Edited by Dick Downey
BY MY STANDARDS – It was a relatively quiet morning outside trainer Bret Calhoun’s Barn 23 at Churchill Downs as TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (GII) winner By My Standards walked the shedrow following his half-mile move in :48.40 Sunday morning.
By My Standards is scheduled to school in Race 2 Tuesday along with his stablemates Mr. Money (Pat Day Mile) and Silver Dust (Alysheba), according to Calhoun.
CODE OF HONOR – Code of Honor walked the shedrow and then grazed for about 45 minutes outside Barn 43 Monday, one day after completing his final workout.
“He’s doing really well,” trainer Shug McGaughey said. “All systems are a go. I thought his work (Sunday) was good. He just skipped over the ground.”
Code of Honor has not started since he finished third in the Florida Derby on March 30. Following that race, he was sent to Keeneland to begin his Kentucky Derby preparations.
“He’s been progressing all along,” McGaughey said. “He had a really good month at Keeneland, had two good works there. He got here to Churchill and settled in fine. The first two days the track was sloppy and he handled that fine. The track was great for his breeze and hopefully will be that way Saturday.”
McGaughey said he was just going to “piddle with” his Derby contender the rest of the week and that he would school in the paddock Tuesday before the first race.
COUNTRY HOUSE/TACITUS – Bill Mott’s Kentucky Derby duo of Country House and Tacitus both jogged a lap over the Churchill Downs main track at 7:30 Monday morning during the special Derby-Oaks training session. The two worked five furlongs in tandem on Sunday in 1:00.
“They came out well, so far,” Mott said while routinely hosing cold water over Tacitus' hind legs.
“I don’t think the post is a huge deal with my horses,” Mott said. “Country House usually drops out to the back. I would like to be somewhere in the middle. I don’t want the rail or outside post, but it’s out of my control, so I’m not going to worry about it. Tacitus has been close to the lead turning for home. He’s a tactical type who doesn’t need to drop completely out of it.”
CUTTING HUMOR/SPINOFF – The Todd Pletcher-trained duo of Cutting Humor and Wertheimer and Spinoff galloped 10 furlongs Monday morning at Palm Beach Downs and “they went well,” according to their conditioner.
The two colts have an early flight scheduled Tuesday from nearby West Palm Beach Airport with an expected arrival at Churchill Downs between 8-8:30 a.m.
Pletcher will make a quick trip to New York from Florida, then head to Louisville Tuesday afternoon. He’ll be at Barn 40 with his horses Wednesday morning.
GAME WINNER/IMPROBABLE/ROADSTER – It may have been a light day of exercise for Bob Baffert’s trio of Kentucky Derby contenders but that didn’t stop the Hall of Fame trainer from commanding the full attention of the press corp.
With the usual gaggle of onlookers draped around Barn 33, Santa Anita Derby winner Roadster headed out for an easy gallop under Humberto “Beto” Gomez during the special time slot reserved for Oaks and Derby contenders. The son of Quality Road visited the starting gate before going once around the Churchill main track, his first gallop over the Louisville strip.
“He looked good, he’s happy. They’re all doing really well,” Baffert said of Roadster and his stablemates.
Roadster was the only one of the group to gallop Monday with Game Winner going out at 6:30 a.m. for a jog once around the wrong way and Improbable having a walk day following his five-furlong breeze Sunday.
While Game Winner has the Eclipse Award as the reigning 2-year-old champion male, Roadster was actually tabbed by Baffert as the potential heir apparent to 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify last summer. He broke his maiden in stylish fashion, winning by 4 1/4 lengths first time out at Del Mar last July, but had his progression derailed when he had to undergo throat surgery following his third-place finish in the Del Mar Futurity.
When he resurfaced in the entry box this March, he provided a reminder of why he was so well-regarded to begin with by capturing a one-mile allowance race over Nolo Contesto. The gray colt owned by Speedway Stable doubled down on that big impression in the Santa Anita Derby (GI) when he put in a massive late run to defeat Game Winner by half a length.
“First of all the distance for him is not going to be a problem,” Baffert said of Roadster. “He’s got a beautiful stride and…he can get the mile and a quarter. There are a lot of horses in there that are fast but a mile and a quarter, you don’t know if they’re going to get it. I know he’ll get it… and what he did beating Game Winner like that off just one prep was impressive.”
GRAY MAGICIAN – He was a game last-out second in the 1 3/16-mile UAE Derby, which is definitely something trainer Peter Miller took into account when deciding whether to run his charge in the 11/4-mile Kentucky Derby.
“The majority of those horses may not want the distance,” Miller said. “It’s not an issue with him. It’s just if he is good enough and I think he’s a talented horse.”
The son of Graydar landed around 11:30 a.m. on Monday and arrived at Churchill Downs at 12:20. Miller is scheduled to arrive Wednesday, one day after the post position draw.
“If I had to pick the ideal spot, I’d probably say the nine,” Miller said. “In this race, you like to be in the middle.”
Miller’s only other Derby starter was the swift Comma to the Top, who was also co-owned by Barber and finished 19th behind Animal Kingdom in 2011 after stalking the pace.
HAIKAL – aikal arrived at approximately 4:30 Monday morning after vanning from his Belmont Park base in New York. Taking up residence in Barn 41, the son of Daaher appeared alert and to have taken the long journey well.
“He shipped well,” said Neal McLaughlin, assistant to trainer and older brother Kiaran. “He will train tomorrow during the Derby session and just walked today.”
A half-brother to Grade I winner Takaful, the late-running colt is out of the unraced Distorted Humor mare Sablah, who was trained by Danny Peitz.
“She was a real runner,” McLaughlin said. “She wasn’t able to race, but she had a lot of talent. She was a cool filly who loved to eat and sleep.”
Like her offspring, Sablah—a granddaughter of European champion Shadayid—hails from Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum’s deep investment in high-end pedigrees.
“I don’t know anyone who deserves to win the Derby more than Sheikh Hamdan,” Kiaran McLaughlin said. “Maybe some as much as he does, but no one more.”
LONG RANGE TODDY – Long Range Toddy completed his final Kentucky Derby preparations by breezing a half mile in :47.80 and then galloping out five furlongs in 1:01.20 and six furlongs in 1:12.40 Monday. His half-mile time was the fifth fastest of 40 at the distance.
Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen is hoping the Take Charge Indy colt can return to the form he showed when he won the first division of the Rebel Stakes March 16 at Oaklawn over fellow Derby starter Improbable. He is coming off a sixth-place finish in the Arkansas Derby (GI) April 13 over a sloppy track. Should he win the Derby, Long Range Toddy’s jockey, Jon Court, would be the oldest rider to win at age 58.
“That would be a beautiful thing,” Asmussen said. “Jon gave him such a dream trip in the Rebel. Hopefully, we can recapture some of that magic Saturday. Hopefully, we’ll have a fast track like we had this morning. He worked beautifully this morning. At this time of the year, the 3-year-olds have to step up. He stepped up big time in the Rebel and hopefully can continue to improve. He’ll need to put up the race of a lifetime in the Derby.”
MASTER FENCER – Koichi Tsunoda-trained Master Fencer, the first Japanese-bred horse to race in the Kentucky Derby, is scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs from Keeneland Racecourse on Monday evening. He will leave Lexington at 5 p.m. and likely be in Louisville by 6:30 p.m.
On Monday morning, he did an easy hack twice around the Keeneland training track before walking on the main track to continue his acclimation to the tighter ovals of American racing. Yosuke Kono, the training assistant from Tsunodo Stables, was aboard.
MAXIMUM SECURITY – Maximum Security breezed at Palm Meadows Training Center in Boynton Beach, Florida, Monday morning the day before he is scheduled to ship to Churchill Downs.
“He went a mile in 1:58 and came home, I want to say, in 25 for the last quarter,” trainer Jason Servis said. “He galloped out a mile and an eighth in 2:12 and cooled out good. All systems are, ‘Go.’”
Maximum Security was assigned a clocking of :53.80 for a half-mile by the Palm Meadows clocker.
“They’re getting the last [half-mile] when the horse is breezing a slow mile,” Servis said. “That’s something that probably needs to be addressed at some point.”
Servis said he understands the need for half-mile workouts and breezes out of the starting gate for a young horse but is more comfortable with the longer open gallops as horses develop.
“I think it was after his second race that I took him off the rail so to speak and started doing the open miles,” Servis said. “It’s just a maintaining thing, trying to avoid injuries that would set us back. Maybe in a fast breeze there is more risk than what I’m doing.”
Maximum Security is undefeated in four career starts, including a front-running 3 1/2-length victory in the March 30 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park in his stakes debut.
OMAHA BEACH – Fox Hill Farms’ Derby colt Omaha Beach started out Derby Week with a nice gallop during the special 7:30-7:45 a.m. training period designated for Derby and Oaks participants.
Exercise rider Taylor Cambra took the son of War Front from Barn 28 through the five-furlong gap with a pony alongside and sauntered along the backstretch for a half-mile or so. Then he went to galloping in that long, easy stride of his, flowing smoothly around the turns, squaring his shoulders and gliding through the straights, looking like the cliché – poetry in motion. In the end, the exercise went on for about a mile and an eighth, plenty enough for his first time back following a work Saturday and a walk day Sunday.
Looking on was his conditioner, Richard Mandella, and his rider, Mike Smith, who had flown in from California Sunday to be part of a Kentucky Derby Museum event and will stick around for the rest of the week. They both liked what they saw from “Omaha” out on the big Churchill strip.
“We checked off another box,” the trainer said in reference to the gallop. “Every day we check one off. So far so good; he hasn’t missed one yet.”
Mandella indicated that he had already had his charge in the Churchill starting gate, but was eligible to have him back there again before the week was out. He also said the horse would school in the paddock during Wednesday’s sixth race “and we might school him again Thursday.”
Later in the morning, retired rider Jean Cruguet stopped by to chat with Mandella, meaning the conditioner had had two Triple Crown winning jocks (Cruguet with Seattle Slew in 1977, Smith with Justify in 2018) on hand to swap stories within one morning. Coming up to the Kentucky Derby, that’s what is known as keeping yourself in good company.
PLUS QUE PARFAIT – UAE Derby winner Plus Que Parfait, the first U.S.-based horse to win said the $2.5 million affair, continues to fly under the radar since his return to his home base of Churchill Downs. On Monday at 7:30 a.m., the son of Point of Entry and runner-up in the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) galloped 1 3/4 miles with enthusiasm over the main track during the special Derby-Oaks training session.
“He thrives on his work,” trainer Brendan Walsh said. “When he works like he did the other day, he actually really comes out of it better and wanting to do more. I don’t think we’ve seen the best of him.”
TAX – Tax arrived at Churchill Downs from New York Monday morning and settled in nicely in Barn 39.
Trainer Danny Gargan is scheduled to fly to Louisville Tuesday morning along with Randy Hill in time to attend the post position draw for Kentucky Derby 145. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who will be represented by Haikal in the Derby field, is scheduled to accompany them.
Tax might not have embarked on the Kentucky Derby trail had Gargan not taken some wise advice from McLaughlin.
Gargan, who claimed Tax with the intention of running him long on turf, recalled the morning last fall when the son of Arch and McLaughlin gave him other ideas.
“When I breezed him on the dirt, I realized he could run on the dirt. He broke off inside a couple horses and he breezed really, really big. Kiaran McLaughlin was with me watching the work,” Gargan said. “I was going to run him in a grass starter race, and it didn’t go. I said to Kiaran, ‘What am I going to do with this horse?’ He said, you’re going to supplement him and run him in the Remsen.’ I said, ‘No, I’m not.’ He said, ‘Yes, you are.’”
Tax went on to finish third behind Maximus Mischief in the Dec. 1 Remsen at Aqueduct.
“He got a little tired. I hadn’t had him that long. I only worked him twice,” Gargan said. “If I had a little more fitness in my horse, I wouldn’t have beaten (Maximus Mischief), but I would have been second.”
Tax subsequently earned his way into the Kentucky Derby field with a victory in the Withers Stakes and a second-place finish behind Tacitus in the Wood Memorial.
VEKOMA – Blue Grass winner Vekoma galloped a mile and a half at Palm Beach Downs to complete the Florida portion of his training for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.
Trained by George Weaver, Vekoma will leave the barn early Tuesday morning for a flight to Louisville.
Weaver is expected to be at the post position draw.
WAR OF WILL – The smile trainer Mark Casse has been bearing since arriving in Louisville last week continued to beam at high wattage after watching War of Will put in another energetic gallop Monday.
The Gary Barber-owned son of War Front was full of himself after getting a day off following his bullet four-furlong work in 47.60 on Saturday. With exercise rider Jose Vasquez in the irons, the Lecomte (GIII) and Risen Star Stakes (GII) winner got over the Churchill Downs track in a manner that had his Canadian Hall of Fame trainer bursting at the seams.
“He was feeling good today. He’s just thriving now,” Casse said. “Someone said to me today, which was nice, here are supposed to be 20 of the best 3-year-olds in the world, and he stands out over them.”
WIN WIN WIN – It was a quiet morning for Win Win Win a day after working an adventuresome half-mile in company in :47.60.
“He did enough yesterday and deserves an easy day,” trainer Mike Trombetta said. “He’ll go back to the track and jog tomorrow.”
During Monday’s work, Win Win Win got up with trainer Bill Mott’s Derby duo of Country House and Tacitus who were working five furlongs. In the stretch, after his workmate backed out of the four-horse drill, Win Win Win passed the Mott twosome nearing the wire.
“I got to watch it many times. It was easier to find because it was all over (the place),” Trombetta said of video of the work.
Julian Pimentel was on Win Win Win, and exercise rider Melanie Williams was on the workmate, Souper Courage.
“All credit to Mel,” Trombetta said. “I told her (on the radio) they were coming and she was the one driving the bus. She could have dropped over and messed them up and that’s the last thing I wanted to do. She stayed outside and let them through.”
Williams liked what she saw from the stable star’s breeze. “I think that’s the best he has ever worked,” Williams said.
BODEXPRESS – Bodexpress, No. 21 on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard and needing one defection to make the main body of the race, breezed five furlongs in 1:03.15 Monday morning at Gulfstream Park West.
“He did everything really well. He came back really fresh,” said Gustavo Delgado Jr., the son and assistant to trainer Gustavo Delgado. “The track is a little deep today, I would say. It was an easy five-eighths for him.”
Bodexpress is scheduled to ship to Churchill Downs early Tuesday morning.
He leaves tomorrow on a Tex Sutton plane. He leaves the barn at 2:30 a.m. (all times Eastern). The plane leaves at 4:30.”
If the son of Bodemeister doesn’t make the Kentucky Derby field when entries are taken Tuesday, his connections plan to point the Florida Derby (GI) runner-up to the May 18 Preakness Stakes.
SIGNALMAN – Until there’s some shuffling among the top 20 planning to enter the Kentucky Derby on Tuesday, Kentucky Jockey Club winner and Blue Grass third Signalman is still outside looking in and unlikely to be entered in the Derby
The colt was jogging with regular exercise rider Danny Ramsey. A one-inch cut over his left eye, from bumping his head while in his stall, was stitched up, McPeek said. He worked five furlongs in 1:00 Saturday with jockey Brian Hernandez Jr.
Signalman still needs a couple of defections to make the Derby field. McPeek plans to take the colt to Pimlico for the Preakness on May 18, no matter what happens in Louisville.
SUENO – For the third straight day, Sueno simply walked the shedrow. The No. 23 horse on the 20-horse Derby 145 list is an unlikely participant and his connections have become accepting of their likely fate.
“The way it’s looking,” said assistant trainer Julie Clark at Barn 24 Monday morning, “he’s getting a freshening and then we’ll see what comes next. We know things could still possibly happen, but it just seems that everyone is set and we aren’t likely to get our chance.”
Sueno, four times stakes placed this year, might next be seen in action in the Preakness Stakes two weeks after the Kentucky Derby. That matter will be officially decided this week, but it appears his people are likely leaning that way.