Kentucky Derby favorite Brother Derek arrives at Churchill Downs.

Kentucky Derby favorite Brother Derek arrives at Churchill Downs.

Rick Schmitt/Churchill Downs

Steve Haskin's Derby Report: Hello, Brother

The Kentucky Derby favorite has arrived in all his glory. At around 11:30 Thursday morning, Brother Derek stepped off the Tex Sutton chartered plane and onto a one-horse van, which delivered him safe and sound to his new home at Churchill Downs.

In Thoroughbred racing, only a fool believes in omens, so here is this fool's omen of the day. The color of the Bob Hubbard van that transported Brother Derek just happened to be the same teal color as the colt's owner Cecil Peacock's silks, and the only two letters on the van's license plate were CP.

As someone who is always searching for useless information, apologies for such a mindless opening, but what's a good horserace without some kind of omen? Now, if Brother Derek does win the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), remember, it was foretold right here by the old established van color/silks/license plate omen.

Now that we've gotten rid of the ethereal aspect of the arrival, let's return to reality. And the reality is quite simple: Brother Derek was feeling good on the van, came charging off, and after gawking at his new surroundings for a few minutes began grazing contentedly. The son of Benchmark made an eye-catching appearance. He is a powerfully muscled colt, and has the look of a class horse. Soon, it was as if he knew he was in charge and the center of attention.

Also on the flight was trainer Dan Hendricks' wheelchair, which no doubt will be a familiar sight on the backstretch over the next eight mornings. Hendricks wants the Derby experience to be about Brother Derek and not about his affliction or his mode of transportation, which is why his contact with the media will be monitored closely by publicists J.J. Graci and Anita Saint Clair of Elite Thoroughbreds.

Brother Derek, whose only previous journey was a trip to New York for the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I), likely will have his final Derby work on Monday. Hendricks is scheduled to arrive tonight.

A Saint of a horse

Although the Derby is still more than a week away, it is certain that Sweetnorthernsaint will be included in all wagers. The Illinois Derby (gr. II) winner made his first appearance on the track this morning, and at this point, it is safe to say that this colt does nothing wrong, has no bad habits, and is just a dream horse to be around. He spent a good part of the morning rolling around in his shavings.

In typical fashion, he galloped 1 1/4 miles as if he's been stabled here all his life. Horses shipping in for the Derby usually take a little while to get used to all the distractions, and sometimes the track itself. But Sweetnorthernsaint just glided over the surface, and was totally focused, with his head perfectly straight and ears up.

Trainer Michael Trombetta sent him out after the first wave following the renovation break, but has decided in the future to bring him out earlier, because of all the traffic on the racetrack at that hour. Kent Desormeaux will fly in to work the gelding six furlongs on Saturday.

Sweetnorthernsaint has consistently turned strong closing times, regardless of the distance. He's routed his opposition in all his victories. He can relax behind any kind of pace. He's overcome bad posts. And he's handled every track he's ever been on. That spells a horse that is going to be tough on the first Saturday in May.

Holthus returns

Bob Holthus, trainer of Lawyer Ron, was back at Churchill Downs this morning after attending the Ocala 2-year-old sale. Holthus stood on the trainer's stand watching Lawyer Ron turn in his typical gallop in isolated splendor after all the other horses had cleared the track just prior to the 8 o'clock renovation break.

The son of Langfuhr  once again took the turns very wide and had his mouth wide open. As mentioned earlier, it is amazing how this colt has maintained his enthusiasm and has thrived on racing and training after 10 months of nonstop competition. He carries his flesh well and has excellent muscle tone. He also is scheduled to work on Saturday.

Steppenwolfer again was down on the rail in his gallop this morning and was covering the ground nicely. Cause to Believe had his first gallop over the track and went smoothly. Galen May, who had taken care of the son of Maria's Mon during his trip to Hawthorne for the Illinois Derby, said the colt has already shown he handles the Churchill strip much better than he did the deep Hawthorne surface, and is acting and feeling better than he did before the Illinois Derby.

Sunriver is a horse that continues to grow on you the more you see him, and he definitely will be one of the longshot specials, assuming he gets in and turns in another solid work on Monday. With Angel Cordero Jr. aboard this morning, the full-brother to two-time champion Ashado, stood in the middle of the track, where the chute meets the main track, for a good 15 minutes before jogging once around. Yesterday, he walked the shed, so he has had little serious training since his six-furlong work on Sunday.

The van that was to take Florida Derby (gr. I) winner Barbaro to Churchill Downs was late getting to Keeneland, so the son of Dynaformer was then scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs at around 3 o'clock this afternoon, instead of 2 o'clock. Also scheduled to arrive today is Tampa Bay Derby (gr. III) winner Deputy Glitters.

Off to catch Barbaro's arrival. Now that more Derby horses are starting to arrive, there will be more to report.