“It was pretty uneventful,” trainer Graham Motion said with a smile.
“This is purely to go through the routine,” Motion said. “He’s very classy acting.”
Motion said that the condition of Toby’s Corner, who sustained an injury to the left hind this week and was withdrawn from consideration for the Derby, had not changed.
ARCHARCHARCH – Arkansas Derby (GI) winner Archarcharch was the picture of calm composure as he waited in the “Holthus Gap” for the track to open at 8:30 after the Thursday morning renovation break.
With hundreds of onlookers lining each side of the entrance to the track, Archarcharch, with jockey Jon Court up, never turned a hair as he waited patiently alongside veteran trainer Jinks Fires, who was astride his pony.
His cool demeanor figures to be a plus Saturday in Kentucky Derby 137 for Archarcharch, who landed in post position one and will have one of the longest waits in the gate as the field of 20 is loaded.
“He has always been good in the gate,” Fires said. “It (the one hole) could be a concern for a rowdy horse who could blow it right in the gate.”
After the wait, Archarcharch galloped a mile and a half and will do the same thing Friday morning before staying in the barn Saturday morning.
Owned by Robert and Val Yagos, Archarcharch represents the first Kentucky Derby starter for all the connections. Fires and Court are Churchill Downs regulars and Yagoses live in Jacksonville, Ark., and last attended the Derby in 2005.
Court, 50, has ridden more than 3,000 winners of which more than 300 have come at Churchill Downs. To prepare for his initial Derby ride, some film study has been conducted by Court.
“I watched videos of the starts of past Derbys looking at spots we thought we’d like before we got the one hole and some of those made me a little nervous,” Court said. “I left with a knot in my stomach. I am going to go back and look again at those races.”
Fires has one hope for how things unfold for Archarcharch.
“I just hope he gets out of the gate and can save some ground,” Fires said.
BRILLIANT SPEED – Live Oak Plantation’s homebred Dynaformer colt Brilliant Speed galloped a mile and a quarter under assistant trainer Dan Blacker shortly after 8:30 a.m. during the training period reserved for Oaks and Derby horses.
“He looked sharp,” trainer Tom Albertrani said. “It looks like we’re ready to go.”
Albertrani trains three horses for Live Oak Plantation, owned by Mrs. Charlotte Weber. Brilliant Speed is out of the unraced Gone West mare, Speed Succeeds, who was sold for $1,450,000 at the Keeneland September Sale in 2002.
Speed Succeeds is a daughter of the dual stakes-winning Deputy Minister mare Daijin, and is a half-sister to Canadian champion Serenading (by A.P. Indy). Passing Mood (by Buckpasser), the second dam of Speed Succeeds, was also an impressive producer. She is the dam of multiple Canadian champion With Approval (by Caro) and Grade 1-winning millionaire Touch Gold (by Deputy Minister), both of whom became sires.
Brilliant Speed started showing promise when he was moved to turf and into longer races last fall following two dirt sprints. This year he was beaten a nose in the Dania Beach and was placed second through a disqualification in the Hallandale Beach. Albertrani tried him in the Toyota Blue Grass (GI) on the Polytrack at Keeneland and he rolled from last to first to win by a nose over Twinspired.
Albertrani likes what he has seen of the colt this week at Churchill Downs.
“He looks every bit as good as he did for his last few races, so we’re optimistic,” he said. “The horse looks great.”
The question that will be answered in the Derby is how the colt will run on dirt. He was badly beaten in his two tries on the surface when was a young and inexperienced competitor.
“He’s always trained on it, but sometimes you don’t know,” Albertrani said. “He may or may not like it. We just don’t know. A lot of good turf horses will train good on it, but they won’t run good on it. We’re going to be hoping for a good race.”
COMMA TO THE TOP – The California-based Comma to the Top, who many feel may carve out the pace in Derby 137 on Saturday, was out even before the crack of dawn Thursday morning at Churchill Downs for a jog of two miles under full-time trainer and sometimes exercise rider Peter Miller. The duo hit the track right when it first opened at 5:45 a.m.
“He was a little anxious here yesterday waiting around until 8:30 (when there is a designated open-track period of 15 minutes for Derby and Kentucky Oaks horses),” Miller said. “So I decided not to wait today. We went out there early, took care of our business and now he can relax for the rest of the day.”
Comma to the Top, a son of the Indian Charlie sire Bwana Charlie, had been flown from his Southern California headquarters to Louisville on Tuesday and got his first bit of exercise in Kentucky yesterday.
Saturday, he’ll break from post position six in the 20-horse lineup and be handled by veteran Patrick Valenzuela, who has a reputation as one of the best “gate riders” (a rider who usually breaks his horse very quickly) in the country. Comma to the Top has been first or second early on in 11 of his 13 starts, six of which have seen him run all the way to the winner’s circle.
“I’m going to paddock-school him today and we’ll likely go tomorrow, too,” Miller said. “We’ve got a spot with the horses for today’s third (race).”
DECISIVE MOMENT – Just For Fun Stable’s Decisive Moment went to the track for a morning gallop under trainer Juan Arias Thursday morning at Churchill Downs.
“I galloped him about a mile and a half and let him pick it up through the lane,” said the 46-year-old Arias, a South Florida-based trainer who also serves as his Derby entrant’s exercise rider.
Ruben Sierra, who races as Just For Fun, was on hand for the routine morning exercise of his homebred colt. He developed an interest in racing as a boy in Caracas, Venezuela, and received his first horse, a 25-percent interest in a filly that won two races on his 12th birthday.
“From that moment I’ve been dreaming of this day. To have the opportunity to participate in this event is a dream come true,” said Sierra, who graduated from Memphis State (now the University of Memphis) with a degree in mechanical engineering and worked for a grain company in Kansas City 14 years. “To be here is a little surreal.”
The 46-year-old Davie, Fla., resident opened his own grain export company in South Florida in 2000 and five years later purchased a training center near Ocala where he breeds horses. Sierra owns 70 to 80 horses, which race in Louisiana, New Jersey and Calder Race Course, where Arias trains his stable.
“When I met Juan, what intrigued me the most was that he not only trains but he gets on his horses. I thought that had to be a great advantage,” Sierra said. “Besides that, Juan is a great person and I consider him my personal friend. We have a good relationship. I love having Juan as my trainer. He just makes my experience owning horses very enjoyable.”
DERBY KITTEN/TWINSPIRED – The Derby two-fer for trainer Mike Maker turned in mirrored exercise Thursday morning with gallops at a mile and a half each. Derrick Smith was up for Twinspired, while Rachel Muzikar was aboard Derby Kitten. Both horses will school in the paddock during Race 5 this afternoon, Maker said.
Maker may be in search of his first Kentucky Derby score as a trainer, but he has been down this road before. Not only did he have two starters in last year’s Derby lineup (Dean’s Kitten and Stately Victor), but he knows what it’s like to make the Derby in a last-ditch effort.
“We got horses here at the last minute three times when I was with D. Wayne Lukas – Charismatic, Proud Citizen and Scrimshaw – all by winning the Lexington just like Derby Kitten,” Maker said. “They did pretty well, too, with a win and a second. I worked closely with them here in Louisville and we sent them over to Keeneland.”
As for pulling double duty on Derby Day for the second year in a row, you won’t hear Maker complain about the extra workload.
“It’s not really much harder (than starting one horse),” Maker said. “I’d rather be here than watching at home on TV, that’s for sure.”
DIALED IN – Owner Robert LaPenta was on hand to watch Dialed In school in the starting gate before galloping at Churchill Downs Thursday morning. His 4-1 morning-line favorite for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby will be his fifth Derby starter, all trained by Nick Zito.
“We really believe this year we have a special horse,” said LaPenta, taking a play out of Zito’s game book and knocking the wooden stable sign hanging outside the shedrow of Barn 36. “We’ve been fortunate to be here in five Derbies in the past10 years – when I think about it I get chills – and we’ve been here with some nice horses, but I think this year we have something special, which puts some added pressure on us,”
LaPenta has been represented by The Cliff’s Edge (fifth in 2004), Andromeda’s Hero (eighth in 2005), Cool Coal Man (15th in 2008) and Ice Box, who finished a troubled second in last year’s Run for the Roses.
“You read the lines on the race: stopped, checked, stopped, and then he came out at the 16th pole and just exploded,” said LaPenta, whose 2010 Derby starter closed from 11th in mid-stretch to fall 2 ½ lengths short of catching victorious Super Saver.
LaPenta, who owned 2008 Belmont Stakes winner Da’Tara, has been a loyal client of Zito’s since 2001, when he started his own stable after partnering with Rick Pitino for a few years.
“Before I got involved in the game in a meaningful way, I used to watch the races on TV and Nick was great at developing young horses – very patient, a lot different than other trainers. I always said, ‘When I get into racing in a meaningful way, Nick is going to be my trainer.’”
Zito, who saddled Strike the Gold (1991) and Go for Gin (1994) for Derby victories, impressed LaPenta with his horsemanship with young horses.
“To be successful in this sport, you need to have a trainer who develops horses for the classics,” the owner said. “You can’t make money racing; you need to develop a horse that wins some of the big races, so ultimately they have some value as a stallion. So that was my whole game plan, and Nick fit that perfectly. Nick has gone beyond a trainer now. We have a great relationship. We’re friends and partners.”
Dialed In will be ridden Saturday at Julien Leparoux, who was aboard the son of Mineshaft for all four of his starts, including a debut score at Churchill Downs last November and a victory in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park in his most recent start.
MASTER OF HOUNDS – Mrs. John Magnier’s UAE Derby (GII) runner-up Master of Hounds made a good impression during his first visit to the track Thursday morning.
The Kingmambo colt cleared quarantine and went to the track at 8:30 with a number of other Oaks and Derby horses. He trotted once around the course and then cantered another circuit.
Master of Hounds turned heads when he waited at the gap to go on the track.
“I thought he looked good and when we were walking around and we could see the American horses walking around. I thought he looked quite well,” said T.J.Comerford, the traveling head lad for trainer Aidan O’Brien. “He was looking well and he had a good shine on him.”
Master of Hounds ran very well in Dubai and is O’Brien’s first Derby horse since he debuted with a pair in 2002.
“I think it was always in Aidan’s plan to come here,” Comerford said. “We try to bring a horse that you think might handle it. I know the last time we brought Johannesburg and Castle Gandolfo. This horse ran so well in Dubai that maybe that sealed it that we would bring him here.”
Aside from how he gets over the dirt, Comerford said he doesn’t have any concerns about the laid-back colt.
“If he handles they dirt, that’s the thing,” Comerford said. “If he handles the dirt, he will run well. He broke well in Dubai. He was actually first out in that. He’s no slouch.
Hopefully, he will run well. I think he will.”
Comerford said the colt traveled well on the dirt with rider Pat Lillis on Thursday.
“Pat rode him and he was happy with him,” Comerford said. “That means a lot. He rides him every day and he knows the horse. Pat was telling Aidan that he was happy with him. That’s all we can do.”
Garrett Gomez will ride Master of Hounds in the Kentucky Derby.
MIDNIGHT INTERLUDE – Arnold Zetcher’s Santa Anita Derby (GI) winner Midnight Interlude galloped once around the main track under exercise rider Dana Barnes during the training period reserved for Oaks and Derby horses.
Trainer Bob Baffert said the War Chant colt is doing well.
The three-time Derby winner and Hall of Fame member said that in this year when so many of the early favorites for the Derby failed to make it to Louisville and the prep races were laden with upsets, that there could be more surprises ahead.
“I just hope we don’t get a sloppy racetrack and we have a good finish and have a chance for the best horse to win,” he said. “I think whoever wins this race could step up. This is where you could have a horse going for the Triple Crown. We have horses that are going to be improving horses that are getting good and getting right at the right time. I know that my horse would be able to handle (a race) two weeks later. He’ll get better as he goes along.”
Baffert had not seen the colt during Derby week at the time, but he said he was interested in Mrs. John Magnier’s Master of Hounds, who was the runner-up in the UAE Derby (GII).
“He went to Dubai and ran a very respectable race on the Tapeta,” Baffert said. “It’s sort of tough flying in from Ireland. It can be done. When Arazi came over for the Breeders’ Cup he did it, but Arazi came over with more of a resume. This horse is a grinder. He could maybe get there. You can’t blame them for taking a chance.”
Baffert agrees with the feeling that this is a wide-open Derby.
“I think there are probably 10 horses that have a really good legitimate chance to win,” he said. “Pace is going to be factor, but at the end of the day, who can get the mile and a quarter? That’s what you’ve got to look for. When you go down there, pedigree-wise, it’s a mile and quarter.”
MUCHO MACHO MAN – Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and Dream Team Racing’s Mucho Macho Man galloped two miles at Churchill Downs Thursday morning under exercise rider Mike Herra.
Dean Reeves, who owns 70 percent of the Risen Star Stakes (GII) winner with his wife Patti, like what he saw Thursday and he liked what he saw on a video tape of the son of Macho Uno’s first start last year. Reeves recounted the fateful phone call her received from Tim Ritvo, his trainer at the time, last year.
“Tim called me to watch a horse on the internet that had raced at Calder. The winner of that race was Gourmet Dinner, and we had an opportunity to buy a percentage of Gourmet Dinner,” the contractor from Atlanta said. “So we were watching the race specifically for Gourmet Dinner, but I happened to like Mucho Macho Man. He caught my eye. I told Tim I liked both horses -- Gourmet Dinner is a fabulous horse – but I told him I kind of liked the second-place horse. Tim said, ‘You might be right.’ ”
Reeves and his wife contacted Jim Culver of Dream Team Racing and worked out a deal to purchase controlling interest in Mucho Macho Man. Reeves has attended the Derby 22 consecutive years, but Saturday will mark his first Kentucky Derby as a participant.
“I think at the Trainer’s Dinner (Tuesday), it really hit me that we’re really here, that we’d really done it, that all the work and planning had come together, and we were a part of this thing,” he said “It’s just mind-boggling and you’ve got to pinch yourself to wake up from this dream. We’ve been really blessed and we’re enjoying the ride.”
Reeves said he got involved in owning horses when he met Bob Ades while vacationing in the Turks and Caicos Islands in 2007. He purchased a horse a month later with Ades, who owned 1992 Derby starter Technology. Two years later, Reeves and his wife formed Reeves Thoroughbred Racing and hired Tim to train their horses upon the recommendation of Hall of Fame jockey Jerry Bailey.
Kathy Ritvo took over the training of Mucho Macho Man after her husband became the VP of racing for MI Developments’ East Coast tracks, including Gulfstream Park.
NEHRO – Zayat Stables LLC’s Nehro visited the starting gate Thursday, trainer Steve Asmussen said.
“He was very good,” Asmussen said. “I think he’s felt great. The weather’s been ideal; it’s nice and cool. The track’s been super. Everything’s been going great, nice and smooth. I’m extremely pleased with his condition and his coat. He seems very healthy at the right time.”
Having had a night to ponder the impact of Wednesday’s post position draw, Asmussen envisioned how Nehro might find success from the 19 hole, a spot in the gate that never has held a Derby winner.
“For me, I imagine there are two scenarios,” Asmussen said. “One where they’re going fast enough to stretch the race out and the other one that they’re not and it looks like the Wood, where they’re just all clumped up. Which one would I like? I’d like them to stretch the race out.”
Jockey Corey Nakatani thinks he’ll be able to lay closer than many might expect from a colt that came from 10th down the backside in the Arkansas Derby (GI) to get up for a fast-closing second.
“My horse has tactical speed so I think we’ll be in that second flight, or first flight maybe, in that pocket,” Nakatani said. “He’s a pretty handy horse. I got to know him a little bit last time and with some racing luck we’ll be in the right spot.
“The pace is the key. In the Arkansas Derby the pace was a lot faster (compared to the Louisiana Derby, when Michael Baze rode him to a second-place finish). I actually broke on the lead but then they outfooted him a little and I just set him on a high cruising speed, under the situation, and he did a pretty good job with that.
“I’m not too concerned about it. I’m going to break him running and see where we are at that point.”
As of Thursday morning there was a 50 percent chance of rain on Friday and 40 percent for Derby Day.
“He earned his way here on fast race tracks so you want the circumstances that got you here, so I’m sure hoping for a fast track,” Asmussen said. “I’m not wanting to try something new in the Derby. I would like to see a fast track.”
PANTS ON FIRE – George and Lori Hall’s homebred Pants On Fire galloped 1 ¼ miles during the Derby-Oaks training session.
“Awesome day again today,” trainer Kelly Breen said. “It was a pretty stiff gallop, into the bit. He did it easy but it was quick. Between yesterday and today it’s amazing watching him, like poetry in motion. He was just so smooth and fluid he floated over the track.
“To hear him, you know, you have horses out there that are as big as him and they hit the ground rough. It’s like the difference between a regular center and Shaq. He was light on his feet and he really looked great.”
The connections will take a closer look at the past performances the next few days to shore up their race strategy but, one way or another, they know they’ll be near the lead.
“We already have a plan that he’s going to be part of the pace,” Breen said. “That’s our vision. We have a horse to the inside of us, Comma to the Top, that I think is great for us, deciphering where we’re going to be. We have Dialed In to the outside of us and we know he’s not going. So I think we have a good start to our planning, knowing that Dialed In isn’t going to be hustling next to us.”
Rosie Napravnik will be aboard Pants On Fire, who George Hall explained was named by some of his longtime friends in the New Orleans Fire Department.
“I happened to have dinner with them the night after the Keeneland sale, where I had bought a bunch of horses.” Hall said. “I was telling them about the whole horse process and I told them, guys, pick a name and you’ll have a horse to root for. This is the one.”
SANTIVA – Trainer Eddie Kenneally remains upbeat following Wednesday’s post position draw for his Kentucky Derby 137 hopeful Santiva, sending the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) winner through a mile and a half gallop Thursday morning without a hitch.
Santiva will join the horses in the paddock for the fourth race this afternoon to re-familiarize himself with the surroundings.
Santiva will try to join Super Saver as back-to-back winners of Churchill Downs’ most important 2-year-old and 3-year-old stakes races. Shaun Bridgmohan, who was aboard last fall for Santiva’s defining score, gets the return assignment on Saturday.
“We’re just happy he got a good post position and we’ll leave it up to Shaun now,” Kenneally said. “You just hope for a good trip that gives your horse his best chance.”
SHACKLEFORD – There may not be a more confident trainer in this year’s Derby than Dale Romans, who has watched his Florida Derby (GI) runner-up blossom in recent weeks at Churchill Downs.
Romans beamed following Thursday’s mile and a half gallop from Shackleford, who also stood in the starting gate for another practice session.
“Today was special,” Romans said. “Not like he hasn’t been doing good for a while now, but today, that was special. I think he looks like he’s just peaking right now.”
Shackleford will school in the paddock this afternoon with horses for the fifth race.
Romans has entrusted journeyman jockey Jesus Castanon with his first Kentucky Derby mount. But forget about any warm-and-fuzzy feelings. It’s strictly business.
“It’s not about loyalty whatsoever,” Romans said bluntly. “The only reason I stayed with Jesus is because he gives us the best chance to win. He’s familiar with the horse, and most importantly, he’s a very good rider. He’s earned it and he’s our best chance to win.”
Shackleford figures to be one of the major early pace players in the Derby and nothing changed after Romans looked at his post position draw.
“We’ll give our horse every chance to go to the lead,” he said. “We’re not afraid of that spot. But we’re going to make Comma to the Top commit inside of us. If he wants it, so be it, but we’ll take it otherwise.”
SOLDAT – Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin sent his Kentucky Derby 137 entrant Soldat for a schooling session at the starting gate Thursday morning, not so much for his horse’s practice, but as a pseudo-meet and greet with the gate crew that handles the Derby loading process.
“We took him to the gate to introduce him to the gate crew,” McLaughlin said. “I think that’s very important when you go somewhere new. You want the gate crew to know who the perfect gentlemen are and who the bad actors are, so they know how to handle you if there’s a delay or it takes a while to load. Soldat, he’s a perfect gentleman, and today the gate crew got to find that out.”
Exercise rider Danny Wright put the Fountain of Youth Stakes (GII) winner through another route gallop of a mile and a half Thursday during the time reserved for Derby and Oaks contenders. Since training hours are from 5:45-8 a.m. on Oaks Day, Soldat will gallop at 7:15 a.m. on Friday
McLaughlin is best known for his training exploits, including a Belmont Stakes victory with Jazil, but also gained some repute in the poker world in 2006 when he advanced to Day 2 of the World Series of Poker. He’s hoping the ability to read others will help his Derby strategy.
“We have to figure out what Uncle Mo is going to do being outside of us,” McLaughlin said. “It’s like reading the other players.”
STAY THIRSTY/UNCLE MO – It was a relatively uneventful morning for the Repole Stable duo, who went trackside at 8:30 during the special Derby/Oaks training period and galloped a mile and three-eighths under their regular exercise riders -- Hector Ramos on Uncle Mo and Fernando Espinoza on Stay Thirsty.
But outward appearances can be deceiving and behind the scenes at trainer Todd Pletcher’s Barn 34 the wheels were turning and churning on a scenario that might rob Derby 137 of its “name” horse.
Uncle Mo, the Indian Charlie colt who won all three of his starts last year -- including the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) run at Churchill Downs -- and was named 2-year-old champion, has had a not-so-dominant 3-year-old season thus far. He won a less-than-competitive overnight stakes at Gulfstream Park in March, then was a beaten third in the Wood Memorial (GI) in New York on April 9, after which he was diagnosed with a stomach ailment that required antibiotics for treatment. And while reports out of the Uncle Mo camp have been generally positive over the past several weeks as he has trained up to the Derby at Churchill Downs, the doubts about his “real” condition linger and they were coming to a head Thursday.
Owner Mike Repole addressed a gathering of about three dozen media types at approximately 9:30 a.m. Thursday outside Barn 34 and spoke of the quandary that he and Pletcher have concerning their star.
“When I see him on the track, like I saw him this morning, I say he’s doing super, he’s doing great, he moves like the best athlete on the track,” the New York businessman said. “But I’m not the expert and we just aren’t sure here where this horse is. Is he back to 80 percent of himself; 90 percent, 100 percent? We don’t know. If this was an ‘outside’ issue, you probably could be sure of what you’re dealing with. But this is an ‘internal’ thing and they’re much harder to tell.
“So today we’re having three veterinarians go over him and test him and we’re going to make a decision. Dr. (Ken) Reid, Dr. (Steve) Allday and Dr. (Doug) Byers are going to check him out and test him and give us their opinions – whether we should run him or not. Todd (Pletcher) and I will be involved in the final say. Todd will be the real key for me. If the three vets said go ahead and run him, but Todd voted no, then we wouldn’t run. He’s the guy.
“Probably by the end of the day we’ll know what we’re going to do. We’ll know for sure by the morning. And we won’t wait until Saturday to make a decision. We’ll say tomorrow, one way or another.
“If he doesn’t run, I don’t know what the plan will be. We’ll have to let Uncle Mo tell us what is next.”
Uncle Mo drew post position 18 in the Derby lineup and is scheduled to be handled by his regular rider, John Velazquez. Stay Thirst will start from post position four under Ramon Dominguez.
TWICE THE APPEAL – Trainer Jeff Bonde won’t get to run with one of his Derby hopes, Sway Away, who wound up 21st on the graded stakes money list, one notch from making the 20-horse field for Saturday. But he’s still left with one bullet to fire and Thursday morning he polished his rifle and made sure his sight was straight at Churchill Downs.
The conditioner had his Sunland Derby winner Twice the Appeal out for a good gallop of a mile and one half under exercise rider Nate Quinonez along with the majority of the Derby and Kentucky Oaks horses at approximately 8:30 following the track’s renovation break. The dark colt by Successful Appeal took care of business properly as he moves toward his date with destiny in the Run for the Roses. The evening before, Twice the Appeal drew post position three in the big Derby lineup, a spot that the trainer especially liked given the propensity of his rider -- Calvin Borel – to make a living and then some riding the rail at Churchill.
As for his other charge, Bonde has adopted a philosophical demeanor
“He’s training real good,” he said of the bay son of Afleet Alex. “It’s too bad he didn’t get in. But we’ve named him to the Preakness and the Peter Pan (in New York) and he’ll run next in one of them. If I had to guess, I’d say he’d run in the Preakness. What are you going to do? It’s on to the next fight.”
Sway Away had gone trackside Thursday under Quinonez in the 6 a.m. hour and galloped a mile and one half.
WATCH ME GO – Gil Campbell’s Watch Me Go looked like the picture of health, his dappled coat glistening in the morning sun while grazing behind Barn 41 Thursday morning at Churchill Downs.
“It’s just great that he’s peaking at this point in time – which is what you want to see. He’s maintained his flesh during the campaign and his coat does look great,” said trainer Kathleen O’Connell, whose Derby entrant galloped 1 ½ miles Thursday.
Watch Me Go, who’ll be ridden by Rafael Bejarano, drew the outside post position 20 on Wednesday.
“I’m so happy we didn’t get the one hole. I kept saying, ‘I hope I don’t get the one hole,’ so we got the 20. But Rafael is really happy with it. He says he’ll be able to get a view and see what’s going on,”
O’Connell said. “I would rather be in the 20 hole than even the six inside posts.”