Daily Derby Update: May 3

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6:13 pm EDT

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Today's notes are unedited. They contain post position draw reactions and other information.

ALWAYS DREAMING / PATCH / TAPWRIT – Florida Derby (GI) hero Always Dreaming continued his early morning routine of training right when the track opens (5:45) and gallops under exercise rider Nick Bush with a special set of “draw reins” attached to give his pilot more control.

The special reins were added Monday with a decent positive outcome, working their intended effect of forcing the high-strung son of Bodemeister to drop his head and concentrate on following his cues. Tuesday the transition continued and then Wednesday morning the sleek, dark runner looked especially sharp moving around the oval for a strong nine-furlong gallop three days ahead of Kentucky Derby 143.

“He’s good,” said Bush afterward. “We’ve got him where we want him. He was professional today. Saturday can’t come soon enough.”

Trainer Todd Pletcher, who again watched his colt exercise from the Churchill grandstand, was pleased with how hischarge’s adaptation was coming along.

“I liked what I saw again today,” Pletcher said. “He’s full of himself; he’s feeling good.”

Pletcher had his other two Derby entrants head out during the 8:30 special training period. Patch, with exercise rider Isabelle Bourez up, galloped a mile and a quarter. So did Tapwrit (with Silvio Pioli), though he also spent a bit of time standing in the gate.

Later in the morning just after 11 o’clock at the Derby draw in the Aristides Lounge in the track’s renovated second floor, the Pletcher threesome drew posts five (Always Dreaming), 16 (Tapwrit) and 20 (Patch).

Pletcher offered opinions on his three charge’s positions: (Always Dreaming -- Five) “It’s fine. Ideally, I’d have liked to have been a little farther out, but he won the Florida Derby from the four, so that says something. In the end, we’re good with it.”

(Tapwrit – 16) “Love the post for him. He’ll do fine from there. That’s been a good starting spot in the past. We’re glad to have it.” (Four horses have won the Kentucky Derby from post 16 – Animal Kingdom (2011); Monarchos (2001); Charismatic (1999)
and Thunder Gulch (1995).

(Patch – 20) – “We’re OK with it. There’s nothing outside to bother him, so that’s good. He’s been a good gate horse and I don’t see any problems. I’d rather have it than have the one.”


BATTLE OF MIDWAY – WinStar Farm and Don Alberto Stable’s Santa Anita Derby (G1) runner-up Battle of Midway galloped 1 ½ miles under regular exercise rider Edgar Rodriguez Wednesday morning.

“He’s been in the paddock every day and I stood him twice in the gate already,” Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said.
“Today he just went in the paddock and galloped.”

Pundits have been harsh on the Southern California contenders this year, in large part because of how the Santa Anita Derby played out, with an unusually slow final time (1:51.16, slowest in 60 years) and a final eighth (:13.61), as well as the way the field was bunched up at the finish (the top five were all within two lengths). However, Hollendorfer – who has 7,276 wins to his credit, third alltime and second among active trainers – attributed those stats more to the racing surface than the quality of the entrants.

“They can discount it all they want,” Hollendorfer said. “The Santa Anita Derby has been a great indicator of horses that would run well in the Kentucky Derby and that’s a proven fact. The time was not as fast as usual but the track was off about two seconds, and I got that from Gary Stevens, who thought the track was real slow that day. We thought we ran pretty good considering all that.”

Four of the past five Kentucky Derby winners were based in Southern California. Battle of Midway drew post 11 later Wednesday morning for the Derby.

“We like our post quite a bit,” Hollendorfer said. “It’s right in the middle. I need to study the Form and talk to Flavien (Prat) before we make a basic plan but it’s a rider’s race and we’ll see what happens.”

CLASSIC EMPIRE / STATE OF HONOR – There was a big sigh of relief from the Mark Casse team after Kentucky Derby morning-line favorite Classic Empire drew post position 14 for Saturday’s race.

“It’s a good spot,” Casse said. “A couple of key contenders are outside of us, which is kind of nice.”

Morning line odds maker Mike Battaglia installed Classic Empire as the 4-1 favorite for America’s Greatest Race with regular rider Julien Leparoux aboard.

Casse’s other hope is Florida Derby (GI) runner-up State of Honor, who drew post position six and will be ridden by Jose Lezcano.

“I love having State of Honor right outside Always Dreaming (who drew post five),” Casse said.

Both Casse colts galloped 1 ½ miles Wednesday morning and schooled in the gate.

FAST AND ACCURATE – Stabled at Churchill Downs for the first time this spring after shipping over from nearby Trackside Louisville on Tuesday afternoon, Fast and Accurate had a fluid gallop shortly after 8:30 a.m. with trainer Mike Maker observing. The son of Maker-trained champion Hansen — ninth in the 2012 Kentucky Derby (GI) — went 1 1/2 miles and promptly returned to Barn 27.

He is owned by Kendall Hansen and Skychai Racing, co-owners of his sire, as well as Sand Dollar Stable and Olympic
gold medal-earning alpine ski racer Bode Miller.

“It’s great for Kendall to have a son of Hansen in the Derby,” Maker said. “He put so much into Hansen and tried to support him as a stallion. It means a lot.”

Gifted with tactical speed like his sire, the gray colt drew well in post three and was assigned 50-1 morning-line odds.

“I’m not too worried about stuff you have no control over, but I’m pleased with it,” Maker said.

GIRVIN – After significant negative buzz swirled around Brad Grady’s Louisiana Derby (GII) winner Girvin and his much publicized quarter crack and postponed final work, Churchill Downs racing fans got to see the son of Tale of Ekati for the first time Wednesday morning. After shipping in late Tuesday afternoon to Barn 33, he hit the track and impressed onlookers in an easy mile gallop at 6:30 under former jockey Rosie Napravnik, assistant to husband/trainer Joe Sharp.

“We like to keep him on his regular schedule and that’s about what time he usually goes out every day,” Sharp said. “He galloped well, like he always does, and I was happy.”

The multiple GII winner landed in post position seven and will be ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith for the first time. Smith landed the mount after Brian Hernandez, Jr., opted for McCraken. Girvin was assigned morning-line odds of 15-1.

“That would have been the post position I would have hand-picked if we were still doing it that way,” Sharp said. “We’re happy with it. I guess with it being a 20-horse field, it’s all the trip anyway and he’s run well inside before. I’d rather have a little les distance to travel than some of the others.”

GORMLEY / ROYAL MO – Trainer John Shirreffs followed the same pattern Wednesday morning that he’d used Tuesday when his California-based duo of Gormley and Royal Mo had made their first appearance at Churchill Downs.

Using a borrowed pony, the conditioner led first Royal Mo to the track at 7:45, then came back to ferry Gormley trackside
during the special 8:30 training period. Shirreffs’ regular exercise rider, Cisco Alvarado, was aboard both colts and sent them around the oval for solid mile and a
quarter gallops.

At the Derby draw later in the morning, the Jerry and Ann Moss-owned pair drew assignments. Gormley got post 18 while Royal Mo, an also-eligible, would be assigned Post 20 should he draw in. The 18 draw for Gormley was a bit of a disappointment for Shirreffs.
“We wanted to be in the main gate (one through 14), but what are you going to do,” he said. “We’ve got a very experienced rider (three-time Kentucky Derby winner Victor Espinoza) and he’ll know what to do out there.”


GUNNEVERA – Peacock Racing Stable’s Gunnevera galloped 1 ½ miles at Churchill Downs Wednesday morning, when he was allowed to roll while finishing up his morning exercise under Victor O’Farrel.

“The horse galloped a mile and a half and the last half-mile he had an open gallop,” said trainer Antonio Sano, who scheduled a paddock schooling session for Wednesday’s first race. “He was very good and arrived back to the barn fine. The horse is 100 percent.”

The son of Dialed In drew No. 10 at Wednesday’s post-position draw for Kentucky Derby 143.

“The post position is good. I said I wanted the middle of the field,” said Sano, whose Fountain of Youth (GII) winner was
rated at 15-1 on the morning line.

HENCE / LOOKIN AT LEE / UNTRAPPED – Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen was having mixed emotions shortly after his three Kentucky Derby hopefuls drew posts between one and eight. L and N Racing LLC's Lookin At Lee drew the rail, Mike Langford's Untrapped drew post four and Calumet Farm's Hence drew post eight.

“I didn't want the one hole, but if any horse can handle the one hole in the Kentucky Derby, it's Lookin At Lee,” said Asmussen, who also drew the rail with the Kentucky Oaks hopeful Ever So Clever.

“With Untrapped, the four is a bit of a concern because Always Dreaming is just to his outside and he'll probably be the pace horse. The eight for Hence is one of the preferred spots statistically. I think, looking at the stats the last 20 years, the eight, 13 and 16 posts have produced the most in-the-money finishes.”

Earlier in the morning, all three colts returned to the track after walking the shedrow Tuesday and galloped just more than one mile. Lookin At Lee trained early with exercise rider Juan Vargas aboard, while Hence, with Angel Garcia up, and Untrapped, with Vargas up, both galloped during the special 8:30 training session. Hence was particularly sharp Wednesday morning so Asmussen pushed him a little harder than the other two and had him jog a mile before his gallop.

“Hence is on fire,” Asmussen said. “He's sharp, very sharp. He can get hot, which is why we did a little more with him off the work than the others, that and the fact that he's had a little more time since his last race. He walked out of the barn and was a little excited, but came back and cooled out beautifully. He is warm, but he just has a very high energy level right now.”

Hence, Lookin At Lee and Untrapped were scheduled to school in the paddock during race four Wednesday.


IRAP – The Blue Grass Stakes (GII) winner had a busy Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs, heading out for the 8:30 special training session with regular exercise rider Tony Romero at the controls.

The husky son of Tiznow completed the morning trifecta – a good gallop of a mile and one eighth, a trip to the paddock and a stand in the gate. Romero said it all went great. The Doug O’Neill stable is feeling good about their chances come Saturday and they’ll have their guy Mario Gutierrez aboard as they point for their third Derby in six years.

Later that morning they drew post nine in the 20-horse Derby field.

“Just about perfect,” O’Neill said afterward. “We wanted the 10, but nine is next best. The way they load them – one and 11, two and 12 – we wanted to stand in there the least amount of time. But this is next best. We’re very happy with it.”


IRISH WAR CRY – Isabelle de Tomaso’s Irish War Cry galloped 1 5/8 miles under exercise rider David Nava Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs.

“He was a little bit more settled this morning,” said trainer Graham Motion, whose Kentucky Derby hopeful arrived from Fair Hills Training Center in Northeast Maryland late Monday afternoon. The son of Curlin drew No. 17 at Wednesday’s post-position draw.

“Animal Kingdom was 16, so I can’t be disappointed with 17,” said Motion, who visited the Churchill Downs winner’s circle in 2011 after Animal Kingdom captured the Derby from No. 16. “It can be done from out there. I’m happy enough with it.”

Irish War Cry, who won the Wood Memorial (GII) at Aqueduct last time out, was rated fourth on the morning line at 6-1.


J BOYS ECHO – The Albaugh family was on hand at Wednesday’s Kentucky Derby draw, watching their colt J Boys Echo draw post position 13 for the “Run for the Roses.”

“Thirteen is a lucky number,” trainer Dale Romans said. “It’s a good spot to be in. We just didn’t want the one or 20 post. We have horses on both sides of us so, if given the option, we couldn’t have hand picked a better spot.”

The Gotham (GIII) winner will be ridden in Saturday’s race by Luis Saez.

J Boys Echo galloped 1 ½ miles Wednesday morning at 8:30 with Tammy Fox aboard.

McCRAKEN -- Whitham Thoroughbreds’ McCraken galloped a mile and half after the morning renovation break with exercise
rider Yoni Orantes aboard for trainer Ian Wilkes.

McCraken had a paddock schooling session Tuesday afternoon that he passed with flying colors.

“He did very well,” Wilkes said. “I was happy with it and that will be his only session there.”

Listed at 5-1 on the morning line and the co-second choice, McCraken drew post position 15.

“It is a very good draw,” Wilkes said. “They were trying to tease us a little bit with the one and 20 still out for the second half
of the draw. We have a good spot because there is that small gap between the main gate and the auxiliary gate.”

Hernandez also liked the draw.

“We got a little nervous with the one still out there,” Hernandez said. “I told Ian this was the only time to get nervous because
we couldn’t control it. We drew well. I am very happy with it.”


PRACTICAL JOKE – Klaravich Stables and William H. Lawrence’s Practical Joke once again galloped about 1 1/2 times around the Churchill Downs oval under exercise rider Fernando Rivera during the Kentucky Oaks and Derby training session.

“He did great today,” trainer Chad Brown said. “He just continues to train so well over the surface. He’s just moving smooth and happy. At this point that’s all we can do is bring him in sound and happy. It now gets to the point where things are out of our hands.”

At the Derby post-position draw, Practical Joke landed in post 19.

“I’m disappointed with the draw,” Brown said. “Nineteen is obviously not where we want to be but we’ll just have to work out a trip from there.”

SONNETEER – Calumet Farm's maiden Sonneteer, who drew post 12 for the Derby, walked the shedrow Wednesday and was scheduled to school in the paddock during the second race. The Midnight Lute colt fired a bullet half-mile workout Monday and jogged Tuesday.

Assistant trainer Julie Clark reported that he was doing “great” and said trainer Keith Desormeaux would arrive later Wednesday.

Three-time Kentucky Derby-winning rider Kent Desormeaux will be aboard Sonneteer and was happy with the draw.

“It is good,” Desormeaux said. “He is just going to drop out to the back anyway.”

THUNDER SNOW – Godolphin Racing’s homebred UAE Derby (Group II) winner Thunder Snow cantered one mile during the Oaks and Derby training session under Godolphin exercise rider Daragh O’Donohoe.

“The good thing about this horse is he handled the dirt really well,” trainer Saeed bin Suroor said on his first morning at Churchill Downs this week. “I talked to his work rider and he’s so happy with him and that’s good for Saturday. The horse was doing really well in Dubai before he came here but it is not easy to send a horse to the Kentucky Derby unless you know he has the class. I know it’s a tough race, the best horses in the world, but our horse has the class.”

Godolphin waited to make a final decision whether to contest the Kentucky Derby until after he arrived at Godolphin Stables in Newmarket, England from Dubai early last week.

“Sheikh Mohammed made the decision to keep our options open between the English Guineas (Saturday’s 2000 Guineas at Newmarket Racecourse), or French or Irish or Kentucky Derbies. I suggested we wait to see how the horse traveled from Dubai to England and that’s the reason why we waited. When he traveled and he worked well, that’s when Sheikh Mohammed gave me the clear to run him in the Kentucky Derby. The horse is doing really well and we’re looking for a good result.”

In medication news, Bin Suroor confirmed that Thunder Snow will race on Lasix for the first time in the Derby.

Thunder Snow drew post position two for Saturday’s Derby.

“We’re happy with that,” bin Suroor said of the post position draw. “We need to be handy in the race. The horse has a good turn of foot and he can be there and kick readily and that is the plan.”