arrive in Louisville Saturday afternoon.

The son of A.P. Indy appeared to have settled well into to his surroundings at Barn 42 on the Churchill Downs backstretch.

“He’s gotten so relaxed and laid back,” Clapham said. “He loves it.”

Edgar Prado, who rode Barbaro to victory in the 2006 Derby, has the mount aboard Adriano.

ANAK NAKAL/COOL COAL MAN – Anak Nakal walked under tack Saturday morning, 24 hours after breezing four furlongs in :46.60 at Churchill Downs, where he won the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) last fall.

Stablemate Cool Coal Man galloped 1 ¼ miles under Megan Smillie after the renovation break. The Fountain of Youth winner, who captured an allowance race at Churchill last fall, is looking to rebound from a ninth-place finish in the Blue Grass Stakes over Keeneland’s Polytrack surface.

“They’ve both won here, so that’s something in their favor,” said trainer Nick Zito. “Wherever we’ve gone before, at least we’ve done well on the track. I’m hoping the form (Anak Nakal) had in the Kentucky Jockey Club is something he has in the Kentucky Derby a week from today. Cool Coal Man also won on the track, so hopefully that’s a good sign, too.”

Julien Leparoux will ride Robert LaPenta’s Cool Coal Man for the first time in the Derby, while Rafael Bejarano will be aboard Four Roses Thoroughbreds’ Anak Nakal, also for the first time.

BEHINDATTHEBAR/COWBOY CAL/MONBA – At Keeneland, Monba and Cowboy Cal worked for the first time since they finished first and second, respectively, in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (G1) on April 12.
Monba, with exercise rider Patti Krotenko aboard, was on the track by 6:45 a.m. and after jogging once the wrong way around the oval worked five furlongs over the Polytrack in 1:02.60 in company with Ready’s Echo. Monba was clocked galloping out in 1:14.60.

“I thought he went well,” trainer Todd Pletcher said about the son of Maria’s Mon. “It was kind of in the norm for him in terms of what he does. He’s not an overzealous work horse. I thought he did fine.”

“We normally work him in company,” Pletcher added. “He won’t do much on his own.”

Less than 45 minutes later, Krotenko was aboard Cowboy Cal, who also jogged around the track the wrong way before he worked five furlongs by himself. The Giant's Causeway  colt was clocked in 1:00 and galloped out in 1:12.

“I thought he worked extremely well,” said Pletcher.

Pletcher, who won 14 races during Keeneland’s spring meet that ended on Friday to earn his second training title at the track, said he has not decided when Monba and Cowboy Cal will ship to Churchill Downs and might stay at Keeneland as late as Wednesday. Asked if he would work Behindatthebar, who won the Coolmore Lexington (G2) a week ago, again before a possible start in the Kentucky Derby, Pletcher also said he had not decided.

“He galloped well this morning, and we’re just kind of playing it by ear,” he said about Behindatthebar. The son of Forest Wildcat galloped 1 ¼ miles with exercise rider Valerie Buck aboard.

With a week until the Derby, Pletcher said the race appears to be wide open.

“A lot of times you learn more about the quality of the three-year-old crop a couple of races from now,” he said. “We’re pleased with the way ours went (this morning). There’s some rain over at Churchill; that’s why we stayed here, to work over a safe track. We’re happy with that.”

BIG BROWN – The Florida Derby winner jogged once around the track under exercise rider Michelle Nevin Saturday morning at Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida.

Big Brown is scheduled to ship to Louisville after training hours Monday morning for trainer Richard Dutrow. The son of Boundary is tentatively slated to work three furlongs over the Churchill Downs track on Thursday in preparation for his highly anticipated start in the Derby. The Kentucky-bred colt, who has won all three of his career races by a combined 29 lengths, will be Dutrow’s first Derby starter.

“Everyone wants to win the Derby,” the veteran trainer said. “If he wins the Derby it’s going to be big, no matter what the margin is.”

Kent Desormeaux will have the return mount aboard Big Brown.

BIG TRUCK/TALE OF EKATI – The Barclay Tagg-trained Derby duo of Big Truck and Tale of Ekati arrived at Churchill Downs around noontime Saturday following a van ride from Keeneland.

Big Truck, who finished 11th in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes on Keeneland’s Polytrack surface after winning the Tampa Bay Derby, and Tale of Ekati, who is coming off a narrow victory over Eclipse Award-winning War Pass in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, settled into their stalls in Barn 48 on the Churchill Downs backstretch.

Eric Fein’s Big Truck is slated to work over the Churchill track on Monday, while Charles Fipke’s Tale of Ekati is expected to work on Tuesday.

Eibar Coa will ride Tale of Ekati, leaving the mount aboard Big Truck open for Javier Castellano.

BOB BLACK JACK – Things are looking better these days for the California-based “bubble” horse owned by Tim Kasparoff and Jeff Harmon, so much so in fact that the son of  the Bertrando sire Stormy Jack was on an airplane at 4:30 Saturday morning jetting east with a run in the Kentucky Derby in mind.

The California-bred was accompanied by Kasparoff and his brother James, who also trains the colt, and the three of them were scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs at 1 p.m and head toward Barn 45.

Bob Black Jack is currently No. 21 on the earnings’ list that qualifies horses for the Run for the Roses. But with at least one and possibly two defections now likely from the top 20, the $4,500 yearling is looking like they’ll save a spot in the starting gate for him.

In his most recent outing, Bob Black Jack finished second to Colonel John in the Santa Anita Derby under veteran Richard Migliore. “The Mig” has the call back for the 134th running of the Kentucky Derby. 

COLONEL JOHN – The Santa Anita Derby winner took a mile and one half tour of the wet Churchill Downs oval Saturday morning, heading trackside with exercise rider Karine Lhuillier at 8:45 a.m. following the morning renovation break. The gallop was a good one and the 16.2-hands colt acquitted himself well on a strip the clockers were calling “muddy.”

“He handled it well,” agreed trainer Eoin Harty, who handles the homebred Tiznow  colt for WinStar Farm.

The Irish-born conditioner was asked about the possibility of a wet track on Kentucky Derby day.

“It’s going to be what it’s going to be,” Harty noted. “He seemed to go fine out there today, so I guess that gives me a bit of confidence (he could handle an ‘off’ track).”

The trainer has his charge’s final Derby drill planned for Monday at five furlongs following the renovation break. For Sunday, he said his four-time winner would again gallop his mile and a half.

“Same routine tomorrow,” he said, “with maybe a visit to the gate, if climatic conditions cooperate.” 

COURT VISION/Z HUMOR – Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott sent his Kentucky Derby-bound pair for dual paddock “walkthroughs” and 1 ½- mile gallops. Churchill Downs’ all-time leader in wins and stakes victories said that while a trainer does everything he or she can to prepare,

“There’s nothing that can really prepare for Derby Day. We just do what we can to give the horses the best possible education.”

Mott said both runners are doing well in their Derby preparations and that Zayat Stables’ Z Humor “gets a little heated up, but was much better with that today.” No decision has been made in regards to when the pair would turn in their final Derby workouts, with Monday or Tuesday still targeted depending on weather.

Mott enters today’s opening-day card at the Downs with an all-time best 583 victories and 73 stakes wins. He’ll try to notch stakes victory No. 74 with Majestic Warrior, winner of last year’s Hopeful (GI) in today’s Derby Trial. “That’s a big one for us today,” he admitted. “We really want to get Majestic Warrior back on track and get the week off to a good start.”

While Mott has won most every important race at Churchill Downs, the Derby has eluded him. But the even-keeled Mott said there’s no added pressure this week.

“We’ve been here before and we’re just hoping to have a little bit of good fortune this time,” he said. “I think we’ve got a chance with two horses that could get the distance; that’s important.”

IEAH Stables and WinStar Farm’s Court Vision will be ridden by Garrett Gomez in Kentucky Derby 134. Rene Douglas will pilot Z Humor.
DENIS OF CORK –Mr. and Mrs. William K. Warren’s Denis of Cork galloped a mile and a half under trainer David Carroll after the renovation break Saturday morning.

A winner of three of four career starts, Denis of Cork is scheduled to work Monday morning after the renovation break with Calvin Borel up. With $165,000 in graded stakes earnings, Denis of Cork would need a defection from the list of Kentucky Derby hopefuls to be among the top 20 in graded earnings upon entry time Wednesday.

“He is going to breeze Monday Derby or no Derby,” Carroll said.

Denis of Cork won his first three starts, including his maiden score here at Churchill Downs on Nov. 24. His lone setback was a fifth-place finish in the April 5 Illinois Derby (GII).

“He should have never run there,” said Carroll of Denis of Cork who went to Chicago after an eight-week layoff. “Since he has been back here, he has been doing great.”

Monday’s work would be the second for Denis of Cork since the Illinois Derby. He worked five furlongs in 1:00 under Borel on  April 21.

GAYEGO – “I was very concerned last night; I didn’t sleep too well,” trainer Paulo Lobo noted, prior to sending out his Kentucky Derby charge Gayego for his final drill Saturday at Churchill Downs. “I heard the rain at 2 a.m. and I didn’t know how the track was going to take it. But I talked to some trainers (at the track) this morning and they said it would be fine. They said to go ahead and do my work.”

Lobo, the Brazilian-born conditioner who now works out of his base in Southern California, told his rider – Hall of Famer Mike Smith – that he wanted him to go five eighths in 1:01. “It’s just a maintenance work,” he said. “He doesn’t need much now.”

Smith went trackside with the son of Gilded Time at 8:30 just as the track maintenance crew had finished their break, harrowing and sealing the wet track. The rider held tight; Gayego was full of himself and delighted to be able to stretch his nearly black legs.

When Smith and the Cubanacan Stables’ colt had finished their exercise, Lobo had one word for it: “Perfect.”

With only a short backtrack, Smith broke his mount off at the five-eighths pole and fired a steady clip all the way around to the finish line. The clockers caught the splits at :12.40, :24.40, :36.60, :48.60 and a final time of 1:01. Perfect, indeed. The out time registered at 1:14.80.

“Exactly. Exactly what I wanted,” Lobo offered. “I think it was an awesome work.”

Smith, who has ridden the Kentucky-bred in all five of his lifetime starts, was equally impressed.

“He was very relaxed out there today,” the California-based rider said. “He wanted to please. And when I galloped out with him, he pulled hard on me. He wanted more.”

The rider noted that it surely was a good sign that the horse seemed to like the Churchill strip.
“I know when I galloped Giacomo (Smith’s 2005 Derby winner) here, he loved this track,” he said. “He felt good going over it; he galloped like a champion. This horse puts me in mind of that. I’m hoping that it proves just as good.”

Lobo and Smith both spoke briefly with members of the press following the drill, then dash together to catch a 10 o’clock plane to California. The trainer was planning to return to Kentucky on Tuesday and stay through the Derby. 

HALO NAJIB – Trainer Dale Romans continued to play the waiting game Saturday morning as he overlooked his 40-horse stable. “Are we going to get in?” was the first question from the conditioner of the OBS Championship winner. Meanwhile, the Zayat Stables color-bearer continued to prepare this morning as if a Derby date would be in the works, galloping a mile and a half.

Romans said Halo Najib would work Monday or Tuesday with the surface of the workout in question. If it appears that Halo Najib will make the 20-horse Derby starting gate, he will drill on dirt on one of the two days. Romans said if the likelihood of making the field looked ominous, he instead would consider a Tuesday turf workout in preparation for the Crown Royal American Turf (GIII).

As for naming a potential Derby jockey for Halo Najib, Romans said he is in no rush. “We’ll let it play out and see what happens,” he said. “Not too many agents have been calling. That’s not the way I do business usually. They know I’ll call them if I need them.”

Romans looks to get his Derby Week off to a fast start this afternoon when he saddles speedy sprinter Eaton’s Gift in the Derby Trial. “Seven-and-a-half (furlongs) may be stretching him to the limit, but he’s awfully fast and talented,” he said, adding that he is “not thrilled” with the rail post position.

KENTUCKY BEAR – Bear Stables’ Kentucky Bear, who ran third in the April 12 Toyota Blue Grass (GI) in only his third career start, worked five furlongs in :59.60 under Jamie Theriot Saturday at Churchill Downs. The work was the fastest of the morning over a muddy track.

Clockers caught the colt galloping out in 1:12.20.

Trained by Reade Baker, Kentucky Bear has only $75,000 in graded stakes earnings and would need a massive number of defections of Kentucky Derby hopefuls to make the field.

PYRO/Z FORTUNE – Trainer Steve Asmussen’s pair of Fair Grounds stakes winners both turned in light, pre-dawn exercise this morning at Churchill Downs. Louisiana Derby (GII) champion Pyro and Lecomte Stakes (GIII) victor Z Fortune each galloped a mile and a quarter. Assistant trainer Scott Blasi supervised in the absence of Asmussen, who will be joining the Kentucky string from his Texas home base in the coming days.

Blasi said both horses remain on schedule for Monday works, though was non-committal about distance or whether Pyro would work solo or with a potential workmate.

Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Pyro will be ridden by Shaun Bridgmohan in Derby 134. The assignment on Zayat Stables’ Z Fortune goes to 2007 Preakness-winning jockey Robby Albarado.

RECAPTURETHEGLORY – The Illinois Derby (GII) champion received his first of back-to-back easy days around the shed row, one day after drilling five furlongs in 1:01.20 for trainer Louie Roussel III. Recapturetheglory walked for 45 minutes and enjoyed grazing on some of Kentucky’s famed bluegrass, and will do the same tomorrow, said Roussel’s assistant trainer and exercise rider Lara Van Deren.

“We typically walk two days after a workout, so he’ll walk again Sunday and gallop on Monday,” Van Deren said. “Tuesday morning, we’ll school in the paddock, and we’ll likely also school sometime during the week on raceday in the paddock.”

Recapturetheglory is part of a small, 14-horse stable for Roussel, who co-owns the colt with Ronnie Lamarque. The bulk of the stable is training at Crestview Farm in Harvard, Ill. and soon will be headed to Arlington Park.

Leading Chicago-based rider E.T. Baird has the mount on the potential Kentucky Derby pacesetter.
SMOOTH AIR – The roller coaster ride that has been 70-year-old trainer Bennie Stutts Jr.’s first Kentucky Derby experience remained bumpy for a third day as Smooth Air remained in his stall in Barn 35.

“He has a low grade fever and he is being treated with anti-biotics,” Stutts said. “He has an elevated white cell count that shows infection. His temperature is normal this morning and if it stays down today and I am able to train tomorrow, we’ll be OK. He doesn’t need to work. He’s fit.”

Stutts first noticed something was amiss Thursday afternoon.

“We trained him Thursday morning, but when we came back to the barn at noon, he had left some feed in the tub and he always eats everything,” Stutts said. “We knew then we had a sick horse.

“He had a clean bill of health before leaving Florida (on Sunday). I don’t think it came from shipping, because that would show up right away. He didn’t go to the track Friday and Dallas Stewart’s vet Dr. (Phil) Tripp worked on him and gave him plenty of fluids and got his temperature down. But yesterday afternoon it went back up higher than it was the day before.

“If he is not 100 percent, he will not run. It wouldn’t be fair to the horse. He’s a horse with a future. Nobody is looking more to run in the Derby than I am, but he has to be 100 percent to run.”

TOMCITO – Jet Set Racing Stable’s Tomcito, sixth in the Coolmore Lexington (GII) in his most recent start, galloped two miles after the renovation break under Manfreddy Guzman.

Tomcito, trained by Dante Zanelli,  has $151,292 in graded stakes earnings and would need a handful of defections from Kentucky Derby hopefuls to make the field.

VISIONAIRE – Team Valor and Vision Racing’s Gotham (GIII) winner Visionaire was expected to arrive via van from Keeneland Saturday after noon local time. Visionaire had been training over the Polytrack in Lexington for the past three weeks since arriving from Florida for the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (GI).

Trainer Michael Matz, who won the 2006 roses in his Kentucky Derby debut with Barbaro, has indicated that Visionaire will turn in his final pre-Derby workout Monday under the Twin Spires.