AMERICAN PHAROAH / DORTMUND – Both colts galloped 1 1/2 mile. It has been 67 years since stablemates Citation and Coaltown made Derby history with theuir top-two finish in 1948 for trainer Ben Jones. Bob Baffert almost matched that result in 1998 when Real Quiet was first and Indian Charlie was third.
“Turning for home they were one-two. It was a really good feeling that I had,” Baffert said. “Victory Gallop came and split us at the end. He could have easily won. He had a tough trip. I don’t really think about that right now. We just want to get them up there and saddle them. Dortmund is tough getting the saddle on. The other horse is pretty quiet and relaxed, pretty professional.”
Baffert assessed both horses.
I don’t know what was behind him in the Arkansas Derby,” Baffert said. “Dortmund has been running against better horses. I think the California horses are pretty tough this year. I watch them work at Santa Anita. We know that Pharoah is a brilliant horse from what he did in California in the morning. But they are both good horses. They are pretty close.”
After joking that he didn’t know how it feels to win the Derby because it has been so long since he earned his third in 2002, Baffert said he was in a special situation with two standouts.
“It’s incredible. I’m so fortunate,” he said. “Something just worked out. I believe in fate, and I believe that something really good is about to happen, or else it’s going to be disappointing. It’s something we just have to wait to see it happen. Destiny.”
Baffert said the outcome will be determined by elements beyond his control. Baffert acknowledged that he hasn’t seen either of his colts breathing hard or tired after training or a race.
“These horses have to get their trips,” Baffert said. “Maybe Dortmund is the horse. We don’t know. I don’t know how good he is. And the farther the better it’s going to be for him. He loves this track. He’s tough. We know Pharoah is brilliant from what he’s done. He gallops around there and he really hasn’t had to break a sweat. I’m sitting on these two outstanding individuals. So I feel like I’ve got the No. 1 and the No. 2 in the draft. I’ve got Winston and Mariota in my barn here.”
Baffert was back to the first and second question and whether his horses could get the top two spots.
“I just want to get them around there. Turning for home, I’d love to see them one-two. That’s what I’d love to see. Then see what they’re made of Maybe there is another horse. Maybe Carpe Diem is better than them. Or somebody else. You don’t know. That’s why we have this race. I just hope to get a clear shot, not too much traffic and it’s not disastrous. I’ve been here with disastrous trips.”
BOLO – The California-based colt Bolo galloped a mile and three-eighths Thursday morning under exercise rider Tony Rubalcava during the 8:30 to 8:45 Derby/Oaks special training period. Trainer Carla Gaines looked on approvingly. Gaines scheduled a paddock schooling session during the races Thursday afternoon for Bolo.
“He’s loving it here and having fun with all this Derby stuff,” the conditioner said about her son of the young Dynaformer stallion Temple City. “He likes the fact all the people are coming around and paying attention to him. Back at Santa Anita, nobody gives us a second look, except on race day. But he’s having his fun here and because of that I’m really liking it, too.”
CARPE DIEM / MATERIALITY / ITSAKNOCKOUT / STANFORD – Patti Krotenko was aboard for the spin by Blue Grass Stakes winner Carpe Diem, who pulled hard on the exercise rider as he went one time around the track. Florida Derby winner Materiality had exercise rider Carlos Cano as his partner and they toured a mile and three-eighths. Also covering 11 furlongs was Stanford, runner-up in the Louisiana Derby, who had exercise rider Isabelle Bourez attached. Finally, Ezequiel Perez was the exercise pilot for Itsaknockout as they navigated a mile and one half.
Pletcher observed the gallops from the grandstand, then returned to his Barn 40 headquarters.
Wednesday evening, the four Pletcher horses drew their post position assignments and they came up Carpe Diem (#2), Materiality (#3), Stanford (#11) and Itsaknockout (#13). The number 2 post for Carpe Diem, who is listed as the third betting choice in the race at 8-1, was considered especially problematic. But Thursday morning Pletcher had his spirits lifted in that regard by an old friend.
“Angel Cordero stopped by this morning and told me not to worry about the two hole,” the trainer said. “He said he’d won out of the two twice, once with Cannonade (1974) and then with Bold Forbes (1976).”
Early Thursday afternoon, the connections of Stanford opted to pass on the Derby.
“We entered the horse in the race to see what sort of post he might draw,” Pletcher said. “We were on the fence as to whether or not to run him, but we thought we’d take a look. But after seeing the draw and talking to the owners, we decided it might be best to take him out and consider other options.
“We’re thinking now that either the Peter Pan or the Preakness might be better spots for him. The horse is fine. We’ll train him tomorrow morning and we’ll probably work him the morning of the Derby before we ship him to New York. We didn’t wait to scratch him. We did it now to ensure that the also-eligibles would have their chance to run. We think him coming out now is for the best of all.”
DANZIG MOON – Danzig Moon galloped 1 ½ mile after the renovation break under exercise rider William Cano for trainer Mark Casse. The runner-up in the Blue Grass Stakes has made a favorable impression among onlookers in the mornings and has emerged as a bit of a buzz horse this week.
“I certainly hope he has,” Casse said. “I am not really a good predictor, but he was super this morning and he hasn’t had a bad day. I do know that in a 20-horse field, you have got to have some luck. I have a tremendous amount of respect for the horses in the race, but if American Pharoah breaks a step slow, he is going to find himself in a situation that he has not faced before.”
Danzig Moon drew post position five for Saturday’s race. “Julien and I talked about it and the five is OK,” Casse said. “We need everything to go our way, and that would have been harder from the outside.”
EL KABEIR – El Kabeir galloped 1 3/8 mile under Simon Harris Thursday morning at Churchill Downs. The son of Scat Daddy, who arrived by van from New York in the early morning hours Monday, had walked two days before jogging around the track Wednesday.
“He looked good to me. He felt good to Simon,” said trainer John Terranova, who planned to school the Kentucky Derby entrant in the paddock for Thursday’s first race. “He gets over this track nicely. Simon said he jumped in the bridle a little bit, but that’s good to see. He’s never disappointed. He tries every time,” Terranova said. “I’m really happy with the post (No. 7) in relation to some of the others. Hopefully, we’ve got one who can have an impact here with a good, clean trip.”
FAR RIGHT – The vibe remained upbeat at the barn of trainer Ron Moquett Thursday morning, a day after Far Right drew the 20 hole for Saturday’s Run for the Roses.
“I love him being on the outside,” said exercise rider Laura Moquett, wife of the trainer, after Far Right jogged a mile and galloped a mile. “The 20 is fine. If it had been one, two, three or four I would be concerned,” majority owner Harry Rosenblum said.”It is all up to Mike now.”
On the scene to watch Far Right train this morning was co-owner Robert LaPenta. While Rosenblum will be having his first Derby starter, it will be the seventh for LaPenta.
“The last starter I had was Dialed In in 2011,” LaPenta said of the favorite that year who finished eighth. “My first Derby horse was The Cliff’s Edge in 2004 and he lost two shoes in the race. The thing I remember most about that day was the monsoon with about three inches of rain in an hour.”
The Cliff’s Edge was fifth to Smarty Jones. LaPenta also ran Andromeda’s Hero (eighth in 2005), Cool Coal Man (15th in 2008) and Ice Box, the runner-up in 2010 to Super Saver. LaPenta also owned Jackson Bend, the 12th-place finisher in 2010 in partnership. “Andromeda’s Hero was about 10 away from getting third and Ice Box should have won,” LaPenta said.
“Definitely. I saw his race in the Delta Jackpot and said, ‘That’s a Derby horse,’ ” LaPenta said. “He got checked badly in that race and then took off. I think he is a combination of The Cliff’s Edge and Jackson Bend. ‘Cliff’ was a deep closer and Jackson Bend was fearless. This horse runs his race every time.”
FIRING LINE – The sturdy California-based colt Firing Line galloped a mile and one half and schooled in the paddock under exercise rider Humberto Gomez Thursday morning during the special Derby/Oaks training period. Trainer Simon Callaghan, along with the colt’s owner – Arnold Zetcher – and his wife Ellen were very interested observers.
The transplanted Englishman Callaghan has an immediate schedule planned for his son of the young Lion Heart stallion Line of David, a participant in the 2010 Kentucky Derby where he showed speed, but backed up late and finished well behind race winner Super Saver.
“We’ll paddock school him today,” the conditioner said, “then we’ll gallop him tomorrow morning during the 5:45 to 6 period they have for Derby horses. I’ll probably put him on the track Derby morning. I like to jog my horses a bit on race day.”
Callaghan was asked about his colt’s romping 14 ½-length victory in the Sunland Derby April 4. “Well, as a trainer, you’d prefer to have an easy race for your horse coming into one like this,” he said. “We thought we could do well in that race, but we were a bit surprised by just how well he did. I’ve never had a horse win a stakes race by that far; maybe another kind of race, but not a stakes. It was a confidence builder for him and we’re glad for that.”
FRAMMENTO – Frammento galloped 1 ½ mile after the morning renovation break under exercise rider Juan Bernardini for trainer Nick Zito. Zito needed one defection by scratch time at 9 a.m. Friday to get a shot at a third Derby victory. He got that defection Thursday afternoon when the connections of Stanford opted to pass on the Derby.
“I got the call from the racing office this afternoon,” Zito said. “We are all excited. We made it. Everybody is happy. He has been training great. I know we will have to break from the 20, but that is a lot better than post zero! It has been frustrating, because he is a true distance horse,” said Zito, who has won the Derby with Strike the Gold in 1991 and Go for Gin in 1994.
Had Frammento finished third in the Blue Grass Stakes instead of fourth, he would have picked up 10 more qualifying points toward the Derby and been the 20th top point earner entered in the race.
FROSTED – Frosted had an educational and somewhat leisurely training session Thursday morning after leaving Barn 42 on the Churchill Downs backstretch prior to the renovation break. The Wood Memorial winner visited the paddock as the tractors started grooming the racing surface for the Kentucky Derby and Oaks hopefuls’ morning training session. When the track reopened Frosted schooled in the starting gate before galloping 1 3/8 miles under exercise rider Rob Massey.
Frosted, who is rated at 15-1 in the morning line, will be the sixth Derby starter for McLaughlin, who saddled Closing Argument for a second-place finish in 2005. “He’s doing great,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “We love our horse. It’s a lifelong dream, especially to be here with Godolphin. All 19 other owners deserve to win the race, but no one more than Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al Maktoum for his commitment and passion for the Thoroughbred industry. I mean, no one has done more for our game, so it would be great to win for him.”
Frosted finished second behind Upstart in the Holy Bull at Gulfstream in his 3-year-old debut before turning in a baffling fourth-place finish in the Fountain of Youth, in which he appeared to be on his way to a commanding victory in the stretch before stopping suddenly. With no clue what caused Frosted to stop, McLaughlin made five changes before he ran in the Wood at Aqueduct.
“We started with the jockey and we cut back the blinkers a little bit. Probably the most important thing was we changed race tracks. Gulfstream was a deep, tiring and demanding track. So we changed his racetrack and changed his training. Then we did a procedure to cut the (throat) muscles back so he doesn’t displace his palate so easily. It’s not a big deal. It’s done in his stall. It’s quick and easy,” McLaughlin said. “With all the changes, it all came together. He couldn’t be doing any better.”
Frosted rebounded from his Fountain of Youth disappointment to win the Wood Memorial going away by two lengths under Joel Rosario.
INTERNATIONAL STAR – International Star walked the shedrow at trainer Mike Maker’s barn. “That’s just part of his routine and part of a lot of my horses’ routines to get a day off during the week,” Maker said. “If they work on Saturday they get the Thursday off." Maker pointed to graded stakes-winning female sprinter Thank You Marylou as an example of another Ramsey horse in his barn that follows the same pattern. “It’s just the way I train,” Maker said. “I don’t know if there’s any (benefit).”
In some situations a day of walking can raise eyebrows, as it can be a sign that something is amiss. However, it is not unusual for some trainers to give their horses one day off per week. Asked point blank by a reporter if International Star was dealing with any physical issues, Maker responded with a definitive, “No. He’s razor sharp and rarin’ to go. “Show up at 5:45 tomorrow and he’ll put all your questions to bed.”
KEEN ICE – Keen Ice galloped strongly for two miles under exercise rider Faustino Aguilar for trainer Dale Romans after the renovation break. "He loves to train,'' Romans said. "He never gets tired. That's the key. If the big boys don't win, we've got the best shot of the rest.''
The trainer said he had yet to study the entire draw in detail. "The draw, it looked like it was in interesting setup, with some of the speed way inside and way outside,'' he said. "It's interesting how it's going to unfold. I'll sit down and look at it a lot harder this afternoon. It doesn't matter where we are. This horse is going to fall out of the back of it. Let them go on with the front and try to run them all down.''
MR. Z – After walking Wednesday, Mr. Z returned to the track Thursday for a routine gallop under exercise rider Edvin Vargas for trainer D. Wayne Lukas. Lukas said that Wednesday's draw has given him a hint at how the race might unfold. Specifically, he said, the early running might be favorable for Mr. Z, who'll break from the 17-hole. American Pharoah, the favorite, drew No. 18.
"The thing about it that I think is significant is American Pharoah and Mr. Z are truly the only quicker horses on the outside,'' Lukas said. "Far Right (No. 20), obviously isn't. Then you've got to go all the way down to the 10-hole (Firing Line) to get a quicker horse.
"And so, we're going to have a pretty good run down that outside, I think, being able to dictate what we want to do. And then the other horses who've got speed are inside a little bit, and it's going to compromise them. It's going to be a jam on the clubhouse turn right here. The race is always won or lost right here.''
During the renovation break, Lukas entertained visitors to his barn with racing stories, including one about how jockey Donna Barton, who worked horses for him, had a feel for the 1995 Derby. Lukas ran Thunder Gulch, who was a 21-1 shot, and the 3-1 favored entry of Timber Country and the filly Serena's Song.
"She worked all three of them on a Tuesday morning,'' Lukas said. "We were coming back. I said: 'Donna, you just had the best seat in the house on all three. Which one has got the best chance to win the Derby?' She said, 'This one right here, Thunder Gulch.' And I said, 'Better than Timber Country?’ She said, 'Yeah.' I said, 'You're sure?' She said, 'This is the one you'll get it done with.' I said, 'Well, you're going against a champion.' Sure enough, he gets it done.''
MUBTAAHIJ – Mubtaahij (IRE) had an easy three-eighths breeze timed in :37.40 with jockey Christophe Soumillon aboard. Churchill Downs clockers also noted the first eighth of a mile in :13.20 and a half-mile gallop-out time of :52.40.
“It was a very easy work just to stretch his legs,” trainer Mike de Kock said. “It just gets them breathing a little bit deeper, gets the blood oxygenated, lets them stretch and get the circulation going into the muscles. I just told him to let him stretch his legs out over the last 400 and just enjoy himself,” de Kock said.
An easy blowout 48 hours prior to race day is part of the standard operating procedure in de Kock’s barn. “I always do it, or nine times out of 10, I’ll blow them out,” de Kock said. “Some of them a little bit harder, some of them a little less, depending on the horse.”
Based on his behavior and appearance at Churchill Downs this week, de Kock said if Mubtaahij doesn’t run big in the Kentucky Derby it won’t be because of the much-discussed daylong ship or the unfamiliar surroundings.
“He goes out there to work and he doesn’t flinch, he doesn’t balk, he doesn’t sweat up, he doesn’t behave like an idiot,” de Kock said. “He’s doing everything right. I suppose he is a mystery. He hasn’t run in North America. The whole Carnival thing is a mystery and the horses he ran against. It’s hard to get a handle on him – why he can, why he can’t.”
OCHO OCHO OCHO – Ocho Ocho Ocho took the morning off to simply walk the shedrow one day after an easy three-furlong breeze in :38.40. “He walked really, really good,” trainer Jim Cassidy said, mocking the intense interest in his horse’s every step. “His stride was really good. He’s quite happy, within himself. No issues from the breeze yesterday. It wasn’t much of a breeze but it was a breeze. We’re good to go.”
Ocho Ocho Ocho will gallop Friday and walk the morning of Kentucky Derby 141. Cassidy has been extremely relaxed since arriving at Churchill Downs, even when his horse was assigned the dreaded one-hole at Wednesday’s post position draw. Jockey Elvis Trujillo will have to make a quick decision out of the gate whether to gun for the lead or risk having to fight for position as 19 other horses are moving toward him looking to save ground into the first turn.
For Cassidy, who will turn 70 this year, the draw is a part of the game he can’t control and therefore shouldn’t worry about – “it is what it is,” he has said repeatedly about breaking from the rail – but Trujillo and his agent, Tom Knust, are a bit more concerned. The trainer insists they still intend to hold back and hopefully settle in the second flight of horses.
“The agent called me from California and said, ‘What post did we get?’ I said, ‘The one.’ I thought he fainted. I told him, ‘Well you don’t have to ride the horse, don’t worry about it,’” Cassidy said. “I’ve got to think Carpe Diem and a couple of those others are going to go, but I don’t want to go with them, or sit behind,” Cassidy said.
TALE OF VERVE – Charles Fipke's Tale of Verve, the surprise Derby entrant that is the remaining horse on the also-eligible list, galloped a mile-and-three eighths Thursday under exercise rider Emerson Chavez. Stewart said that the idea to consider the Derby for Tale of Verve was hatched in a conversation with owner-breeder Charles Fipke after the colt won a mile-and-three sixteenths maiden race April 23 at Keeneland. Tale of Verve has one win, one second and two thirds, all against maidens, in six career starts.
If the colt doesn't make the field, "We'll look at the Preakness; we'll look at the Belmont,'' Dallas Stewart said. "If you don't get in, you get your money back on Friday, so it doesn't cost you anything to enter. Then you have to think about if you want to run or not. I train horses. And I train them to run. So that's my job. I told him that his horse has the talent, and he'll be finishing.''
"I always believed in the horse,'' Stewart said. "If you go back to his first race, he got left in the gates with Rosie. It was only seven furlongs. But he went the last quarter in like 21-and-change. I was just blown away by it.' Then I ran him long. He ran OK first time long. He was third here. Then I took him down to the Fair Grounds.''
Troubled trips cost Tale of Verve in his first two races in New Orleans, Stewart said. "Then he just started developing. The races were just too short for him. He was always finishing, but the race was over. It wasn't his fault he wasn't winning.” Tale of Verve displayed his stamina in his victory at Keeneland. “I thought he ran terrific. He came back. He was not blowing. He was not exerted,” Stewart said.
TENCENDUR – The big Warrior’s Reward colt went out for a routine gallop under exercise rider Blair Golen Thursday morning with the rest of the Derby and Oaks runners.
The New York-bred, who will be ridden by Manny Franco, is part of a record number of three New Yorkers in the field.
Trainer George Weaver was impressed when Tencendur turned in a breeze of :48 after arriving from the farm last summer, but it took time for the slow-developing colt, who measures 17 hands, to get to the races.
“He was a colt that worked significantly better in company than he did by himself,” Weaver said. “Following that initial breeze he went through a growing stage and stages where everything didn’t go well. He didn’t stay on a weekly work pattern. He had a few small things and then got sick. One thing led to another and it ended up being December before he made his debut.
“We always like him early on, but no matter how much you like them, the performance in the afternoon is the measuring stick. He ran third in his first race and then broke his maiden. When he ran fourth in the Withers and got beat three lengths, he jumped up. To me, that was a sign that, though he was still green in his mind, he might have a chance to make it here.”
Tencendur made another big step forward on April 4 with a second-place finish in the Grade I Wood to earn a trip to the Derby.
“He’s getting better with every race,” Weaver said “I think the racing does more for him than anything. We still need to work him in company, but he’s learned a lot as far as being a racehorse and will continue to improve as the year goes on.”
UPSTART -- Upstart turned in an energetic 1 3/8 mile gallop under Vicki King at Churchill Downs in preparation for a start in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. “I think he loves the surface. I don’t know that he’s ever moved this well,” trainer Rick Violette said. “He really floats over it. The cold weather certainly is a big plus, getting out of the 90-degree heat in Florida.”
Upstart was rated at 15-1 in the morning line after drawing the No. 19 post in the Derby field of 20. Jose Ortiz has the mount.
“My first comment,” Violette said,” was: for the next three days, as a coach, I have to convince my jockey it’s the best place to be. But that only worried me for 30 seconds because I got a call and he watched the draw from New York and said ‘Don’t worry about a thing.’ I’ll Have Another won from the 19; Big Brown won from the 20; the auxiliary gate has been pretty productive. It’s a little farther out there, but that’s one of the things we haven’t dealt ourselves. It’s dealt to us, and we have to adjust to it.”
WAR STORY – War Story jogged a mile and galloped a mile after the morning renovation break with exercise rider Marvin Orantes aboard for trainer Tom Amoss. “His training has lightened up two days before the race,” said Amoss, who planned a paddock schooling session this afternoon. “He is fit and ready. We want to keep him on his toes but not get over the top.”
Amoss, who got his trainer’s license in 1988, attended his first Derby in 1979. “That was Spectacular Bid’s Derby,” Amoss said. “He was a great horse with a capital G. He didn’t really get his due until he was a 4-year-old. It was a shame he didn’t win the Belmont.”
Amoss said the first Derby he remembered watching was Secretariat in 1973. “But the one that really got me hooked was 1978 with Affirmed and Alydar,” Amoss said. “You had a young kid (Steve Cauthen) who was about my age riding Affirmed and, if you root for the underdog, how could you not pull for Alydar in the Belmont?”