ALPHA – Alpha had a quiet morning at Belmont Park Sunday, a day after working five furlongs on the training track.
It was the only work for the Bernardini colt between his runner-up finish to unbeaten Gemologist in the Wood Memorial on April 7 and the Derby. He was out of training briefly while being treated for an infection from cuts in his left foreleg.
“All systems are go,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “He ate up well last night and looks great this morning.”
McLaughlin will accompany the colt on the flight from New York on Monday. He said he expects they will arrive at Churchill Downs between 5 and 6 p.m.
BODEMEISTER/LIAISON – Bodemeister (right, on the outside; photo by Triple Crown Insider) turned his final pre-Derby breeze Sunday, covering five furlongs over a track rated as “muddy” in :59.60 under jockey Martin Garcia.
The Empire Maker colt named for trainer Bob Baffert’s youngest child – who in turn is named for American Alpine skiing star Bode Miller – worked in company with stablemate Jemima’s Pearl, who is headed to the $1 million Kentucky Oaks on Friday. Breaking off about four lengths behind the filly and finishing a neck in front, Bodemeister’s splits were timed in :36.40 and :48. His time for the six-furlong gallop-out was 1:12.20 and his mile gallop-out time was 1:39.80.
A powerful thunderstorm dumped rain and hail on the track Saturday evening and Baffert said he wondered whether he might have to postpone the scheduled breeze until Monday.
“I’m glad I got the work in,” Baffert said. “I was a little bit leery last night with the rain and all the stuff. I was afraid how the track was going to be. It turned out the track was in just perfect shape today. I’m glad I didn’t work him yesterday because he got a hold of it, it was nice and firm. It wasn’t dry and loose. I worry about stuff like that.”
Baffert said that he was pleased with the way that Bodemeister trained and how he responded to his rider.
“He worked his usual self. He just went around there,” Baffert said. “I had the radio on him and told him when to pick it up a little bit, to tease him a little bit. He sat behind that horse, stayed with that other horse. I don’t see him being rank in the work. He’s really settled in here really, really well.”
While Bodemeister has loads of speed, Baffert said the Arkansas Derby winner is a laid-back individual and something of a lazy work horse. But Sunday’s work went according to plan
“He was doing it within himself. That’s what he does,” Baffert said. “He’s the kind of horse that will go slower or faster, whatever you want to do. So far, he looks good.”
Baffert, 59, is recovering from a heart attack he suffered on March 26 in Dubai. He underwent surgery and had stents inserted in two arteries.
“I’m feeling much, much better,” Baffert said. “I’ve lost weight and I needed to lose weight anyway. Every day I get stronger and stronger. I’ve been exercising and eating well. I’ve never eaten so much fish in my life. Things are good.”
Baffert’s wife, Jill, insisted that he go to the hospital when he was feeling the pain from the heart attack and he said Sunday morning that she has helped him with a new approach.
“Ever since it happened, I’ve changed,” he said. “I don’t get so worked up about something. Still, I get excited. Sometimes I’d get overstressed. Right now, I just realize that I’ve got this second chance. I could easily have died in Dubai. If it would have happened on the plane I would have been toast.
“I used to worry about things that I shouldn’t have been worrying about. If I can’t change it, why worry about it. My wife keeps reminding me. I was telling her about the weather. She said, ‘Bob, you can’t change the weather, why are you worried about it?’ I said, ‘You’re right.’ She’s been my best coach through all this.”
Liaison galloped 1 1/2 mile under regular rider George Alvarez after the renovation break. Baffert said the CashCall Futurity winner would have his final timed work for the Derby on Monday morning.
“He looks very well,” Baffert said. “He has earned his way in there.”
Liaison is winless in three stakes starts this year, but Baffert thinks the Indian Charlie colt has flourished since being sent to Churchill Downs.
“Going a mile and a quarter, I’m going to put the blinkers back on him and let him break, just settle and come running late,” Baffert said. “He really has improved being on this racing surface. He hated Santa Anita. It was just too hard for him.”
CREATIVE CAUSE – A shoe problem for Creative Cause (photo by Reed Palmer, Churchill Downs) delayed the Santa Anita Derby runner-up’s first gallop at Churchill Downs Sunday morning following his arrival Saturday from Southern California. One of his shoes slipped a bit during Saturday’s flight and it had to be repaired before the colt could go out, leading to a post-9 a.m. gallop instead of the 8:30 time reserved for Derby and Oaks runners.
Both the horse and trainer Mike Harrington took it all in stride as Creative Cause galloped 1 3/8 mile on the track labeled muddy after Saturday night’s rain and hail storm.
“He traveled beautifully,” Harrington said. When asked how happy he was with his colt’s performance, Harrington quipped, “You don’t see any tears, do you?”
“He went very nice,” Harrington continued. “He can be tough in his gallops, but he goes home…and shows up the next day to do it all over again.”
John Cisneros, regular exercise rider and assistant to Harrington, was all smiles after the exercise, saying, “He was looking around and acted like ‘Hey, I remember this place.’ That was good because it helped him relax.”
Creative Cause had reason to remember Churchill Downs since he finished third in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill in November.
DADDY NOSE BEST/SABERCAT – As per standard operating procedure in the Steve Asmussen barn, both of the trainer’s Kentucky Derby contenders – Daddy Nose Best and Sabercat – galloped two miles the day prior to their scheduled Monday works.
Sabercat came onto the track first with Asmussen’s second set of the morning just before 6 a.m. The Delta Jackpot winner picked up the pace noticeably his second time around.
Daddy Nose Best followed in the next set at 6:15 a.m. under exercise rider Angel Garcia and appeared comfortable while maintaining a steady pace throughout.
Asmussen said he was pleased with the condition of the race track, which was pounded by severe weather during Saturday’s Opening Night card, and added that both colts were “getting over it good.”
Later in the morning Asmussen confirmed that both colts were set to work Monday morning, most likely around the same time they’ve been visiting the track as opposed to during the Derby and Oaks contenders’ training session between 8:30-8:45.
DONE TALKING – Maryland-based Done Talking left his Laurel Park home base by van at 5:15 a.m. en route to Louisville, trainer Hamilton Smith reported. The Illinois Derby victor is expected to arrive at Churchill Downs by mid-afternoon today and be bedded down in Barn 4.
Done Talking fired a bullet five furlongs in 1:01 Saturday at Laurel Park under jockey Sheldon Russell, who will be making his first Derby appearance. Russell piloted Concealed Identity in the 2011 Preakness while making his Triple Crown debut.
“He’s on the way,” Smith said this morning. “He ate up everything last night and his temperature is fine and everything checks out good, so we’re all set to go.”
Smith will arrive Monday afternoon in Louisville to oversee his first Kentucky Derby entrant. Done Talking will try to become the first Illinois Derby winner to capture the roses since War Emblem a decade ago.
DULLAHAN – The day after a workout usually is R&R for a racehorse, typically an easy walk around the shedrow. Not so today for Blue Grass winner Dullahan. The half-brother to 2009 Kentucky Derby champ Mine That Bird had other ideas.
“He was feeling so good and playing that we decided to do a little something with him,” trainer Dale Romans said. “As good as he was feeling, I said, ‘Hell, let’s just put the tack on him and let him take a lap.’ ”
So Dullahan hit the track after the renovation break under exercise rider Faustino Aguilar for some light exercise, jogging one mile.
“He’s on track and we’re just trying to keep him happy,” Romans said. When asked how the trainer likes having one of the Derby favorites for the first time in his career, he responded with a smile, “It’s a little more nerve-racking, that’s for sure.”
Dullahan now will gallop up to the Derby and will school between races this week in the paddock at a later-determined date and time.
EL PADRINO/GEMOLOGIST – Trainer Todd Pletcher sent El Padrino and Gemologist to the muddy track at Palm Meadows Training Center for half-mile workouts Sunday morning.
Passing on a work on Saturday because of weather and track conditions at the Boynton Beach, Fla. training center, the undefeated Gemologist breezed the four furlongs in :50.39 under Humberto Zamora while El Padrino was clocked in :53.34 under Hector Ramos.
“Both horses had major works last week, so we were just happy to go with maintenance works this week,” Pletcher said.
Gemologist, who captured the Wood Memorial to remain undefeated in five starts, turned in the fastest of eight works, along with workmate and stablemate Disposablepleasure.
“We’re not looking for anything different. He’s been perfect his whole life, so we’re hoping to see more of what we’ve seen,” Pletcher said. “He’s had a really good time since the Wood. Everything’s gone smoothly with the exception of catching a little rain here the last few days. We’re very happy with him.”
El Padrino, the Risen Star winner who finished fourth in the Florida Derby, worked in company with stablemate Windsurfer.
“He’s an easy horse to train. He’s a laid back kind of guy and just does whatever his workmate does,” Pletcher said. “He’s had a good five weeks since the Florida Derby.”
Javier Castellano has the Derby mount aboard Gemologist, while Rafael Bejarano will ride El Padrino.
HANSEN – Hansen had a typical post-workout morning of walking Sunday at the Churchill Downs Trackside Training Center.
The 2011 2-year-old champion by Tapit worked five furlongs in 1:01.20 for trainer Mike Maker on Saturday.
“He walked the shed today and all is well,” Maker said.
Hansen is scheduled to return to the track Monday to jog. He'll be taken to Churchill Downs on Wednesday.
I’LL HAVE ANOTHER – Team O’Neill, led by trainer Doug O’Neill, was all smiles Sunday morning after J. Paul Reddam’s I’ll Have Another (photo by Reed Palmer, Churchill Downs) skipped across the muddy Churchill Downs track in a strong gallop.
“This was a normal strong gallop for him,” O’Neill said with a broad smile. “He went across the track very sharply. I wouldn’t trade places with anybody the way he’s training.”
It was I’ll Take Another’s first day at the track following a flight from Southern California on Saturday.
The colt’s regular exercise rider gave O’Neill a “thumbs up” sign coming off the track after the gallop. And O’Neill responded with “That was perfect, just perfect.”
Later at the barn, rider Jonny Garcia said, “He went really good. It’s exactly what we do every day. He always gallops very strong, and he’s happy doing it.”
MARK VALESKI – Mark Valeski galloped 1 1/2 mile during the Derby and Oaks training period under trainer Larry Jones, who said it’s not a given they’ll enter the Kentucky Derby unless the Proud Citizen colt impresses in his final breeze Monday.
“He has to work well tomorrow,” Larry Jones said. “I told Brereton (Jones), if he’s doing better than he’s ever done before, then let’s do it. We did the same thing with Eight Belles. That’s the only thing Rick (Porter) asked me, he said, ‘Look, if she’s not doing better than she’s ever done, we’ll just run in the Oaks.’ And I had to tell him that’s the best she had ever been, and she showed it when she ran.
“My horse has to show me he’s worthy. Although I like the way he’s coming in and he has the earnings to make it, it’s not 100 percent that he’s going to run. He’s got to do it right tomorrow and he’s got to look really good Tuesday morning and Wednesday morning before entries. He has to show me the work did nothing but help him.”
At Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots this past winter, Mark Valeski typically needed company to get the juices flowing for anything more serious than a maintenance breeze. However, Jones said Mark Valeski would be solo for this critical work because of the way he lingered after passing a workmate in his last official move on April 23.
“I’m not going to put one out there that can’t keep up with him because I don’t want him stopping and waiting for him. We’re not going to be hammering on him.
“This is the first time, this week, that this horse has ever really taken any hold of me galloping. It’s like he’s finally getting to focusing and getting to thinking, OK, I am a racehorse. The rest of it has been sheer talent.
“Going into the Risen Star, I was leading him over thinking, man, you’re fat. He ain’t fat now, and he ain’t skinny, either; he’s all man right now.”
Jones addressed the lost left-front shoe that may have impaired Mark Valeski in the Louisiana Derby, where he finished second behind shocker Hero of Order. The shoe most likely came off coming on to the track, when Mark Valeski stumbled slightly while linking up with his escort pony, but also could have been tossed right out of the gate, when he bumped with stablemate Mr. Bowling. Either way, Mark Valeski ran all of the Louisiana Derby’s nine furlongs with only three shoes. Perhaps just as bad, Mark Valeski also injured one of his hind feet.
“Apparently my horse on the inside (Mr. Bowling) hit him leaving the gate,” Jones said. “They kind of got tangled up and he tore the bulb off his back foot. It just wasn’t meant to be that day. As much stuff as we had that didn’t go right and with a $220 horse that was just divine intervention, we have to throw that one out. What all happened that day can’t happen twice.
“He got clipped from behind – by our other horse, I’m sure – but we’re good now. We’ve got the bulb all healed up and we did have to get a special shoe to make sure the dirt didn’t hit him while he was training, to press the dirt down where it couldn’t get up and it could heal, and it has. He’s just getting better all the time.”
Retired jockey Larry Melancon will be aboard for Monday’s work.
MY ADONIS – George and Lori Hall’s My Adonis, currently 22nd on the earnings list among horses still under consideration for the Kentucky Derby, worked five furlongs in 1:01.60, breezing, under regular rider Elvis Trujillo on Sunday at Monmouth Park.
“He worked fine, no big deal,” trainer Kelly Breen said. “He’s ready to go whatever transpires the next three days. Sit and wait. That’s all you can do is sit and wait.”
Breen said no travel arrangements have been made for My Adonis but that he would get with the Hall's on Monday to formulate their plan. The Derby field is limited to 20 starters but, for the first time, an also-eligible list will allow up to four horses to enter and perhaps make the field should any scratches be announced between entries and 9 a.m. Friday.
Trujillo will be named to ride.
OPTIMIZER – Optimizer turned in his final major Kentucky Derby 138 workout this morning with a five-furlong drill in 1:00.40 over the muddy Churchill Downs surface. Jon Court was aboard for the workout, which was accomplished in splits of 11.60, 23.60, 36 and 48. The son of Breeders’ Cup Turf champion English Channel galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.80.
“We just had a maintenance move like everyone else this close to the Derby,” trainer D. Wayne Lukas said. “This track handles water really well, and they did a nice job with it. It was a little peanut-butter consistency, but it was really safe and Optimizer handled it well. The times might be a tick or two slower today than recent days, so that might be a feather in the cap of a horse like Bodemeister or my horse who worked over it today.”
Optimizer is scheduled to walk the shedrow Monday and return to the track on Tuesday. Lukas will be in search of his fifth Kentucky Derby victory. He previously won the roses with Winning Colors (1988), Thunder Gulch (1995), Grindstone (1996) and Charismatic (1999). Only Ben Jones has won more than four Derbies, winning six times.
PROSPECTIVE – Tampa Bay Derby winner Prospective walked the shedrow this morning, one day after his final major Derby 138 breeze on Saturday. Trainer Mark Casse likes the familiar ground at Churchill Downs for his colt by Malibu Moon.
“He likes this track,” Casse said. “I’ve been doing this for 33 years and have a pretty good feel for which horses love Churchill Downs and which ones don’t. He trained 10 days over this track last year before the Breeders’ Cup and loved it. It rained right before the Breeders’ Cup and the track wasn’t the same.”
Prospective didn’t fire when sixth in the Toyota Blue Grass at Keeneland on the Polytrack last time out and Casse is counting on the surface change to improve his contender’s chances.
“I never thought he was a Polytrack horse even when he was winning at Woodbine,” Casse said of the juvenile stakes winner of the Grey on the synthetic surface in Canada. “He was winning at Woodbine because he was just better than those horses. Since we got him on dirt, I’ve thought he’s been much better. But he’s surprised us. I thought he was our fourth or fifth best 2-year-old we had last year for Mr. Oxley. “
Prospective likely will return to the track Monday, Casse said, and will school in the paddock during the live races sometime later this week.
ROUSING SERMON – In his first encounter with the Churchill Downs race track after a flight from Southern California on Saturday, Rousing Sermon jogged a mile over the muddy strip Sunday morning.
“And he did it like a pro,” said Christina Jelm, who is pinch-hitting for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer who is scheduled to fly to Louisville Monday. Jelm lives in Midway, Ky., and occasionally serves as an assistant to Hollendorfer when he sends horses to Kentucky. She also advises him occasionally on bloodstock matters.
Jelm also sent the colt to the paddock for some schooling.
Hollendorfer has scheduled a Tuesday workout for Rousing Sermon, depending on weather conditions.
TAKE CHARGE INDY – Take Charge Indy made a brief visit to the muddy track at the Palm Meadows Training Center in rainy south Florida Sunday morning.
The Florida Derby winner breezed five furlongs on Thursday and walked Friday, but trainer Pat Byrne canceled a planned return to the track Saturday, and had him walk again, because the track surface was too wet. Byrne sent him out for some light exercise Sunday, though.
“I jogged him once around and he jogged good,” Byrne said. “I wasn’t going to gallop him in that deep stuff.”
Byrne said the colt is fine and on course for the Derby. The rain and mud is an inconvenience, but not a problem.
“You don’t need to train him. It’s just a matter of doing enough with him so he doesn’t knock himself out around the barn,” Byrne said. “He’s a sensible colt for the most part. He’s just sharp right now. We’ll probably just jog tomorrow and fly Tuesday because I don’t see the track getting any better. It seems like it’s the rainy season all of a sudden.”
TRINNIBERG – Shivananda Parbhoo’s Trinniberg (right, photo by Triple Crown Insider) galloped two miles under exercise rider Sabastian Garcia Sunday morning at Churchill Downs.
“It depends on the track and the weather, but (Monday) we’ll probably move him a little bit, probably a three-eighths,” Parbhoo said. “If not (Monday), then Tuesday.”
The son of Teuflesberg concluded a successful 2-year-old campaign with a disappointing seventh-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint at Churchill Downs last November.
Trinniberg has won both of his starts this year in front-running fashion, the Swale at Gulfstream Park and the Bay Shore at Aqueduct, both at seven furlongs.
“When he started training after coming back from the farm – he took two months off after the Breeders’ Cup – he was more relaxed,” said Parbhoo, whose father Bisnath Parboo trains his Florida-bred colt. “We didn’t have the time to find him a race to go much longer than seven-eighths, but what he’s been doing is amazing. He shows he can go a lot longer than seven-eighths or a mile.”
Trinniberg will be ridden by Willie Martinez in the Derby.
UNION RAGS – Trainer Michael Matz reported Sunday morning that Union Rags came out of Saturday’s five-furlong workout at Churchill Downs.
“He’s seems like he came out of the work well. He ate up everything last night and he looks bright,” said Matz, whose Champagne (GI) winner walked the shedrow.
Union Rags, who finished a troubled third in the Florida Derby last time out, breezed five furlongs in :59.80 under jockey Julien Leparoux on Saturday. The work was the third fastest of 53 recorded at the distance.
The physically imposing son of Dixie Union, who finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs last November, has had a striking presence during his visits to the track since arriving from Keeneland last Thursday.
“He’s only going to get bigger and stronger,” said Matz, who saddled Barbaro for a dominating Kentucky Derby victory in 2006. “We set up a plan to get him here. We gave him a rest and brought him up here the way we wanted him to be.”
WENT THE DAY WELL – Went the Day Well walked the shedrow of Barn 22 on the Churchill Downs backstretch Sunday after turning in a solid five-furlong workout the previous morning.
“He came out of the work in good shape, excellent,” said David Rock, assistant to trainer Graham Motion.
Went the Day Well, who captured of the Vinery Racing Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park last time out, breezed five furlongs in 1:01 under jockey John Velazquez on Saturday morning at Churchill.