AUDIBLE, MAGNUM MOON, NOBLE INDY, VINO ROSSO – Trainer Todd Pletcher stayed on schedule with his quartet of Kentucky Derby runners, sending the four colts trackside Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs during the special Derby/Oaks training period at 7:30 for steady gallops around the historic Kentucky oval.
Audible (with regular exercise rider Amelia Green attached), Magnum Moon (Nick Bush up), Noble Indy (Carlos Cano the rider) and Vino Rosso (Adele Bellinger aboard) all galloped a mile and a quarter on a delightful weather morning. The only variance in the group came with Noble Indy’s side trip to the starting gate, where he stood briefly.
Pletcher, whose record seven Eclipse Awards as the nation’s leading trainer was built on discipline, order and attention to detail, has all of those things in play this week as pressure builds, the crowd around his Barn 40 grows and racing’s most noteworthy prize looms for Saturday. Steady, steady, steadily – the Pletcher juggernaut moves ahead.
“I don’t know how he does it,” exercise rider Bush said. “He’s here every morning, early. Always calm; always in control. You can count on him. He never misses. Like a rock.”
Bush was asked which of the many attributes he admires most in his Derby charge – the undefeated colt Magnum Moon, winner of the Arkansas Derby (Grade I) in his most recent outing.
“His athleticism,” Bush stated. “Just the way he moves. He’s so quick and so natural with it. Right from Day One you could see it and feel it. He was just professional. You like to be around horses like him.”
Magnum Moon and his three stablemates will continue their Pletcher Plan education today by heading over to the paddock with the horses for the fifth race. Magnum Moon and Vino Rosso will be visiting the saddling enclosure for the first time this week. In the case of Audible and Noble Indy, it will be their second straight day.
Audible is owned by the four-way partnership of China Horse Club International, Head of Plains Partners, Starlight Racing and WinStar Farm. Magnum Moon goes in the silks of Lawana and Robert Low. Noble Indy races for WinStar Farm and Repole Stable, while Vino Rosso’s connections are Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable.
BLENDED CITIZEN – The Kentucky Derby’s lone also-eligible went about his business as if he might catch that “I can run” break in the next two days, galloping a mile and three-eighths under Jonny Garcia during the special Oaks/Derby training period Wednesday at Churchill Downs.
The Proud Citizen colt has a rider (Kyle Frey) named, has the green light from his owners (Greg Hall and SAYJAY Racing), has nine starts and a fitness edge over many of his potential Derby rivals – he’s just a tad shy of Derby points and has to hope that one of the other current 20 already-entered starters stubs a toe or has a change of heart before 9 a.m. Friday.
California-based trainer Doug O’Neill’s right-hand man, Jack Sisterton, who is overseeing the colt in Kentucky, is keeping a good thought and hoping for a bit of luck.
“Fingers crossed,” he said Wednesday morning at Barn 43.
BOLT D’ORO – Ruis Racing LLC’s Bolt d’Oro schooled in the starting gate before galloping 1 ¼ miles under exercise rider Jose Velazquez at Churchill Downs Wednesday morning. The son of Medaglia d’Oro is schooled in the paddock during Wednesday’s first race.
Bolt d’Oro is rated at 8-1 in the Kentucky Derby morning line in which undefeated Santa Anita Derby winner Justify is favored at 3-1. Owner/trainer Mick Ruis was asked if Justify weren’t in the Derby, if his Santa Anita Derby runner-up might have been favored.
“Or if anyone other than Mick Ruis trained him, he might be favorite,” Ruis joked.
Ruis may be light on Kentucky Derby and Triple Crown experience but he doesn’t lack confidence in Bolt d’Oro’s chances for victory Saturday.
“When he dropped from first to fifth or sixth now after he lost the Santa Anita Derby, every week I just put more money in a suitcase to come here to bet on him Saturday,” Ruis said. “That’s how confident we are.”
Ruis said he also put $1,200 on Bolt d’Oro in Las Vegas when he was 40-1 last year.
“But you can’t put a money value on winning the race,” he said.
Jockey Victor Espinoza, who will ride Bolt d’Oro for the first time in a race Saturday, was on hand to watch Bolt d’Oro train Wednesday morning. The three-time Kentucky Derby winner’s confidence in Bolt d’Oro also has been very high since being named to replace Javier Castellano, who opted to ride Audible in the Derby.
“I was excited because I think he’s the right horse to be on in the Kentucky Derby,” said Espinoza, who scored victories aboard War Emblem (2002), California Chrome (2014) and American Pharoah (2015). “I’ve watched all the races of every contender in the race.”
Espinoza said his approach to riding in the Kentucky Derby is different than his approach to everyday races.
“It is different than normal races because we have one shot. This is it. To win the Kentucky Derby there is one shot, one race. I’m ready for it. I’m always ready and prepared to focus on it. If I make any little mistake the race is over, and I can’t afford that. That’s why I have to be 100 percent focused,” Espinoza said. “There’s also the horse. It’s just him and me. We’re a team. We have to get along for about 15 minutes when I’m on his back. After that it’s up to him if he can win this race.”
Espinoza has been aboard Bolt D’Oro for two workouts at Santa Anita.
“When I worked him, I thought he was the right horse for this race. He has the talent; he has the power, the endurance for the mile and a quarter,” he said. “Also, he has experience. He’s run in front; he’s run from behind; he’s run in the middle. I like that. He already has that e experience. When it comes to a 20-horse field, it helps a lot.”
BRAVAZO – Calumet Farm’s Risen Star winner Bravazo continued his same routine from the past few days, going out to train at 7:30 a.m. and galloping 1 ½ miles under Danielle Rosier, who described him as “one of the classiest horses” she’s ever been on and complimented him on how well he’s handling the morning crowds.
Trainer D. Wayne Lukas was also very complimentary of the Awesome Again colt.
“He does everything right,” Lukas said. “He’s a real, real nice horse to be around. He’s not hard to train.
When asked if he’s had time to think about his strategy one day after drawing post 13 of 20, Lukas said, “The post position I like, the strategy I won’t talk about. I was hoping for 14 or 15, so it’s close. We’re good. There are horses on either side of us who don’t break real sharp, so we should get a good position.”
COMBATANT – Winchell Thoroughbreds and Willis Horton’s Combatant joined the majority of the other Kentucky Derby and Oaks hopefuls during the special 7:30 a.m. training time and galloped 1 ½ miles under regular exercise rider Angel Garcia. Trainer Steve Asmussen described his morning exercise as “very comfortable.”
Combatant’s connections were hoping for a luckier draw Tuesday after being stuck on the far outside in his past three races but drew the 20 hole for the Kentucky Derby.
“Maybe it will be the spot to be this year,” Asmussen said. “We were so worried last year about Lookin At Lee (the eventual second-place finisher) drawing the one hole and then the two horse (Thunder Snow) came out bucking, leaving us nothing but room. Noble Indy, who is directly to our inside, is capable of some pace, so we’ll just follow him out. We’ll let him clear a path for us and we should keep our face clean for at least the first eighth of a mile.
“Obviously, it’s not (the post) I was looking for. The horse has just been horribly unlucky with his draws. The difference with the Derby is you at least have a quarter mile into the first turn. When you’re only going a mile and a sixteenth, a mile and an eighth, you have very few options.
“Maybe staying clean for a little longer will help keep him closer. Looking at the race, there’s a tremendous amount of ability. The one thing I’m sure of is a majority of the horses won’t be where they want, won’t get the position they want and won’t get the trip they want.”
ENTICED – Godolphin LLC’s Enticed schooled in the starting gate before galloping 1 ½ miles under exercise rider Jason Gracia Wednesday morning.
“We backed him up to the gate and stood him. It’s always nice to have the gate crew get to know your horse. He does nothing wrong. Sometimes you have to school them because they’re a problem, but he’s a perfect gentleman, and they got to see that,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said.
Enticed will be McLaughlin’s eighth Kentucky Derby starter. The Lexington, Kentucky, native came closest to winning with his first starter, Closing Argument, who finished second in 2005. Adding a Kentucky Derby victory to his already impressive training resume is obviously a goal.
“It’s hard to imagine, but it’s more about the owner. Godolphin and Sheikh Mohammed deserve it more than anyone in the business with what they’ve done for this game – what he’s done, himself,” McLaughlin said. “It would be fabulous for him, but it would be great for all of us just to be part of it --growing up 70 miles from here and going thousands of miles to Dubai and back just to get here.”
A victory by Enticed would be a special occasion for his trainer.
“This is special because he’s out of It’s Tricky, who we trained, and is a homebred by Medaglia d’Oro,” said McLaughlin, who saddled It’s Tricky for multiple Grade I wins in 2011-12.
Does Enticed remind McLaughlin of It’s Tricky?
“Luckily not, except their athleticism and their heart,” he said. “She was difficult. He’s straightforward as the come.”
FIRENZE FIRE – Mr. Amore Stable’s Firenze Fire jogged five-eighths of a mile and galloped a mile Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs. The son of Poseidon’s Warrior will be his trainer’s first Kentucky Derby starter, but Jason Servis has plenty of Derby Day experience.
“I’ve been here a few times. My sister owned Itsmyluckyday and I was here for Smarty (Jones),” said Servis, the brother of Laurie Plesa, who co-owned Itsmyluckyday, who finished 15th in 2013 before finishing second in the Preakness, and John Servis, who saddled Smarty Jones for victories in the 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness prior to a second-place finish in the Belmont Stakes.
Jason Servis recalled the pressure surrounding Smarty Jones’ Derby run.
“I think about how much pressure my brother had, because Smarty was undefeated coming in here. And there was the bonus Oaklawn put on – they put up a million dollars in their 100th year to win the Arkansas Derby and the Kentucky Derby,” said Servis, noting the added pressure of the $5 million bonus that was offered then for a sweep of the Triple Crown. “He had a lot on his plate.”
FLAMEAWAY – During the 7:30-7:45 training period for Kentucky Derby and Oaks horses, John Oxley’s Flameaway jogged a mile with regular rider Chris Garraway, ponied by trainer Mark Casse’s assistant Nick Tomlinson, and galloped a mile on his own. He also stood in the starting gate for the second morning in a row.
With three days to go before the Derby, Casse thinks Good Magic and Justify stand out amongst the competition.
“I think Good Magic looks good training,” Casse said. “I think of course Justify looks great. But I’ve seen Good Magic train this winter a little bit, and he’s better now. I think he looks great.”
FREE DROP BILLY, PROMISES FULFILLED – Dennis Albaugh’s Albaugh Family Stables’ Free Drop Billy and Bob Baron’s Promises Fulfilled galloped 1 ½ miles Wednesday morning at 7:30 for trainer Dale Romans.
Blue Grass third Free Drop Billy drew post two for the Kentucky Derby and will be ridden by Robby Albarado.
“Robby is my main guy,” Romans said. “We’ve won multiple Breeders’ Cup races together. It would be incredibly special if we could ever win a Derby together.”
Late Tuesday night Free Drop Billy’s namesake, Bill Collins, arrived in Kentucky and was able to meet his namesake Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs.
“Bill and I would always play golf and get into little arguments about the actual rules of a ‘free drop’,” Albaugh said. “Bill, on the other hand, would always take more drops than I would and somehow always dropped in a much better spot that he was supposed to. Hence the name Free Drop Billy.”
“I recall things a bit differently,” Collins joked. “I swear I was always playing by the actual rules. Joking aside it’s truly an honor to be in this position with a Derby horse named after me. It’s going to be a fun week.”
Baron joined Albaugh and Collins at Romans’ Barn 4 to watch his Fountain of Youth (GII) winner Promises Fulfilled train. The colt will break from post three in the Derby with Corey Lanerie aboard.
“I love seeing this atmosphere in the morning,” Baron said. “I love all of the excitement around Derby week and I’m very lucky to have my family here enjoying it with me. I’m not too nervous yet but I’m sure when the horses are walking to the starting gate I’ll get butterflies in my stomach.”
GOOD MAGIC – Good vibrations continue to emanate from the barn of Good Magic, last year’s Eclipse Award-winning Champion 2-Year-Old Male owned by e Five Racing Thoroughbreds & Stonestreet Stables LLC. The Blue Grass Stakes (GII) winner had another enthusiastic gallop, going 1 3/8 miles during the Derby training session, following not far behind Justify, just as he expects to do Saturday. It was clear that Good Magic wanted exercise rider Walter Malasquez to let him do more.
If you were to make your Derby bets on the basis of trainer vibes, Chad Brown, winner of the past two Eclipse Award’s as the nation’s Outstanding Trainer, would have to be on every ticket. Brown has said this week that it’s his horse’s progress that has him in high spirits, but co-owner Bob Edwards of e Five, suggests it goes deeper than that. Edwards built a pharmaceutical company that he sold for more than $200 million with a laid-back approach in a traditionally buttoned-up industry and only half-jokingly takes credit for rubbing off on Brown.
“I’m like Chad’s Sherpa,” Edwards said. “I had him move to Boca Raton, Fla. this winter, a mile from my house. We spent a lot of time together over the Gulfstream season, he was at the house quite a bit, went to dinner quite a bit, and I reprogrammed him. I’m like Deepak Chopra for Chad.”
“Going into something like this loose and happy helps you make clear decisions.”
Specifically referring to Good Magic’s preparations for the Derby, though, Edwards added: “I haven’t seen him smile this much in a long time.”
The vibes extend to the colt’s prescient name, which started with his dam, Glinda the Good, a multiple stakes winner for Stonestreet named for Glinda the Good Witch from the Land of Oz in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.
“It was a back and forth but there was Glinda the Good Witch and there was some magic involved and we just ended up with Good Magic,” Edwards said.
Good Magic will school in the paddock during today’s fourth race.
HOFBURG – Juddmonte Farms Inc.’s homebred Florida Derby runner-up Hofburg visited the paddock, galloped 1 1/2 miles under exercise rider Penny Gardiner and stood in the starting gate during the Derby training session.
“We were probably a little stronger galloping today,” said Kenny McCarthy, assistant to trainer Bill Mott. “We got hooked up with a little bit of company coming down the stretch, but that’s also a good sign.”
In a 40-year Hall of Fame career with wins in most of the world’s biggest dirt stakes, Mott has had eight Derby starters. His best finish came with 1997 Horse of the Year Favorite Trick, eighth in 1998.
“I try to downplay the Derby when I don’t have a horse in,” Mott said. “But, of course, anybody would have to realize that it would be a great race to win. We’re happy to be here and we want to run well and we want to be proud of our horse after the race. And I think he will make us proud.”
INSTILLED REGARD – OXO equine LLC’s Jerry Hollendorfer-trained Kentucky Derby (GI) contender Instilled Regard left Barn 41 at 7:30 a.m. with exercise rider Edgar Rodriguez aboard. Accompanied by a pony, he was followed closely on foot by Jerry Hollendorfer’s traveling assistant and bloodstock agent, Christina Jelm.
“He jogged over to the paddock and had a couple turns there and then came back out and galloped a mile and a half before jogging back home,” Jelm said. “He moved very well and was very alert. His head was up and his ears were up. He’s really showing how the class is coming through in his pedigree and he’s being a professional and enjoying himself.”
In seven career starts, the son of Arch has hit the board five times, including a victory in January’s Lecomte Stakes (GIII), a second in the Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity (G1) and a pair of fourths in his past two efforts, the Risen Star Stakes (GII) and Santa Anita Derby (GI).
“I think he’s matured a lot mentally and physically,” Jelm explained. “I don’t think we’ve seen the bottom of this horse and I think we should throw out his last two races. Shipping over to the Risen Star didn’t go well and then being so far back in the Santa Anita Derby was just too much to ask of him to close that amount of ground.
“I don’t feel that either race took a whole lot out of him,” she continued. “At this point, we’re coming in really strong and with a huge foundation. He’s definitely still on the improve and I think he is a stayer with a huge length of stride. He gets up in his cruising speed and you just let him roll.”
JUSTIFY, SOLOMINI – Undefeated Kentucky Derby favorite Justify – owned by China Horse Club International Ltd., Head of Plains Partners, Starlight Racing & WinStar Farm LLC – visited the starting gate at 7:30 a.m. during the Derby training session before galloping 1 1/2 miles under exercise rider Humberto Gomez. Once the Santa Anita Derby (GI) winner returned to barn 33, Gomez hopped aboard Solomini – owned by Zayat Stables LLC, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael B. Tabor & Derrick Smith – to follow the same routine.
Justify and Solomini schooled in the paddock during today’s first race.
“They’re here and they’re still doing well,” Baffert said.
As tends to happen this time of year, talk around the Baffert barn always seems to circle back to American Pharoah, the 2015 Derby winner who went on to end a 37-year Triple Crown drought. Baffert said he has plans to visit Central Kentucky on Thursday and say hello to a few of his favorites. American Pharoah stands at Coolmore America’s Ashford Stud in Versailles, Ky., while some of his other best runners are living out their days at Old Friends Retirement Center in Georgetown, Ky.
“I’ll go see Pharoah, Silver Charm, Game On Dude,” Baffert said. “With Pharoah, Jill’s always so afraid that he’ll forget who she is. We’re in awe of him. He’s this big, unbelievable horse and there’s so many good feelings about him. Every time I see him it looks like he’s getting bigger. He was unbelievable. And they let me lead him around and they let me hold him and stuff so that’s pretty cool. And I have an American Pharoah baby I have to go check out, too.
“When I see Silver Charm he gets me emotional because he’s such a cool horse. I think of Bob Lewis and the gang and he was my first Derby winner, and my parents were a part of that whole deal. I can’t wait.”
LONE SAILOR – G M B Racing’s Lone Sailor galloped 1 ½ miles at 7:30 a.m. Wednesday with exercise rider Maurice Sanchez aboard for trainer Tom Amoss.
Lone Sailor drew post No. 8 and will be ridden by James Graham.
“We’re in a great position,” Amoss said. “We know he needs to improve but he showed us in the Louisiana Derby he belongs.”
MENDELSSOHN – Michael B. Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith’s Kentucky Derby (GI) contender Mendelssohn remained in quarantine, Barn 17, at Churchill Downs on Wednesday morning. The Aidan O'Brien trainee walked the shedrow and will likely clear by late Wednesday afternoon and is expected to train Thursday morning in what is his first time in America since annexing November's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (GI) at Del Mar in California.
MY BOY JACK – The dark stretch-runner with the most extensive resume in Kentucky Derby 144 had a relatively easy morning of it Wednesday at Churchill Downs, merely jogging the wrong way around the big track under exerciser rider Peedy Landry accompanied by a stable pony during the special Oaks/Derby training period.
The Cajun horseman by way of Carencro, Louisiana, Landry had his own special way of stating the morning’s exercise that saw his colt and his partner circumnavigate the big oval once, then again.
“We went once around – twice,” he said.
However you wanted to say it, trainer Keith Desormeaux said he was pleased with the Creative Cause colt’s exercise and his general attitude coming up to his Saturday date with destiny.
“We’re checking all the clues and he’s making us happy,” the conditioner said after the jog as he oversaw a bath for his charge back at Barn 25. “He’s got that good appetite and it continues. He’s got good energy going to the track and back at the barn. He’s feeling good and that’s what you want coming up to a race, especially a big race.”
My Boy Jack already has 10 starts under his belt, the most by any of this year’s Derby runners. His record reads 10-3-3-2 with $645,145 in earnings heading into the mile and a quarter classic. The bargain $20,000 yearling purchase has a trio of partners – Don’t Tell My Wife Stables, Monomoy Stables and West Point Thoroughbreds. He’ll also have his regular rider Saturday -- Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux, who is, of course, a full brother to the colt’s conditioner.
Keith Desormeaux indicated My Boy Jack would continue his schooling/training by going to the paddock Wednesday afternoon with the runners for the afternoon’s second race.
Unedited Churchill Downs release