Kentucky Derby Notes: Saturday, April 29

(from Churchill Downs)
A daily update on the candidates for the May 6 Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) at Churchill Downs.

A.P. Warrior – Stan Fulton's A.P. Warrior galloped a mile under regular exercise rider Steve Willard at his Hollywood Park headquarters in Southern California Saturday morning under cloudy skies and on a fast track.

Trainer John Shirreffs has a work planned for the A.P. Indy colt for Sunday with his Derby rider, Corey Nakatani, his likely partner.

A.P. Warrior, third in the Santa Anita Derby (Grade I) in his most recent outing, will fly to Kentucky Tuesday.

Barbaro – Lael Stable's Barbaro celebrated his third birthday Saturday morning with a four-furlong breeze in 46 seconds under exercise rider Peter Brette shortly after dawn. The undefeated Florida Derby winner galloped out five furlongs in :59 2/5 seconds and finished up six furlongs in 1:12 1/5 over a fast track.

"We just wanted to basically blow him out," trainer Michael Matz said. "Right now, he's ready to go into the starting gate."

The siren briefly sounded to alert exercise riders and jockeys of a loose horse while Barbaro was on the track, but Matz was unaware of any potential danger as he sat upon his pony.

"I was sitting up there near the quarter pole and a heard the beeping, but I thought someone was sitting on a car that was locked (in the parking lot)," Matz said. "I guess Peter did a pretty good job of steering clear of the horse. He's a good assistant and a good rider."

Although Matz didn't have the best vantage point to see the Barbaro's workout, he expressed his satisfaction with the son of Dynaformer's preparation for next Saturday's Kentucky Derby.

"He seems to be coming into the race the way we'd like him to do. We haven't missed a work. He hasn't given us anything that would cause a delay. Everything has been on time," said Matz.

Although Barbaro has done nothing but win in his five starts since making his debut over the Delaware Park turf course last October, Matz believes that the best is yet to come for the colt who has excelled on turf, dirt and sloppy tracks.

"I think he still has a lot of maturing to do. He's a big strong colt. I don't know what he's going to be like when he matures," said Matz with a chuckle.

Barbaro will be ridden by Edgar Prado, who has been aboard for his three most recent victories in the Tropical Park Derby at Calder Race Course, the Holy Bull Stakes and the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park.

Media Advisory: Matz will meet with the media at 10:30 each morning at Barn 42.

Bob and John/Sinister Minister/Point Determined – Garrett Gomez, the leading rider in the country right now for purses won, won't ride the Lanni Family Trust's Sinister Minister in next Saturday's 132nd Kentucky Derby, but he was on hand at Churchill Downs this morning to work the Old Trieste colt for three-time Derby winning trainer Bob Baffert.

Baffert will give Victor Espinoza a leg up on Sinister Minister in the Run for the Roses, but Gomez (who'll ride another Baffert charge in that race, Stonerside Stable's Bob and John) was his deputy on a day that saw low-scudding clouds and a sprinkling of rain paint the backdrop of a warm but gray Louisville morning.

Gomez and Sinister Minister were the first of several Derby contenders to go through serious drills following the track's mid-morning renovation break, firing out from the five-furlong marker and sweeping to a finish in front of the big Churchill grandstand. Baffert took up a station in the stands to watch the drill, directing the drill through his pony boy, Mick Jenner, on their walkie-talkie connection.

Gomez was timed for the five panels in 1:00.20 by the track clockers and galloped out strongly around to the backside.

"I broke him off right on the fence," Gomez noted, "but then I let him get out about three or four wide. He worked well and he felt good doing it. The track was a little dead today but it was a good work for him."

Sinister Minister, a galloping winner of Keeneland's Blue Grass Stakes in his latest start, is part of the "speed" contingent that runs deep for next week's Derby. "The work was fine," Baffert said. "This track is none too quick today, but it'll be different for the Derby."

The trainer also noted that his other two runners, Bob and John and Robert and Beverly Lewis Trust's Point Determined, galloped today at their Santa Anita headquarters and were scheduled to put in their final Derby drills Sunday at the California oval. Baffert assistant Jim Barnes has watch over that pair, who are scheduled to ship to Kentucky on Tuesday.

Bob and John comes into the Derby off a tally in New York's Wood Memorial and Point Determined, who'll be ridden next Saturday by Rafael Bejarano, turned in a second in the Santa Anita Derby in his latest try.

Brother Derek – Cecil Peacock's muscular son of the Alydar stallion Benchmark did some galloping Saturday morning at Churchill Downs, covering about a mile and one half at 7:45, just prior to the mid-morning renovation break.

Exercise rider Luis Ortega was in the boot for the exercise as trainer Dan Hendricks looked on at trackside. The conditioner, who'll be entering his first Kentucky Derby runner in Brother Derek, liked what he saw as his colt went through a spirited, but controlled, bit of exercise under the former jockey.

"Happy horse, happy trainer," Hendricks said. "All's well." Hendricks plans to have his charge put in his final Derby work Monday, but – considering the rain forecasts for the Louisville area – is being flexible about it.

"Alex (rider Alex Solis) is taking the red-eye from California and will be in here early Monday morning," the conditioner noted. "If we're all right on the weather, we'll work. If not, we can go Tuesday or Wednesday. He (Solis) is here for the week."

Brother Derek heads toward the 132nd Derby riding a four-race win skein, including Grade I tallies in the Hollywood Futurity and the Santa Anita Derby.

(Hendricks meets with members of the media daily at 10 a.m. just behind Barn 42.)

Bluegrass Cat/Keyed Entry/Sunriver – Trainer Todd Pletcher was a busy man Saturday morning, putting his three potential Kentucky Derby and two possible Kentucky Oaks contenders through drills while continuing to train other members of his big string at Churchill Downs. More than a dozen assistants and aides scurried purposely about Barn 34 throughout a warm but sprinkling wet morning, readying horses to go trackside or cooling down those who had just returned. The 38-year-old conditioner was the lynchpin for the steady horse hum, starting with a first set of workers that went out in the dark just after 6 a.m.

In that first set was Aaron and Marie Jones' Sunriver, a dark Saint Ballado colt who is on the outside looking in for Derby consideration right now, but still with a chance to perform in the 132nd Run for the Roses. Hall of Fame rider Angel Cordero Jr. was in Sunriver's saddle and he teamed up with the older stakes horse Harlington for a six-furlong team drill that clockers timed in 1:13.60.

It was a script made-to-order for Pletcher, who had instructed Cordero to go "in :13 or :14 and gallop out strong." The trainer further told the rider that with seven days still to go until the big race,
he'd "rather put more into him than less right now."

Pletcher watched the team drill from the Churchill grandstand and was pleased with what he beheld. "Excellent," he said. "It looked awful good to me."

Sunriver is currently No. 22 on the list of Derby runners based on his graded stakes earnings and only 20 runners are allowed to enter the mile and a quarter classic. Still, with a week still to unfold, the homebred colt may yet get his chance.

Later in the morning, following the renovation break, Pletcher sent out Sunlight Stables, Saylor and Lucarelli's Keyed Entry for a six-panel move, again with Cordero at the controls. The robust son of Honor and Glory was a handful, eager to go about his business, which he accomplished in 1:12.80 with a powerful gallop out well into the backstretch.

"He's a tough one," Cordero said. "He's strong."

Winstar Farm's Bluegrass Cat's morning exercise followed shortly after Keyed Entry's prep, with exercise rider Luis Castillo up for the leg stretching. Clockers tabbed the Storm Cat colt's move in :50.80 for the half mile and the way he went about it impressed his morning partner.

"He was very aggressive today," Castillo noted. "Going to the pole, he really wanted to go. I had to take a pretty good hold of him. I didn't want him to do too much. But he is feeling very good and he likes what he's doing."

Both Keyed Entry and Bluegrass Cat are assured starting berths in the Derby. Keyed Entry will be handled by California-based Patrick Valenzuela, a rider noted for his special abilities with speed horses, which Keyed Entry most certainly is. The riding assignment on Bluegrass Cat is still up for designation following the injury to his regular jockey, John Velazquez.

Cause to Believe – Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was on hand from California to watch his charge breeze five furlongs in 1:00.80 Saturday morning with exercise rider DaRon Long in the boot.

"It was just a maintenance breeze," Hollendorfer said. "And it was just what I expected from him. He's not a good work horse, but he gets something out of his breezes."

The trainer said that will be the colt's last major work before the Derby. Hollendorfer is returning to his base in Northern California and will be back the middle of next week for the Derby draw.

Cause to Believe, a gray son of Maria's Mon, is one of the winningest horses in this Derby. He comes into the race with six victories (the same as Brother Derek and one fewer than Lawyer Ron) for co-owners Peter Redekop and Peter Abruzzo.

Last out, the Kentucky-bred was a distant third behind the runaway Sweetnorthernsaint in the Illinois Derby, but in his previous start he won the California Derby at Golden Gate Fields.

Hollendorfer, the winningest trainer in the history of Northern California racing, has given the mount to Russell Baze, currently second only to Laffit Pincay Jr. in career winners with more than 9,200 victories.

This will be the second Derby starter for the trainer, who saddled Eye of the Tiger to finish fifth in 2003, and the second Derby mount for Baze, who finished 14th aboard Semoran in 1996.

Deputy Glitters – The Tampa Bay Derby winner stretched his legs over the Churchill Downs track Saturday morning while galloping 1-1/4 miles under exercise rider Keith Allen.

"The rider took hold of him and then he picked it up in the lane," said Andy Rehm, the assistant trainer to Tom Albertrani. "He was tugging him around the track."

Although Deputy Glitters seemed to relish the fast going during his gallop, the light showers were an unpleasant reminder of his distant sixth-place finish in his most recent start in the Wood Memorial over a sloppy track at Aqueduct.

"Just throw it out. It was just like it was in the Champagne," said Rehm, referring to the son of Deputy Commander's distant sixth-place finish over a sloppy Belmont track last fall. "When he runs on a sloppy track, he just doesn't handle it all. The jock (Jose Lezcano) said he was struggling the whole way around."

Deputy Glitters, who had finished second behind Bluegrass Cat in the Sam F. Davis Stakes and won the Tampa Bay Derby over fast tracks prior to his Wood disappointment, is scheduled to have his final Derby workout in the middle of next week. Rhem expects Albertrani to arrive at Churchill Downs on Monday.

Flashy Bull/Jazil – The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained pair breezed in company Saturday morning finishing up five furlongs just a head apart in 1:00.40. Jazil, who got the better of his stablemate by a few inches at the end of the drill, opened daylight while the two colts were galloping out, mostly because Angel Cordero Jr. was aboard.

Desmond Farrell, who was aboard Flashy Bull, grinned as he told the trainer that Hall of Famer Cordero racerode him the last part of the work to finish with the slight edge.

"That's just Angel," McLaughlin said. "He just can't help himself."
McLaughlin, who saddled Closing Argument to finish second in last year's Run for the Roses, said he was very happy with the way the two colts worked.

"They went perfect," he said. "They both switched leads when they should, and the riders said they wouldn't blow out a match when they came back."

He said Cordero was delighted with the way Jazil performed.

"Angel told me to save a rose for him when the horse wins," McLaughlin said with a smile.

The trainer said he worked the two in company to get maximum effort in their final pre-Derby drill.

"When they work by themselves, they go like ponies," McLaughlin said. "When they work together, they push each other and get the most out of their work."

Jazil, owned by the Shadwell Stable of Dubai's Sheik 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 as the muddy Wood Memorial effort showed, would move way up on a wet track.

Sheik Hamdan was on the phone with McLaughlin after the breeze inquiring about his horse and the trainer was happy to give him good news.

"He asked if he should come, and we told him yes," McLaughlin said. "He's very excited about the Derby."

Jazil, a son of Seeking the Gold, will be ridden by Fernando Jara, who was aboard in the Wood Memorial.

Flashy Bull races in the colors of West Point Thoroughbreds LLC and 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 another gray by Holy Bull, who sired last year's winner Giacomo, and he will be ridden by Mike Smith, who took his first Derby last year.

Lawyer Ron – Arkansas Derby (GII) winner Lawyer Ron signaled his readiness for Kentucky Derby 132 by firing off a bullet work of :58.80 for five furlongs over a "fast" track Saturday morning at Churchill Downs.

The best work of 48 at the distance was accomplished under light showers after the renovation break with regular afternoon pilot John McKee aboard.

"I liked the way we he worked," trainer Robert Holthus said. "He went off more relaxed than he was down at Oaklawn Park. I had him in :59 and out (the six furlongs) in 1:12."

Owned by the Estate of James Hines Jr., Lawyer Ron will walk Sunday and most likely return to the track Monday with all of his major work completed.

"I am very satisfied with everything this morning," Holthus said. "It was similar to what he did at Oaklawn. He's getting a little more professional and getting to where he is more relaxed."

Holthus also sent out Thomas Franks' Red Raymond before the break and he worked the same distance in :59.80, the third fastest of the morning at five furlongs.

Unlikely to make the Kentucky Derby field because he is not among the top 20 probables in graded earnings, the Deputy Commander colt could surface in a race next weekend here anyway.

"If he does not get in, and it is looking like he won't, there is the Texas Derby at Lone Star and the race at Pimlico (the Sir Barton) on Preakness Day," Holthus said. "I might even run him in the Crown Royal (American Turf, on Friday, May 5)."

Private Vow/Storm Treasure – Trainer Steve Asmussen sent Private Vow and Storm Treasure to the track for routine 1-1/2-mile gallops Saturday morning. Exercise rider Carmen Rojas was aboard for both gallops that were scheduled before the break.

Both of Asmussen's trainees have visited the Churchill Downs winner's circle in the past. Private Vow captured the Grade II Kentucky Jockey Club and Storm Treasure broke his maiden – both victories were accomplished in the shadows of the Twin Spires in November. Both Private Vow and Storm Treasure are scheduled for pre-Derby workouts on Monday.

Shaun Bridgmohan will ride Private Vow in the Derby.

Sacred Light – Amerman Racing Stables' Sacred Light arrived at Churchill Downs early Saturday afternoon and took up residence in Barn 45. The Holy Bull colt, currently No. 23 on the list of 20 candidates for entrance into the Kentucky Derby, had been flown from his Southern California headquarters by trainer David Hofmans along with the same stable's Balance, who will be one of the favorites for this Friday's Grade I Kentucky Oaks.

Sacred Light is scheduled to turn in his final Derby prep Tuesday. Aaron Gryder is listed as his Derby rider.

Seaside Retreat – Trainer Mark Casse's confidence soared after watching Seaside Retreat's 1-1/2-mile gallop Saturday morning, two days after Will Farish Jr.'s homebred colt turned in a "superb" five-furlong workout in :59 2/5 over the Churchill Downs surface.

"I'm not sure he doesn't like this track more than any other," Casse said. "He's not a horse who likes all courses. He struggles on deeper racetracks."

Casse is also confident in his belief that Seaside Retreat's dismal sixth-place finish in the Blue Grass Stakes was a result of his colt's dislike for the Keeneland surface.

"There's no track in America where you see more separation of horses than Keeneland. They either love it or hate it," Casse said. "He hated it. His work here was effortless. When he came back from working five-eighths, you'd have thought he'd have just galloped a mile."

Patrick Husbands will ride the son of King Cugat in the Derby.

Sharp Humor – Purdedel Stable and WinStar Farm lessee's Sharp Humor turned in his third solid work since returning to Churchill Downs from a runner-up finish to Barbaro in the Florida Derby, posting a :59 flat breeze after the renovation break under jockey Mark Guidry.
The move was the second fastest of 48 at the distance.

"He went good," trainer Dale Romans said of the move. "He was looking around a little bit when he turned for home by himself, but it was good. He finished up good, his last three-eighths in 36 (seconds).
Mark said afterward he had trouble pulling him up. He's good and fit."
Sharp Humor had worked five furlongs in :59.60 on April 13 and then worked a mile in 1:38 on April 20.

Romans had Sharp Humor on the track when runners from a local marathon were racing through the infield but the trainer did not think it was a distraction to his colt.

"When he is by himself, he gets to looking around a little bit," Romans said. "That's all we wanted to do today. If you put him in company, he goes too fast, and we didn't want to do that."

Sharp Humor figures to be prominent from the get-go in Derby 132, even in a field that is laced with speed.

"If I had it my way, he would be in front every jump," Romans said. "There are a lot of fast horses in there, but we are not going to change our style this late in the game. You can't afford to get in trouble in a big field and the rest of them will have to come through a lot of traffic to catch us."

Showing Up – Aboard his pony during training hours at Belmont Park, trainer Barclay Tagg reported that his undefeated and lightly raced Derby contender galloped 1-1/2 miles under assistant trainer Robin Smullen to his satisfaction Saturday morning.

Although Showing Up is still on course to run at Churchill Downs next Saturday, Tagg stopped short of committing Showing Up to the Run for the Roses.

"We'll make the decision Wednesday morning. If everything goes well between now and then, we'll enter him," said Tagg, whose only Derby starter to date, Funny Cide, was victorious in 2003.

Showing Up has shown up in all three of his lifetime starts, winning his debut on Feb. 11 and an allowance a month later at Gulfstream Park before overcoming trouble to win the Grade II Lexington Stakes at Keeneland in his most recent start. However, the son of Strategic Mission did suffer a puncture wound in his right front leg while scoring by more than a length under jockey Cornelio Velasquez.

"He'll breeze on Monday, but we won't know for sure if he has a flare-up of his little problem until Tuesday morning. If everything is OK on Tuesday morning, we'll gallop him on Wednesday," Tagg said. "If he gallops nice, we'll enter him on Wednesday and ship on Thursday."

Steppenwolfer – Robert and Lawana Low's Steppenwolfer completed his final major preparations for the Kentucky Derby by working six furlongs in 1:13 under Derby rider Robby Albarado after the renovation break. The move was the fourth fastest of 11 at the distance.

"I got his last quarter in 23 and one or two, which is pretty much what he has done all winter long," trainer Dan Peitz said. "I didn't know how fast the track was going to be but I was hoping he would go in about 1:13, which is just what he did. I said I wanted him to come home the way he did the last two works at Oaklawn Park and that is what he did."

Steppenwolfer worked a little after a barrage of Derby hopefuls put in their final moves.

"I'm not trying to compare my work to anybody else's time-wise," Peitz said. "I don't care how fast everybody else worked. That's their horse and I know what my horse has to and what he needs to do, and we did what we wanted to do."

Peitz said Steppenwolfer would have one more session at the starting gate next week and likely make one trip to the paddock in the afternoon next week.

"I'd probably take him over Wednesday afternoon and let him see some people," Peitz said. "But if he can handle the Oaklawn Park paddock, he can handle anything; I don't care if there are 100,000 people."

Sweetnorthernsaint – Joseph Balsamo and Ted Theos' Sweetnorthernsaint had his running shoes on early Saturday morning, working six furlongs in 1:11.60 before the renovation break and before light showers hit Churchill Downs. Calvin Borel was in the saddle for the move that was the fastest of 11 at the distance for the morning and accomplished in company with another Michael Trombetta trainee, Fleet Valid.

"The work went well," Trombetta said. "I was pleased with how the horse worked. The fractional times were good. I asked the riders (Willie Martinez was aboard Fleet Valid) to go the first three-eighths in 36 and change, which they hit right on the mark, and then build a little bit from there and they came home a little bit quicker.

"I think they finished the last quarter in 23 and change and they galloped out well."

Sweetnorthernsaint worked in blinkers.

"If I want to get something a little more serious done, we can do either/or, but on a work like this, obviously I want to try to put everything in place and not make any changes," Trombetta said.
Trombetta was happy to get the work in without any complications.

"Anytime you do something like this ... there are so many factors that you just don't know how everything is going to go. I'm very happy it went very well," Trombetta said. "You can't do it again. That's the problem. If it doesn't go well, you are out of time.

"If it had been two weeks ago, you could kind of alter your schedule a little bit if it didn't go well. We're a week out. If for some reason they work three-quarters in 1:15 and there is a loose horse running around on the track or something like that, you're out."

Kent Desormeaux will ride the gelding on May 6.