Daily Derby Update: May 2

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4:30 pm EDT

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

ALWAYS DREAMING / PATCH / TAPWRIT – “Much better. One hundred percent better. He didn’t fight me at all. He was a lot more relaxed.”

Exercise rider Nick Bush summed up day two of the draw reins experiment succinctly following his mile and a sixteenth gallop with Always Dreaming at 5:50 Tuesday morning at Churchill Downs.

The Florida Derby winner, a colt that has been described as feeling so good of late he was “jumping out of his skin,” had an adjustment to his morning routine Monday when Bush took over as his pilot and the longer, stronger draw reins were added to his gear, giving the rider more leverage and the ability to force the horse to drop his head while galloping. The changes took some adapting to by the 3-year-old son of Bodemeister at first – he bucked and pulled against the new setup Monday -- but for the second go-round he was going smooth.

Trainer Todd Pletcher, who orchestrated the switches, watched the exercise Tuesday from the fourth floor of the Churchill grandstand and had a positive report on his return to Barn 40

“I thought he went great this morning,” Pletcher said. “I very much liked what I saw.”

Connections have concerns Always Dreaming might lose engergy should his antics appear on race day. The changes put in place by Pletcher have addresssed those fears, but no one knows what will happen when the draw reins go.

The trainer’s other two Derby hopefuls went about their business in near ho-hum fashion, covering a mile and a half in good gallops during the 8:30-8:45 a.m. special training period for Derby and Oaks contenders. Patch had his usual exerciser rider Isabelle Bourez in the saddle, while Tapwrit had his regular guy, Silvio Pioli, on board.

Pletcher said Always Dreaming would paddock this afternoon with horses for the day’s sixth race. He also said that the other two colts would do afternoon paddock duty Wednesday.

BATTLE OF MIDWAY – Santa Anita Derby runner-up Battle of Midway galloped
1 1/2 mile under regular exercise rider Edgar Rodriguez and stood in the starting gate on Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer’s first morning overseeing her preparations at Churchill Downs.

“He’s doing just fine,” Hollendorfer said.

CLASSIC EMPIRE / STATE OF HONOR – Trainer Mark Casse’s duo of Classic Empire, ridden by Martin Rivera, and State of Honor, with Orlando Cross up, galloped 1 1/2 mile Tuesday morning at Churchill Downs.

“Both horses are doing very well,” Casse said.

Classic Empire and State of Honor schooled in the paddock Tuesday during Churchill Downs’ first race.

FAST AND ACCURATE – and Accurate jogged two miles at 6 a.m. under exercise rider Joel Cano Tuesday morning at Trackside Louisville.

Trainer Mike Maker confirmed that the Spiral-winning son of Hansen will make the 15-minute ship to Churchill Downs on Tuesday afternoon. He goes into Barn 27.

Channing Hill, who was aboard for Fast and Accurate's graduation this winter at Turfway Park, rides in his first Kentucky Derby.

GIRVIN – Louisiana Derby winner Girvin went out at 6 a.m. at Keeneland and galloped a mile for trainer Joe Sharp.

“He went out first set and had a great gallop,” Sharp said. “He cooled out great. We are going to KESMARC (Kentucky Equine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Center) to the hyperbaric chamber and then heading to Churchill. We’ll probably get there (to Churchill Downs) around 5 or 6 o’clock.”

Sharp, a 32-year-old West Virginia native, will have his first Kentucky Derby starter with Girvin.

GORMLEY / ROYAL MO – Trainer John Shirreffs’ pair of Gormley and Royal Mo got their first feel for the Churchill Downs strip Tuesday morning after being flown in from Southern California Monday.

Gormley, the Santa Anita Derby winner, went to the track at 8:30 during the special Derby/Oaks training period. Trainer John Shirreffs, on a borrowed pony, led his charge onto the track through the six-furlong gap. Gormley and Cisco Alvarado did two tours of the track, and the rider opined all was good afterward, saying “he likes this track.” Shirreffs was of a like mind: “It went very well,” he said.

Victor Espinoza has won the Run for the Roses three times. Espinoza was on hand Tuesday morning at the barn, having flown in on the private jet of the horses’ owner Jerry and Ann Moss. Moss, of course, teamed with Shirreffs at Churchill Downs back in 2005 to pull off a major surprise in Derby 131 when
their 50-1 shot Giacomo took his cues from rider Mike Smith and came rushing home to prove a half-length best.

Spendthrift Farm's B. Wayne Hughes was on hand today. He has a two-way rooting interest in Gormley. First, he stands the horse’s sire, Malibu Moon, at his Kentucky farm. Secondly, he inked a deal a few weeks back to have Gormley stand a Spendthrift when his racing days are done.

Shirreffs led Royal Mo to the racetrack at approximately 7:40. They stood near the
outer rail inside the six-furlong gap for several minutes before Alvarado slowly jogged off on his own and then circumnavigated the big oval twice in an easy gallop.

“He handled it fine; no problems,” Alvarado reported afterward back at Barn 42. Royal Mo sits 21st on the list of Kentucky Derby runners with only 20 allowed to run this coming Saturday.

GUNNEVERA – Gunnevera galloped 1 1/2 mile under exercise rider Victor O’Farrel.

Trainer Antonio Sano admits to getting excited about his chances. Sano, who saddled more than 3,300 winners in Argentina, was kidnapped twice – the last time held for ransom for 36 days in 2009. He recently celebrated his 500th victory in the U.S. Having a chance to win the world’s most prestigious race on Saturday has been occupying all of his thoughts.

“Every day, I get more excited. I get nervous. It’s my first time at Churchill Downs. I am proud my horse is in the Kentucky Derby. All of the horses in the Kentucky Derby can win,” Sano said. “I hope he can win the Kentucky Derby. It would be a big gift for the people of Venezuela at this moment. In Venezuela, people are killing people. People have no food. Very sad.”

“Last night, it was impossible to sleep. I can’t sleep. I kept thinking about the Kentucky Derby, the race, the post positions,” Sano said. “Every day, I stop to think, ‘My horse can win the Kentucky Derby.’ ”

Sano plans to paddock school Gunnevera Wednesday morning.

HENCE / LOOKIN AT LEE / UNTRAPPED – Steve Asmussen had his trio of Kentucky Derby hopefuls walk the shedrow Tuesday morning, one day after completing their preparations with half-mile breezes. The trainer reports they all came out of their exercises in good shape.

Lookin At Lee and Untrapped had nearly identical works, completing their moves in :50.20 and :50.40, respectively, while Hence was the fastest of the three, going the distance in :48.40.

“Hence is fast,” Asmussen said. “We just get along with him. Angel (Garcia) has done a tremendous job with him. Angel just has so much experience with us in similar situations with horses like Untapable and Gun Runner. Especially Untapable. She was a lot like Hence. Lots of ability, but you have to manage it well.”

Lookin At Lee is the most experienced of the three, having already danced many of the big dances starting last year when he finished second in the Breeders’ Futurity and fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile behind likely Kentucky Derby morning line favorite Classic Empire. He was most recently third behind that same rival in the Arkansas Derby.

“We need the distance to make the difference for ‘Lee,’ ” Asmussen said. “Looking at the field, there are some extremely talented horses in there. I feel that he is one of the few that is tested under circumstances. You know how he is going to react in most situations, and that gives you a lot of confidence. I don’t think the circumstances of the day, the field size, are going to surprise him or throw him off his game. That said, he has to run the race of his life to do it.”

Untrapped will be looking to rebound from a sixth-place finish in the Arkansas Derby after finishing second in two prep races at Fair Grounds and third in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn.

“Untrapped is a beautifully training horse and he gives you confidence that he deserves another chance,” Asmussen said. “He
may have gotten off track at Oaklawn, but we brought him here with an open mind. He’s trained as impressively as any of them.”

IRAP – The Blue Grass Stakes winner went trackside during the special Derby/Oaks training period Tuesday morning under regular exercise rider Tony Romero. The pair put in a mile and one-eighth gallop around the big oval and Romero gave it a thumbs
up afterward.

Assistant trainer Leandro Mora oversaw the exercise and reported that both trainer Doug O’Neill and owner Paul Reddam were inbound for Louisville and would be at Barn 41 later in the day.

Irap will be ridden by Mario Gutierrrez on Saturday.

IRISH WAR CRY – Irish War Cry was introduced to the Churchill Downs racetrack Tuesday morning while galloping approximately a mile under exercise rider David Nava.

Trained by Graham Motion, the son of Curlin arrived at Churchill Downs late Monday afternoon following a van ride from Fair Hill Training Center in northeast Maryland.

“He was a little bit on the muscle today, being his first time out here,” Motion said. “He didn’t train (Monday morning) obviously, with traveling. He was a little sharp, but I think he’ll settle down as the week goes on.”

Motion saddled Animal Kingdom for a Derby victory in the 2011.

Irish War Cry will attempt to join Regret (1915) and Cavalcade (1934) as the only New Jersey-bred horses to win the Kentucky Derby.

Irish War Cry also will try to become the first Wood Memorial winner since Fusaichi Pegasus (2000) to capture the Kentucky Derby. Funny Cide, the 2003 Wood Memorial runner-up, was the most recent winner of the Kentucky Derby who had previously run in the Wood.

The Motion trainee rebounded from a disappointing off-the-board finish in the Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park to capture the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct by 3 ½ lengths.

“We’re here to defend the Wood,” Motion quipped. “It lost its Grade I status last year. I’ve run in it twice and actually won it twice. I also won it with Toby’s Corner, who would have done very well in the Derby, and it just so happened that Animal Kingdom won it that year. How lucky am I to be in that position?

“I think it’s a little like the Triple Crown. Everyone said it wasn’t going to happen. One day the horse that won the Wood will win the Derby.”

Irish War Cry is scheduled to gallop and school in the paddock Wednesday morning.

J BOYS ECHO – J Boys Echo galloped 1 1/2 mile Tuesday morning at 8:30 with regular exercise rider Tammy Fox aboard for trainer Dale Romans.

“It’s the best he’s ever looked,” Romans said. “We’re ready to go.”

McCRAKEN – McCraken had a regularly scheduled walk day Tuesday at trainer Ian Wilkes’ barn. The two-time graded stakes winner was scheduled to school in the paddock Tuesday afternoon with horses in the fifth race.
McCraken will represent the first Derby starter for Wilkes,  and it'll be the second mount for  Brian Hernandez Jr.

But the Wilkes-Hernandez team has struck big-time gold before. In 2012, Hernandez celebrated his 27th birthday in grand style by riding the Wilkes-trained Fort Larned to victory in the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Santa Anita.

“I was talking with Clay (Whitham, son of owner Janis Whitham) and how everything is so magnified at the Derby,” Hernandez said. “With Fort Larned, we had a lot of confidence going into the race, and the feeling is the same with McCraken.”

Hernandez picked up the mount on Fort Larned midway through the colt’s 4-year-old season. He has been with McCraken all along, beginning with the colt’s debut at Churchill Downs on Oct. 2.

“That is what makes this more special to be a part of it since Day One,” Hernandez said. “After I won on him the first time, I was coming back through the tunnel and Robby Albarado said I had better stay close to him because we was going to be a good one.”

PRACTICAL JOKE – Practical Joke galloped about 1 1/2 time around the Churchill Downs oval under exercise rider Fernando Rivera during the Kentucky Oaks and Derby training session.

“He galloped well and he stood in the gate,” trainer Chad Brown said.

After working in small-cup blinkers since finishing second in the Blue Grass Stakes last time out, Brown has decided not
to use them in the Derby.

“I’m not going to put him in blinkers for the race,” Brown said. “He breezed fine in them and accepted them well. I got him used to them in case I wanted to do it, and I gave myself the option by training him in them, if I wanted to make that change on entry day tomorrow. But the more I thought about it, I’m just going to leave it alone. I think the horse is doing well as is, and he won’t race in them.”

SONNETEER – Sonneteer returned to the track to jog Tuesday, one day after firing a bullet half-mile in :47.20 over a “good” track Monday under jockey Corey Lanerie.

Assistant trainer Julie Clark reported he was doing “great.” Trainer Keith Desormeaux is scheduled to arrive Wednesday.

THUNDER SNOW – UAE Derby winner Thunder Snow made his first appearance on
the Churchill Downs main track Tuesday morning since clearing quarantine, jogging once around before cantering a mile under Godolphin exercise rider Daragh O’Donohoe.

“We wanted to make sure he had a nice jog before we cantered him off and it was a good idea because he’s never had people so close around him,” O’Donohoe said. “That was the first time he’d been with a pony, as well; it was a good lesson.

“It was really nice to get him out because he was getting pretty fresh in that barn. He’s got a very high recovery rate, so there’s not a lot that fazes him. He was pretty professional out there on the track, and I was actually pretty surprised because we’re used to our own private gallops at Al Quoz in Dubai. We don’t see a lot of traffic, so his behavior this morning was exceptional. He floated over the track, and I had no problems on him. He moved well, he’s breathing well. He changed leads a couple times on the bend. I was really happy.

“It was just a normal, steady canter. I was just so happy he was changing his leads at the most important parts.”

O’Donohoe, who retired from race-riding in 2015, was named aboard Aljabr for Godolphin in the 1999 Kentucky Derby but the horse was scratched the day before the race.

“He went lame on me,” O’Donohoe said. “It was an emotional day because I gave him a really good shot. He was training really well and later he won three Group I's, so it could have been a special ride to have. But that’s life for a jockey.”