Today's Daily Derby Update is unedited due to time constraints.
BY MY STANDARDS – Chester Thomas’ Allied Racing Stable’s Louisiana Derby (GII) winner By My Standards completed his penultimate work for the Kentucky Derby with a “strong” six-furlong move in 1:12.80 with jockey Gabriel Saez aboard.
Trained by Bret Calhoun, By My Standards began his work from the five-furlong pole and breezed through consistent fractions of :12.40, :24.40, :36.40, :48.60 and 1:00.20 before galloping out seven furlongs in 1:26, according to Churchill Downs Clocker John Nichols.
“That was about as good as you can get two weeks out from the race,” Calhoun said. “This horse is just hitting his best stride and I think that’s what we’ll see from him going into the Derby. I put the work off a little bit due to weather but (By My Standards) really showed his stuff this morning. I’m not taking a sigh of relief yet but I feel really pleased by the way he went this morning.”
By My Standards is scheduled to have a walk day tomorrow in Barn 23 while Calhoun attends the OBS sale in Ocala, Fla.
COUNTRY HOUSE/TACITUS – Juddmonte Farms’ Tacitus, winner of the Tampa Bay Derby (GII) and Wood Memorial (GII) in his past two starts and the top point-getter on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard, put in his first work at Churchill Downs by going a half-mile in :50 under exercise rider Juan Quintero.
Working in company with Grade I stakes-placed Ballagh Rocks, Tacitus produced split of :13.40, :25.80, :38.40 and :50 and galloped out five furlongs in 1:02.80 and six furlongs in 1:15.80. The half-mile work was the 50th fastest of 79 at the distance Monday morning.
“It was his first work since the Wood Memorial and I thought it was very good,” trainer Bill Mott said. “He doesn’t work fast; he does what his companion does. I thought his gallop out was very good.”
Mott, whose first Derby starter came in 1984, will be trying to win the Run for the Roses for the first time. Hofburg’s seventh-place finish last year produced Mott’s best result from eight starters.
“You always want to feel like you have a chance, even if you are 20-1,” Mott said. “You always think that and I think that way for him. He is very well bred, has a good race record and seems to be a horse on the improve.”
Tacitus came off a 17-week layoff following his maiden victory to win the Tampa Bay Derby and four weeks later won the Wood Memorial.
“He is a big, rangy colt who didn’t show his brilliance until later in the summer and the fall,” Mott said. “We asked more of him and he responded and did it the right way.
“(The Tampa Bay Derby) was a good race for a lightly raced horse and in the Wood, he had a nice trip down the backside and all he had to do was reel them in and that is what he did.”
Mrs. J.V. Shields, E.J.M. McFadden Jr. and LNJ Foxwoods’ Country House galloped under exercise rider Marianne Scherer. Mott said Country House probably would work Sunday and added that no rider has been confirmed on the colt who finished third in the Arkansas Derby (GI) in his most recent start.
IMPROBABLE – A surprise appearance by trainer Bob Baffert at Barn 33 highlighted Kentucky Derby 145 prep activities Monday morning at Churchill Downs. He flew in from California to supervise the workout by WinStar Farm and China Horse Club’s colt, on his way to Ocala, Fla., for this week’s sale.
Improbable, the Arkansas Derby and Rebel runner-up, worked 4 furlongs on a fast racing surface, with regular exercise rider Jose Contreras up, in 48 seconds flat (fractions :11.80, :23.40 and :35.60; galloping out 5 furlongs in 1:01.40).
“I haven’t seen press like that since Santa Anita closed,” Baffert joked as he met a large contingent of the news media. “I picked a beautiful day here. He went really nice. I liked the way he bounced over the track. Everybody is happy with him.”
One noticeable change: “I worked him without blinkers,” Baffert said; the colt wore blinkers at Oaklawn Park, for the Arkansas Derby, with unwelcome results. The reason to switch back to no blinkers? “Did you watch the Arkansas Derby? He got a little anxious in there with them, so I don’t think we’ll put blinkers back on him.”
After the near-disastrous Arkansas Derby start, Baffert said he was pleased to see Improbable recover and finish second to Omaha Beach. “There are pretty good horses going around there. That’s what happens in all these prep races, they start separating themselves, and those two (Omaha Beach and Improbable) separated themselves out there. We’re just fortunate to be in there, and really fortunate with Improbable, because they could have scratched him in the gate. I thought they could have scratched him. It looked like he was trying to sit down, and that could have been a disaster for him. He still ran a great race after all that, and I was just thankful that he got in there, and looked unbelievable to finish second.”
He said Improbable is looking good. Baffert said, “For a horse who’s just run, and who’s shipped twice, he looks great, he looks fantastic. You can’t throw him out.”
Baffert said for this year’s Run for the Roses, it is particularly difficult to find one outstanding favorite, unlike last year when he brought eventual Triple Crown winner Justify in for the Derby.
“It’s a tough Derby this year. We’re fortunate to have three in there. There’s a lot of parity,” he said. While Omaha Beach has beaten two of Baffert’s three potential Derby starters, Improbable and Game Winner, he pointed out, “He hasn’t beaten Roadster. All right, so we’ve got that going for us. That’s my hole card. But you know what? He’s a good horse.”
Having lost to Omaha Beach, Baffert knows what he’s up against. “It’s a great story, with Richard Mandella, he’s my neighbor there, and I see him every morning, he walks by my barn. And it’s just amazing what a good horse does for the soul. It puts some pep in your step, and it’s the time of year, that if you have a horse that has a chance to win the Derby, it’s a totally different feeling. You can’t wait to get up. It gets you going. That’s the beauty of this race. These horses really get you going.”
Omaha Beach “is a really good horse,” Baffert said. “He must be, since (jockey) Mike Smith went ahead and took him. So he feels pretty good about that. I have a really good relationship with Mike Smith, and we talked a long time. I told him, ‘If you want to ride that horse, then go ride him.’ I don’t want the jockey to ride a horse, if he’s out there thinking about another horse. He wanted to make sure I wasn’t upset about it. And I told him, ‘No, you won’t have a problem with me, but you might have a problem with my wife, Jill.’ No but, it’s a business, and we take riders off, but Mike is a great guy, and I’m not upset with him.”
Irad Ortiz Jr. is expected to be aboard Improbable in the Derby. The colt is expected to have one more breeze, probably Sunday, the trainer said.
Baffert said he’s pleased with his trio of potential starters for the 145th Derby.
“I think they’re three solid horses,” he said. “I think any of them could win it. But they’ve got to get the trip, the post is important. It’s like last year when we came in with Justify, it was man against boys. And coming in here with (his other Triple Crown champion, American Pharoah). But I think it’s exciting. It comes down to the trip, they’ve got to get a good one.”
The Hall of Fame trainer notices a difference once the horses come from California to Churchill Downs. “Our track there is really deep,” he said of Santa Anita. “They added a lot of sand to it, after all that rain. When they come here, it’s like they kick their combat boots off. This surface has always been a great surface.”
Baffert, who said he’s returning to Louisville on Friday, is considering shipping Game Winner and Roadster, which just worked at Santa Anita, to Churchill Downs on Wednesday, April 24, or Saturday, April 27, when flights from California are available.
Baffert said he was impressed with the performance of Roadster in winning the Santa Anita Derby. While the field was small, “He was the only horse who was closing,” he noted.
Roadster is known as “the TMZ horse” around the Baffert barn. Last summer in Los Angeles, after Justify won the Triple Crown, Baffert said he was going out to dinner. “There’s always paparazzi hanging around, and they were asking me about Justify, and they wanted to know who I had for next year,” Baffert said. “They kept badgering me, and I said Roadster. So we’ve always called him the TMZ horse.”
Sending out three horses for the Derby, Baffert said, “means I’ve got a lot on my plate. When I come in here, I treat every Derby like it’s the first one. I don’t get ahead of myself. I just prepare them, come in there prepared, that’s all I can do. Luckily we’ve been here a couple of times, so we know what we have to do. It’s for the clients, I want them to enjoy the experience. I want them to be able to root for their horses, and make sure when they turn for home, they can start screaming and yelling. I want them to be thinking it, feeling it, when they go to the parties to enjoy it. But for us, we’ll be doing our thing, and hopefully get lucky and win it.”
Having horses good enough to make it to the Derby is important, Baffert said. “I never think about the numbers, I never think about the record,” he said. “I never thought I’d get one (Derby winner). We’re just having fun. … This is what we work so hard for. Being around the good horses, it brings us joy, it’s the best therapy in the world. And there’s so much going on in the world right now, that there’s nothing like, ‘Go talk to your horse.’ They give us so much.”
LONG RANGE TODDY – Rebel (GII) winner Long Range Toddy worked an easy five furlongs in 1:02.60 Monday morning during the exclusive training window for Kentucky Derby and Oaks contenders at 7:45.
Ridden by exercise rider Wilson Fabian, Long Range Toddy worked through fractions of :12.40, :25, :37.60 and :50.20 before a six-furlong gallop out in 1:16.20, according to Nichols.
Long Range Toddy is being supervised by Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen’s assistant Scot Blasi in Barn 38.
MASTER FENCER (JPN) – This year’s Japan Road to the Kentucky Derby invitee, Master Fencer, is scheduled to fly from Japan to Chicago Tuesday and spend 42 hours in quarantine.
Owned by Katsumi and Yasuyo Yoshizawa, and trained by 48-year-old former jockey Koichi Tsunoda, Master Fencer is tentatively scheduled to van to Keeneland on Thursday before arriving at Churchill Downs the evening of April 29, according to Senior Director of the Stable Area Steve Hargrave.
Locally based jockey Julien Leparoux will ride in the Derby.
“It’s getting really exciting,” Leparoux said. “It’s a great opportunity to ride this horse. I’ve been over to Japan to ride before and it was a great experience.”
OMAHA BEACH – Fox Hill Farm’s Omaha Beach galloped about a mile and a half under exercise rider Taylor Cambra for trainer Richard Mandella.
“A little quieter this morning,” Mandella said the day after Omaha Beach had a new patch put on a quarter crack and received new shoes. “He had a good gallop with his new shoes and new laces.”
Winner of three consecutive races including scores in a division of the Rebel (GII) and Arkansas Derby (GI), Omaha Beach is scheduled to work this weekend with the day to be determined.
PLUS QUE PARFAIT – UAE Derby (GII) winner Plus Que Parfait had a scheduled walk day in trainer Brendan Walsh’s Barn 9 at Churchill Downs following a half-mile breeze Sunday morning.
ALSO-ELIGIBLES: Peter Redekop’s Anothertwistafate, No. 23 on the Road to the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard, galloped a mile under exercise rider Pepe Silva. … Silverton Hill’s Sueno, No. 24 on the Leaderboard, galloped at a two-minute clip under exercise rider Juan Diaz.
SHAPING UP: THE KENTUCKY DERBY – Likely starters in the 145th running of the $3 million Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (Grade I) to be run for 3-year-olds at 1 1/4 miles on Saturday, May 4: By My Standards (jockey Gabriel Saez), Code of Honor (John Velazquez), Country House (undecided), Cutting Humor (undecided), Game Winner (Joel Rosario), Gray Magician (undecided), Haikal (Rajiv Maragh), Improbable (Irad Ortiz Jr.), Long Range Toddy (Jon Court), Master Fencer (JPN) (Julien Leparoux), Maximum Security (Luis Saez), Omaha Beach (Mike Smith), Plus Que Parfait (Ricardo Santana Jr.), Roadster (Florent Geroux), Spinoff (Manny Franco), Tacitus (Jose Ortiz), Tax (Junior Alvarado), Vekoma (Javier Castellano), War of Will (Tyler Gaffalione), Win Win Win (Julian Pimentel).
Next up in order of preference: Bodexpress (undecided), Signalman (Brian Hernandez Jr.), Anothertwistafate (undecided) and Sueno (undecided) and Bourbon War (undecided).