“We did the same thing we have been doing, back up to the sixteenth pole and gallop about a mile and three-eighths,” McLaughlin said. “He’s doing great, continues to train well and ate up well. Everything is going great.”
“The trainer is probably a little more nervous about the gate than the horse,” McLaughlin said. “He’s been great since the Breeders’ Cup.”
Alpha is McLaughlin’s fifth Derby starter following Jazil, Flashy Bull, Closing Argument and Soldat.
“It’s never gets old,” McLaughlin said. “Hopefully we will get to keep coming back every year.”
In the early years of his training career, McLaughlin worked for Sheikh Hamdan of Dubai‘s Shadwell Farm and did not have young 3-year-olds in his care. His Derby appearances have increased since he opened a public stable based in New York.
BODEMEISTER/LIAISON – Zayat Stables LLC and Michel and Tiffany Moreno’s Kentucky Derby morning-line favorite Bodemeister galloped 1½ miles Thursday, the morning after drawing post No. 6 in the 20-horse field.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said it was good post for the Empire Maker colt, who soared to the top of the morning line with a runaway victory in the Arkansas Derby (G1).
“Ideally, I would have liked to be outside of the heavy speed horses and I’m inside of them, but anything but the one hole,” Baffert said. “When the first horse (stablemate Liaison) drew 20, I starting thinking, ‘I hope I’m not bookends because that means that somebody does not want me to win this race.’ When Lookin at Lucky drew the one (in 2010), you sort of lose the excitement. The wind just came out of my sails.
“I’ve brought some really good horses here, and they were the best horse, but they got beat. I don’t want to get myself too pumped up. Even my son, Bode, doesn’t want to talk about it.”
Baffert agreed that the 138th Kentucky Derby has a deep and talented field.
“I think it’s a very competitive Derby,” he said. “You watch them all train and they all look great out there. This is one of the toughest Derbys I’ve been in probably the last 10 years. It’s a really competitive field.”
Baffert is recovering from a heart attack he suffered in Dubai in late March. While he is trying not to worry as much and avoid stress, he said it is impossible to be very laid-back in the days leading up to America’s biggest race.
“To me, the Derby week is always exciting,” Baffert said. “We are still on pins and needles to keep the horses healthy, make sure everything goes well and nothing happens. In the days leading up to it, the tires start coming off. You just hold your breath every day when you see the horses and make sure that nothing happens. If everything is running smooth, it’s pretty smooth. Everything has been pretty smooth, so I can’t complain. Everything is good.
Arnold Zetcher’s Liaison galloped 1½ miles Thursday morning. The Indian Charlie colt is seeking his first win since taking the CashCall Futurity (GI) in December. He drew the outside post in the 20-horse field and is 50-1 on the morning line.
“He really tailed off form, but when he got here I gave him a chance and he likes the track and goes over it great,” Baffert said. “That’s very important here. He still has to really move his game up.
“When he drew the 20, I got a little bit disappointed, but he’s the kind of horse that it’s better than if he would have gotten the one or the two or the three. He doesn’t like a lot of dirt kicked in his face, which is why he ran so well on synthetics.
“It looks like he’s going to run a big race, but it’s whether he’s good enough. The way he’s training, I think he’s going to be competitive. That’s all you can ask for.”
CREATIVE CAUSE – After causing something of a mini-buzz with a second day of walking for Creative Cause following a Monday workout at Churchill Dows, trainer Mike Harrington said dryly Thursday morning, “Well, I guess everybody will be satisfied now that the colt has gone to the track.”
Harrington explained to anyone who asked: “This is what I do. It’s my routine. I’ve always done this. Trainers handle post-workout time differently.”
The roan son of Giant’s Causeway was on the track with other Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks horses during their scheduled time after the mid-morning renovation. He jogged a mile and galloped 1 3/8 miles with regular exercise rider John Cisneros in the irons.
Joining Harrington at the barn Thursday morning was regular rider Joel Rosario, a native of the Dominican Republic and a major presence in the Southern California jockey colony for about four years. During that time, he has won several riding titles at Santa Anita, Hollywood Park and Del Mar. His latest title came in runaway fashion in Santa Anita’s winter-spring meet.
Harrington speaks highly of the diminutive, but strong-finishing rider. “He’s doesn’t say much when he gets off this horse, but I see him learning something from each race with him,” Harrington said.
DADDY LONG LEGS – Michael Tabor, Mrs. Susan Magnier and Derrick Smith’s Daddy Long Legs had a quiet Thursday morning, the mid-point of his 48-hour quarantine period after shipping in from Ireland just before dawn on Wednesday.
Because of quarantine restrictions the Scat Daddy colt walked the shedrow Thursday. He is expected to go to the track at 7:30 Friday morning.
T.J. Comerford, the traveling head lad from trainer Aidan O’Brien’s staff, accompanied the colt in his journey from Europe and will saddle him Saturday. Last year, Comerford handled Master of Hounds, who finished fifth.
Comerford said the trip through four airports was eventful.
“He came in early yesterday morning. No problems. He ate plenty, and drank plenty. He’s in good order,” Comerford said. “We got here in less than a day. We were in a couple of airplanes and it was actually quite quick.”
Daddy Long Legs, winner of the UAE Derby (GII) on March 31, went by van from O’Brien’s training center at Ballydoyle to the airport at Dublin. He flew to London, then on to Newark International, where he changed planes for a charter to Louisville.
“We came over the same way we came last year with Master of Hounds and he ran well,” Comerford said. “The travel is not a problem for him. He takes it all well. It doesn’t bother him.”
Daddy Long Legs, a Kentucky-bred son of Scat Daddy, has won three of five career starts, including the Juddmonte Royal Lodge Stakes (GII) at Newmarket. He got away from the gate slowly in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in November at Churchill Downs and finished 12th.
Daddy Long Legs returned to Ireland from Dubai after winning the 1 3/16 miles UAE Derby by 1¼ lengths and was prepared for the Kentucky Derby. He will start from the rail in the 138th edition of the Run for the Roses.
“The plan was always to come here, so he’s trained for it,” Comerford said. “We’re here now and just hope for the best.
“I know the draw is probably not ideal, as people say. We can’t change that, for sure. We’ll do our best from one.”
Comerford said that Daddy Long Legs is a better in the starting gate than he was during his juvenile season.
“He’s a year older and he was quick away in Dubai,” Comerford said. “We did plenty with him for Dubai and he was smart away there. I don’t know if he’s smart enough for the American way, but he’s definitely a lot better. He’s come on a lot. We just take it as we go. He was quick away in Dubai and if he’s as quick away here it should be OK.”
Jockey Colm O’Donoghue will make his Kentucky Derby debut aboard Daddy Long Legs.
DADDY NOSE BEST/SABERCAT – Trainer Steve Asmussen’s duo of hopefuls for Kentucky Derby 138 – Cathy and Bob Zollars’ Daddy Nose Best and Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Sabercat – came out later in the morning than usual, during the 7 o’clock hour before the renovation break – so they could visit the starting gate and the paddock. The two went in separate sets, with Sabercat appearing first and Daddy Nose Best coming out in the last Asmusen set before the break.
“They both schooled in the gate this morning and they’ll both school in the paddock this afternoon,” Asmussen said. “Hopefully the rest of the week goes as smooth as the last couple of weeks have.”
Daddy Nose Best and Sabercat have been schooled in the Asmussen way since before they made it to the racetrack. Both were prepped at the El Primero Training Center in Laredo, Texas, owned and operated by Keith and Marilyn Asmussen. That, and the fact that their respective owners have been with Asmussen for several years, make these Derby entrants even a bit more special for the trainer.
“I’m definitely proud of the fact that both of these horses were at my parents’ place in Laredo and they’re longtime clients,” Asmussen said. “This is the pinnacle of the sport and to have collectively worked together to get here means a lot.”
Winchell Thoroughbreds and Asmussen teamed up in the 2008 Kentucky Derby with Pyro (eighth) and won the 2005 Kentucky Oaks with Summerly. Texans Cathy and Bob Zollars were partners with fellow Texan and friend James Cassels in Asmussen’s first Kentucky Derby starter, Fifty Stars, ninth in 2001.
“We first sent horses to Steve in 1999 and he’s trained all of my horses ever since,” Zollars said. “We knew his dad and had sent our horses down there to be broken before we ever met Steve. We were trying to find a new trainer and James called his dad and said, ‘Is it time to send some horses to your son?’ And Keith said, ‘I think so; he’s ready to do well.”
DONE TALKING – The Illinois Derby (GIII) winner Done Talking turned in what his exercise rider deemed his best gallop since arriving at Churchill Downs, galloping 1 ½ miles this morning after the renovation break with James “Bobo” Brigmon aboard. Prior to the strong gallop, Done Talking jogged to the starting gate and schooled, where some of his old habits reappeared.
“He sashays to the left when the assistant starter tries to load him,” trainer Hamilton Smith said. “He didn’t go in right away today either. He did it in New York and he did it in Illinois. I wanted to make sure the gate crew here got familiar with him and knew about that. Once he gets in, he’s a gentleman. He just wants to go left when try to load him.”
Jockey Sheldon Russell also visited the barn after the horse trained and was no worse for the wear after taking part in a celebrity jockey bartending fundraiser in Louisville the night before.
“It was nice to hang out with some of the other riders,” Russell said. “I’m familiar with a few of them from traveling to various tracks. They were all really nice to be around.”
DULLAHAN – Trainer Dale Romans took a little off the fastball of Dullahan this morning, galloping a much easier 1 ½ miles than in recent days.
“We galloped him slower today since we let him really stretch out his legs yesterday,” Romans said. “We didn’t want him to do too much out there today.”
Dullahan will school in the paddock this afternoon during the live racing at Churchill Downs.
As the pronunciation of Dullahan’s name has taken a new twist this week, owner Jerry Crawford correcting it to DULL-a-HONN, trainer Romans said he won’t get tied up into semantics.
“As long as they call him down the lane in front, that’s all that matters to me,” he equipped.
Romans compared his 2010 Derby third Paddy O’Prado to a “freight train,” while Dullahan is more of a “Ferrari.”
EL PADRINO/GEMOLOGIST – Let’s Go Stable’s El Padrino and WinStar Farm’s Gemologist were sent to the racetrack by trainer Todd Pletcher following the renovation break at Churchill Downs Thursday morning. The undefeated Gemologist galloped 1 3/8 miles under exercise rider Hector Ramos, while El Padrino, the Risen Star Stakes (II) winner galloped the same distance under Melvin Hernandez and stood in the starting gate.
Gemologist has run twice this year, winning a Gulfstream allowance by seven lengths at Gulfstream Park on March 16 before registering a game victory by a neck over Alpha in the Wood Memorial (GI) at Aqueduct on April 7. The light schedule and a late start to his 3-year-old season was by design.
“We purposely laid out a two-race program, the same as we did for Super Saver,” said Pletcher, who got to the Kentucky Derby winner’s circle for the first time with Super Saver in 2010. “Having run at the end of November, we just wanted to give him a break. I think with a horse like that, with solid 2-year-old form, two starts was the ideal way of getting here.”
Gemologist won three times last year, including two 1 1/16-mile scores at Churchill Downs in an allowance race and the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII). Pletcher said the son of Tiznow is ready to fire his best shot in the Derby.
“He is doing as well as he could possibly be doing,” he said. “However good he is I think that’s what we’ll see on Saturday.”
Let’s Go Stable’s Kevin Scatuorchioco was on hand to watch El Padrino’s morning exercise.
“This is it. This is our Super Bowl. This is the big event. Seeing him training over the track has been exciting for us. We’ve got a bunch of people coming in within the next couple days,” said Scatuorchio, who co-manages the partnership group of nine owners with brother-in-law Bryan Sullivan.
Scatuorchio was feeling good about El Padrino’s No. 16 post position, right to the outside of Gemologist, after a few tense moments at Wednesday’s post-position draw.
“We were one of the last three horses with that one hole still open, so I took a huge deep breath when he drew the 16. I felt a lot better,” he said. “I have a ton of confidence in him. I know that the mile-and-a-quarter is right in his wheelhouse. If it’s his day, he’s good enough to get it done.”
Rafael Bejarano will ride El Padrino for the first time, while Javier Castellano will return aboard Gemologist.
HANSEN – Kendall Hansen and Skychai Racing’s popular colt Hansen drew a crowd at Barn 42 before and after he went to the track at 8:30 a.m. Thursday.
Hansen was shipped the few miles from trainer Mike Maker’s barn at the Trackside Training Center to Churchill Downs late Wednesday morning to comply with the rule that all Kentucky Derby horses must be on track grounds by noon on Wednesday. His visit to the track Thursday was his first time on the surface since he won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 5.
Under regular exercise rider Joel Barrientos, Hansen schooled in the starting gate and galloped a mile and a quarter.
Hansen won the Juvenile on the lead and clinched the 2-year-old male championship, but Maker said he doesn’t expect the same scenario to play out in the Kentucky Derby for the nearly white colt and jockey Ramon Dominguez.
“I think Trinniberg, probably coming off those sprint races, has got to be the speed of the speed,” Maker said. “Stranger things have happened, but we won’t handcuff Ramon and whatever happens when they leave the gate we’ll leave it up to Ramon. I would say on paper that Trinniberg and Bodemeister will be sitting there and hopefully we can sit behind them.”
Maker chuckled at a question about how Hansen has developed from his 2-year-old to his 3-year-old season.
“Same old Hansen,” he said. “He hasn’t really changed much since he came to my barn as a 2-year-old. He hasn’t really grown much from two to three. He’s still on the small side. I’d like to see more weight on him, not that he looks bad. I always want to see him carry more weight, which he won’t. He’s aggressive and likes to play around.”
I’LL HAVE ANOTHER – Trainer Doug O’Neill continues to be confident as I’ll Have Another, a son of Flower Alley, continues to maintain his bounding style as he heads toward Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.
“He’s just doing great,” O’Neill said. “He has kept his nice stride and seems to love the racetrack. He’s very settled and he cools out perfectly each day.”
O’Neill was less than enthusiastic about drawing post position 19 in the 20-horse field, but as is his style, he saw a bright side in the fact the horse would be one of the last to load in the gate. “I think the morning line of 12-1 shows a lot of respect for him” O’Neill said.
The colt’s regular rider, Mario Gutierrez, was at the barn on Thursday and expressed supreme confidence in the horse. “I’m super-excited about being in the race,” said the native of Veracruz, Mexico, “and I have a lot of confidence in the horse. He’s very professional.”
Gutierrez is a newcomer to the Southern California jockey colony, having come from Hastings Park in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, where he won two riding titles. Of his opportunity to ride in the Kentucky, he gave I’ll Have Another another kudo with “If I had the chance to ride any of these horses, I would still choose him.”
MY ADONIS – George and Lori Hall’s My Adonis, the only “Also-Eligible” on the outside looking in for Kentucky Derby 138, jogged one mile and galloped one mile at 6:30 a.m. with trainer Kelly Breen aboard.
“He went pretty good,” Breen said. “Yesterday he just jogged so this was his first day of galloping. He looked around a little bit but he felt awfully good.”
Later in the morning Breen was among the masses hanging on the outside fence during the 8:30-8:45 a.m. Oaks and Derby training session, sizing up the possible competition and perhaps even looking to see if any of the other entrants appeared off in any way. For the Gotham Stakes (GIII) runner-up to make the Kentucky Derby field, someone would have to withdraw by 9 a.m. Friday.
“It’s getting closer,” Breen said. “Twenty-four-and-a-half hours, but who’s counting?”
Should he get the opportunity to run, Breen says My Adonis could relax further back in the early stages than what people have seen this year. The Pleasantly Perfect colt has tended to stalk the pace, a style that proved his undoing in a seventh-place Wood Memorial (GI) effort last time out.
“His two worst races were when he was too close to the pace,” Breen said. “Hopefully after our last race we learned a little bit about him and we have to make him a closer. If things go well and as much heat as it seems is going to be on the front end, I’m hoping to get in and would really like to have an opportunity to run him.”
OPTIMIZER – Trainer D. Wayne Lukas’ record 45th career Derby starter turned in a 1 ½ miles gallop this morning after the renovation break and will visit the paddock for the second straight day this afternoon for a schooling session during the races.
“I don’t know why I’m schooling him again to be honest with you,” Lukas said jokingly. “Cover my bases, I guess? I’m 50-to-1.”
Lukas said Optimizer’s deep-closing style could be compromised in post position two, taking a lot of dirt, and noted that his horse needs to make one sustained run. Traffic issues in which Optimizer is forced to stop and re-charge won’t suit his horse. “We’re just not good enough to do that,” Lukas said. He added, “The ride on a horse with our style is so important.”
The projected fast pace of the Derby leaves optimism for Optimizer. “There are six, seven, eight horses who really are going to be on the Bill Daly.” Newer racing fans may not know the expression, but Father Bill Daly was a turn of the 20th century trainer renowned for instructing his jockeys to go to the early lead. A horse racing on the lead later became known as “on the Bill Daly.”
PROSPECTIVE – It was business as usual for Tampa Bay Derby (GII) winner Prospective this morning, galloping another steady 1 ½ miles under the Twin Spires. “We’re not very complicated around here,” trainer Mark Casse said. “No bells and whistles. We’re good to go. Knock on wood all is still well.”
His routine may have been vanilla, but Prospective’s appearance was not.
“He’s a show off,” Casse said. “He was strutting out there. He’s a happy horse right now. If he’s happy, I’m happy.”
ROUSING SERMON – Ever since his arrival on Monday, Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer has been only a shadow of his former self. With a reputation of being ultra-conservative with his approach to the media and how he talks about his horses, Hollendorfer has been anything but conservative.
In his meetings with the press, Hollendorfer has been expansive in his praise for Rousing Sermon. Here’s some of what he said Thursday morning: “He’s going to be running against a very seasoned, good group of horses in the Derby. But I think he certainly does belong with the group. I think he has a chance to run a very good race, and I think he has a chance to win.
“He’s had no physical or mental problems so far. I think his progress stands on its own. He’s coming to the race in great shape and I know he’ll give me his best. I’ll be very happy to lead him over on Derby day.”
Rousing Sermon jogged a mile Thursday morning, the second day back from a five-furlong workout Tuesday. He went through the paddock again and stood in the gate. Hollendorfer said he probably would go to the gate again Friday. “From his post [seven], he’ll probably have to stand in the gate a long time and we just want to be sure that’s he’s OK with that.”
TAKE CHARGE INDY – Three-time Kentucky Derby winning jockey Calvin Borel played the role of exercise rider again Thursday on Chuck and Maribeth Sandford’s Florida Derby winner Take Charge Indy.
Typically, jockeys do not gallop horses in the morning, but Borel asked if he could exercise the colt this week after he shipped up from Florida. Under Borel, the A.P. Indy colt galloped 1 5/8 miles during the special time reserved for Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks horses at 8:30 a.m.
“I actually told Calvin this morning to ride him like you own him,” trainer Pat Byrne said. “He’s just too passionate about horses. You just throw him up there and he’s like jelly up there. He’s a natural rider.”
Chuck Sandford said Take Charge Indy is ready for the Derby and that he is happy the colt drew post three in the field of 20. Sandford said it’s just a matter of whether the colt is good enough to win.
“We don’t have any speed inside of us,” Sandford said. “The horse outside of us is Union Rags and he’s not going to break with us. He’s got speed but he’s not going where we’re going. We’ll probably be right behind Bodemeister. He’s going and he’ll be right behind Trinniberg. My guess is that (Bodemeister’s trainer Bob) Baffert is going to run with him. He said he wasn’t going to change how he runs that horse. I wouldn’t either.
“We were thrilled with the post. It was first out of the box. It was all over. No pressure.”
Take Charge Indy will be making his first start at Churchill Downs since finishing fifth in the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup (GI) Juvenile on Nov. 5.
“Nobody has really looked at us,” Chuck Sandford said. “I had the fifth-best 2-year-old in the country last year and I lost the photo for the fourth. He’s been under the radar, we win a Grade I and we’re still under the radar. He’s like the Rodney Dangerfield of horses, absolutely getting no respect.”
TRINNIBERG – Shivananda Parbhoo’s Trinniberg visited the starting gate before galloping once around the track Thursday morning at Churchill Downs.
“There were no problems in the gate. He relaxed and galloped nice,” said Parbhoo, whose father, Bisnath, trains the winner of the Swale (GIII) at Gulfstream and the Bay Shore (GIII) at Aqueduct. “There’s nothing much more to do. He’ll probably jog twice around the track tomorrow and set him up for Saturday afternoon.”
Willie Martinez, once a mainstay at Churchill Downs, has the mount aboard the son of Teuflesberg.
“You dream it; you chase it; now you want to taste it. I’m just like Trinniberg; I’m chomping at the bit. I want to get a taste of it, said Martinez, who has gone winless in four Derby appearances. “I rode here for 17 years. It’s my home away from home. My heart has always been here. This is the place that made my career. One horse can change it all.”
UNION RAGS – Chadds Ford Stable’s Union Rags galloped a 1½ miles under exercise rider Peter Brette Thursday morning at Churchill Downs in preparation for a start in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.
Trainer Michael Matz saddled undefeated Barbaro for a commanding victory in the 2006 Kentucky Derby.
“It’s a great feeling to be back here after six years, especially with a horse that has a good chance,” said Matz, whose only Derby starter since 2006 was Visionaire, who finished 12th in 2008. “It doesn’t happen too many times. I was lucky enough once. It’s hard to believe that you can get lucky twice.”
Matz hesitates to compare Union Rags and Barbaro, but he did mention their similarities.
“Barbaro was undefeated. Union Rags has last two races by a total of a length and a half. They’re both big, good-looking, fast and athletic,” Matz said. “(Union Rags) still has to live up to what Barbaro did. We’ll find out Saturday.
Union Rags, who will break from the No. 4 post position, was rated second in the morning line at 9-2 behind Bodemeister at 4-1.
WENT THE DAY WELL – Team Valor International and Mark Ford’s Went the Day Well galloped a mile before standing in the starting gate and galloping just shy of another mile Thursday morning at Churchill Downs.
Trainer Graham Motion will saddle the New York-bred son of Proud Citizen in attempt to win back-to-back runnings of the Kentucky Derby Saturday. Motion, Team Valor International and jockey John Velazquez visited the winner’s circle last year with Animal Kingdom.
After realized every trainer’s dream, Motion naturally has a different perspective going into this year’s Run for the Roses.
“It was something that seemed unattainable before. Now that you’ve actually achieved it, it doesn’t seem quite so lofty. It’s very much still on a pedestal, winning the Derby. Like I said last year, it’s almost seemed unrealistic to make it a goal, because it’s such a hard to do,” Motion said. “Certainly, your perception is going to change, because you’ve achieved it. It’s like that with anything. If you climbed Everest, it would still be imposing, but not so unattainable.”
The last owner, trainer, jockey combination to win the Kentucky Derby back-to-back was the trio of Penny Chenery’s Meadow Stable, trainer Lucien Lauren and jockey Ron Turcotte, who doubled with Riva Ridge and Secretariat in 1972-73.