The Derby will be Animal Kingdom’s first start on dirt and trainer Graham Motion said he is confident that the colt will handle the surface switch.
Motion’s other Derby prospect, Toby’s Corner, who was removed from consideration on Tuesday because of lameness in his left hind leg, was returned to Motion’s barn at the Fair Hill Training Center.
“He’s about the same. I’m none the wiser of what actually caused the problem,” Motion said.
Motion said it might be possible for the colt to make the Preakness on May 21.
“I would say it is 50-50 right now,” Motion said. “He’s going to have to improve very dramatically in order to do something like that.”
ARCHARCHARCH – Robert and Val Yagos’ Archarcharch galloped a mile and a half after the renovation break with jockey Jon Court up for trainer Jinks Fires.
Archarcharch represents the first Kentucky Derby starter for the 70-year-old Fires, a Churchill Downs regular. Fires saw his first Derby in 1961.
“That was Carry Back and Johnny Sellers,” Fires said. “Crozier ran that year and I bet on him and Carry Back just got him at the wire.”
Of all the Kentucky Derby winners he has seen, Fires was asked which was the most impressive.
“I would have to say Secretariat,” Fires said. “He was a big, beautiful chestnut and I galloped alongside him.”
In the 50 years he has been observing Derby Week activities, Fires was asked if he had seen anything in training that made him scratch his head in amazement.
“It’s hard to train another man’s horse,” Fires said. “I am sure they had their reasons for doing what they did.”
BRILLIANT SPEED – Live Oak Plantation’s Toyota Blue Grass (GI) winner Brilliant Speed returned to the track under assistant trainer Dan Blacker Wednesday morning, two days after he breezed five furlongs on 1:01.20 on a muddy .
“We jogged two miles today. It was pretty much routine for him after he breezes,” trainer Tom Albertrani said. “Then we’ll gallop up to the race the next couple of days.”
Albertani said he likes the Dynaformer colt is coming into the race.
“He’s looking great,” Albertrani said. “He looks fantastic.”
COMMA TO THE TOP – The California speedster Comma to the Top went trackside for the first time on a chilly Wednesday morning at Churchill at 8:30 following the renovation break. He was joined in the Lukas Gap near the six-furlong pole by a slew of other Derby and Oaks horses, who have the strip to themselves for the first 15 minutes following the makeover.
Comma to the Top, a gelding by the Indian Charlie sire Bwana Charlie, had a pony at his side and trainer Peter Miller up for a jog of about a mile around the big oval. The horse, who’ll be the most experienced runner in Saturday’s Derby 137 with 13 starts already to his credit, had flown in from his Southern California base Tuesday.
“He went fine,” the 44-year-old Miller said back at Barn 42. “He shipped fine and seemed to enjoy the track this morning. I’ve gotten on him on occasions (in California) before, just like I like to get on all my horses every once in a while. It helps me get a feel for them; to see how they’re doing.”
Miller, a former groom and exercise rider, has been training on his own since 2004. This is his first Kentucky Derby experience.
“I’ll paddock school him this week,” Miller said. “Not today, but maybe Thursday and Friday. One or two days of that, we’ll see.”
California-based Patrick Valenzuela, who won the 1989 Kentucky Derby on Sunday Silence, has the call on Comma to the Top.
DECISIVE MOMENT – Just For Fun Stable’s Decisive Moment schooled at the starting gate before galloping a mile under trainer Juan Arias Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs.
Arias is a former jockey who was forced to retire in 1990 at the age of 25 after suffering a stroke that was ultimately caused by complications from drastic weight-reduction practices.
“By doing that, I came down with bleeding ulcers, and I was bleeding internally, and I didn’t know. My blood count was down, and that’s when I came down with the heart problem, because my heart didn’t have enough blood to pump,” the South Florida-based trainer said. “They kept me in hospital for 45 days. The hospital wouldn’t release me until my heart gave a normal reading. My doctor said if it reoccurred, it would be worse.”
Accepting that his riding career was finished, Arias continued on in racing as an exercise rider and assistant to trainer Richard Root, before working for Wesley Ward and Happy Alter.
“Once I knew I had experience to do my own deal, I began to grab horses that other trainers didn’t want to train, sore horses and horses with behavior problems,” he said. “I began to fix those, then came Mr. Richard Rowan. He was the one who really opened the door for me. He was the one who increased my number of horses.”
Ruben Sierra of Just For Fun Stable now has become the dominant owner in Arias’ public stable.
DERBY KITTEN/TWINSPIRED – Trainer Mike Maker’s Kentucky Derby 137 fortunes already have taken a turn for the good, being one of only two barns in this year’s starting gate to be represented by a pair of starters (joining Todd Pletcher). Add to it the fact that Maker’s pair snuck in at No. 19 and No. 20 in the graded stakes earnings rankings that determine the starting field.
Maker also had a pair of starters in Derby 136, Stately Victor and Dean’s Kitten.
“It feels good to be back,” Maker said Wednesday, his first day at Churchill Downs since his horses were vanned from the nearby Trackside Training Center. “They vanned over well and both were right at home on the track here.”
Both horses galloped a mile and a quarter this morning and schooled in the starting gate. Both are expected to school in the paddock Thursday afternoon during the live racing program.
“Twinspired can be quirky and aggressive when he wants to be,” exercise rider Derrick Smith said. “Today he was excellent.”
As for Derby Kitten, “He handled the track great here,” exercise rider Rachel Muzikar said. “He’s usually strong out there and today he just seemed to enjoy himself.”
Both Twinspired and Derby Kitten have excelled on turf and Polytrack in their careers and must answer the dirt question in the Kentucky Derby. Maker has been down this road before, just last year with Toyota Blue Grass winner Stately Victor and Spiral (then-named Lane’s End) winner Dean’s Kitten.
“It’s unfair to just say a horse can or can’t do something off of one dirt race early in their careers,” Maker said. “A lot changes as their careers advance and it would be premature to just say that they ‘can’t’ or ‘never’ will handle the dirt. Most horses train every single day on the dirt and are most familiar with it.”
DIALED IN – Robert LaPenta’s Dialed In schooled in the Churchill Downs paddock Wednesday morning before galloping under exercise rider Carlos Correa.
The Florida Derby (GI) winner has trained on a different program than Nick Zito’s other Derby starters. The focus for the son of Mineshaft, who arrived from at Churchill from his South Florida winter quarters on Saturday, has been more on galloping and less on workouts.
“With a horse like this, he’s not very big. We had a really good place to train on at Palm Meadows on a very heavy racetrack. He’s a lightly raced horse, very lightly raced,” the Hall of Fame trainer said. “Even Uncle Mo, who has only raced two times (this year), he’s had three races (as a 2-year-old). Actually, they were three major races. Dialed In had one major race in November. Uncle Mo had a race in August when he won by a pole, then he came back and won the Champagne and won the Breeders’ Cup. He had a lot of bottom. This horse didn’t have much bottom running right into the Holy Bull (GIII), a very big allowance race against older horses and then the Florida Derby.”
Dialed In has become “ripped” through the program that included a lot of jogging and galloping with well-spaced workouts.
“Horses are gifts, horses this good. When you get a gift like this, you’ve got to figure out how to train this particular horse,” said Zito, who has saddled two Derby winners, Strike the Gold in 1991 and Go for Gin in 1994. “That’s how we do it. Every horse, you couldn’t train like this.”
Dialed In, who captured the Holy Bull at Gulfstream in his second lifetime start, broke his maiden at Churchill Downs last November in his career debut.
“We were pretty high on him from Day One, but you have to see them run. I told a bunch of people I liked this horse,” Zito said. “So when the day came and he ran and he broke not as good as he could break and he
was way back and was kind of in trouble and kind of did this and did that and then he just came running, we got excited.”
Julien Leparoux, who rode Dialed In for his debut and three races at Gulfstream this year, has the return mount.
MASTER OF HOUNDS – Mrs. John Magnier’s UAE Derby (GII) runner-up Master of Hounds walked the shedrow of Barn 45 Wednesday while serving his mandatory quarantine period.
The son of Kingmambo was flown from Ireland to Louisville Tuesday morning and T.J. Comerford, traveling head lad for trainer Aidan O’Brien, said everything was going well and the colt was settled in.
“He’s just having a walk under tack in the barn for three-quarters of an hour to an hour,” Comerford said. “He will walk again this evening and will go out to the track in the morning. He’s good, very good.”
Master of Hounds will clear the quarantine period in time for training hours Thursday. Comerford said the plan is to take him to the track at 8:30 during the period reserved for Oaks and Derby horses.
“He’ll do his own little jog and a canter around,” Comerford said. “The next day the same. That will just take the edge, the freshness out of him.”
This is Master of Hounds’ second visit to Churchill Downs. He was the beaten favorite in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (GII) on Nov. 6. His lone start of 2011 was in the UAE Derby, where he was caught at the wire, losing by a nose. His only victory in seven starts was in a maiden race, but he has three seconds and a third and has started in three consecutive graded stakes on as many continents.
“He’s good. There are no problems with him,” Comerford said. “He’s very straightforward.”
MIDNIGHT INTERLUDE – Arnold Zetcher’s Santa Anita Derby (GI) winner Midnight Interlude jogged once around the main track during the training period reserved for Oaks and Derby horses.
The homebred War Chant colt breezed a bullet five furlongs in 1:00.80 over a sloppy track Tuesday morning. Trainer Bob Baffert said the colt is doing well.
Baffert has trained three Derby winners and dismisses talk that this is a below-average group of Derby horses.
“Everybody says that it’s a bad field, but they’re good horses,” he said. “My horse is a good horse. They’re good horses, but there is so much parity that they are saying is a bad field. Everybody wants bad horses and one standout horse. I came in here with Point Given. He was supposed to romp and he ran fifth.”
Point Given went on to win the Preakness, Belmont, Haskell Invitational and Travers and was named the Horse of the year.
“I think there is probably 10 horses that have a really good legitimate chance to win,” Baffert 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.
In early April, it looked like Baffert might have three Derby horses, Midnight Interlude Jaycito and The Factor. A foot problem knocked Jaycito off the Derby trail and The Factor was removed from consideration after a poor performance in the Arkansas Derby (GI). That leaves Midnight Interlude, who didn’t start as a 2-year-old broke his maiden on March 20 and won the Santa Anita Derby on April 9.
“My horse is a nice horse,” Baffert said. “He won the Santa Anita Derby, a Grade 1 race and he went in 1:48 and change. When a 3-year-old can go :48, that’s a good horse. And he’ll get the mile and a quarter, but he has to get the trip and he’s still learning. He worked well here, so he’s happy.
Baffert said the colt has good and not-so-good points to his makeup.
“He’s got a little trait of every horse I’ve ever brought here,” Baffert said. “He has the temperament of War Emblem; he’s a (jerk), who has his ears pinned all the time and wants to bite people. He’s like Point Given, puts on weight the more you do with him; you’ve got to keep working on him. And he’s got the competitive spirit of Silver Charm. Now, if I could get all of that stuff working together. But he’s still figuring out racing. He’s off and on.”
MUCHO MACHO MAN – Trainer Kathy Ritvo had a smile on her face when Mucho Macho Man returned to Barn 41 on Wednesday morning after a “strong” two-mile gallop under exercise rider Mike Herra.
The South Florida-based trainer was obviously pleased with her colt’s preparation for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, but she has a much, much bigger reason to enjoy the whole experience.
“I’m so proud to be in the Derby, so blessed to be here, but just to get up every morning is amazing. It’s amazing,” said Ritvo, who was near death 2 ½ years ago when she received a heart transplant that gave her a new appreciation for living life one precious day at a time.
Ritvo, who suffered from a degenerative heart disease that took the life of her brother, Lou, in 1996, will saddle her first Kentucky Derby starter, but the 41-year-old trainer has already won the most important race of her life.
“It’s definitely prepared me better, because I don’t worry as much. One day at a time, that’s it. I think everything moves smoother when you don’t worry about things,” the mother of two said. “I don’t worry about it. I’m very serious about my job and what has to happen with the horse, but other than that, I don’t worry about it. It’s all good.”
Ritvo spent six months in the critical care unit of Jackson Memorial Hospital in Miami before receiving the transplant.
“It was definitely emotionally exhausting because it was hard to keep fighting it mentally,” she said. “When I was in the hospital, people would come into the room and ask, ‘How are you doing?’ I don’t know how you answer a question like that. You’re either waiting to die or waiting to live.”
Ritvo, whose Derby horse captured the Risen Star Stakes (GII) at Fair Grounds, is happy to be alive and live to inspire others.
“If I can give any hope, anytime I can say something, if they’re sick and waiting for a transplant, I just want to tell them to hold on, because this is a good life,” said Ritvo, who takes eight anti-rejection pills at 7:30 a.m. and another eight at 7:30 p.m., as well as 15 vitamins during the day.
The Boston native doesn’t know anything about the donor or the donor’s family.
“I wrote a Thank You letter and sent it out and I didn’t receive anything back yet. Maybe some day, but I respect their privacy. Maybe some day,” she said. “You never know the situation. I think if you think about it too much, it’ll drive you crazy. I’m just grateful. It’s going to happen at the right time, or it won’t. I think it’s going to happen at the right time.”
NEHRO – Zayat Stables LLC’s Nehro galloped 1 1/8 miles at 6:10 a.m. with regular exercise rider Carlos Rosas up, according to owner Ahmed Zayat.
“We usually go a mile-and-a-half but today just a mile-and-an-eighth because he just worked the day before last and right now we’re winding down,” Zayat said. “He wants to do more. When he came back from his exercise he was so full of himself we could barely restrain him. You love to see that, somebody that wants to keep improving.”
Today was Nehro’s first trip back to the track since breezing a half-mile in :51.20 on Sunday, a move that Zayat said his Mineshaft colt came out of in good order.
“His energy level is unbelievable,” Zayat said. “Believe it or not, I think he’s actually gained weight. This horse keeps showing us every sign of a horse that is going to put in a big performance. He’s giving every indication that he’s getting better. The most important thing is, when I look at him I see a very happy horse, a very healthy horse.”
If there is anything to be concerned about with Nehro heading into the Kentucky Derby it could be the possibility of a sloppy surface. Trainer Steve Asmussen expressed his desire to compete on a fast track earlier this week and Zayat chose to look on the bright side when asked how Nehro handled the slop in Monday’s work.
“I don’t know,” he said. “It’s so hard for me; I’m not a professional trainer. It’s really hard for people to grade a work in the mud. I’d be lying to you if I said, ‘Oh, wow.’ He’s not that kind of a horse. All I need to see is a horse that’s physically sound, who is mentally there, whose energy level is up. He had three tough races so all you want is to keep him healthy and happy.”
Nehro made a big step up in the Louisiana Derby (GII), a million-dollar race he entered off a maiden win at Oaklawn Park. To hear others who were around talk about the decision – including Asmussen and Zayat’s son, Justin – the owner was just about the only person who thought such a big step up in class was a risk worth taking.
“Go watch the maiden win,” Zayat says, explaining what gave him the confidence to try the Louisiana Derby. “It was, to me, an Arazi move.”
And even before that effort, Zayat sensed from conversations with Asmussen that Nehro possessed extraordinary talent, especially following an eye-opening breeze in New Orleans.
“Steve called me once in December, really excited – and that’s not Steve Asmussen – and he tells me, ‘Boss, I don’t know if my watch was right or if the clockers were right, but this horse worked crazy.’ Steve doesn’t work horses that fast and Fair Grounds is not a fast track. That was telling.”
It is especially meaningful for Zayat to have a Kentucky Derby contender this year after what he went through this time one year ago, having to withdraw superhorse Eskendereya from Kentucky Derby 136 consideration the Sunday prior to the race.
“Every time I watch, with my son Justin, his Wood Memorial, the race gives me goose bumps,” Zayat said. “The sheer dominance, the beauty and the majesty of Thoroughbreds. That was a horse that was once in a lifetime. In the bottom of my heart he would have won the Triple Crown. It is very hard to think, ‘What if?’ ”
Zayat retained partial ownership in Eskendereya when he retired to stud duty and the son of Giant’s Causeway bred 130 mares this spring.
But now Zayat is focused on making the most of Kentucky Derby 137. One thing he would still like to do is pay tribute to the late Jess Jackson – owner of Horse of the Year winners Curlin and Rachel Alexandra – perhaps by outfitting jockey Corey Nakatani in an armband or patch with Jackson’s Stonestreet Stables colors.
“I would like to honor that man who did so much in a very short time,” Zayat said, “a man who was very passionate and put money and passion and effort into doing great things and trying to make racing a better sport for all of us.”
PANTS ON FIRE – George and Lori Hall’s Pants On Fire galloped 1 3/8 miles with Juan Pizarro up during the Derby-Oaks training session, according to trainer Kelly Breen.
“I think it was possibly his best day of training,” Breen said. “He really floated over the track. He was tough to pull up, he was eager to do everything. He started reminding me of what he did before the Louisiana Derby so I’m tickled pink right now.”
Pants On Fire turned a corner at the Palm Meadows Training Center while preparing for that million-dollar race and delivered a gutsy performance in New Orleans, holding off Nehro in the final sixteenth despite looking beat coming into deep stretch.
Much of the credit for Pants On Fire’s game finish went to 23-year-old jockey Rosie Napravnik, who was aboard the Jump Start colt for the first time that day and will retain the mount for the Kentucky Derby. The decision was not necessarily an easy one for Breen, whose first-call rider Joe Bravo was atop Pants On Fire in the first two of Fair Grounds’ trio of graded 3-year-old stakes, but jumped off for entrymate Nacho Business in the Louisiana Derby.
“You win a million-dollar race and the rider did nothing wrong,” Breen said. “Not to say that Joe couldn’t get it done before, because every race is a different set of circumstances. Whether it was that she was in the right place at the right time, or the horse and Rosie click, I don’t know. George and I talked about it right after the race and the day after the race and it’s hard to take somebody off after they win our biggest race. George had never won a million-dollar race; I had never won a million-dollar race. We’re just going to keep going with keeping it all the same.”
Coming into the Louisiana Derby, the trainer felt fortunate to land Fair Grounds’ runaway leading rider, who was en route to becoming the first female leading rider in the track’s 139-year history with 110 wins at the 83-day meet.
“Rosie was known as being in the zone, doing everything right,” Breen recalled. “Whatever it was, she was winning. Everything was clicking. When you see things as a rider that are about to happen before they happen, that’s when you’re in the zone. You know where to be, how to be, what’s the good part of the track.
“She knows how to win and that’s a big factor, when it comes to riders that are riding with confidence. We caught her at the right time. She’s a patient rider and she knows what she’s doing.
“For as young as she is she has great composure. She doesn’t seem to get excited. You can see some of the things in how she rides are like her personality. When she gets in a tough spot she doesn’t get overly excited. She can sit. From what I’ve seen I don’t think anything gets to her.”
SANTIVA – Last fall’s Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes (GII) winner Santiva had a light morning of exercise beneath the Twin Spires. Trainer Eddie Kenneally sent the son of Giant’s Causeway to stand in the starting gate and take a light jog.
“No big deal today, I took it pretty easy with him,” Kenneally said. “He’s fit and ready to go. We’ll school in the paddock on Thursday with the horses for the fourth race and that’s about it.”
Santiva suffered a nightmare trip in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (GI) when ninth as the post-time favorite. Kenneally knows there isn’t much he can do with today’s post position draw and won’t sweat the wait.
“Anywhere in the middle of the gate would be ideal, of course,” he said. “You just don’t want the extreme inside or extreme outside. I’ll take what they give us.”
Shaun Bridgmohan, who rode Santiva to victory in the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes, will be back aboard Saturday with his fifth career Derby mount.
SHACKLEFORD – Florida Derby (GI) runner-up Shackleford continued to impress morning bystanders with another solid gallop, turning in a mile and a half under exercise rider Faustino Ramos. Shackleford is scheduled to school in the paddock this afternoon during the live racing program, and also head back to stand in the starting gate one more time Thursday morning.
“He went nice” Ramos commented, sharing sentiment with Tammy Fox, the wife of trainer Dale Romans, who added, “Everything’s good.”
Shackleford appears to be one of the front-runners in the Derby 137 field, but Romans remains confident he can carry that speed the mile and a quarter distance, especially if the track were to be muddy or sloppy.
“His pedigree says he should love it wet, and that mare he’s out of has turned out to be one heck of a producer,” Romans said. “Look at Lady Joanne winning the Alabama. The pedigree is there.”
SOLDAT – Fountain of Youth Stakes (GII) winner Soldat galloped a mile and a half Wednesday under exercise rider Danny Wright as he continued a quiet week of training since coming north from Florida.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, who wouldn’t mind a wet track on Saturday, was happy to see a faster race track return for training today.
“We did a little more with him today because of the fast track,” McLaughlin said. “We back-tracked him a little farther and then galloped a little farther. He’s very happy and doing well. Now we just need to maintain that until Saturday.”
While some offspring of the hot young sire War Front can be difficult to settle, McLaughlin said Soldat has a fairly easy disposition.
“He’s really a neat horse,” McLaughlin said. “He’ll stick his tongue out and play with you. He’ll pretty much do whatever you ask of him. He does everything right and is fun to be around.”
Alan Garcia will ride Soldat in Kentucky Derby 137. While McLaughlin owns a Belmont Stakes victory with Jazil, he’ll aim to one-up his career-best Derby finish of second, produced by 2005 longshot Closing Argument.
STAY THIRSTY/UNCLE MO – Repole Stable’s dynamic duo were out for some exercise Wednesday morning at 8:30 in the allotted 15-minute Derby/Oaks training period following the track’s renovation break.
Uncle Mo, last year’s juvenile champion, had exercise rider Hector Ramos up and assistant trainer Mike McCarthy alongside on a pony, while Stay Thirsty, the winner of this year’s Gotham Stakes (GIII), was partnered by Fernando Espinoza.
The two colts briefly stood in the starting gate and jogged an easy mile around the Churchill strip, which was dry and fast on a chilly spring morning.
Trainer Todd Pletcher went frontside to observe their training and pronounced all well upon his return to Barn 34.
“Everything went smoothly,” the multi-Eclipse Award-winning trainer said. “They handled their jog and the gate with no problems. We’ve done a lot of good training with them over the last several weeks here and we’re just going light and freshening them up a bit coming up to the race. They’ll gallop on Thursday and Friday and then that will be it.”
Pletcher noted that he paddock-schooled Stay Thirsty on Tuesday, though that was not the case with Uncle Mo.
“Stay Thirsty got all hot and washy on us in Florida (the Florida Derby at Gulfstream on April 3),” he said. “We wanted to give him a chance to get back in the paddock and feel comfortable, which he did yesterday. With Uncle Mo, there’s no need to go to the paddock with him. He’s very professional with all the things he does and he has never turned a hair in the paddock. He just doesn’t need it.”
John Velazquez, the only rider to sit on him during his five-race career, will once again be in the saddle for Uncle Mo Saturday. Ramon Dominguez, who has handled Stay Thirsty in his past two outings, including the Gotham score, has the assignment once more.
TWICE THE APPEAL/SWAY AWAY – Trainer Jeff Bonde had his “go” horse for the Kentucky Derby – Twice the Appeal – out at 7 a.m. Wednesday for a mile and one-half gallop around the Churchill oval with exercise rider Nate Quinonez aboard. At 8:30, following the renovation break, the trainer had his “want to go” Derby horse – Sway Away – who also had Quinonez at the controls and gallop the same 12 furlongs as his stablemate. Both horses also managed a side trip to stand briefly in the starting gate.
“They’re doing good,” the Northern California-based trainer said later on a nippy morning on the Churchill backside.
Twice the Appeal, whose victory in New Mexico’s Sunland Derby (GIII) earned him $400,000 in graded stakes winnings and guaranteed him a spot in the starting gate for the Run for the Roses, will be partnered on Saturday by the man who has won three of the past four running of the Derby, Calvin Borel.
Sway Away, who has the saddle services of Southern California-based Martin Garcia if he makes the field, has $111,500 in graded stakes earnings, making him No. 21 on the list of a 20-horses-only field.
WATCH ME GO – Gil Campbell’s home-bred Watch Me Go galloped 1 ½ miles under Freddie Lenclud Wednesday morning in preparation for a start in the Kentucky Derby, in which he could make history for his trainer Kathleen O’Connell.
No woman has saddled the winner of the Kentucky Derby, but O’Connell is just hoping her name will be mentioned among those of other trainers who have tasted success in the first leg of the Triple Crown.
“I think whether I was a man or woman, it would be an awesome feeling,” she said. “I think I’d make history in the Derby anyway, whether I was a Mr. or a Miss or whatever in front of my name.”
She does have some words of encouragement for women trainers with a dream to saddle a Derby horse.
“It’s a tough business, but in any walk of life or any occupation, perseverance and patience are the two most notable things,” she said.
While reminded that she would be recognized as a trailblazer should Watch Me Go win the Derby, the Michigan native said the trail started long ago.
“I feel like I’ve been a trailblazer since time began to be honest with you,” said O’Connell, who began her career at Detroit Race Course. “I’ve on the track since 1970. My first license said ‘exercise boy’ because there wasn’t even a category to check for a girl.”