Kentucky Derby Notes - Sunday, April 25

Edited daily notes compiled by the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) notes team tracking the contenders for the classic at Churchill Downs on May 1.

ACTION THIS DAY/MINISTER ERIC - With trainer Richard Mandella back in California looking after stable interests, his exercise rider and right-hand man Paul Nilluang ran the show at Barn 41 on a soggy Sunday morning.

Nilluang had Minister Eric out at 6 a.m. for a mile and a quarter gallop in time to beat heavy rains that soaked the air for more than an hour starting around 6:20 and continuing until nearly 8. The chestnut colt was back and had his bath when Nilluang took juvenile champion Action This Day trackside for some exercise about 7 a.m. The husky bay son of Kris S. jogged roughly a half mile, then galloped once around the big Churchill Downs oval as the rains came.

"He handled the track well," Nilluang noted as he rode Action This Day back to the barn in the company of a stable pony. "So did the other horse (Minister Eric). They're both doing fine."

Action This Day, who has banked $822,084 in a six-race career so far, will be handled by David Flores in Saturday's Run for the Roses. Minister Eric gets the benefit of the services of Pat Day as he attempts to build on an eight-race bankroll that reads $437,971.

BIRDSTONE/THE CLIFF'S EDGE - Champagne Stakes (gr. I) winner Birdstone walked the shedrow Sunday morning, a day after working five furlongs in :58.40.

"He is fine this morning and he will go back to the track in the morning," trainer Nick Zito said.

Robert LaPenta's The Cliff's Edge "went a little further than a mile and a quarter," said Zito, who had the Gulch colt on the track with exercise rider Maxine Correa up before 7 a.m. and before the heaviest of the morning showers came. "I took him a little slower and he may have gone a little further, but everything is good."

The Cliff's Edge is scheduled to breeze five furlongs Monday. "It depends on the track," Zito said. "We had our big work (:59.60 on April 19) and we will see how the track is. If it is off, we will wait until Tuesday."

Zito opened the Derby Week activities by winning Saturday's Derby Trial (gr. III) with Tracy Farmer's Sir Shackleton.

"I don't know (what race will be next)," Zito said. "You've got to protect him; he's a wonderful horse. Mr. Farmer was telling everybody on TV that we got another Preakness horse and I said, 'take it easy.'" You never know; never say never."

BORREGO - The Irish exercise rider Andy Durnin had Borrego - in blinkers and shadow roll - ready to roll immediately after the 8 a.m. renovation break at Churchill Downs Sunday morning and they were the first ones on the track when the tractors had finished their work on a rainy morning.

The heavier rains that had fallen earlier had backed off for the most part when Durnin backtracked his charge to the frontside of the track before bringing him back around to the backside for his five-furlong drill that began at the five-furlong pole.

"I zigged and zagged across the track when I was backtracking him, trying to get a feel for where the track was best," Durnin said. "It seemed best - most even - a couple of horses off the rail. That's where I worked him."

Borrego, a husky chestnut by El Prado, took to the task readily with splits of :13, :25.80, :38 and :51.20 en route to a final clocking of 1:03.60. He galloped out the six furlongs in 1:19.60. "He's a generous work horse," Durnin noted. "He always is. And he's a very fit horse."

Trainer C. Beau Greely, who also is listed as part owner and breeder of the Kentucky bred, watched the work from the third floor of the Churchill clubhouse.

"I liked what I saw," Greely noted back at the barn. "It was a good work for him; just what we wanted. Basically it was a maintenance work. He's plenty fit. We just want to keep him right."

Borrego, who will be handled by Victor Espinoza on Saturday, has finished second in three straight stakes races and shows winnings of $399,580 after seven starts.

EDDINGTON - Willmott Stables' Eddington worked five furlongs in 1:00 over a fast track at Belmont Park under exercise rider Jose Sanchez, according to trainer Mark Hennig.

"He worked great," said Hennig, who plans to ship Eddington to Louisville on Wednesday if the Unbridled colt makes the Derby field.

FRIENDS LAKE - The big chestnut son of A.P. Indy slogged through the rain at 6:45 Sunday morning, breezing five furlongs in 1:03 over a very sloppy track.

"He worked in driving rain," trainer John Kimmel said. "But he looked good and he finished good. It was hard to see the last eighth, but I caught him in under 12 (seconds)."

The clockers posted splits of :13, :26, and :39 en route to the final 1:03. They had Friends Lake galloping out six furlongs in 1:17. "I had him going the first eighth in :13.40, the second eighth in :12.60 and the third eighth in :12.60," the trainer said. "Then he shaded 12 for the final eighth."

Amanda Roxborough, who has been aboard Friends Lake in all his works, said she was happy with the way the colt went.

"I get on him every day, and he felt good today," she said. "I took it easy the first eighth because I wanted to see what the track was like. Then I picked it up the next quarter, and he picked it up at the end by himself."

Friends Lake has not started since winning the Florida Derby (gr. I) on March 13. He had been working at Payson Park in Florida before shipping to Kentucky late last week.

"I thought about giving him his final work there on Saturday and then shipping up," Kimmel said, "but I decided to come early and get a work in over the track.

"But the weather has been terrible since we got here. I hope he got what he needed from the work.

"I do know that he's very fit," Kimmel said, "and that he's been looking good ever since he's been here."

Friends Lake, out of the millionaire mare Antespend, was bred by owners Mary and Chester Broman Sr. at their farm in New York State. The colt will try to become the second straight New York-bred to win the roses following Funny Cide's upset last year.

IMPERIALISM - Trainer Kristin Mulhall took Imperialism to the track just as it opened at 5:15 and the colt galloped a mile and three-quarters before the heavy rain of the morning set in.

"It was actually the best gallop I have ever felt with him. It felt great," Mulhall said. "I will just blow him out a quarter-mile on Wednesday and let him gallop out. That is all I have normally done and he is fit. He is as fit as he is going to be. If he gets tired, it is because he can't go the mile and a quarter. I can't get him any fitter than he is."

The 21-year-old Mulhall is seeking to become the youngest trainer to win the Derby. She was asked what the best bit of advice was that she had received thus far about the Derby.

"Basically, everyone has told me to take it like any other race and not change my training in any way," Mulhall said. "I am sticking to it. It is exactly what I have done with him all the time."

LIMEHOUSE/POLLARD'S VISION - Trainer Todd Pletcher is a guy who likes to get up and at 'em early. And it paid off for his Kentucky Derby pair of Limehouse and Pollard's Vision Sunday morning at Churchill Downs.

The conditioner drilled both his horses in company before dawn's early light and managed to avoid most of the rain and sloppy track conditions that followed on a wet and gray Kentucky morning. "We got lucky," he said. But, in fact, he had made most of his own luck. Pletcher had exercise rider Michelle Nihei and Limehouse trackside at 5:45 a.m. in company with exercise rider Patti Krotenko and the 6-year-old sprint stakes winner Speightstown, who is being aimed for the $200,000 Churchill Downs Handicap at seven furlongs on Derby Day. Both horses are chestnuts and both riders wore dark jackets and dark caps, making it tough for clockers and observers alike to follow them. With Limehouse on the outside, the pair broke off at the five-furlong pole and moved together through a drill that was timed in 1:01. His workmate drew the same clocking.

"Limehouse got the best of him right at the finish," Nihei said. "We went head and head for most of the work. He was strong out there today. The track was pretty good. It was holding together."

Nihei and Krotenko were headed back to the track again at 6:15 with Krotenko aboard Derby contender Pollard's Vision and Nihei on the back of the 3-year-old filly Cherry Bomb, who has won two of her three starts, including an allowance race at Keeneland last out on April 8.

Pollard's Vision, who is blind in his right eye, was inside for their five-panel move, accomplished in 1:00.80. The Carson City colt drew clear of his workmate in the last sixteenth of a mile. Clockers gave Cherry Bomb a final time of 1:01.20.

"They (Pollard's Vision and Krotenko) got us pretty good at the end," Nihei said.

"Oh, yeah, he went good," Krotenko noted. "When you get them working in company, they get way more down to business."

Though the rain had started to fall by the time the second Pletcher pair was going through their exercises, they had managed to avoid the worst of an "off" track that later would be termed "sloppy."

"The track was still OK," Nihei said after the second drill. "This rain will turn it, though."

Pletcher, who watched both drills from the fourth floor of the Churchill Downs clubhouse - with a quick trip back to the barn in between to supervise the comings and goings of his four workers - was pleased with the outcome.

"Working them in company gets their juices up a bit," he noted.

"With Limehouse, I do it every time. He's got a bit of lazy in him in the mornings and I need to put something beside him to get him going. He always has a work partner. The other colt (Pollard's Vision) - it varies. Sometimes I work him with another; sometimes not.

"I was happy with both their works. It was what we needed to get them ready. We should be good to go from here."

Pletcher also indicated that it was unlikely that his other Derby eligible runner - the Florida Derby (gr. I) second-place finisher Value Plus - was going to run in the 130th edition of the Run for the Roses.

"Let's say it is highly unlikely I would run him in the Derby," he said. "It would take some dramatic defections from the race in order for it to happen. I'd want to see Lion Heart and Smarty Jones come out, for instance. It would have to be a case of the speed horses disappearing and giving my horse a different look. But realistically, he isn't likely to go."

LION HEART - Trainer Patrick Biancone sent Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) runner-up Lion Heart out for a mile and a half gallop before 8 a.m. at Keeneland under exercise rider Jean Claud.

"We beat the rain this morning," Biancone said. "He is doing well."

Biancone plans to bring Lion Heart to Churchill Downs on Monday morning to train after the break.

MASTER DAVID - Exercise rider deluxe Jose Cuevas brought Kentucky Derby contender Master David trackside at 7 a.m. Sunday as raindrops splashed about Churchill Downs. The handsome colt cut a striking picture of grace and power, drew a pleasing look from his conditioner - Hall of Famer Robert Frankel - as he took up his post on the observation stand near the six-furlong gap on the backside. Frankel was asked how far his charge was going to go.

"He's going seven minutes," he said.

Seven minutes?

"That's how long it takes him to go up into the chute, then go round the track one time," the trainer explained.

Frankel indicated that Master David would put in his final Derby breeze either Monday or Tuesday. "Probably Tuesday," he noted. Master David will be ridden by Alex Solis in the mile and one-quarter classic. The Kentucky-bred son of Grand Slam has won $268,756 in his seven-race career.

PRO PRADO - Trainer Robert Holthus had Mrs. James Winn's Pro Prado on the track before 7 a.m. for a mile and three-quarters gallop under exercise rider Lee Lockwood.

Pro Prado would represent the third Kentucky Derby starter for Holthus, who saddled Our Trade Winds (13th) in 1972 and Proper Reality (fourth) in 1988.

He was asked if there was much change in his training regimen for 1972 to today regarding the Derby.

"No, not really," Holthus said. "This horse is a little different type horse in that he takes a little more training. I have probably trained this horse a little harder than Our Trade Winds.

"You know, you learn a few things. A horse has to be pretty fit to go a mile and a quarter and it takes a lot of long, open gallops and we have been trying to do that. With Proper Reality, back then you ran back in two weeks from the Arkansas Derby, and when you run back in two weeks, there is very little you can do."

Proper Reality worked five furlongs the Monday of Derby Week and had a three-furlong blowout the day before the race.

QUINTONS GOLD RUSH - Padua Stables' Quintons Gold Rush, victor in the Lexington Coolmore Stakes, had another lengthy gallop this morning, going two miles for trainer Steve Asmussen.

The son of Wild Rush, who will be ridden by Corey Nakatani in the 130th Kentucky Derby, is scheduled to work five furlongs Monday morning.

READ THE FOOTNOTES - The Klaravich Stables colorbearer galloped a mile and a half Sunday morning.

"He went between the raindrops," trainer Rick Violette Jr. said with a smile. "I would like to get a half-mile breeze into him tomorrow (Monday), but if his feet heat up after galloping over the sloppy track, I might wait a day."

Like Friends Lake, Read the Footnotes is a New York-bred who has not started since running in the Florida Derby on March 13. He earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 113, highest by a 3-year-old this season.

Violette said he has not second-guessed his decision to train the Smoke Glacken colt up to the Kentucky Derby.

"In fact, I feel better about it now than when I made the decision," he said.

Violette is armed with a sheaf of statistics that refute the negative stats that show no horse without a start in April has won the Derby in 48 years.

"When you take a closer look," he said, "you'll see that there were only 18 horses during that period who came into the Derby without an April race. And of those, only four had a legitimate shot at winning. So it's really only oh-for-four, and even the best hitter in baseball has an oh-for-four day."

Violette has secured the riding services of Robby Albarado for the Derby.

SMARTY JONES - Someday Farm's Smarty Jones walked the shedrow a day after working a bullet 58 seconds for five furlongs at Churchill Downs.

"He is doing super this morning. He came out of the work great, looks good and he is right on schedule," trainer John Servis said. "He will go back to the track tomorrow."

Smarty Jones won the Arkansas Derby (gr. II) on a track labeled muddy, but Servis is not doing any rain dances.

"I hope this stuff gets out of here; this is unbelievable," Servis said as rain cascaded down on the Churchill backstretch. "It wasn't a real sloppy track (at Oaklawn); it was an off track, but it wasn't horrible. For the Derby and everything, I'd like to see a nice day for the fans."

By working Saturday, Servis avoided a sloppy track Sunday.

"It worked out good," Servis said with a smile. "Somebody's looking after me."

ROCK HARD TEN - Trainer Jason Orman sent Rock Hard Ten to the track after the renovation break for a mile and an eighth gallop under exercise rider John Byrne.

The Kris S. colt is scheduled to work five furlongs Monday, but Orman said he could wait a day if the track is not to his liking.

SONG OF THE SWORD - Paraneck Stable's Song of the Sword beat the rain at Keeneland and galloped two miles under exercise rider Kevin Grau.

Trainer Jennifer Pedersen said the Unbridled's Song colt would train in the morning at Keeneland and possibly van over to Churchill later in the day.

Pedersen, who would be one of seven first-time Derby trainers this year, would make history along with Imperialism's Kristin Mulhall in giving the Derby two female trainers in the same race for the first time in its 130-year history.

ST AVERIL - Stan E. Fulton's St Averil, winner of the Santa Catalina Stakes in mid-January, remains a possibility for Saturday's 130th running of the Kentucky Derby, trainer Rafael Becerra said this morning from California.

"The horse was fine this morning and we should know early this afternoon if we're coming for the Derby. I want the vet to look at him again and then I'll talk it over with the boss."

The son of Saint Ballado has experienced foot problems and worked with a bar shoe Saturday when he traveled six furlongs in 1:11.80 under jockey Tyler Baze at Santa Anita, with a last quarter in :23.40, according to Becerra.

TAPIT - The lightly raced colt, winner of the Wood Memorial (gr. I) last out in his fourth lifetime start, had some easy exercise at trainer Michael Dickinson's Tapeta Farm in Maryland. Ronald Winchell's son of Pulpit is scheduled to breeze Monday on the all-weather track at Tapeta Farm, and then ship to Kentucky on Wednesday. Ramon Dominguez has the mount.

WIMBLEDON - Louisiana Derby (gr. II) winner Wimbledon, trainer Bob Baffert's hope for a fourth Kentucky Derby victory, had his final important workout prior to the 130th "Run for the Roses" this morning, skipping over a sloppy track in :59.40 under exercise rider Dana Barnes.

Wimbledon, a son of Wild Rush owned by James McIngvale, was accompanied to the track by stablemate Determined shortly after the renovation break.

Breaking off a length or two behind Determined at the five-eighths pole, Wimbledon, on the outside, went his first furlong in :12.40, three furlongs in :36.80 and the half-mile in :48.40 with a final eighth in :11 flat for his final time of :59.40. He was timed galloping on out six furlongs in 1:12.20.

"It was very nice," said Baffert later at Barn 33. "The track was demanding and because of that I think it's hard to gauge, but I think he got a lot out of it this morning. The Santa Anita Derby was a head-nodder but I knew he would like it here and every work has been great."

On April 17, Wimbledon breezed five furlongs in :58.40.

"He went in company today because I thought he'd get more out of it on the off track. This is a big, old dude with a lot of natural, raw talent. Like a big, dorky kid. He's getting it down now. "He was taken out of his style in the Santa Anita Derby. You have to grab him away from the gate and then just sit, sit, sit and time his move. That day he moved at the five-eighths pole and by the time they hit the quarter pole he was empty. He has a huge stride and he can be five, six lengths back and catch horses in three strides and then when he gets in front he eases up. His best style is to just lope along early and then time his move."

Baffert is hoping for a fast pace Saturday to set up Wimbledon's late run. "If they go the half in 47, we're in trouble."

Baffert could be looking for a jockey for Wimbledon if Eddington gets into the race. Right now, Jerry Bailey is scheduled to ride Wimbledon. However, he has a commitment to ride Eddington if that horse gets in, which would leave Baffert without a rider. He declined to say whom he was considering as a replacement for Bailey.