Friday, May 6, 2016
BRODY’S CAUSE – Trainer Dale Romans declared Brody’s Cause is “ready to go” in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby (GI) after the Albaugh Family Stable’s colt galloped 1 ½ miles at Churchill Downs Friday.
“He hasn’t lied to me. He’s trained as well as any horse I’ve trained going into a race,” Romans said. “The list of concerns, you can just check them all off. He likes the racetrack; he’s bred to go a mile and a quarter; he’s as sound as any horse I’ve ever had; his mind is as good as any horse in the barn.”
Brody’s Cause, who captured the Blue Grass Stakes (GI) at Keeneland last time out, will break from the No. 19 post position in the Kentucky Derby.
“At first, I was concerned about the 19 post. He has speed (Danzing Candy) outside of him. If he can break and clear and shut everybody off for us, we can sit and clock all the way around there.”
The Romans-trained Cherry Wine, who was entered and was the second also-eligible for the Derby, didn't draw into the race Friday morning and is likely to be pointed to the Preakness Stakes (GI) at Pimlico May 21.
CREATOR/GUN RUNNER – Trainer Steve Asmussen was all smiles after watching WinStar Farm's Creator and Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm's Gun Runner gallop Friday during the 5:45-6 a.m. training period reserved for Derby runners.
Exercise rider Abel Flores was on Creator and exercise rider Carlos Rosas was on Gun Runner.
Asmussen is thrilled with how the colts are going into the race.
"It's two wonderful chances,'' he said. "I hope they get a fair shot at it. That's all you want, just a fair shot.''
Asmussen, 50, who is entering the Hall of Fame this year, is seeking his first Kentucky Derby victory. He saddled two in-the-money finishers – Curlin in 2007 and Nehro and 2011 – from 13 Derby starters. Curlin finished third, behind winner Street Sense and Hard Spun before winning the Preakness en route to being named Horse of the Year. Nehro finished second to Animal Kingdom.
On Saturday, a dead heat for first between Creator and Gun Runner would be the ultimate result for Asmussen.
"I don't want one to beat the other,'' he said. "That's how good I feel about it.''
DANZING CANDY – Danzing Candy’s penultimate preparations for Derby 142 consisted of nearly a two-mile gallop under exercise rider Rolando Quinones at 5:45 Friday morning.
Back at the barn after the gallop, trainer Cliff Sise Jr. reported that Halo Farms and Jim and Dianne Bashor’s Danzing Candy “galloped great” and will train Saturday morning.
“When I’m in races [with late post times], I do train them in morning,” Sise said. “When I’m in an early race, I will walk them. He’s in such a late race. I want to make sure I take a little bit of an edge off him.”
Sise, a Derby rookie, said he is not nervous, at least not yet. “Maybe tomorrow,” Sise said with a smile.
DESTIN/OUTWORK – Trainer Todd Pletcher’s Derby duo of Destin and Outwork were the first two on the track Friday morning when the Churchill Downs folks reserved the track for Derby and Oaks runners between 5:45 and 6. Both horses galloped on a sweet Kentucky morning.
Destin had his usual guy, Ovel Merida, in the tack and Outwork was partnered by his regular exercise rider, Hector Ramos. Destin stretched his legs for about a mile and a quarter, while Outwork covered a mile and an eighth.
As has been the case for the previous 15 Derbys in which he has started a horse, Pletcher has his family in town. Joining him trackside this morning to watch his colts go was his father, J.J.
The trainer was asked if there were any of the other Derby horses he’d seen this past week that he had a special respect for.
“You have to respect every horse in the field in a race like this,” Pletcher said. “It is just the nature of these things. I’ve seen lots of (Derby) horses here this week that are doing well, training well and appear to be happy. I’ve seen and heard many of their trainers expressing their happiness with their situations. And I’d have to say we have an excellent bunch of trainers with horses in the race this time. A strong group of trainers.”
EXAGGERATOR – The California-based colt Exaggerator put in his final bit of preparation for Kentucky Derby 142 Friday morning, going trackside with assistant trainer Julie Clark leading him out through the six-furlong gap at approximately 7:45, then taking him down into the mile chute to stand for about five minutes and take it all in on a beautiful Louisville morning.
The Curlin colt had regular exercise rider Peedy Landry aboard and they set out when ready for a one-mile gallop around the big Churchill Downs oval.
Beforehand, back at Barn 25, a gathering of connections and friends looked on eagerly as the colt got ready for his exercise. They traded introductions and well wishes, especially for the Desormeaux brothers, Keith who trains Exaggerator and Kent who rides him.
The bubbly Kent was asked if he was ready for Saturday’s Derby.
“I’ve been ready since the Sunday after the (April 9th) Santa Anita Derby,” he said. “I want to know our destiny.”
The more reflective Keith was asked if he was happy with where his charge was coming into the biggest challenge of his young career.
“There’s not one thing I could complain about,” he said. “He’s happy, healthy and fit. He’s settled in and is a happy horse. He isn’t fidgety. I couldn’t ask for more. I have no complaints.”
LANI – Koji Maeda’s Lani combined a mix of walking, jogging and galloping into four circuits of the main track early Friday morning with exercise rider Eishu Maruuchi aboard.
Trainer Mikio Matsunaga indicated that Lani would go to the track in the morning.
For Matsunaga and Maruuchi, the Kentucky Derby is another stop on a long journey that includes a victory in the UAE Derby (Group II) on March 26 in Dubai. Maruuchi has been Lani’s only exercise rider.
“Eishu has been getting on him since the first day he arrived in the barn and he also was the exercise rider for his mother (Heavenly Romance),” Matsunaga said.
Maruuchi was not quite sure what the future would hold for Lani the first time he rode him.
“The first time he was … difficult,” Maruuchi said with a laugh. “He was very strong minded. The main thing in his training is to keep him happy and get along with him. He does not like to be pushed.”
Maeda as well as jockey Yutaka Take are scheduled to arrive in Louisville this afternoon.
Matsunaga was asked what his first Derby Day would be like for him, including the walkover from the barn.
“After training, I will go back to the hotel and rest and then come back midday to be with the horse,” Matsunaga said. “The walk, I am very much looking forward to it. I never have been through anything like it. We have permission to stay farther back in the mile chute (before the walkover) and we very much appreciate that.”
Lani will be the last horse to be in the walkover procession.
MAJESTO – Grupo 7C Racing Stable’s Majesto galloped once around the Churchill Downs racetrack Friday morning.
The 3-year-old son of Tiznow earned a spot in the Kentucky Derby field by finishing second behind Saturday’s morning-line favorite Nyquist in the Florida Derby (GI) at Gulfstream April 2. Trainer Gustavo Delgado is hopeful that Majesto will be able to make up the 3 ¼ lengths that separated his late-developing colt and Nyquist last time they met.
“I think there’s going to be a lot of speed tomorrow. It’s possible it can help me, because Nyquist in Florida was in the front all the way. Tomorrow, there looks like there’s a lot of speed to go with Nyquist. That’s my hope. I think my horse will be in the middle. I want him to run the last five furlongs.
“Remember, in the Derby, you need luck. Anything can happen.”
MOHAYMEN – Shadwell Stable’s Mohaymen galloped a 1 ¼ miles at Churchill Downs Friday morning to the satisfaction of trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.
The son of Tapit won his first five races before turning in a subpar fourth-place finish behind Derby morning-line favorite Nyquist in the Florida Derby (GI) at Gulfstream Park April 2. McLaughlin expects Mohaymen to revert back to the form he showed while winning the Holy Bull (GII) and Fountain of Youth (GII) at Gulfstream.
“Everything’s gone great. We haven’t lost any confidence. We like our chances. We just hope for a clean trip, that’s the most important thing. We just want him to break well and try to have a clean trip,” McLaughlin said. “He’s been doing great. He has a good energy level.”
MOR SPIRIT – Michael Petersen's Mor Spirit galloped 1 1/2 miles Friday under regular exercise rider George Alvarez just before 7 a.m. as he completed his Kentucky Derby preparations for four-time winner Bob Baffert. A fifth victory would place the Hall of Fame trainer solely in second place behind the legendary Ben Jones, who has six wins. He is tied in second with D. Wayne Lukas and Herbert Thompson, who also have won the Run for the Roses four times.
“We're all good,” Baffert said. “We're ready.”
MO TOM – G M B Racing's Mo Tom, with exercise rider Mario Garcia aboard, galloped two miles Friday during the training period reserved for Derby horses.
As is his style, Mo Tom picked up the pace on his second lap around the one-mile track.
"I think you get a real glimpse of what kind of stride he has,'' trainer Tom Amoss said. "He has a really big stride. Let's just hope he gets to use it.''
That comment was a reference to Mo Tom's troubled trips in the Risen Star and Louisiana Derby. He had to be checked by jockey Corey Lanerie in the stretch in both races.
MY MAN SAM/SHAGAF – Trainer Chad Brown's Kentucky Derby duo completed their Kentucky Derby preparations by galloping 1 3/8 miles Friday during the special training time. Daniel Bernardini was on My Man Sam and Gian Cueva was on Shagaf.
“They've both trained really well,” Brown said. “Shagaf has good positional speed. Hopefully, he can leave out of there and follow the speed. I would think that he'd be near the first or second flight and hopefully have a good position going into the first turn, which is so critical. We know that My Man Sam will be near the rear. And, hopefully (jockey) Irad (Ortiz Jr.) can secure a good position from there.”
NYQUIST – Kentucky Derby favorite Nyquist went to the racetrack at 7 a.m. Friday for the icing on the cake, so to speak, in his preparations for America’s most famous race.
The sleek bay son of Uncle Mo had regular exercise rider Jonny Garcia on his back and stable assistant trainer Jack Sisterson alongside on a pony. They backtracked twice around the Churchill strip, jogging strongly with Sisterson’s right arm getting a solid workout as he held tight to Nyquist. There was a moment of concern during the exercise when a loose horse caused some commotion on the backside, but Garcia and Sisterson were on the frontside when it happened and not bothered by it at all.
The usual substantial crew around trainer Doug O’Neill’s “Team O’Neill” was on hand to observe their undefeated star’s last bit of work prior to Saturday’s showdown with 19 3-year-old rivals. Among them was a California guy named Tom Knust, who was readying to take in his 20th Kentucky Derby.
Knust is a savvy racetrack veteran with a full head of silver/gray hair who, after a hitch in the Marine Corps that included a purple-heart trip to Vietnam, enrolled in the University of Arizona’s Racetrack Industry Program and earned a degree in animal husbandry. Subsequently, he held a series of racetrack jobs from stall superintendent to racing secretary at such major Thoroughbred outposts as Santa Anita, Oak Tree and Del Mar, as well as Canterbury Downs.
That background morphed into what has become his main calling – jockey agent. And he’s good at it. He’s called the shots for about a dozen riders, many of whom racing fans readily know. Among them are Kent Desormeaux, Patrick Valenzuela, Corey Nakatani, Richard Migliore, Jon Court, Elvis Trujillo and David Cohen. He has been to the Derby six times previously with a rider – twice with Desormeaux and Valenzuela and once each with Trujillo and Kevin Krigger. Now he’s here with Mario Gutierrez and he believes that this go-round with Nyquist will be his best chance to break through and smell the roses up close.
Knust is on his second tour with Gutierrez, having been his guy for a year once previously before rejoining him in California about a year ago.
“Mario is a great kid to work with,” Knust said Friday morning near Nyquist’s stall in Barn 41. “Good attitude; hard worker. He and his wife are terrific people. She’s pregnant with their first child now; she’s due the first week in September. They know it is a boy and they’re very excited.
“And Mario just has his head on right currently. He’s riding exceptionally well. He and Nyquist get along so well. They know each other. Doug (O’Neill) has done a great job getting the horse ready for this and I really feel that this is the best horse I’ve ever been here with, the horse that offers me my best shot yet at this race – by far.
“It’s going to be all about the trip. It’s often all about the trip. He’s a handy horse and he’s got the right style to deal with a field like this. But you need the trip and you need a bit of luck. It almost always comes down to those two things.”
OSCAR NOMINATED – Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Oscar Nominated galloped a mile and an eighth Friday morning at 5:45 during the 15-minute training window reserved for Derby starters.
Coming off the track, the son of Kitten’s Joy was a bit rambunctious but trainer Mike Maker’s exercise rider, Joel Barrientos, was always in control.
“That’s just him; he’s a high-strung horse and always a little worked up when he comes back from the track,” said Nolan Ramsey, the 19-year-old grandson of the Ramseys and an employee of Maker’s.
Remarking on the $200,000 supplemental fee his grandfather paid to make Oscar Nominated eligible to run in the Derby, Ramsey said, “I think it’s only fair to the horse to have supplemented him. We should have nominated him back when it was $600, but that has come and gone. He’s definitely earned his way into the Derby, so we’ve got to let him run.”
The progeny of Kitten’s Joys, like their sire, are known for their turf prowess. Oscar Nominated, who was claimed by the Ramseys last fall for $75,000 out of a maiden turf race at Belmont Park, has yet to race on a dirt surface, but his connections have confidence that won’t be an issue.
“I’ve been around a lot of Kitten’s Joys, and the way (Oscar Nominated) moves over the track, he looks great,” Nolan Ramsey said. “You can tell by the way he picks his legs up. For instance, when you see horses who don’t necessarily like the dirt, they will be hopping over the track. Whereas our horse looks like any of the other Derby contenders. He moves well over it and doesn’t seem to mind it. Yesterday the track was a little wet and he really, really liked that too. We’re hoping for rain, but we know that is a longshot.”
Ramsey said Oscar Nominated will work the shedrow Saturday morning.
SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS – Samuel F. Henderson's Suddenbreakingnews completed his pre-Derby preparations by galloping 1 5/8 miles under regular exercise rider Ramiro Gorostieta during the 5:45-6 a.m. training time.
“He's happy,” trainer Donnie Von Hemel said.
When asked what was the one thing that has him most pleased about the Mineshaft gelding between his second-place finish in the Arkansas Derby (GI) and now, Von Hemel responded, “the biggest thing I've seen is that he's put on weight. He put some on between the Rebel (GII) and Arkansas Derby and even more between that race and now. A lot of time when you're pushing these horses to make these big races, they lose weight. He's done the opposite.”
TOM’S READY – G M B Racing's Tom's Ready, with exercise rider Emerson Chavez aboard, galloped a mile and a half Friday morning during the training period reserved for Derby horses when the track opened.
Trainer Dallas Stewart, accompanied by a group including G M B racing manager Greg Bensel, was standing on the track to get a clear view of the exercise.
"I feel great,'' Stewart said. "The horse has had some good days here, some good works. His appetite has been perfect. So everything's good. I can't see anything to improve on right now.''
G M B Racing is the stable of Gayle Benson, wife of New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson. Bensel is the Saints' senior vice president of communications. Stewart was wearing a Saints stocking hat Friday morning.
TROJAN NATION – Trainer Paddy Gallagher had his Derby colt Trojan Nation out at 5:45 a.m. Friday to take advantage of a clear track. With Andy Durnin in the tack, the Street Cry colt galloped around the big oval a few times, then came back home to Barn 41.
How far did he go, Gallagher was asked?
“As far as he could go,” the wry Irishman said. “Or maybe about a mile and three-quarters. He’s doing good.”
Gallagher reported that he’d gone over to the Lexington area the day before to check on an Uncle Mo foal out of a mare owned by a trainer friend from California, Barry Abrams. The foal looked good.
That wasn’t so much the case with the cup of coffee he’d come up with at the barn Friday, however. “This stuff is so strong you could trot a mouse on it,” the trainer said.
WHITMORE – One year after experiencing their first Kentucky Derby with Far Right, who finished 15th, the same team of trainer/co-owner Ron Moquett and co-owners Harry Rosenblum and Robert LaPenta are back with what they think is an even better contender in Whitmore. They are all enjoying the second time around even more.
“This is an experience that will never get old,” said Chance Moquett, Ron's son. Chance, along with other sons and daughters of Kentucky Derby trainers, has been documenting his Derby experience on Twitter, which can be followed by using the hashtag KYDerbyKids.
Whitmore galloped one mile under Laura Moquett during the special 5:45 a.m. training session.