BLACK ONYX (No. 12) – Trainer Kelly Breen supervised the half-mile work by Sterling Racing’s Black Onyx at 7:30 Saturday morning then headed back to New York to saddle a horse in a stakes at Belmont Park later in the day.
“It was a good workout,” Breen said. “We weren’t looking to go too fast. We know what the horse is able to do and we want to just keep him doing what he did before his previous wins. He worked a comfortable :48 3/5. I caught him in :48 2/5 and he finished up in :24 flat. It was a nice workout.”
Black Onyx has won both of his starts since being moved into Breen’s care this year. He earned his trip to the Derby with a 1 1/2-length victory in the Spiral Stakes (GIII) on March 23 at Turfway Park.
CHARMING KITTEN (No. 19) / OVERANALYZE (No. 5) / PALACE MALICE (No. 13) / REVOLUTIONARY (No. 6) / VERRAZANO (No. 2) / WINNING CAUSE (No. 20) – At 5:30 Saturday morning there was a lot of weather checking going on at Barn 34. Trainer Todd Pletcher and his staff were covering it all ways possible – using smart phones, computers, TVs. Finally, Pletcher went to the source of sources, working through Churchill Downs’ senior director of communications Darren Rogers to talk to the National Weather Service.
After he’d heard what he needed to hear – that rain was surely en route -- Pletcher put his Plan B in motion. Five of his possible six Derby horses would work today after the renovation break between 8:30-8:45 instead of their previously planned Sunday exercise. It was the best way to beat the precipitation that was likely somewhere around midday.
“I made a mistake last night and looked at the (weather) radar before I went to bed,” Pletcher said. “I didn’t sleep much. But we’re OK now; we’re going forward.”
As scheduled, his horses worked in pairs for their final serious drills prior to next Saturday’s Kentucky Derby (GI). Leading off the tandems was the undefeated Verrazano with exercise rider Humberto Zamora up, running alongside the stakes mare Authenticity under Nick Bush. Verrazano started outside and about a length behind his partner, but accelerated to go on past on the turn and finish one length the best at the wire. The splits for Verrazano were :11.80, :23.20, :35 and :47, with a final time was :59.40. The More Than Ready colt went out six furlongs in 1:13. His five-furlong marker was sixth best of 52 works at the distance Saturday.
The next tandem featured Louisiana Derby (GI) winner Revolutionary – with brand-new Hall of Fame rider Calvin Borel in the tack – and the Kitten’s Joy colt Charming Kitten, handled by exercise rider Patti Krotenko. In a Borel special, Revolutionary skimmed the rail all the way around and
finished a length in front of his mate with a final four-furlong time of :48.20 (sixth best of 70 at the distance). Revolutionary’s splits were :24.80 and :36.40 with out times of 1:00.60 and 1:14.80. Charming Kitten’s splits were :24.80 and :36.40, going out in 1:01.60.
Borel met a phalanx of media types at the Pletcher barn following the drill and accepted a round of plaudits for his just-announced Hall of Fame induction.
“It is a great honor,” Borel said. “It hasn’t all sunk in, but I’m very excited about it.”
As to Revolutionary and the work: “I was very pleased with it,” Borel said. “He did everything right. He’s my kind of horse; he does everything the way you’re supposed to. He does what I ask, not what he wants. He’s smart. And you need a horse like that in the Derby. You know – a 20-horse field and all that. You just know you’re going to get in trouble and you need a smart horse to get you out.”
Finishing off the duos were Overanalyze and Palace Malice, each with a Hall of Fame rider of their own attached. Comebacking Gary Stevens set up on the outside with the Arkansas Derby (GI) winner Overanalyze, while Mike Smith took the rail with the Curlin colt Palace Malice. Smith had the edge by about a length or so starting the run, but the pair wound up even at the finish line. Clockers caught Overanalyze in splits of :12, :23.40, :35.40 and a final of :47, fastest of the 70 who worked a half-mile. The son of Dixie Union went out in :59.60 and 1:13.40. Workmate Palace Malice carved out splits of :12, :23.60, :35.40, with a final of :47.20 (second fastest at the distance). His out time was :59.80.
Palace Malice wore blinkers for the first time in the work and will wear them for his Derby start.
Pletcher watched all the drills from the grandstand and was a happy conditioner when he returned to the barn shortly thereafter.
“We had a really good morning,” he said (Earlier, he’d also worked his four Kentucky Oaks fillies.) “I thought Verrazano’s work was very good. He was well in hand and handled the track well. I also liked Revolutionary’s drill. He went very well and galloped out strong. Overanalyze’s work this morning was very good. It was his best work ever.”
The trainer was asked about switching to the Saturday works instead of the planned Sunday ones for his Derby charges.
“We had to beat that rain,” he said. “I was afraid of what might happen to the track. And they’re racing here tonight and you just don’t know what it is going to be like in the morning. We just needed to get it done today. And I feel good about it; I’m glad it’s done. I remember, too, that Super Saver worked on Saturday.”
Super Saver, of course, won the 2010 Kentucky Derby, Pletcher’s first score in the Run for the Roses.
The trainer also noted that his Lexington Stakes (G3) hero Winning Cause would breeze on Monday, after which a decision could be made on his possible entry into the Kentucky Derby. The son of Giant’s Causeway is currently No. 20 on the race list.
CODE WEST (No. 21)/GOVENOR CHARLIE (No. 11)/POWER BROKER (No. 24) – Mike Pegram’s Govenor Charlie galloped 1½ miles with exercise rider Jorge Alvarez aboard for trainer Bob Baffert. Gary and Mary West’s Derby candidates Code West and Power Broker also went out to the track for their daily exercise with Code West schooling in the gate and then galloping 1½ miles under Alvarez; Power Broker jogged with Peter Hutton up.
FALLING SKY (No. 18) – On the morning after breezing five furlongs in a “bullet” :59.60, Newtown Anner Stud, James Covello and Joseph Bulger’s Falling Sky returned to the racetrack Saturday for a one-mile gallop under exercise Cassie Garcea.
“He actually went to the track this morning and galloped an easy mile. Look at him – he’s bright and bushy,” said Reynaldo Abreu, assistant to trainer John Terranova. “It’s what we normally do with him. We want to know how he comes out of the breeze, and that’s the best way we can tell with him – send him to the track and see how he acts.
“Mentally and physically, he came out of it really, really well.”
FRAC DADDY (No. 15)/JAVA’S WAR (No. 4) – Magic City Thoroughbred Partners’ Frac Daddy and Charles Fipke’s Java’s War worked five furlongs in company at Churchill Downs following the renovation break Saturday morning. Frac Daddy, running on the rail with jockey Victor Lebron up, and Java’s War, positioned on the outside by exercise rider Marvin Abrego, were timed in 1:02.
Frac Daddy, the Arkansas Derby (GI) runner-up who finished a half-length in front, galloped out six furlongs in 1:15.80, while Java’s War, the Blue Grass Stakes (GI) winner, was timed in 1:16.60.
“It was a nice solid breeze. It was a maintenance work,” trainer Ken McPeek said. “They’ve worked together quite a few times. Frac’s got more speed than the other horse. Java’s War keeps coming.”
Frac Daddy’s winter campaign was compromised by a foot injury suffered in the Holy Bull (GIII) in January and subsequently fell victim to a viral infection that led to the development of ulcers in his throat that likely contributed to an off-the-board finish in the Florida Derby (GI). However, McPeek said he never lost confidence in the son of Scat Daddy.
“I went through it with Tejano Run in 1995. Nothing went right for him in the winter and then spring came and everything came together,” said McPeek, who saddled Tejano Run for a runner-up finish in the Kentucky Derby that year. “I’d rather it all go wrong then and go right now.”
Frac Daddy had given his trainer high hopes for this year’s Derby when he concluded his 2-year-old campaign with a sharp second-place finish in the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) over the Churchill track.
“He likes this racetrack. The timing is right,” McPeek said. “He likes this surface. We’re encouraged.”
While McPeek is looking for Frac Daddy to show further improve in the Derby, McPeek said he’d be happy to see Java’s War maintain his sharp form.
“Frac Daddy is definitely getting better. The horse is just a big, strong, serious type of horse – a big-bodied horse, too,” McPeek said. “Java, if we can just maintain his form, I think we’re good there.”
GOLDENCENTS (No. 3) – W.C. Racing, Dave Kenney and RAP Racing’s Santa Anita Derby (GI) winner Goldencents arrived at Churchill Downs at 1:16 p.m. (all times Eastern) Saturday after beginning his day with a flight from Southern California that arrived at 11:22 a.m. in Lexington. Goldencents is stabled in Barn 45.
GOLDEN SOUL (No. 23) – Trainer Dallas Stewart said that he’s pleased with how Golden Soul, who walked Saturday in the barn, came out of Friday’s workout (five furlongs in 1:00.80).
“Everything’s in great shape,’’ said Stewart, who trains the colt for owner/breeder Charles Fipke. “Checked out good this morning. My vet and I, we both went over him, looks great, very sound. Ate well last night, fresh, everything you could ask.’’
Golden Soul, coming off a fourth-place finish in the Louisiana Derby, ranks 23rd on the Kentucky Derby points list and needs defections to draw into the body of the race. Stewart said he’s not consumed with thinking about scenarios by which Golden Soul might get into the Derby.
“You do, but it’s out of your control,’’ he said. “That’s what it is. We’ll train him up there and go with it whatever it is.’’
If Golden Soul does get into the race, he’s capable of being competitive, Stewart said. “I’d like to think so,’’ he said. “He’s training very well. I think he’s peaking to a good performance.’’
ITSMYLUCKYDAY (No. 10) – Trilogy Stable and Laurie Plesa’s Itsmyluckyday arrived at Churchill Downs at 11:03 Saturday morning after vanning from his home base at Calder Race Course in Miami.
MYLUTE (No. 16) – With jockey Rosie Napravnik riding, Louisiana Derby runner-up Mylute worked a half-mile early Saturday morning in :50.60, the 59th fastest of 70 workouts at the distance.
Tom Amoss, who trains Mylute for Gold Mark Farm and Whisper Hill Farm, said the workout, which he ran by himself, was typical for him.
“Look, I’ve said for three weeks, that Mylute’s big work is going to be similar to what he did before the Louisiana Derby (GII) in company, and he did what we wanted him to do,’’ Amoss said. “Last week’s work, which was a half-mile (in 47.80) by himself, caught me off guard. It was a better work than I anticipated, not the kind of work he typically does. But he had a target. There were a couple horses working in front of him, and it kept his attention.
“Today was certainly a mediocre work by most people’s standards, but that is my horse, how he works. His work pattern before the Louisiana Derby is almost identical to what he did today. I’m very comfortable with what he did. I have a horse that’s coming into the Derby the right way.’’
Mylute made a strong late run in the Louisiana Derby but lost by a neck to Revolutionary. Amoss said that Mylute proved he’s a legitimate horse.
“I think the Louisiana Derby, looking back on it, ends up being a key race,’’ Amoss said. “You look at some of the horses that came out of there. Departing has now won the Illinois Derby (GIII), Palace Malice second in the Blue Grass (GI), so I think the Louisiana Derby is a legitimate race.’’
Amoss is participating in his third Kentucky Derby. His previous Derby horses were Lone Star Sky (15th in 2003) and Backtalk (20th in 2010).
“I think the most important thing, having run two horses in the Kentucky Derby so far … is to not get caught up in anything other than what your job is, which as a trainer, my job is to bring a horse into the race the way I think is best,’’ Amoss said. “Not to try to do anything to impress anybody, but to do it my way, and at the end of the day, being able to say, ‘Hey, he won or lost or ran well or didn’t run well because of how I trained him.’ ’’
A trainer can get caught up “in wanting to have the media talk well of your horse, and work well, and read a line or two that says, ‘This horse is doing great.’’’ Amoss said. “I’ve got no interest in that anymore.’’
NORMANDY INVASION (No. 14) – Fox Hill Farms’ Wood Memorial (GI) runner-up Normandy Invasion tuned up for the Derby with a five-furlong work in :59 at 5:45 a.m. Saturday. It was the second-fastest of 52 works at the distance.
With rain in the forecast, trainer Chad Brown didn’t want to take any chances and sent the colt out to train nearly three hours before the time set aside for horses headed to the Derby and the Kentucky Oaks. With exercise rider Javier Herrera aboard, Normandy Invasion turned in split times of :11.80, :23.20, :34.80; and 46.60. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:11.80.
“He worked well,” Brown said. “He worked swift, he worked good, comfortable. I was happy with it. He came back sharp and happy.”
It was the second work at Churchill Downs for Normandy Invasion since he finished a fast-closing second to unbeaten Verrazano in the Wood Memorial on April 6.
“It was more of a maintenance move,” Brown said. “He worked quick, but I thought he did it well within himself. He didn’t work with any company and galloped out well. He came back good. All the serious work is done.”
Brown said the Tapit colt has been eager to train but settled down after getting away to a sharp start to the work.
“He’s just feeling good. I’m good with it,” Brown said. “Hopefully he has an uneventful week leading up to the Derby.”
ORB (No. 1) – Stuart Janney III and Phipps Stable’s Orb galloped 1½ miles under exercise rider Jennifer Patterson following the renovation break Saturday morning.
“I’ve been very satisfied with him. I don’t know he could be doing any better. He’s galloping really good over the track,” trainer Shug McGaughey said. “He went to the gate yesterday and he stood there. We got that behind us in good order. All we’ve got to do is get through his breeze on Monday and school him in the paddock a couple times, and hopefully that’ll go good. Then, we’ll wait it out from there.”
If all goes well, Orb, the Fountain of Youth (GII) and Florida Derby (GI) winner, will only be the second Derby starter for McGaughey since he saddled Easy Goer for a runner-up finish behind Sunday Silence in 1989. McGaughey, who saddled 10th-place finisher Saarland in 2002, was at Churchill on Derby Day last year but left for the Lexington Airport following Data Link’s troubled fifth-place finish in the Woodford Reserve Turf Classic (GI).
“We got in the car and watched the Kentucky Derby in a Mexican restaurant in Versailles … after I got picked up for speeding. When I told the guy where I was going, he let me go. He was in front of me. I said, ‘How did you know I was speeding?’ He said, ‘You were catching me fast,’ ” McGaughey recalled with a smile. “I was trying to get to the airport. (Versailles) was as far as I could get, otherwise I would have missed (the Derby). I made the plane.”
Joel Rosario, who set a Keeneland spring-meeting record with 38 winning rides, regained the mount aboard Orb after John Velazquez opted to ride Verrazano in the Kentucky Derby. Prior to Velazquez’s victories in the Fountain of Youth and Florida Derby aboard Orb, Rosario had ridden the son of Malibu Moon for back-to-back maiden and allowance wins.
“I got a hot rider. He had quite a meet there. I’ve got a lot of confidence in him. He’s ridden him before. I think he knows him and understands him. Johnny’s as good a rider as there is in the country. Anybody would be happy to have him, but I’m happy to have Joel,” McGaughey said. “He is effective. He’s a very good rider, a young, energetic rider who that is right now on the top of his game and wants to be very successful.”
OXBOW (No. 17)/WILL TAKE CHARGE (No. 9) – OXBOW/WILL TAKE CHARGE – Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who has won the Kentucky Derby four times from 45 starters, will have multiple starters for the 11th time.
Three of Lukas’ Derby victories – with Thunder Gulch in 1995, Grindstone in 1996 and Charismatic in 1999 – came in races in which Lukas ran more than one horse. His other Derby winner was the filly Winning Colors in 1988.
Lukas said it’s not a distraction to have more than one horse in the Derby.
“And usually clientele knows – there’s usually multiple ownerships; you never have one guy own them all – and the clientele knows how difficult the race is and how hard we as trainers try to get the winner,’’ Lukas said. “So I don’t think anybody really felt like they’re slighted. Now when I ran five (in 1996), I saddled every one of them in order, because I thought that that was the protocol you should follow, not to slight anybody, so they say, ‘he saddled Will Take Charge before Oxbow’ or something like that. I never had any trouble with the clientele.’’
Lukas said that if a trainer runs more than one horse and wins the race, it’s a good idea to talk to the losing owner(s) first. “Console those guys, because the winner, he’s already tripping over himself getting to the infield, so go the other guy and say, ‘Look, I think we ran well.’ ’’
Lukas recalled acting in such a way after the 1995 race, when he won with Thunder Gulch and finished third with Timber Country, owned by William T. Young’s Overbrook Farm.
“I’m standing there with Bill Young, and … and I said to him, ‘Bill, I thought we ran a hell of a race.’’’ Lukas said. “And I said: ‘I think we’ll probably move forward. He looked like he really tried. I don’t know if we could have got much of a better effort out of him.’
“And Bill says to me: ‘Wayne, don’t worry. I know you worked hard. It was just fine. We were glad to be a part of it.’ He said, ‘Who won the race?’
“I said, ‘I did, with the other horse.’ He said, ‘What the hell are you doing standing here?’
“ ‘I’m cooling you out.’ ’’
Oxbow, with exercise rider Rudy Quevedo aboard, and Will Take Charge, with exercise rider Taylor Carty, aboard, had routine gallops Saturday, Lukas said. “We’re probably going to work on Monday, depending on the weather,’’ he said.
VYJACK (No. 8) – Pick Six Racing’s Gotham (GIII) winner Vyjack had a typical morning following a breeze and did not go to the track Saturday.
The Into Mischief gelding breezed five furlongs in 1:00.40 Friday under trainer Rudy Rodriguez, who said that Vyjack was fine 24 hours after the work
“So far so good, He ate up everything last night and everything looks good,” Rodriguez said. “Today he walked around the shedrow for almost 45 minutes and then we gave him a bath. Everything went nice. Right now, he’s relaxing. He’s happy and I’m happy.”
Rodriguez said that Vyjack wanted to do more than a leisurely walk on Saturday.
“I’m going to keep my same routine and keep him happy,” Rodriguez said.
Vyjack is scheduled to jog on the track and school in the paddock Sunday morning.
KENTUCKY OAKS UPDATE – SATURDAY, APRIL 27, 2013
BEHOLDER (No. 1) – Spendthrift Farm’s three-time Grade I winner Beholder arrived at Churchill Downs at 1:16 p.m. (all times Eastern) Saturday after beginning her day with a flight from Southern California that arrived at 11:22 a.m. in Lexington. Beholder is stabled in Barn 45.
CLOSE HATCHES (No. 5) / FLASHY GRAY (No. 6) – West Point Thoroughbreds and Tom Keithley’s Flashy Gray worked five furlongs in 1:01.00 Saturday for trainer Bill Mott.
Flashy Gray, who finished second in the Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) in her last start, started the workout a length behind stablemate Cost Effective and finished five lengths in front. The splits were :13 for the first eighth of a mile, :25.20 for the quarter, :37 for three-eighths and :49 for the half. Flashy Gray galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.80.
“I thought it was very good,’’ Mott said. “They went off nicely. They were off easy in 13 and picked it up. It’s all we needed. I think the most important part was that the rider (Penny Gardiner) felt like (Flashy Gray) was there when she needed her.’’
Close Hatches, who is undefeated in three starts, the latest the Gazelle (GII), galloped under exercise rider Joanna Trout.
The filly is from the first crop of Juddmonte stallion First Defence, who was a Grade I winner for the farm. His dam, Honest Lady, was a Grade I winner for Juddmonte. Bobby Frankel trained First Defence and Honest Lady.
DREAMING OF JULIA (No. 4) / PRINCESS OF SYLMAR (No. 7) / SILSITA (No. 9) / UNLIMITED BUDGET (No. 3) – Trainer Todd Pletcher’s quartet of Kentucky Oaks (GI) candidates were out with his barn’s first set Saturday morning, heading trackside from Barn 34 shortly after 6 o’clock.
First on the big Churchill Downs oval was runaway Gulfstream Oaks (GII) winner Dreaming of Julia, who put in a half-mile drill of :51 under exercise rider Humberto Zamora. The possible favorite for the nine-furlong Oaks worked on her own and showed an early split of :25.80 and an out time of 1:03.60.
Next came the tandem of Silsita (with Hall of Fame rider Gary Stevens aboard) and Unlimited Budget (handled by exercise rider Patti Krotenko). The Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) winner Unlimited Budget, moving on the outside, proved best by a couple of lengths over her workmate, timing out at :59.60 for five furlongs. Silsita’s final clocking was 1:00 Their splits were: Unlimited Budget -- :12, :23.60, :35.20 and :47, with an out time of 1:13.60 for six furlongs. Clockers caught Silsita in early fractions of :12, :23.60 and :35.20.
Krotenko, a long-time member of the Pletcher work crew, had nothing but good things to say about Unlimited Budget’s exercise. “She’s a good work horse; that’s her,” the exercise rider said. “But she felt very strong this morning. She’s definitely on the muscle and ready to roll.”
Stevens, in the midst of a riding comeback following seven years of other pursuits, felt his filly’s work might have been better than it appeared. “I took a hold of her at the three-eighths (pole),” he said. “She was very keen going to the pole and I didn’t want her kicking all the way in. But she got over the track well and it was a good effort for her.”
Next from the Pletcher clan came Oaks eligible Princess of Sylmar with exercise rider Jake Nelson up alongside the sophomore stakes filly Fusaichiswonderful. The former, a daughter of the A.P. Indy sire Majestic Warrior, did her running on the outside and registered splits of :13.20, :25,20 and :37.60 en route to a final time of :49.20. Her workmate was given the same final clocking. Princess of Sylmar galloped out in 1:01.60.
Five-time Eclipse Award winner Pletcher had watched his fillies go from the Churchill grandstand and said he liked what he saw.
“I thought they all did well,” he said. “Unlimited Budget was our strongest and fastest today. She’s doing well. Dreaming of Julia – we tried to do with her what we did coming up to the Gulfstream Oaks (a :50.80 breeze prior to her near-22-length tally). We didn’t want her going too fast. We wanted to save something with her.
“All in all, it was good. I was happy with the whole bunch.”
MIDNIGHT LUCKY (No. 8) – Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman’s unbeaten gray filly Midnight Lucky galloped 1½ miles with exercise rider Jorge Alvarez up for trainer Bob Baffert.
Midnight Lucky opened her career on Feb. 13 with an easy 7 1/4-length victory over maidens. She followed up that win with an eight-length triumph in the Sunland Park Oaks on March 24.
PURE FUN (No. 11) – Magdalena Racing’s Pure Fun galloped 1 ½ miles after the morning renovation break under exercise rider Jose Cano for trainer Ken McPeek.
ROSE TO GOLD (No. 2) – Kathleen Amaya and Raffaele Centrofanti’s Rose to Gold walked the shedrow at Barn 43 a day after working a half-mile in :48.20 under jockey Calvin Borel.
Borel, who was elected to the Racing Hall of Fame on Friday, conducted business as usual Saturday morning. He was aboard the first horse on the track at 5:40, working a horse for his brother Cecil.
“I never imagined something like this,” Borel said of having any Hall of Fame dreams when he started riding. “It is especially special this time of year getting ready for the Derby and the Oaks.”
Trained by Sal Santoro, Rose to Gold is scheduled to walk again Sunday and then return to the track Monday. Santoro is scheduled to arrive in Louisville Monday night and be at the track Tuesday.
SEANEEN GIRL (No. 10) – Trainer Bernie Flint said Saturday that he’s thrilled to have Rosie Napravnik riding Seaneen Girl. On Friday, Flint announced that Napravnik is replacing Martin Garcia on the filly, owned by Naveed Chowhan.
“When she became available, I immediately went that way,’’ Flint said of Napravnik. “She rode for me in New Orleans. Believe it or not, I’ve had good luck with her. She’s got the hands.’’
Seaneen Girl, who finished third in the Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) in her only start this year, isn’t difficult to ride, Flint said.
“Very kind, no problem whatsoever,’’ Flint said. “There’s no magic key with her. She tries hard, and she loves the racetrack. And I figure, too, a girl riding on Oaks day – (Napravnik) won the race last year – I think she’s a wonderful rider. I think the world of her. She’s a very nice person, and that means a lot to me. And I know her, and I feel comfortable with her. And that’s why I did what I did.
“When that opportunity came about – I mean I never would have let the other guy go, but he has no business with other horses here. And he asked me if there’s anything, and I said, ‘No, I don’t have nothing else. So I find out she was available, I got a hold of Steve Bass (Napravnik’s agent) as soon as I could.’’
Under exercise rider Edward “Rocky’’ Seely, Seaneen Girl galloped a mile and a half Saturday.