With one week to go before the 132nd running of the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), 13 candidates for the 1 1/4-mile classic were on the track at Churchill Downs Saturday morning, going through their final workouts before the rain that was forecast for later in the day in Louisville, Ky.
On one of the busiest single workout days leading up to the Derby in recent history and also opening day for the Churchill meet, the track was playing fast early.
One of the first horses out after the track opened at 6 a.m. (ET) was Aaron and Marie Jones' Sunriver, one of three Derby contenders trained by Todd Pletcher. With retired Hall of Fame jockey Angel Cordero Jr. aboard, the Saint Ballado colt was timed in 1:13 3/5 for six furlongs, while working in company with stablemate Harlington.
The winner of two of six starts, Sunriver finished third in the Florida Derby (gr. I) and ranks 22nd on the list of Derby candidates for graded earnings, with $100,000. The Derby is restricted to 20 starters, with the final determination made on the basis of graded earnings.
Later in the morning, Cordero was aboard Keyed Entry as the Honour and Glory
colt worked six furlongs in 1:12 4/5. Racing for Starlight Stable, Paul Saylor, and Donald Lucarelli, Keyed Entry comes into the Derby with a win in the Hutcheson (gr. II), a second in the Gotham (gr. III) and a third-place effort in the Wood Memorial (gr. I).
Stablemate Bluegrass Cat, whose four victories from seven starts included the Nashua (gr. III) and Remsen (gr. II) at age two and the Sam F. Davis Stakes at Tampa Bay this year, was timed in :50 4/5 for a half-mile, with Luis Castillo aboard. The son of Storm Cat
is a homebred racing for WinStar Farms
Also working three-quarters of a mile before the track was closed for the routine maintenance break was Illinois Derby (gr. II) winner Sweetnorthernsaint. The son of Sweetsouthernsaint
and the only gelding being pointed toward this year's Derby, Sweethnorthernsaint went six furlongs in 1:11 3/5 while working in company with stablemate Fleet Ballad, who was timed in 1:12 2/5. Sweetnorthernsaint's time was the fastest of 11 at the distance.
Michael Trombetta, who trains the gelding for Ted Theos and Joseph Balsamo Jr., said the work was exactly what he was looking for. "It was perfect," said Trombetta. The trainer complimented jockey Calvin Borel, aboard Sweetnorthernsaint in place of regular rider Kent Desormeaux, who was expected in for the workout. "Both riders did what the were supposed to do," Trombetta said.
Also zipping along the track was Lael Stables' Florida Derby winner Barbaro, who got a half-mile in :46 flat, the fastest time of the day among 69 working that distance. Trained by Michael Matz, the son of Dynaformer
is undefeated in five career starts and has earned $849,000.
Although there was a loose horse on the track as Barbaro worked, the colt was unfazed by it. "Everything went without incident," Matz said. "He's coming into the race like we want. Everything has been right on time. Basically, we just wanted to blow him out today. He was in hand and did it easy. Now we're ready to go to the starting gate. It's up to him and Edgar Prado now."
Matz noted the significance of Saturday being Barbaro's birthday, as he was foaled exactly three years ago.
"He still has a lot of maturing to do, but he's a big, strong, colt. I don't know what he's going to be like when he fully matures. He's pretty strong now so we can only imagine."
As a light rainfall began and runners from the Derby Festival mini-marathon ran through the infield tunnel and part of the infield blacktop, nine horses worked after the break.
With jockey Robby Albarado up for trainer Danny Peitz, Arkansas Derby (gr. II) runner-up Steppenwolfer was timed in 1:13 for six furlongs. The trainer clocked him in fractions of :12 4/5, :37 3/5, and :50 2/5 for the first half mile and a seven-furlong gallop out time of 1:26 2/5.
"That's just what he's been doing," Peitz said of the Aptitude
colt who races for Robert and Lawana Low. "That was exactly like his last two workouts at Oaklawn Park. In those, he came home in :22 and change, and that is what he did today."
"He bounded off the track," Albarado said, "so you can tell he is really doing good here."
Arkansas Derby winner Lawyer Ron, one of the likely favorites in the Derby, worked five furlongs in :58 4/5 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:11 under regular rider John McKee. Trainer Bob Holthus said the work over a surface "very similar to the one he trained over at Oaklawn Park" was "just what I wanted." The work was the fastest of the day among the 48 horses working that distance.
Holthus said the Langfuhr
colt, who races for the Estate of James T. Hines, Jr., is "getting more professional." He said Lawyer Ron, one of the most seasoned horses in the Derby with seven wins in 14 starts, would gallop 1 1/2 miles Monday, will gallop two miles daily from Tuesday through Thursday, and back to 1 1/2 miles Friday.
Holthus said his other Derby candidate, Red Raymond, worked five furlongs in :59 4/5 before the break. Based on the latest list of graded stakes earners, the Frank Thomas-owned son of Deputy Commander
ranks 24th on the graded earnings list with $93,120. If he does not contest the Derby, he will be aimed at the Crown Royal American Turf (gr. IIIT) at 1 1/16 miles on turf May 5.
With trainer Jerry Hollendorfer on hand, El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) winner Cause to Believe got a little encouragement with the whip from exercise rider Daron Long as he worked five furlongs in 1:00 4/5. "He is not a good work horse and needs a little encouragement," said Hollendorfer, noting the work went exactly as planned. "He's fine and happy," the trainer said of the Maria's Mon
colt who has won six of 10 starts, with four placings for owners Peter Redekop and Peter Abruzzo.
Another trainer sending out a pair Saturday morning was Kiaran McLaughlin, whose Jazil and Flashy Bull each went in 1:00 2/5 for five furlongs. McLaughlin said they are "push-button" horses who would have gone slower had they worked alone. Jazil, with Cordero up, appeared to finish about a half-length in front of his stablemate.
A son of Holy Bull
owned by West Point Thoroughbreds, Flashy Bull has one win and five placings from nine starts, with a second in the Remsen Stakes (gr. II) at age two and a third in this year's Fountain of Youth (gr. II).
Shadwell Stables' Jazil, a son of Seeking the Gold
, also has one win to his credit, with three runner-up efforts, in six career starts.
Meanwhile, runaway Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) winner Sinister Minister turned in his final work, going five-eighths of a mile in 1:00 1/5 and galloping out six furlongs in 1:12 4/5, with jockey Garrett Gomez up. "It was a good work, not a 'wow' work," trainer Bob Baffert said. "He looked good back at the barn."
"He went off strong at first and pulled a little, but then he relaxed and began to pick it up at the sixteenth pole," Gomez said of the Old Trieste colt campaigned by Bernard Schiappa, Lanni Family Trust, and Mercedes Stable.
One other Derby candidate who breezed five furlongs Saturday was Sharp Humor, who got the distance in :59 under jockey Mark Guidry. "I was real pleased," trainer Dale Romans said. "He could not be doing any better. He (Guidry) couldn't get him to pull up. He wanted to go around there again."
The son of Distorted Humor
, who races for Purdedel Stable and WinStar Farms (lessee), won the Swale Stakes (gr. II) among his four victories in seven starts.Contributing to this report were Ron Mitchell, Dan Liebman, Lenny Shulman, and Leslie Deckard.