Churchill Downs had its first special training session for 2016 Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and Longines Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) horses April 23, with Fellowship, Brody's Cause, and Tom's Ready among those registering official workouts.
Only Derby and Oaks horses, and designated workmates, are able to train from 8:30-8:45 a.m. each day, with Churchill opening its track 15 minutes earlier—at 5:45 a.m.—to compensate every morning until the May 6 Kentucky Oaks, when the track closes at 8 a.m.
While Kentucky Derby favorite and Xpressbet.com Florida Derby (gr. I) winner Nyquist worked the same morning at Keeneland, it was the second work for Fellowship since the Florida Derby third-place finisher was transferred to trainer Mark Casse's barn by owner Jacks Or Better Farm.
Fellowship was third in his past three starts, including Gulfstream Park's Holy Bull (gr. II) and Fountain of Youth (gr. II), when trained by Stanley Gold.
Fellowship toured five-eighths of a mile in 1:00 4/5 in company with Awesome Banner, who was clocked in 1:01 4/5. Fellowship's splits were :13, :25, :36 4/5, and :48 2/5, with a gallop-out of 1:13 4/5 for three-quarters of a mile under exercise rider Brian O'Leary.
"I thought he worked really well," said Norman Casse, who runs the Churchill Downs' division for his father's massive stable. "I've been overwhelmed with how good the horse is working. Anytime we're preparing for a big race, two weeks out is their big work. And he worked really awesome, so I'm excited."
Fellowship, a son of Awesome of Course, is 2-3-3 in 11 starts, including victory in last fall's $500,000 In Reality for Florida-sired horses. He'll be ridden by Jose Lezcano, the colt's rider the past two races.
"We went into it without any real type of expectations," Norman Casse said of receiving Fellowship. "Last week we just gave him an easy half (:48 4/5), and I thought that was a really good work. And today, he worked like good horses work. We're certainly more excited with the possibility of him running (in the Derby) now, knowing how he worked.
"It just seems like he really likes the racetrack. He skips over it. He's just a really happy horse right now."
Tom's Ready, second in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) for owner GMB Racing, worked five-eighths of a mile in 1:01, with the first three-eighths going in :38 for a final quarter-mile of :23. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:14 1/5. Tom's Ready's workmate was the 3-year-old maiden Forever D'Oro, whose half sisters are grade I winners Unbridled Forever and Forever Unbridled, all out of trainer Dallas Stewart's 2006 Kentucky Oaks winner Lemons Forever.
"Nice and solid, typical work for him," Stewart said of Tom's Ready, one of the first horses he purchased for Tom Benson, owner of the New Orleans Saints and Pelicans and whose wife, Gayle, is the G in GMB Racing. "He laid back off a horse, came with a good finish. It was a good fight. That's a nice colt he worked with.
"This work had to be a good one. We wanted to get him blowing and get him half-way tired."
The Dale Romans-trained Brody's Cause, Albaugh Family Stable's winner of Keeneland's Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I), worked five-eighths of a mile in 1:01 4/5 under Tammy Fox. The splits were :12 2/5, :24 3/5, :36 3/5 and :48 3/5, galloping out six furlongs in 1:15.60. It was his first return to the tab since his April 9 Blue Grass score.
"It's a cliche to say it went just like we wanted, but it went just like we wanted," Romans said. "These horses are under such a microscope, you can't hide them. If they're going good, they're going good. If they're not, they're not. It was the time we wanted coming right off the race. He went around there easy and looked comfortable doing it."
Brody's Cause is 3 for 6 overall, including 3 for 5 on dirt. He won a mile maiden race at Churchill in his second start, captured Keeneland's Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) in his third race and then was third in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I). In two starts this year, he was a well-beaten seventh as the favorite in the Tampa Bay Derby (gr. II) before his Blue Grass triumph over fellow Kentucky Derby contender My Man Sam. The knock on him is that his speed figures aren't fast enough to win the Kentucky Derby.
"I don't know about speed figures," Romans said. "I just know that Brody's Cause looped around 13 horses in the Blue Grass and went under the wire with his ears pricked. And that's good enough for me."
Brody's Cause will have one more workout, most likely next Saturday. Stablemate Cherry Wine, a late-running third in the Blue Grass, was scheduled to work but wound up just galloping—a concession to Romans' suspicion that colt won't be able to get into the Kentucky Derby with 25 points and a spot in 25th on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard.
"It looks more and more like we're going to be heading to the Preakness," he said of the gray colt owned and bred by William Pacella, Frank Jones and Frank Shoop. "We gave him another week (without a work). He'll work next Saturday. The biggest concern with him is keeping weight on him. He's a fit horse, so that will be plenty if he doe happen to get in. It's not looking good. In the past you'd have thought 25 points would have been plenty" to make the Kentucky Derby's field of 20.
Mike Tarp's Go Maggie Go, who won the April 2 Gulfstream Park Oaks (gr. II) in her second career start, also worked five-eighths of a mile for the Kentucky Oaks with Fox aboard.
"Maggie worked great," Romans said. "It's going to be a lot to ask of her in her third start of her life, to try to go out and win the Kentucky Oaks. But the complexion has changed with the big filly (unbeaten champion Songbird) out. Looks like it's a wide-open race."
In another Kentucky Oaks work, Keeneland's Central Bank Ashland (gr. I) winner Weep No More went a half-mile in :49 3/5, which is about as fast as she'll go in the morning.
"She's not a great work house, never has been," trainer Rusty Arnold said of Ashbrook Farm's daughter of Mineshaft . "Forty-nine, we're very happy. That's as fast as she's been in her life. She's just a true stayer. She won't do more than that, but she just keeps doing it."
Meanwhile, over at the Churchill training center, Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Horseshoe Casino Cincinnati Spiral Stakes (gr. II) winner Oscar Nominated went five furlongs for trainer Mike Maker in 1:00 1/5, third-fastest of 10 at the distance on the day.