Daily notes on candidates for Saturday's Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I).
Edited Churchill Downs notes
A. P. WARRIOR - Stan Fulton's well-made colt was out on the Churchill Downs oval at 7:15 Friday morning getting in his final bit of leg-stretching prior to his date with destiny.
The son of A.P. Indy had regular exercise rider Steve Willard aboard for a double tour of the racing strip with trainer John Shirreffs looking on from a borrowed stable pony. Horse, rider and trainer seemed happy with the exercise as they returned to Barn 45.
"All systems are go now," said last year's Kentucky Derby winning trainer, sporting a smile. "At least at this moment. But give me some wood to touch. I always need a bit of that."
Corey Nakatani will be aboard A. P. Warrior as they start from post 10 in the 20-horse field. BARBARO - Trainer Michael Matz sent his Florida Derby winner to the track Friday morning to gallop "a mile or maybe a mile-and-a-quarter, something like that."
Matz said his job is virtually finished.
"I think we've done everything we could to get him ready," a relaxed Matz said. "Now, it's up to the gods, (jockey) Edgar (Prado) and Barbaro."
Satisfied that the undefeated son of Dynaformer will be well prepared when he enters the starting gate for Saturday's Kentucky Derby, Matz said there is only one worry over which he'll have no control.
"I think we all have the same worry: Nobody knows how they're going to react in a 20-horse field. We're all in that same situation," Matz said.
But the 1996 Olympic silver medal equestrian knows how he'd like to see the 132nd Run for the Roses unfold.
"The ideal situation would be for the speed horses to go out there, like Sinister Minister, Sharp Humor and Keyed Entry," he said. "Lawyer Ron has been on the lead and come from behind and Dan's horse (Dan Hendrick's Brother Derek) is the same way - they should be in the second group - and I should be in the mix there, I believe. Hopefully, he'll be in good striking range when they turn the corner down the stretch, and may the best horse win."BLUEGRASS CAT/KEYED ENTRY - Trainer Todd Pletcher, who just might be the hardest-working man in racing this weekend with 15 horses running on the Friday/Saturday cards at Churchill Downs, was all business Friday morning finishing up business with his Kentucky Derby twosome of Bluegrass Cat and Keyed Entry.
The Kentucky-bred colts galloped a mile and one-quarter under their regular exercise riders - Luis Castillo for Bluegrass Cat and Jacob Roberts on Keyed Entry - early in the morning on a shortened track training schedule that ran only from 6 to 8 a.m. on Kentucky Oaks Day.
The reigning Eclipse Award-winning trainer was concise and oh-so-direct with his comments about his two charges:
"Everything's good," he said.
Bluegrass Cat will break from post 13 for jockey Ramon Dominguez on Saturday and Keyed Entry will have Patrick Valenzuela up and leave from post 3. BOB AND JOHN/POINT DETERMINED/SINISTER MINISTER - The Bob Baffert Trio - also know as Kentucky Derby hopefuls Bob and John, Point Determined and Sinister Minister - all were participants Friday morning during the shortened training period at Churchill Downs on Kentucky Oaks Day.
The pair of Bob and John (with exercise rider Pepe Aragon up) and Point Determined (with Mick Jenner aboard) went trackside at approximately 6:30 for a mile and one-half gallop around the big oval. At about 7, Jenner returned on Sinister Minister for a similar tour of the strip.
Three-time Derby winner Baffert was trackside to watch his threesome do their things.
"It's karma from here on," Baffert said. "We'll see who's been living right.And I've got a big edge there."
As Baffert followed Sinister Minister back to Barn 33, he noted that the speedy Old Trieste colt had popped an abscess in a foot last Tuesday.
"I think that thing might have been trying to come out for that Keeneland race (his near-13-length tally in the Blue Grass Stakes April 15)," the trainer stated. "But everything's OK now. He's back on it now. Man, is he back on it."
The high-strung Sinister Minister had been on the muscle for his gallop and appears ready - and then some - for his Derby ramble, where he is expected to either set the pace or be among the leaders.
Bob and John will break from post 7 with Garrett Gomez up; Point Determined will start in post 5 for rider Rafael Bejarano, and Sinister Minister will have Victor Espinoza in the tack as they leave from post 4.
As Baffert's horses went about their business, nearby in Barn 43 Robert Frankel, the multiple-Eclipse Award winning trainer and one of the top handicappers on the backstretch, was asked who he liked in this wide-open Derby 132.
"Tough race," Frankel said. "My top three would be Point Determined, Barbaro and Lawyer Ron. But it's a tough race." BROTHER DEREK - The 3-1 morning line favorite for Kentucky Derby 132 - Cecil Peacock's Brother Derek - went to the track at 7:45 Friday morning for his last major exercise before running Saturday afternoon in the mile and one-quarter classic.
The California-bred bay galloped a mile and one half smoothly under assistant trainer and exercise rider Francisco Alverado.
Looking on were trainer Dan Hendricks, jockey Alex Solis and the rider's agent, California veteran Scotty McClelland.
"This thing," said Hendricks, "is in the hands of the racing gods now - them and Alex Solis."
The rider just smiled at that one.
"I'm just going to hold on and close my eyes," he quipped.
Hendricks noted that he'd paddocked his charge in the afternoons the previous three days, but didn't want to send him over in front of the huge Oaks gathering expected Friday afternoon.
"No, not today," the trainer said. "Too much commotion. I might fry him if I sent him over."
Brother Derek and Solis will leave from post 18 in the auxiliary gate in the full Derby field. CAUSE TO BELIEVE - The son of Maria's Mon galloped a mile and a half around the Churchill oval and then visited the paddock early Friday morning with exercise rider DaRon Long aboard. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said he hasn't decided what the colt will do Derby morning for his final exercise."He won't school in the paddock again today, because he was perfect yesterday," the trainer said. "He's ready for the race now."If you're not ready today," said Hollendorfer, who has saddled more than 4,000 winners, "you get nothing tomorrow." Cause to Believe will start from post 16 with Russell Baze aboard. Baze, who has led the nation in wins and winning percentage several times over the past decade, has more than 9,200 career wins and is in line to pass Laffit Pincay Jr. (with a total of 9,530) as the all-time winningest jockey."One thing I know is that Russell won't panic out there," Hollendorfer said. "He's got a great positive attitude all the time, and he's always calm no matter what happens."Peter Abruzzo and Peter Redekop are co-owners of Cause to Believe, who was a $30,000 purchase at the Ocala sales last year. The colt comes into the race with six lifetime victories, the same as Brother Derek and one fewer than Lawyer Ron, and has earned $390,565 so far.Last out, the Kentucky-bred did not seem to like the track in the Illinois Derby and finished a distant third. In his previous two starts, he won the California Derby by a widening four lengths at Golden Gate Fields, and the El Camino Real Derby by nearly a length at Bay Meadows.DEPUTY GLITTERS - Trainer Tom Albertrani put the finishing touches on Deputy Glitters' Kentucky Derby preparation Friday morning, sending the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) winner to the track for a 1-1/4-mile gallop.
With the apparent abundance of speed in Derby 132, has Albertrani developed a dream scenario for Deputy Glitters?
"I'd like to see the race the same as everyone else. It would be ideal for me, if we're sitting off the pace, which I hope will be a real strong pace," Albertrani said. "If we're sitting five or six lengths off leaders, hopefully, we'll be good enough to win from there."
Deputy Glitters, who'll be ridden by Jose Lezcano, is 50-1 in the morning line, but Albertrani has enjoyed success with huge long shots at Churchill Downs. During his three-year riding career, Albertrani recalled riding a horse named Crystalize to victory at 90-1 odds in the shadow of the Twin Spires in 1981. Crystalize was trained by Mark Casse, with whom he's been sharing Barn 17 this week.
"And here we are together with our first Derby horses in the same barn," said Albertrani, who gave up riding shortly after winning aboard Crystalize.Casse, who'll saddle Seaside Retreat for a Derby run, talked Albertrani to give up riding shortly after his victory on Crystalize and put him to work as his assistant.FLASHY BULL/JAZIL - Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin's pair of Derby starters were out on the track separately Friday morning. Both galloped 1 3/8 miles under exercise rider Desmond Farrell.McLaughlin had the 18th and 20th picks in this year's Derby draw, and ended up with bookends, as Jazil goes from post 1 and Flashy Bull from post 20. Last year he saddled Closing Argument to finish second from post 18. McLaughlin said he had no problem with the posts. "If I had picked earlier, I still might have taken post 1 for Jazil," he said. "He's going to drop back in any case, and this way he gets to save ground around the first turn. And we wanted an outside post for Flashy Bull. Maybe not 20, but we wanted to be out there, and we are."We were thinking maybe they could both angle toward the center at the break and cut off the entire field," he said with a smile. "But they don't have enough speed for that."McLaughlin has been upbeat about his chances all week, and maintains that positive attitude. "Last year, I knew Closing Argument was coming up to the race in good shape," the trainer said, "and these two are coming into the Derby equally as good."Jazil, owned by the Shadwell Stable of Dubai's Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid al Maktoum, was a fast-closing second in the Wood Memorial on April 8 to earn his way into the Derby field. He has a deep-closing style, and will likely drop back to 19th or 20th in the run around the first turn.Jazil, a son of Seeking the Gold, will be ridden by Fernando Jara, who was aboard in the Wood Memorial. Flashy Bull, owned by West Point Thoroughbreds LLC, comes off a troubled trip in the Florida Derby where he finished seventh behind Barbaro. Before that, the colt was placed second in the Fountain of Youth.Flashy Bull has several connections to the Kentucky Derby. He's a gray son of Holy Bull, who sired last year's winner Giacomo, and he will be ridden by Mike Smith, who won his first Derby last year.LAWYER RON - The Estate of James Hines Jr.'s Lawyer Ron completed his training for the Kentucky Derby with a mile and a half gallop shortly after 7:30 Friday morning under exercise rider Betsy Couch.
Trainer Robert Holthus said the son of Langfuhr would not go to the track Saturday morning.
Holthus was asked what the key would be for Lawyer Ron, who brings a six-race win streak into Derby 132 and who will be ridden by John McKee and break from post position 17.
"I just think to get around the first turn and save some ground," said Holthus, who has a Derby starter for the third consecutive year. "After that, he will take care of himself."PRIVATE VOW/STORM TREASURE - Mike McCarty's Derby colts followed the straightforward schedule Friday morning that was laid out by trainer Steve Asmussen."They galloped a mile and a half," Asmussen said.
Both colts were schooled at the gate and in the paddock Thursday. "We're good to go," Asmussen said.
The Kentucky Derby will be Private Vow's third start of 2006. Asmussen had planned to give the Broken Vow colt a rest following the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Belmont Park in October, but decided to run him once more because his race in the Juvenile all but ended when a rein broke on the backstretch.Private Vow picked up a victory in the Kentucky Cup Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs on Nov. 26 then headed into Asmussen's off-season program. Asmussen brought Private Vow back to the races on March 18 at Oaklawn Park, where he finished seventh in a field of 10. On April 15 in the Arkansas Derby, he was much more competitive and finished third behind Lawyer Ron and Steppenwolfer, who are also running the Kentucky Derby.Asmussen said this week that Private Vow has reached the proper fitness level and is ready for the Derby. "I would have liked the Rebel to have looked more like the Arkansas Derby and was kind of hoping it, too, but that's not where we were," Asmuseen said. "Oaklawn was a pretty tiring racetrack this year. Between the Rebel and the Arkansas Derby, he was a short horse."
Then Asmussen started to see some progress. " I thought he breezed good the week of the Arkansas Derby," Asmussen said. "I thought he looked fast enough in the Arkansas Derby. And I thought he came up empty, tired. He came back blowing."
When he brought Private Vow to Churchill Downs, Asmussen said he was thinking about skipping the Derby and focusing on the Preakness on May 20.That notion was scrapped on April 24 when Private Vow worked a bullet five furlongs. He added another bullet workout this week."His two works here have been recorded and analyzed and, obviously, they are the best works that he has had all year," Asmussen said. "He worked here like he did last fall, like he likes this place. He has run well here and worked great here. If he's ever going to beat them it's going to be now."SEASIDE RETREAT - Trainer Mark Casse didn't have time to get nervous about the Kentucky Derby Friday morning after Seaside Retreat returned to Barn 17 from a strong 1-1/2-mile gallop.
"We have the Oaks to worry about today," said Casse, who'll saddle Top Notch Lady for the Kentucky Oaks on Friday afternoon.
Although Casse was focused on Top Notch Lady's start in the Kentucky Oaks, the Canadian-based trainer has done his Derby handicapping.
"I took a long look at the race last night. I see seven or eight horses up battling for the lead," Casse said. "Ideally, if we get to the half-mile pole and can be eight lengths out, then we'll see what happens."
Casse said it has21 been frustrating when public handicappers have dismissed his horse, noting that his horse's troubled second-place finish in the Grade II Lane's End Stakes at Turfway Park puts the son of King Cugat right in the mix.SHARP HUMOR - Purdedel Stable and WinStar Farm lessee's Sharp Humor completed the on-track portion of his Derby preparations by galling 1 ½ miles shortly after 7:30 Friday morning under regular morning partner Faustino Orantes.
The Dale Romans-trained son of Distorted Humor will exit post position nine under jockey Mark Guidry.
Romans, who will saddle five other horses on the Derby Day card, had toyed with the idea of sending Sharp Humor to the track Saturday morning, but has opted to keep him in Barn 4 during training hours.
Sharp Humor will be the first Derby starter for the 39-year-old Louisville native, and he was asked what would be the key to victory Saturday for the colt who won the Swale Stakes and finished second in the Florida Derby.
"The key is that he is relaxed," Romans said. "If he is relaxed up close, he can win. If he gets too aggressive, we may be in trouble."SHOWING UP - Trainer Barclay Tagg showed Showing Up around the Churchill Downs grounds Friday morning, one day after the undefeated Lexington Stakes winner arrived in Louisville on a flight from New York.
"He jogged over to the paddock. He walked around there and we showed him all the people who were there. Then, he jogged back to the six-and-a-half furlong pole and galloped a mile-and-a-quarter. Then, he walked home," said Tagg.
Although Showing Up has run only three times after going unraced as a 2-year-old, Tagg has reasons to believe that the son of Strategic Mission will be ready to compete against more experienced colts in Saturday's 20-horse field.
"He's very, very fast. He's very easy going. He's tenacious. If he's crowded, he works his way out. If there's a hole to go through, he'll go through it. He's not timid about anything. Those three reasons are the only reason I brought him," Tagg said. "I don't have Derby Fever and all of that stuff. It's just that he's a tough little colt who's done everything easily and he's overcome every obstacle that's been in his way. He's the kind of colt you like to come here with."
Showing Up showed his trainer uncommon seasoning for such an inexperienced colt right from the start. "In his first race, I was completely amazed, he looked like a horse who'd run 10 times. It was kind of fun watching him," said Tagg, whose horse broke his maiden at Gulfstream Park on Feb. 11.
Tagg, who saddled Funny Cide for a victory in the 2003 Kentucky Derby, knows that Showing Up will have to prove himself in Derby 132.
"There's a lot of pace in the race. I'd like to have him camp right on their heels, if I could. That would be ideal. You have to have the luck to get through there and don't have them back up on you. It takes a lot of luck," said Tagg, who noted it was essential for jockey Cornelio Velasquez to avoid losing ground around the first turn.
Tagg reported that the puncture wound in Showing Up's right front leg that he suffered during the Lexington wasn't 100 percent, but that it hadn't hampered the colt's training.STEPPENWOLFER - When a group of reporters approached his barn Friday morning, trainer Dan Peitz smiled and joked that he would have to serve up some type of bad news.
There was none to report.