Kentucky Derby Notes: Sunday, May 7

(edited Churchill Downs report)
A compilation of daily notes from Churchill Downs on the competitors in this year's Kentucky Derby.

BARBARO - Lael Stable's Barbaro was doing well on the morning after his emphatic 6 ½-length victory in the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) and trainer Michael Matz was cautiously looking toward a run in the Preakness (gr. I), the second jewel of the Triple Crown to be run on May 20 at Pimlico Race Course in Baltimore.

Matz said the colt ate up after his Derby victory and would leave Churchill Downs Sunday afternoon for a trip to his base at Maryland's Fair Hill training center.

"We'll head back to Fair Hill and then we can get everybody there to regroup," said Matz.

While regrouping, Matz said that he and Lael Stable's Roy and Gretchen Jackson would mull over Barbaro's Triple Crown aspirations.

"We have to think that way," he said. "We're sort of taking one race at time and we've got one down, two to go."

Barbaro's margin of victory was the largest in the Kentucky Derby since eventual Triple Crown winner Assault took the race for King Ranch by eight lengths in 1947. Matz was clearly expecting a big effort from Barbaro, although he stopped short of saying that he expected such a dominating win over 19 accomplished Derby rivals.

"We were hoping," he said. "He trained well and a trainer would like for a horse to come to a race like this never missing a beat and never wavering from your plan. He never missed a work. When you come into a race like that, you sure hope that they're going to run a big race. When they don't, it really makes you scratch your head. So thank God we weren't scratching our head this morning."

Matz and his family enjoyed a relatively quiet evening following the Derby victory by Barbaro. After a visit to the Derby Winner's Party at the Kentucky Derby Museum, Matz returned to his hotel after checking on Barbaro one last time during the evening.

"We didn't get back here to the barn until almost 9:30," he said. "He had his head in the bucket eating and we didn't want to bother him then, so we got back to the hotel and had a few drinks, and that was it."

Barbaro was the first horse to win the Derby off five weeks rest since Needles in 1956, and, like Matz's horse, had won the Florida Derby (gr. I) in that final start. To this point, the Florida Derby, which he won by a half-length over Sharp Humor, has been his most difficult race.

"I think he got a lot out of the Florida Derby," said Matz. "I think that's probably the first time he just didn't run past all the other horses. He just got a lot out of that and ever since that race, he's done very well."

For now, Matz will assess how his unbeaten winner – just the sixth horse to emerge from the Derby with a perfect slate – bounces back from his victory over the next few days.

"I'm sure one day he's going to get beat," he said. "But I sure hope it's later than sooner. I mean, I hope he doesn't; maybe he's a once-in-a-lifetime horse. I don't know."

TODD PLETCHER, trainer of BLUEGRASS CAT (2nd) and KEYED ENTRY (20th) - "Both horses came out of the race in good order and will fly to New York on Tuesday. With Bluegrass Cat, I want to evaluate the situation but I would say the Preakness is unlikely. Keyed Entry definitely will not run back in the Preakness; possibly the Riva Ridge (gr. II, now the Woody Stephens) on Belmont Day."

Pletcher said that Sunriver, who did not have enough graded earnings to make the Derby field would be pointed to the Peter Pan (gr. II) at Belmont on May 20 and that he likely would not be sending any other runners in his stable to the Preakness.

Pletcher had a banner Derby Week, with eight wins from 16 starters that netted earnings of $1,185,316, including three stakes, highlighted by English Channel in Saturday's Woodford Reserve (gr. IT). He said all of his runners were in good shape with the bulk of the barn shipping back to New York with a string remaining at Churchill Downs.

DAN PEITZ, trainer of STEPPENWOLFER (3rd) - "I think we were running for second money, the way the winner ran. He's a pretty nice horse.

Peitz said he's "almost positive" Steppenwolfer would skip the Preakness and await the Belmont Stakes (gr. I).

"We're going right back to Belmont and we're just going to set up shop there and wait on him. Wait on him to come to Belmont and just disappoint 100,000 people when they don't get a Triple Crown winner. Be the spoiler. Somebody's got to be the bad guy.

He said the colt "sprung one of his front shoes a little bit. Beside that he was pretty clean."

Analyzing the race, Peitz said, "I was closer than I thought I was going to be. The field didn't get all strung out like I thought, yet I thought the pace was fairly honest. I expected them to be a little more strung out than they were. Forty-six is pretty fast going a mile and a quarter. I don't know that the track was as fast (Saturday) as it has been some years for the Derby. They weren't setting track records.

"He came back pretty good, pretty much ate up. Physically, everything looks pretty good on him. I couldn't have been any happier with the trip and everything else. I'm a little disappointed maybe that we weren't second. The winner won off.

"I had fun. Now I can say it, I had a good time. The horse made us proud."

DAN HENDRICKS, trainer of BROTHER DEREK (dh-4th) - The trainer of Brother Derek said his Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner returned from his dead-heat fourth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby without a shoe on his right front foot.

"Alex (Solis) said he thinks it could have been done even in the post parade," Hendricks reported Sunday morning, "but we're not really sure when it happened."

The missing shoe notwithstanding, Brother Derek had two other factors going against him, Hendricks said, "The post position and the 20-horse field. He could have overcome one or the other, but he wasn't able to handle both together," he said.

Hendricks also thought that the pace of Kentucky Derby 132 victimized Brother Derek.

"I think Alex rated the horse great and was in perfect position during the 46 half, but when they slowed down (on the backstretch), my horse got the worst of it," said Hendricks, whose colt dropped back to 16th before making a nine-wide rally to dead-heat with Jazil.

Hendricks seemed enthusiastic about running Brother Derek against Derby victor Barbaro in the Preakness Stakes in two weeks.

"I'd love to have another run at him," Hendricks said. "We'll train here until a few days before the race. This is home for him now. I'll ask (trainer) Wally Dollase to help me out."

KIARAN MCLAUGHLIN, trainer of JAZIL (dh-4th) and FLASHY BULL (14th) - After watching Barbaro's dominating victory in the Kentucky Derby, trainer Kiaran McLaughlin wasn't ready to commit either of his Derby starters to the Preakness Stakes Sunday morning.

"Barbaro's obviously a great horse with great connections. You'd have to give it a lot of thought to want to chase him again in two weeks," he said.

However, McLaughlin is committed to start Like Now, the Lexington Stakes (gr. II) runner-up and Gotham Stakes (gr. III) winner, in the second jewel of the Triple Crown.

"I'm not eager to run Like Now against (Barbaro), but he deserves a shot," he said. "You never want to take on an undefeated horse like Barbaro."

McLaughlin said that Barbaro has the stuff of a Triple Crown champion.

"Because of his pedigree and the way he trains, the way he works and runs," he said. "A mile-and-a-half (in the Belmont Stakes) is not a problem for him. He might even like it more than a mile-and-an-eighth or a mile-and-a-quarter. Winning the Triple Crown is tough to do, but it seems well within his grasp."

McLaughlin reported that he'd regroup with Flashy Bull, who suffered an extremely wide trip from his No. 20 post.

"Flashy Bull was the only one who had to run a mile-and-three-eighths," McLaughlin said. "He had to run a little further than everyone else, he was so wide. He was eight-wide the whole way."

There's a possibility that Jazil will run in the Preakness after the son of Seeking the Gold closed from last to dead-heat Brother Derek for fourth place.

"The thing to do with Jazil probably would be to wait until the Belmont, but a lot will depend on what everyone else is going to do."

BARCLAY TAGG, trainer of SHOWING UP (6th) - "I didn't want my horse quite that close, but Barbaro was right there. They were side by side most of the way. But if you've got a big, strong powerful horse that you know can go a distance – he ran a mile and an eighth three times – that's the place to sit, right there. Stay out of trouble and do it. But it looked like a pretty clean-run race."

Tagg said Showing Up came out of the race okay.

"His legs look very good. That lump on his leg is ice-cold. It wouldn't be ice-cold if there was infection in there. We just have to get it worked down a little bit, get the lump reduced."

The lump is the result of a puncture wound on the right front suffered in the Lexington Stakes (gr. II).

"All his legs are nice and cold. He's out there eating grass, as happy as he can be. He loves to run, that horse. I was worried about the race affecting him mentally, if it was too tough for him, which it was. I was worried about that, but it doesn't seem like it, he's as happy as a clam.

"I saw Barbaro run in his second race, the Laurel Futurity. I was running a horse, too. It was just about as impressive a race as I've ever seen. The energy of him was incredible. You could just see the energy all the way through the race. In the first quarter mile you knew he was going to win it and win it easy. It was just an incredible race.

"It looked like he could run on anything. I think the Dynaformers can."

ROBIN SMULLEN, assistant trainer of SHOWING UP (6th) – "Barclay is thinking that we'll probably let him regroup and probably head for the Jim Dandy (gr. II) at Saratoga and go to the Travers (gr. I). I don't know if we'll get a race before that, but we'll point to the Jim Dandy and try to go to the Travers.

"If that doesn't work out, there are plenty of other spots, but he's good enough to do it. We'll just see how he matures in another couple of weeks. You give them two weeks off and a lot of times they blossom. We've been drilling him pretty hard to get to this spot.

"We were really pleased with the effort. He beat a lot of good horses."

MICHAEL TROMBETTA, trainer of SWEETNORTHERNSAINT (7th) - Far from discouraged by Sweetnorthernsaint's seventh-place Derby finish, trainer Michael Trombetta was looking forward to returning to Maryland to prepare his Illinois Derby (gr. II) winner for a rematch with Barbaro in the Preakness Stakes.

"If he's healthy, I'd love to go," the Maryland-based trainer said Sunday morning. "I think he ran a good race. The winner ran an awesome race and deserves the accolades, but I'd like to try it again."

Trombetta said he was "shocked" to see the late action that suddenly put Sweetnorthernsaint in the favorite's role for the 132nd Run for the Roses.

"When I saw that we were favorite, I said, 'Why me?'" he quipped.

Trombetta was also a bit surprised to see Sweetnorthernsaint drop back to 12th in the early going of the Derby.

"He'd never been that far back, I was impressed at the move he made on the backstretch," said Trombetta of his colt's advance from 12th to third. "After he made up all that ground, he just got a little tired. He didn't get an ideal trip, but I'm not the only one who can say that."

TOM ALBERTRANI, trainer of DEPUTY GLITTERS (8th) - "He will go back to New York tomorrow. He came out of the race in good shape. We haven't decided yet (on what is next). I want to see how he is doing and make other plans. At this point, I don't think I would take him to the Preakness, but we may consider the Belmont. I was a little disappointed (in the Derby) ... he got in some trouble and may have been closer, but I am sure there are some bigger disappointments than we were."

Albertrani may have one Preakness starter in Darley Stable's Bernardini, winner of the Withers (gr. III) at Aqueduct on April 29.

"We will consider that (the Preakness) this week and then make a decision," Albertrani said.

BOB BAFFERT, trainer of POINT DETERMINED (9th); SINISTER MINISTER (16th); and BOB AND JOHN (17th) - Trainer Bob Baffert knew his horses were in trouble as soon as he reached the paddock and noticed Barbaro before he was saddled by Michael Matz for his dominating Derby score Saturday.

"I saw him in the paddock, and I told Michael Matz, 'I hope he's a turf horse,'" Baffert quipped. "He looked like a man amongst boys in the paddock. Michael Matz did a great job with that horse. What a horse, what a specimen."

Baffert soon learned that Barbaro was a "spectacular" horse on dirt as well.

"When they're that good on grass (and dirt) – John Henry was that way – they're freaks of nature," Baffert said.

The three-time Derby-winning trainer reported that all three of his Derby starters looked good Sunday morning, but that Sinister Minister who pressed the early pace set by Keyed Entry had suffered a slight quarter crack during his 16th-place finish. Baffert thought that Point Determined didn't handle the racetrack, but he was most disappointed in Bob and John's 17th-place finish

"Bob and John had a horrendous trip. I really thought he was going to run big. He liked the track. He trained well over it. Garrett (Gomez) said he got bumped around," Baffert said. "Bob and John is still immature. He's not a horse who can take a lot of jostling."

Baffert didn't seem enthusiastic about running any of his three Derby starters in the Preakness Stakes.

"They'll stay here and I'll come back next weekend and assess everything," he said. "I don't want to run in the Preakness if I don't have a chance to win it."

MARK CASSE, trainer of SEASIDE RETREAT (10th) - "He came out of the race fine and he will ship back Tuesday to Canada. I was pleased with his race, if you can be pleased with a 10th-place finish. He proved he belonged. He's a tough horse and he was jumping around the barn this morning. The winner yesterday was awesome. There is no telling what kind of greatness we saw yesterday or may see in the future."

As for future plans for Seaside Retreat, Casse said: "We might go to the grass, but there is a chance he could come back here because he likes the track so much for the Northern Dancer (on June 17)."

STORM TREASURE (11th)/PRIVATE VOW (15th) - Mike McCarty's Storm Treasure and Private Vow were reported by trainer Steve Asmussen to have come out of their Kentucky Derby efforts in good shape. Storm Treasure finished 11th in the Kentucky Derby, while Private Vow finished 15th.

"They're both a little cranky, but I think they'll be OK," said Asmussen. "They're a little body sore and stuff. Hopefully that's all it is. We'll give 'em a day and not worry about it too much today. We'll leave them alone for one day, for the first time in a long time, and start again tomorrow.

Asmussen said he never had any hopes for either of his horses at any point in the race. But he had praise for all of the riders involved in a race in which there were relatively few major traffic woes.

"The race was beautifully run and the riders need to be commended on that," he said. "It was amazing – nobody had a horrible trip. The riders did an amazing job. The best horse won yesterday, I think, more than any time I've ever seen it."

Asmussen said he would look for a race on the grass for Storm Treasure. He will probably focus on shorter distances for Private Vow.

ROBERT HOLTHUS, trainer of LAWYER RON (12th) - "We checked him out after the race yesterday and he was fine and he is good this morning. We are going to see how he does this week and then decide, but I would say he is a strong possibility to run in the Preakness."

GALEN MAY, assistant to JERRY HOLLENDORFER, trainer CAUSE TO BELIEVE (13th) - Galen May reported that Cause to Believe came out of the Derby in good shape and would return to his Northern California base on Tuesday.

Hollendorfer said Saturday night that the Preakness was not in the plans for Cause to Believe."

JOHN SHIRREFFS, trainer of A.P. WARRIOR, (18th place) - Trainer John Shirreffs stopped by the barn at approximately 4:30 a.m. before catching a flight to California.

"He came back good," said Steve Willard, exercise rider and foreman for Shirreffs. "He was a little banged and bruised up, but he'll live to fight another day."

A.P. Warrior will be flown back to California on Monday.

He is not expected to compete in the Preakness.

DALE ROMANS, trainer of SHARP HUMOR (19th) - "He seems fine this morning. He just didn't show up yesterday. We don't have any immediate plans."

D. WAYNE LUKAS, trainer of SIMON PURE (Not entered in the Derby) - Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said that Simon Pure, fourth in the Arkansas Derby (gr. II) in his previous start and owned by the Robert and Beverly Lewis Trust, may be headed to Baltimore.

"I want to wait a week and see what shakes out; who is going and who is not," Lukas said. "At this point, he is probable (for the Preakness), or I could run him on the undercard (in the Sir Barton)."

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