AMERICAN PHAROAH / DORTMUND – Bob Baffert’s colts, American Pharoah and Dortmund, galloped at 5:45 Friday morning, shortly after the track opened for training. Baffert said both of his horses were doing well. He was looking forward to a day of racing even though he only had one horse entered in the Friday stakes. “I’m just going to watch the races now, watch the Oaks day and figure out my strategy,” Baffert said. From Baffert’s perspective, the Derby will be won, or lost, in the moments after the gates open. “Our horses are not going to be coming from out of the clouds,” he said. “The break is going to be the key.”
During the days leading up to the 141st Derby, Baffert talked about how he prepares his jockeys. He said he talks with them about the other horses and jockeys in the race, but that ultimately they have to make the right decisions about pace and positioning during the running.
“You can’t manage it,” Baffert said. “If you have to manage the jockey then you’re running the wrong guy.”
Two-time Derby winner Victor Espinoza will be aboard American Pharoah, the morning-line favorite. They will leave from post 17. “He rides with a lot of confidence and he’s been here at the big dance,” Baffert said. “It’s up to him. I can’t really tell him anything.”
Martin Garcia has the mount on unbeaten Dortmund, the second choice, in his fourth Derby start. They will be in post No. 8. Garcia has been aboard the big colt for all of his races.
“Martin, this is the first time that he’s going to ride a horse that actually has a really good chance to win, so I’m sure he will be a little nervous,” Baffert said. “It’s going to be a good test for him to see what he does. You really can’t map out too much for him. With 20 horses in there, it’s too confusing. He knows his horse. He’ll just put him in a nice spot. He likes his horse a lot. He has a lot of confidence in his horse. He hasn’t let him down yet. He knows what the horse likes and that’s important.”
BOLO – The California-based colt Bolo went for a mile jog and a visit to the paddock Friday morning at 7:30. Regular exercise rider Tony Rubalcava was aboard for the exercise and he reported back to trainer Carla Gaines that all was well as they went back to Barn 45 on the Churchill Downs backstretch. “He’s ready,” Gaines said. ”He’s doing well on this track and we’ll hope all goes well tomorrow.” The trainer indicated she’d likely give her Temple City colt a light jog Derby morning.
Sixteen times previously a female trainer has tightened the girth on a Derby starter, beginning with Mary Hirsch in 1937 with the horse No Sir who finished 13th. But one female – Dianne Carpenter – performed the feat twice, sending out Biloxi Indian (12th) in 1984 and Kingpost (14th) in 1988. Most recently, Kathleen O’Connell had a starter with Watch Me Go (18th) in 2011. The best finishes by female Derby trainers have been Shelley Riley’s second-place effort by Casual Lies in 1992, along with third-place finishes by Kristin Mulhall with Imperialism in 2004 and Kathy Ritvo with Mucho Macho Man in 2011.
So on Saturday it will be the 17th time a female conditioner sends out a Derby horse, though -- because of Carpenter’s double duty -- Gaines will, in fact, be the 16th lady to do so.
CARPE DIEM / ITSAKNOCKOUT / MATERIALITY – Trainer Todd Pletcher had his reduced-to-three Kentucky Derby contingent out for gallops Friday morning at Churchill Downs during the early 5:45-6 training session slotted for Derby and Oaks horses only. The trainer’s intended fourth horse, Stanford, had been withdrawn from the race Thursday.
Carpe Diem, a colt by Giant’s Causeway, Itsaknockout, by Lemon Drop Kid, and Materiality, a son of Afleet Alex, had their regular exercise riders up – Patti Krotenko (Carpe Diem), Ezequiel Perez (Itsaknockout) and Carlos Cano (Materiality) – as they set off for steady gallops that were all “mile and a quarterish,” according to Pletcher.
“I’m pretty happy with where they all are right now,” the trainer said. “I’m happy with what I’ve seen here.”
He was asked if he’d have liked a few more days or a week with any of the horses to get them ready for Derby 141.
“No,” he said. “We’re ready. Let’s go.”
DANZIG MOON – Danzig Moon followed his regular morning routine by galloping 1 ½ miles under exercise rider William Cano. Danzig Moon was on the track at 5:45 during the early Oaks Day morning period for Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks entrants. Trainer Mark Casse said the runner-up in the Blue Grass Stakes in his most recent start would gallop in the morning. Listed at 30-1 on the morning line, Danzig Moon will break from post position five under Julien Leparoux.
Casse, who will be saddling his third Kentucky Derby starter, was asked what he would like to see in Saturday’s race to enhance the chances of Danzig Moon. “I would like to see a fast pace and have us be about 10 lengths behind,” Casse said.”Hopefully the pace comes apart at the seams and we can pick them up.”
EL KABEIR – El Kabeir’s status for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby became clouded Friday morning when he took “a few cautious steps” that caused the cancellation of a morning gallop at Churchill Downs. Trainer John Terranova will closely monitor the condition before determining if the son of Scat Daddy is fine to compete in the Derby. Terranova found out something wasn’t right with El Kabeir when he walked out of his stall.
“He took a few cautious steps out of his stall this morning. Right away, it was a concern,” Terranova said. “It doesn’t seem to be anything serious. Timing-wise, we’ll have to wait and see. Hopefully we’ll be good. We’re a wait-and-see. He just has a tender spot in the inside quarter of his left front foot. We’re working on it. It could be a simple bruise. It could be an abscess forming there. We’re working on it. We’ll see how he is later today and tomorrow morning. If everything looks good, he’ll go out and train, exercise a little bit and stretch his legs. If he’s not, we’ll take him out of the race. It’s part of the game, part of being a trainer. It comes with the territory. We’ll do what’s best for the horse.”
FAR RIGHT – Far Right jogged two miles under exercise rider Laura Moquett shortly after the track opened for training at 5:45 Friday morning. Trainer Ron Moquett said the Arkansas Derby runner-up had an excellent paddock schooling session Thursday afternoon and may jog in the morning to complete his preparations for Kentucky Derby 141. Far Right, a 30-1 shot on the morning line who will be ridden by Mike Smith, represents the first Kentucky Derby starter for Moquett.
“I hope everybody gets a clean break and half of them decide who wants to win the first half of the race and set it up for us in the second half,” Moquett said.
FIRING LINE – The well-made colt Firing Line by the young stallion Line of David galloped a mile and one half Friday in the early 5:45-6 a.m. training period set aside for Derby and Oaks horses at Churchill Downs. Regular exercise rider Humberto Gomez was in the tack and trainer Simon Callaghan looked on from just inside the Lukas Gap on the backstretch. Callaghan, who will be saddling his first Derby horse, noted that he’ll probably put Firing Line on the track Saturday for a light jog.
“I believe he’s ready,” Callaghan said of his charge who will break from post 10 Saturday and be ridden by three-time Derby winner Gary Stevens. “He’s feeling good, acting good, right where we want him to be,” the trainer added.
FRAMMENTO – Frammento galloped 1 ¼ miles under exercise rider Juan Bernardini at 7:30 Friday morning. Eoghan Conlon, assistant to trainer Nick Zito, said the fourth-place finisher in the Blue Grass Stakes would go to the track in the morning. Corey Nakatani will have the mount on Frammento, who was stabled at Churchill last fall and finished fourth in a two-turn allowance race after breaking his maiden at Keeneland. That experience here was a reason that Zito kept the colt at Keeneland until Frammento’s Tuesday afternoon arrival here.
Zito is seeking his third Derby victory. His first came in 1991 with Strike the Gold, who won the Blue Grass Stakes before taking the Derby. Three years later Go for Gin came off a runner-up effort in the Wood Memorial (GI) to win the roses.
FROSTED – Frosted galloped 1 3/8 miles Friday morning at Churchill Downs following Thursday’s full training schedule that included visits to the starting gate and paddock as well as a strong gallop. “Everything’s great,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “He’ll go to the track in the morning.”
McLaughlin, who saddled Frosted for a last-to-first two-length victory in the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct in his most recent start, is hoping for a solid early pace in the Derby to set up Frosted late kick.
“We were last in Wood Memorial with a slow half-mile in 49. I feel like it’s going to set up with about 10 horses with early speed, we’re going to be back, closer to 20th than first the first part of the race,” McLaughlin said. “I’m not saying we’re going to be that far back. He might be 10th, but I feel like he’s going to settle well.”
Joel Rosario, who rode Frosted for the first time in the Wood Memorial, has the return mount aboard the son of Tapit for the Derby.
INTERNATIONAL STAR – International Star galloped 1 1/4 miles soon after the track opened at 5:45 a.m. Ken Ramsey and trainer Mike Maker were grinning ear to ear as they followed the son of Fusaichi Pegasus back to the barn.
“We are all smiles,” Ken Ramsey said. “We’re very delighted with what happened this morning. I kind of wish that today was the day. You get sweaty palms when you get this close to the race with one that we think is this good. There’s nothing more to say at this point. The hype is over with. It’s time for potential to develop into performance.”
One day after International Star stayed in his barn rather than visit the track for some form of exercise, Maker was eager to show doubters that his day of walking wasn’t a sign that something might be amiss. “It was just a routine gallop,” Maker said. “If we’re not ready today then we never will be. There was nothing out of character. He walked up great, galloped terrific, in the bridle.”
KEEN ICE – Keen Ice galloped a mile and a half under exercise rider Faustino Aguilar for trainer Dale Romans. "Everything's good,'' Romans said. Keen Ice is a son of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, who finished third in the Derby in 2007. Three-time Kentucky Derby-winning rider Kent Desormeaux has the mount.
MR. Z – Mr. Z galloped under exercise rider Edvin Vargas Friday morning for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas. "He did it really well,'' Lukas said. On Saturday, Lukas will extend his record for Derby starters to 48. Nerves won't be an issue for him, he said. Lukas, 79, will be competing in his 26th Derby. His first Derby starter was Partez, who finished third in 1981.
"I never got nerves for the first one or the last,'' he said. "I just try to get them over there and see what happens. I don't get really excited even during the races. I don't jump up and down and holler. I watch it pretty analytically. I'm analyzing what's going on, pretty much. I don't get that excited.''
MUBTAAHIJ (IRE) – Mubtaahij (IRE) came to the track about 6 a.m. for a very light jog in the one-mile chute, making five laps of roughly three-eighths per lap with exercise rider Lisa Moncrieff. Stablemate Umgiyo, entered for Saturday’s Woodford Reserve Turf Classic, also joined in.
“It’s customarily what we do before races just to stretch their legs out a little bit, keep them moving,” said Trevor Brown, assistant to trainer Mike de Kock. “We’re happy with the way they came out of their works yesterday and all systems are go.”
Saturday will be only the beginning of a busy weekend for jockey Christophe Soumillon, who will ride at Longchamp Racecourse in Paris on Sunday. The 33-year-old will leave Churchill Downs with a police escort after the Derby Day finale is official. From there he’ll fly by private jet to Teterboro Airport in New Jersey, hop in a limo to John F. Kennedy International Airport in the New York City borough of Queens, and make the last direct flight for Paris. Soumillon should touch down in Paris about noon local time Sunday and will ride in yet another car to make first post at 1:30 p.m. He’ll ride Dubai Sheema Classic winner Dolniya in the Group 1 Prix Ganay about 3 p.m.
OCHO OCHO OCHO -- Ocho Ocho Ocho went to the track at 5:45 a.m. for a 1 1/2-mile gallop under exercise rider Amy Williams. The son of 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense may be holding up better than his 69-year-old trainer, who admitted to being worn down by all of the obligations that come with running a Derby horse.
“He really galloped well this morning,” trainer Jim Cassidy said. “He had no issues and everything was good. Just keeping him happy. I just brought him in from grazing and he seems to be fine. I’m tired but other than that everything is fine."
Elvis Trujillo rides five races at Santa Anita today and will arrive in Louisville tonight. Cassidy said they will meet in the morning to discuss their strategy for the Derby.
TALE OF VERVE – Tale of Verve won't be racing in the Kentucky Derby. Because no horses were scratched before 9 a.m. Friday, Tale of Verve won't draw into the race from the also-eligible list. He galloped Friday under exercise rider Emerson Chavez for trainer Dallas Stewart, who said he's planning to work Tale of Verve on Sunday morning.
TENCENDUR – Tencendur, went out to the track when it opened for business at 5:45 Friday morning. “We just galloped a mile, from wire to wire,” said exercise rider Blair Golen, who works for trainer George Weaver. Golen said that everything was fine with Tencendur, who she described as typically being full of himself. After he completed his morning exercise, Tencendur was allowed to graze outside of Barn 42. “If he wasn’t stopping to have his picture taken -- he loves to have his picture taken -- he was mauling me,” Golen said.
Weaver said he hopes his horse will be able to sit back off what he expects to be a sensible pace and stay away from trouble. “I think a lot depends on the breaks and how the race develops,” he said. “There are a lot of horses that want to lay close to the pace in here, but they’re not necessarily a :46 type horse. Usually the Derby has a solid-enough pace in it and I think it will this year. But it will be interesting to see how it develops. Although there are those kind of front-runners, none of them are that blinding Spend a Buck-type speed horse. In years past we’ve had what are really sprinters trying to go long. I don’t see that. We have horses that want to lay close and go a half in :48 or :47 in change."
Tencendur earned his Derby qualifying points with a second in the Wood Memorial (GI) at Aqueduct. He made his move to the lead in the second turn. “We laid close to the pace in New York on top of a :49 half. I doubt that we’ll be laying on top of the pace in here. We’re going to ask the horse to position himself and I doubt that Manny’s going to put him close to the pace. I see him being a stalker, a mid-packerl. Invariably there is some bottle-necking going into the first turn and you want to do your best to avoid that and you want your horse to get into a good rhythm where the horse is in a nice stride. Turning up the backstretch, the jock has to pick a path that gives his horse the best shot to get there.”
UPSTART – Upstart galloped1 3/8 miles under exercise rider Vicki King Friday morning at Churchill Downs. Violette expressed his complete satisfaction with Upstart’s readiness to compete in Saturday’s Run for the Roses.
“He thinks he’s King Kong,” trainer Richard Violette Jr. said. “He’ll have a little jog tomorrow, but we’re done. He’s trained well; he’s eating well; he’s held his weight; he’s sound, happy. That’s what we want. Let him get a good trip.”
Upstart originally drew the No. 19 post position but will break from the No. 18 post because of the defection of Stanford.
“I’d like to save some ground around the first turn. I’ll probably have to look at diving to the rail or the 2-3 path. Get there and ride the race from there,” Violette said. “If you’re wide the first turn, you have to try to cut the corner the second turn, and that doesn’t happen too often. You’re usually wide both turns. At the break, we’ll follow American Pharoah, but we’ll be looking to dive in somewhere and hope that works.”
WAR STORY – War Story jogged a mile and galloped a mile under exercise rider Marvin Orantes for trainer Tom Amoss. Never worse than third in five career starts, War Story comes into the Derby off a third-place finish in the Louisiana Derby (GII) under Joe Talamo, who will be back aboard Saturday. War Story is the second Derby mount for Talamo, who finished 17th on Sidney’s Candy in 2010.
“I was happy with him this morning,” said Amoss, who will be saddling his fourth Kentucky Derby starter. “The track looks tighter than it has been all week and he likes it like that. I hope there is a hot pace,” Amoss said.