LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) – UAE (GII) winner Mubtaahij (IRE) got his first sample of the racing surface at Churchill Downs Tuesday morning, a day after arriving from Arlington. Mubtaahij jogged once around and then cantered another lap under Lisa Moncrieff.
With the Tuesday afternoon arrivals of Upstart and Frosted from South Florida and Frammento from Keeneland, all expected participants in Saturday's $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) and those hoping to get in the race were on the grounds of the historic track.
Also Tuesday morning, 15 fillies were entered for Friday's 141st running of the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI). Churchill Downs linemaker Mike Battaglia made Stellar Wind the 7-2 morning-line favorite for the 1 1/8-mile test for the 3-year-old fillies.
KENTUCKY DERBY NOTES
AMERICAN PHAROAH/DORTMUND – Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert's Derby candidates both went to the track on the same day for the first time Tuesday morning.
Kaleem Shah's unbeaten colt Dortmund, who breezed at Santa Anita Saturday, shipped to Kentucky on Sunday, and jogged with a pony on Monday, was out for a 1 ½-mile gallop. Zayat Stables' American Pharoah, breezed at Churchill Sunday, walked Monday and was sent out for what was supposed to be a leisurely jog.
“My horses are doing really well,” Baffert said. “They worked well and went out today and did a little exercise. I'm happy with what's going on right now. We're playing the waiting game.”
Dortmund, a large, striking animal, drew a lot of attention as he made his way around the track under his exercise rider Dana Barnes. Later, dozens of people took thousands of images of the son of 2008 Derby winner Big Brown receiving his morning bath.
With a win on is resume over the surface, Dortmund looks comfortable at Churchill Downs.
“He goes over this track so much better than he does at Santa Anita, which is crazy,” Baffert said. “Santa Anita is a little bit harder, but I can tell from his movement that he is a little more fluid over this track. I was really happy with what I saw of him today. He looks good.”
American Pharoah was clearly interested in doing more than jog during his time on the track.
“He was a little fresh,” Baffert said. “He had a walk day and anytime they walk one day they are a little fresh. He looks great. He looks fantastic. He looks really healthy. Their coats look great. It's a matter of we need some racing luck.”
Baffert was in very good form, too. After his Derby stars returned from the track on the bright, cool morning as he talked with a gathering that included his owners, the breeder of Dortmund, Emilie Gerlinde Fojan, fans and the media. When an international journalist asked why the Kentucky Derby was so special, Baffert was ready.
“Well, it's one of the few races where we actually have a blimp that day,” he said with a tiny grin. “We get 150,000 people here, there's so much history and the Kentucky Derby is part of the American culture. It's one of the top sporting events that we have. So to be part of that history is what makes it so exciting.”
BOLD CONQUEST – The Ackerley Brother Farms' Bold Conquest walked in the shedrow for trainer Steve Asmussen the day after working five furlongs in 1:01.80.
BOLO – The California-based colt galloped 12 furlongs Tuesday morning at 8:30 when the majority of the Derby and Oaks horses took advantage of the 15-minute training window the track affords them daily coming up to the two classics. He was handled by exercise rider Tony Rubalcaba and watched trackside by his trainer, Carla Gaines.
The son of the Dynaformer stallion Temple City handled his opportunity in good fashion according to his connections. Gaines, who will be only the 17th female to saddle a Derby horse in this, the 141st running of the race, was just a bit surprised by all the media attention the simple gallop drew to her and her horse as she held court for a dozen microphone and notebook types back at Barn 45.
“What are all you guys doing here,” she said kiddingly. “I mean my horse is 100-1 and here you all are talking to me.”
The 62-year-old conditioner noted several reasons why she thought her horse might do well in the 10-furlong Derby. She felt that the added distance of the race – an extra furlong beyond his third-place finish in the Santa Anita Derby (GI) – would be a solid plus. She also thought that the fact that he was a very tractable horse who readily adapted to circumstances, riders and whatever else came his way would be in his corner.
Further she stated that she did have one ace in the hole when it came to her feel for the Run for the Roses. Her stable bookkeeper for the past 15 years has been Patti Johnson and they have chatted about more than bottom lines. Then-trainer Johnson finished fourth with Fast Account in the 1985 Kentucky Derby.
CARPE DIEM/ITSAKNOCKOUT/MATERIALITY/STANFORD – The quartet of Derby candidates that race out of trainer Todd Pletcher's barn went to the racetrack in single-file fashion shortly after the special Derby/Oaks training session began at Churchill Downs Tuesday morning at 8:30.
Exercise rider Patti Krotenko and Blue Grass Stakes (GI) winner Carpe Diem led the parade. Next up came exercise rider Ezequiel Perez and Starlight Racing's Itsaknockout. Following them was Florida Derby (GI) champion Materiality and exercise rider Carlos Cano. And last, but hardly least, was exercise rider Isabelle Bourez aboard Louisiana Derby (GII) runner-up Stanford.
While three of the colts galloped and gate schooled, Itsaknockout was a galloper only, covering a mile and one half. The others went varying distances before joining trainer Pletcher for a let's-get-comfortable session at the Churchill gate. Carpe Diem went about nine furlongs following a walk day Monday. Materiality traveled approximately a mile and three-eighths and Stanford covered a similar amount of ground. All reported back to Barn 40 for their baths in good order.
While riding assignments have been set for three of the runners – John Velazquez on Carpe Diem, Javier Castellano on Materiality and Luis Saez on Itsaknockout – the mount on Stanford is still up in the air. Pletcher had thought he'd be able to resolve that issue during a call with his owners Monday, but the deed isn't yet done. The trainer said he thought Florent Geroux – who rode Stanford to his second-place effort in Louisiana – likely had the inside track, but that he wasn't all the way there yet.
He noted further that Carpe Diem, along with his Kentucky Oaks fillies Angela Renee and Eskenformoney, would be fifth race paddock schoolers Tuesday afternoon. His remaining three Derby horses would paddock school Wednesday.
Pletcher's overall assessment of his Derby band was a positive one. He felt their routines were good, that they looked good and that their attitudes were good.
“Knock wood,” he said. “They're all doing good.”
DANZIG MOON – John Oxley's Danzig Moon galloped 1 ½ miles after the morning renovation break with exercise rider William Cano aboard for trainer Mark Casse.
The son of Malibu Moon galloped the same distance on the main track Monday as well. Norman Casse, his father's assistant, has been working with the colt since he made his career debut last fall and pointed out that while he always had been pleased with the horse's physical ability, he had difficulty breaking from the gate.
"I think he has always had a tremendous amount of physical talent,” Casse said. “I just think that as a 2-year-old he was not mentally his sharpest and that's why he would break bad."
Danzig Moon ran only twice as a 2-year-old, not finding the winner's circle in either start. He made his 3-year-old debut a winning one by breaking his maiden in February at Gulfstream Park. Casse said that the Blue Grass Stakes (GI) runner-up has shown quite a bit of improvement since then after a break at the Casse's farm in Ocala, Fla.
"He got a little break at our farm and when he came back to Palm Meadows, he was much more aggressive and much more into what he was doing and I think that mentally he's gotten better,” Casse said. “That's what I have seen development wise."
A lifelong Louisville resident, Casse discussed some of his personal favorite Derby memories growing up in town that included Thunder Gulch's Derby victory in 1995, the first Derby Casse attended. However, he said that Smarty Jones' Derby triumph in 2004 was by far his favorite.
"Smarty Jones was a horse that was different,” Casse said. “After he had won the Derby and we were walking around the grandstand, there was a buzz going on about him and I fell in love with him. That's what really got me started in this capacity, so Smarty Jones has definitely been my favorite."
EL KABEIR – Zayat Stables' El Kabeir, who arrived at Churchill Downs in the early morning hours Monday after a van ride from New York, walked the shedrow of Barn 33 Tuesday morning.
“We decided to give him another day. He shipped overnight the other night. It was a 13-hour van ride. I would normally walk a horse after vanning overnight, so we decided not to go to the track,” trainer John Terranova said. “The most we would have done was a light jog anyway. After his sharp work the other day, we're not planning on doing too much this week – just keeping him happy.”
Terranova planned his trainee's morning activity with the knowledge that El Kabeir already has an affinity for the Churchill Downs surface, over which he captured the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) in November.
Calvin Borel, a three-time Kentucky Derby winner based at Churchill, was aboard for that race and will be reunited with the son of Scat Daddy for Saturday's Derby.
“Calvin rode him here in the fall, but we've got a whole new horse for him as far as his development and maturity goes, mentally and physically,” Terranova said.
C.C. Lopez has ridden El Kabeir in his four starts this year, including victories in the Jerome (GIII) and Gotham (GIII), as well as a runner-up finish in the Withers (GIII) and a third-place finish in the Wood Memorial (G1)
“You come to Churchill, you think ‘Calvin Borel,' ” Terranova said. “Calvin had the mount for the Jerome, but he had a death in the family and couldn't make it. C.C. Lopez got the mount and has done a wonderful job in his races this winter. We felt coming into this type of race and given Calvin's past success and history on this racetrack, we'd go back to where we started.”
FAR RIGHT – Harry Rosenblum and Robert LaPenta's Far Right galloped 1 ¼ miles under Laura Moquett and is scheduled for a gate schooling session Wednesday according to trainer Ron Moquett.
Rosenblum, who acquired Far Right via private purchase in July and then sold a third interest to LaPenta, lives in Little Rock, Ark., but since Thursday has been a morning visitor to the backside to watch Far Right and Gentlemen's Bet, who will be entered in Saturday's $500,000 Churchill Downs (GII).
“It has been a lot of fun,” Rosenblum said. “I've been coming to the Derby a long time … my first one was Alysheba in 1987 and I had a grass horse in (Jack) Van Berg's barn named Vilzak that chased Alysheba around. Vilzak ran fourth in the Breeders' Cup Turf (GI) that year.”
Far Right will represent Rosenblum's first Kentucky Derby starter.
“Both are great events,” Rosenblum said of the Kentucky Derby and the Breeders' Cup World Championships. “To be able to participate at this level means a lot, especially with a horse that you picked out and who can do the job. He is coming to hand at the right time.”
FIRING LINE – Arnold Zetcher's Firing Line got a good leg-stretching in Tuesday morning at Churchill Downs during the 8:30 to 8:45 special training period for Derby and Oaks horses, galloping a mile and a half and taking a visit to the starting gate under exercise rider Humberto Gomez. The Sunland Derby winner, a husky bay by the young Lion Heart stallion Line of David, did just fine with it according to his partner.
“He galloped really well,” Gomez said back at Barn 42. “I think he likes this track a lot. He was relaxed out there and seemed to enjoy it. Even when a horse went past us, he didn't mind. He just kept on cruising. He was a little tense the first time we walked him into the gate. It (the Churchill gate) was something new for him and he was a bit unsure. But we backed him out and took him in a second time and he was much more relaxed. He learns quickly. He's a professional racehorse. He's the kind of horse that makes me look good.”
Firing Line has two wins and three seconds in five lifetime starts. Two of those seconds were photo-finish losses to Dortmund, a Kentucky Derby rival and one of the race's favorites. Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens has the call on Firing Line in Derby 141.
FRAMMENTO – Mossarosa's Frammento galloped Tuesday morning at Keeneland under exercise rider Juan Bernardini.
“We are leaving here about noon and should be there around 2,” trainer Nick Zito said of the fourth-place finisher in the Blue Grass Stakes (GI).
When Frammento gets here, he will be housed in Barn 42, at the end of the shedrow that Zito is familiar with.
When Zito won his first Derby in 1991 with Strike the Gold, the colt was housed in Stall 18. Three years later, Go for Gin resided in Stall 21.
“It's going to be great to be back there,” Zito said.
Frammento needs two defections from horses under consideration for the Derby by entry time Wednesday to make the field.
FROSTED – Godolphin Racing's Frosted was scheduled for an afternoon flight to Louisville after galloping 1 3/8 miles at Palm Meadows Training Center.
INTERNATIONAL STAR – Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Louisiana Derby (GII) winner and Road to the Kentucky Derby points leader (171) International Star made a positive impression on his first morning galloping over the Churchill Downs surface this week. The New York-bred son of 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus galloped 1 1/4 miles with regular exercise rider Joel Barrientos aboard after the renovation break.
“He settled in nice,” trainer Mike Maker said. “He was very into the bit this morning, very aggressive. I'm very pleased.”
Maker has had seven previous Derby starters with the best finish coming from Stately Victor, eighth in 2010. Of those seven, three have been owned by the Ramseys – Dean's Kitten (2010, 14th), Derby Kitten (2011, 13th) and Vicar's in Trouble (2014, 19th). Dean's Kitten and Derby Kitten were homebreds by the Ramseys' wildly successful stallion Kitten's Joy, who is best known for turf and synthetic runners.
“Those horses went on and had success on the Poly and turf but, having said that, so has he, he's just had success on the dirt, too,” Maker said. As a juvenile, International Star was a Grade III winner on Woodbine's all-weather surface and placed in Saratoga's With Anticipation (GII).
Ramsey, the all-time leading owner at Churchill Downs and perhaps the most recognizable owner in American racing, is known for his gregariousness and salesmanship. His trainer, meanwhile, practices the virtue of brevity.
“Ken's enthusiasm is very contagious and he knows every aspect of the game,” Maker said. “He's got a passion for horses, he's very knowledgeable and he helps me out a lot. Mr. Ramsey has a lot of ideas and I'm a laid-back, quiet guy, so I think we blend really good.”
Ramsey readily shares that his deepest desire is to win the Kentucky Derby and have it mentioned atop his tombstone. His trainer, though, might want a Derby win just as badly even though he isn't typically quite as forthcoming about it. Tuesday morning, however, as Maker surveyed the Churchill Downs scene for the first time this week, he allowed that it's been one of his life's goals since he was nine years old.
“I've had my Derby-winning speech written since I watched Affirmed-Alydar as a kid, I just haven't been able to give it yet,” Maker said.
Asked if he could fathom what it might be like to hold the Kentucky Derby trophy, Maker replied without hesitation, “Yep, I fathom wrapping it in my arms and taking off running.”
KEEN ICE – Donegal Racing's Keen Ice galloped strongly for two miles Tuesday under exercise rider Faustino Aguilar for trainer Dale Romans after the renovation break.
“He's a good horse,'' Romans said. "Good fast horses need to gallop fast. You've got to get something out of it.'' Among those gathering to watch the colt train was Donegal president Jerry Crawford, a lawyer from Des Moines, Iowa. Keen Ice is unusual for a Donegal horse in that he doesn't have a name with Irish ties, Crawford said.
The stable finished third in the Derby in 2010 with Paddy O'Prado and third in 2012 with Dullahan. "The Crawfords were originally from Donegal County, Ireland, and ironically, so were the Kirks, one of our original partners,'' Crawford said. "So our green and yellow checked, blocked silks are actually the Donegal County, Ireland, flag. The Irish theme has served us well. It's a lot of fun.''
Keen Ice has many owners. "We do one partnership a year,'' Crawford said. "We do it in September. We buy most of our horses at the Keeneland yearling sale. And then we form that year's partnership. And if somebody buys say 2 1/2 percent of that partnership, they own 2 1/2 percent of every horse we bought that year.''
MR. Z – Zayat Stables' Mr. Z blew out a quarter-mile down the stretch in 24 seconds for trainer D. Wayne Lukas."It puts him on his toes and focuses him,'' Lukas said of this thoughts behind the blow-out.
Lukas holds the record for Derby starters (47) by a trainer. On Saturday, he'll be turning to a jockey who is a Derby newcomer –31-year-old Puerto Rican native Ramon Vazquez. Three years ago at Oaklawn Park, Vazquez would stop at Lukas' barn at Oaklawn Park every morning to ask if he could work horses, Lukas said.
"He was trying to get established,'' Lukas said. "Then, I thought he needed to work on his finish, finishing on a horse, but he's gotten that down. He rode really well at Arkansas this year, really well.''
Vazquez finished second in the Oaklawn jockeys' standings this year with 51 wins, two behind leader Ricardo Santana Jr. In the Arkansas Derby, Vazquez rode Mr. Z for the first time. He finished third, 8 3/4 lengths behind winner American Pharoah, the likely Kentucky Derby favorite.
"He's very smart, rides well,'' Lukas said of Vazquez. "He didn't do anything wrong in Arkansas but ride him to perfection, so why would we change?''
Lukas, a former basketball coach, had a visit Tuesday from a basketball coaching legend – former University of Louisville coach Denny Crum. They have been friends since the early 1990s.
"Wayne bought the first two horses that I was involved with,'' Crum said. One was Medium Cool, who became a stakes winner.
MUBTAAHIJ – Sheikh Mohammed bin Khalifa Al Maktoum's UAE Derby (GII) winner Mubtaahij (IRE) was on the track at Churchill Downs for the first time after the renovation break today in advance of his attempt at a historic feat in Saturday's Kentucky Derby 141. The Irish-bred son of Dubawi jogged one mile and cantered one mile under exercise rider Lisa Moncrieff.
“He jogged a lap under Lisa and she said he was going so easy, so we sent him for a nice one lap canter after that,” trainer Mike de Kock said. “It was an ideal start to his time in Louisville. I am very pleased with his fitness level.”
The trainer met with the media later Tuesday morning for a question-and-answer session at which he shared more of his impressions from Mubtaahij's highly anticipated appearance.
“He is quite a character,” de Kock said. “He doesn't get too fazed by much. This morning was his first morning out there and he didn't raise a sweat at all. He took everything in.”
Even before his devastating eight-length win in Dubai, de Kock was thinking about the Kentucky Derby for a colt that he suspected would be mentally and physically up to the tall task of shipping halfway around the world. It was a sporting decision by an owner and a trainer who like to test their horses against the world's best Thoroughbreds, wherever in the world they may be.
“The key thing is to be open-minded,” de Kock said. “We are open-minded about this trip and we are hoping to do it again in the future. Then we will at least have the beauty of hindsight. I probably found the worst year ever to attempt to try and run in the Kentucky Derby, but the way he won in Dubai – I'm sure the jury is still out on the horses he beat – but he did it in a manner that gave one confidence that you could put the horse on the plane and hopefully he will be competitive.
“If he had just won, I wouldn't have even bothered. He was geared down to win. [Jockey] Christophe Soumillon, who is a good judge, got off and said, ‘We must take our chances.' The horse must have given him some sort of feel.
“He's given us a bit of a feel, too. At the end of the day, it is a sport, and it is a wonderful sport. Unless horses, athletes take each other on from other countries, who is ever going to know who is the best and who has the goods and who hasn't?”
OCHO OCHO OCHO – DP Racing LLC's Delta Jackpot (GIII) winner Ocho Ocho Ocho galloped the Churchill Downs oval during the renovation break with exercise rider Matt Williams up as trainer Jim Cassidy watched carefully from the outer rail.
“I was hoping to see him go well and I think he went very well,” Cassidy said. “I'm probably going to do a little something with him tomorrow because I thought he was a little bit too keen.”
Cassidy said the son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense would likely work three-eighths of a mile Wednesday at 8:30 a.m.
“I go one day at a time so it's pretty much what the horse tells me to do,” Cassidy said. “I watched him gallop this morning and he's pretty keen, even with Matt on him, and I don't want him to be too keen in the race so I want to take a little bit of the starch out of him.”
On his first morning supervising preparations on site at Churchill Downs, the trainer was asked what Ocho Ocho Ocho had shown him since the Blue Grass that suggests he fits in the Kentucky Derby with the top 3-year-olds of 2015.
“He showed me that my owner pays the bills,” Cassidy cracked. “I'm trying not to be too blunt, but that's pretty much what it is. Deron [Pearson] said, look, if he's 100 percent, I want to run; if he's not, then I don't. Right now I can't see anything wrong with the horse. His attitude is good and he's traveling well.”
Pearson, the DP in DP Racing, is CEO of the telecommunications firm Nexus IS, Inc. He has been with Nexus since the company was founded in 1983 and took over in 2004 as CEO. He keeps a small stable with Cassidy and in the past has campaigned, in partnership, stakes winners such as Dextera (Ger) and Maid for Music (Ire). He was a part-owner of 2002 Kentucky Derby 17th-place finisher Ocean Sound, also trained by Cassidy.
“I think this horse has a bit more quality than Ocean Sound did,” Pearson said. “He's got flashes of brilliance and this is going to be his third race back. First race back he didn't get much out of it because he got slammed out of the gate and then [in the Blue Grass] he got pressed all the way by Carpe Diem and came up a little bit short. But we really think this is going to be his best race. We just hope he can handle the distance; he's certainly got the breeding for it.”
TENCENDUR – Trainer George Weaver sent Phil Birsh's homebred colt Tencendur out for a one-mile jog when the track opened at 5:45 Tuesday morning. Weaver opted for the early morning exercise rather than wait for the 8:30 session reserved for Derby and Oaks horses.
The son of Warrior's Reward -- who is named after King Charlemagne's war horse -- worked a bullet five furlongs in 1:00 Saturday morning. Typically, horses resume galloping on the third day after a work. Weaver opted for a different approach.
“I just wanted to give him another easy day,” Weaver said. “He jogged and he walked and I wanted to let him get done and get back and eat. We join the fray of the after-the-break training for the rest of the week.”
Tencendur is a big colt, 17 hands tall, and has been described by his owner-breeder as a something of a slow developing race horse. He quickly made an impression on Weaver, though.
“He was always promising,” Weaver said. “When I got him in the summer and the first time I worked him he went in :48. It wasn't like we asked him to do a lot. What I remember from that workout is that it was the first work from the training that Wayne Mackey put into him and right away I noticed that he wasn't even breathing (hard). To me, that's the sign of a good horse when they go over there, work, pull up and they're not even blowing. When I saw that, I was like, ‘Man, that's a positive sign.'”
Tencendur made his debut in December at Aqueduct and won the second start of his career in January. He was fourth in the Withers (GIII), fifth in the Gotham (GIII) and earned his Derby trip with a second to Frosted in the Wood Memorial (GI).
With Upstart and International Star, Tencendur is a member of the largest group of New York-breds to compete in the Kentucky Derby.
UPSTART – Ralph M. Evans and WinStar Farm's Upstart walked the shedrow at Palm Meadows Training Center in Boynton Beach, Fla., before a scheduled afternoon flight to Louisville.
“He had the morning off today. He galloped yesterday and just walked around the barn today,” said trainer Richard Violette Jr., whose Holy Bull Stakes (GII) winner and Florida Derby (GI) runner-up will accompany Wood Memorial (GI) winner Frosted on the flight that had been pushed back from noon to 2 p.m.
WAR STORY – Loooch Racing Stables, Glenn Ellis and Christopher Dunn's War Story visited the starting gate and galloped 1 ½ miles under exercise rider Marvin Orantes after the morning renovation break Tuesday.
“He had a lively gallop this morning and the next few days will be lighter,” trainer Tom Amoss said.
Third in the Louisiana Derby (GII) in his most recent start, War Story will be ridden Saturday by Joe Talamo.
Amoss has had time in recent days to scout the competition for War Story.
“I would say these horses have less faults than I have seen in previous years,” Amoss said. “There are very little negatives. The (Todd) Pletcher horses look good and Dortmind is an imposing horse.”