Edited by Dick Downey
BY MY STANDARDS – By My Standards, with trainer Bret Calhoun and his assistants, Tom Morgan and Dennis “Peaches” Geier watching in the rain, galloped 1 1/2 miles Friday morning.
“We’re ready to roll,” Calhoun said. “I’m naturally a nervous person as a horse trainer, and there won’t be much sleep tonight.”
By My Standards will break from post three and is 15-1 on the morning line.
CODE OF HONOR – Code of Honor galloped more than a mile under Brian Duggan at 6:35 Friday over the rain-soaked surface.
Trainer Shug McGaughey said Code of Honor would not go to the track Saturday morning to train.
McGaughey, who won the 2013 Derby with Orb, will give a leg up to two-time Derby-winning rider John Velazquez tomorrow.
“I’d like to see him get away good,” McGaughey said of Code of Honor, who will break from post 13. “I hope the speed outside goes and we find a good spot in the middle. When it comes time to make a move, I hope we have a clear run.”
When Orb won in 2013, the victory came over a sloppy track, conditions similar to what Code of Honor may face Saturday.
“With Orb, I didn’t know what to expect,” McGaughey said. “I was hoping it would be fast with Easy Goer (in 1989), no one in that family liked it.
Easy Goer had finished second in the 1988 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile here over a muddy track and caught the same conditions six months later in the Derby when he ran second to Sunday Silence.
COUNTRY HOUSE/TACITUS – Tacitus and Country House appeared two of the more comfortable horses over the sloppy conditions Friday morning, each galloping for trainer Bill Mott during the special Kentucky Derby session.
Based in Barn 19, Country House had Marianne Scherer aboard, while Juan Quintero piloted Tacitus.
“All good,” Mott confirmed.
CUTTING HUMOR/SPINOFF – The Todd Pletcher-trained duo of Derby colts trained early at 5:15 Friday, their final piece of exercise prior to their dates with destiny in Saturday’s 145th edition of the Kentucky Derby.
Cutting Humor and Spinoff galloped in the rain on a strip termed sloppy.
Cutting Humor will have a new rider for Saturday’s $3 million test, Mike Smith taking over for assigned jockey Corey Lanerie. Starlight owner Jack Wolf has indicated that he will pay double jockey fees (usually 10%) on purse earnings for the race. Manny Franco retains his call on Spinoff.
Both runners are listed at 30-1 in the 19-horse Derby field.
GAME WINNER/IMPROBABLE/ROADSTER – All three of Bob Baffert’s Kentucky Derby contenders headed out in the morning deluge to gallop about a mile and a half over the Churchill Downs oval.
Grade I winners Roadster and Improbable hit the track during the special training period from 5:15-5:30 with the former going along for an easy gallop under Humberto “Beto” Gomez and his stablemate doing the same under the guidance of Jose Contreras. Gomez then headed back to hop on Game Winner, who also took a spin around the drenched going as assistant trainer Jimmy Barnes kept watch aboard his pony.
With rain slated to have a presence all day Saturday, who handles the off going best will be a key intangible for the first leg of the Triple Crown. Improbable raced over a sealed, sloppy Oaklawn Park track when finishing second to Omaha Beach in the Arkansas Derby, an effort that was even more admirable considering his gate antics before the start of the race.
Improbable wore blinkers for the first time that day but will not race with them Saturday.
“Improbable, his motor runs a little hotter than most of them,” Baffert said. “I think I’ve got three nice horses but it’s still a very wide open race. There are 10 horses that I think are within a length of each other. It’s whoever gets the trip. And especially now that it’s going to rain, we don’t know what is going to happen. It’s too bad the weather is not going to work with us. We’ll just have to deal with it.”
GRAY MAGICIAN – UAE Derby runner-up Gray Magician left Barn 39 with assistant Ashlie Campbell aboard and jogged over the sloppy main Churchill Downs track Friday morning.
Trainer Peter Miller confirmed that the son of Graydar is on schedule to become the conditioner’s second Kentucky Derby starter following well-beaten finish by Comma to the Top in 2011 behind Animal Kingdom.
Unlike that speedster, Gray Magician is more stamina oriented.
“The majority of the horses don’t want the distance in this race,” Miller said. “Maybe half a dozen will handle it, and our horse is one of them. Some will have the talent to take them farther than their pedigree, but this horse, the way he finishes up his races, will love it.”
HAIKAL – Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin confirmed Friday morning that Haikal is scratched from Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. The son of Daaher developed an abscess in his left front hoof that was reported by his connections Thursday and it was hoped he would be able to train Friday after treating the issue.
“We put shoes back on him this morning and jogged him and he was still not 100 percent,” McLaughlin said. “After speaking with Rick Nichols, we decided to scratch. The horse always comes first. He will head home today to Shadwell (in greater Lexington) and live to fight another day.
“It’s tough for the whole team, His Highness and everyone involved, especially with being a homebred who was training so well. We'll have to see what else is there is now (race-wise) after he recovers.”
Nichols is the vice president and general manager of Sheikh Hamdan’s North American Shadwell operations, one of the largest and most powerful racing and breeding entities in the world.
LONG RANGE TODDY – Long Range Toddy had a light one-mile gallop Friday morning over the “sloppy” surface at Churchill Downs.
“It’s out of our control now, we’re ready.” Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen’s assistant Scott Blasi said.
Long Range Toddy will be ridden by 58-year-old Jon Court and is 30-1 on the morning line.
MASTER FENCER – Koichi Tsunoda-trained Master Fencer soaked up his surroundings Friday morning, quite literally. Under a deluge on the main dirt track, the first Japanese-bred to tackle the Run for the Roses cantered two laps of the track under exercise rider Yosuke Kono; one markedly slow and one at a steady pace. He then walked another lap before heading back to the Quarantine Barn.
“He’s never ran in a Grade I, but we hope he can run well,” Tsunoda said through a translator. “I’m really glad to see that he is comfortable here. In his last race, he was pretty childish. I think he has a lot of ability. He still has some potential to improve. We expect him to hopefully run in the Kentucky Derby to his full ability.”
MAXIMUM SECURITY – Gary and Mary West’s Maximum Security galloped a 1 3/8 miles Friday morning over a sealed sloppy track at Churchill Downs.
“It looked like he went over it really well,” trainer Jason Servis said.
Maximum Security, who is undefeated in four career starts, captured an optional claiming starter allowance over a muddy Gulfstream Park track in his second start.
The son of New Year’s Day breezed three times at Palm Meadows Training Center in Boynton Beach, Florida, since registering a front-running 3 1/2-length victory in the March 30 Florida Derby and before shipping to Churchill Downs this week.
“Things have gone OK, getting on the plane and all that, but he’s had a couple breezes that were slower than I wanted. That’s been on my mind,” Servis said. “He just ran a mile and an eighth, but he went slower than I wanted to go. But he’s had three breezes after the Florida Derby, so I can’t imagine he’s not fit.”
Luis Saez, who was aboard for the Florida Derby score, has the return mount.
PLUS QUE PARFAIT – UAE Derby champion Plus Que Parfait galloped an easy lap of the sloppy Churchill Downs dirt track during the special training track with Brendan Walsh’s assistant Tom Molloy in the saddle. The son of Point of Entry appeared more comfortable than most over the off going.
“I barely asked him to do anything,” Molloy said. “He didn’t mind the mud one bit at all.”
Walsh’s first Kentucky Derby starter has one start over wet going, when a game second over Churchill Downs’ sealed sloppy going in the Kentucky Jockey Club in late November.
TAX – Tax jogged once around the sealed sloppy track Friday morning at Churchill Downs.
Trainer Danny Gargan said his isn’t worried about the prospect of a wet track for the Kentucky Derby.
“He’s by Arch out of a Giant’s Causeway mare,” Gargan said. “I’m not really concerned about it.”
Gargan is pleased with Tax’s preparation for the Derby since his second-place finish in the April 6 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.
"He’s been training tremendously. We only worked him one time and he worked good,” Gargan said. “I really don’t have any concerns. If he’s good enough, he’ll win the race. He’s the type of horse who shows up, so he’s going to run his race.”
Junior Alvarado has the return call aboard the gelding who began his career with a second-place finish in a $30,000 maiden claiming race Sept. 29 and who was claimed for $50,000 three weeks later at Keeneland.
VEKOMA – Blue Grass Stakes winner Vekoma galloped a mile and quarter under Cindy Hutter during the 5:15-5:30 training window for Oaks and Derby horses.
Trainer George Weaver said Vekoma would not go to the track in the morning to train.
Following the victory at Keeneland, Weaver took Vekoma back to his Florida base at Palm Beach Downs where he had two works. The latter came last Friday, a bullet five furlongs in :59.95 in company with Majestic Dunhill who will run in Saturday’s $500,000 Churchill Downs.
“Everything has been smooth, and the horse seems happy,” said Weaver, who is saddling his second Kentucky Derby starter.
Javier Castellano has the mount on Vekoma, a winner of three of four starts and the first horse to win the Blue Grass in just his fourth start since Coaltown in 1948.
Weaver has a simple request for how he would like to see the race unfold.
“I’d like to see my horse in front at the wire the second time around,” Weaver said.
WAR OF WILL – The striking son of War Front, War of Will, took it easy during a rain-logged morning Friday and just jogged under exercise rider Jose Vasquez.
“I had thought about maybe galloping because we run so late tomorrow but (didn’t) after seeing the track and the rain,” trainer Mark Casse said.
Casse stated again that it “doesn’t hurt my feelings” seeing rain in the forecast for Saturday given the form War of Will showed over wet going when he broke his maiden at Churchill Downs last Nov. 24. And with graded stakes winner Haikal officially having to scratch from the Kentucky Derby because of a foot abscess, War of Will now will break from the No. 2 stall – slightly improving his position after drawing the rail from the 10-furlong classic.
“If history repeats itself, the inside is usually pretty good (when it rains),” Casse said.
WIN WIN WIN – Win Win Win galloped a mile and a half under exercise rider Melanie Williams at 5:15 Friday.
Trainer Mike Trombetta said Win Win Win may jog in the morning “if the track is open and it is not horrible.”
Win Win Win will break from post position 14 under first-time Derby rider Julian Pimentel.
“I hope the rainy weather gets out of here, but I am not concerned about track surface,” Trombetta said. “I’d like to see him get a decent spot and have something to work with. It is all in Julian’s hands.
“I think my colt is more versatile than people think. He equaled a track record at 5 1/2 furlongs (at Laurel) and set a track record going seven furlongs (at Tampa Bay Downs). It is hard for me to believe that he still doesn’t have that speed.”