LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Saturday, April 23, 2011) – A strong five-furlong work over a sloppy Churchill Downs track by Michael Lauffer and W.D. Cubbedge’s Shackleford on Saturday reinforced trainer Dale Romans’ belief that his colt is a strong contender to win the 137th running of the $2 million guaranteed Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (Grade I) on Saturday, May 7.

All Romans has to do is find a way to get the 3-year-old son of Forestry into the Derby 137 starting gate.

Shackleford breezed five furlongs in 1:00.20 over Saturday morning’s wet footing. The training move under former jockey Tammy Fox, which came just after the track maintenance break during a special training session reserved for Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks horses, was the fastest of nine works at the distance. Shackleford covered the distance more than two seconds faster than the second-best work.

“I thought he worked as good as he could possibly work,” Romans said. “Now we’ve just got one more work next Saturday and hope we get in.”

Shackleford covered the distance over the soggy track in fractional times of :12, :23.80, :35.60 and :47.80. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.

While Shackleford is clearly doing well since his return to Churchill Downs, his earnings total in graded stakes races remains a major concern for Romans. The Kentucky Derby field is limited to 20 starters and in the case of an overflow field of entries, which seems likely this year and almost every year, preference is given to those with the highest earnings in graded stakes races. Shackleford has collected $212,000 in graded earnings, which places him 22nd on the current list of horses considered or possible for this year’s renewal of the Run for the Roses.

Romans, Lauffer and Cubbedge will sit tight over the next week and a half and see what develops before entries are made for the Derby on Wednesday, May 4. The $200,000-added The Cliff’s Edge Derby Trial (GII) at Churchill Downs on the track’s April 30 “Opening Night” card on April 30 could provide a final opportunity for Shackleford to boost those earnings, but Romans said it is not an option and Shackleford was not nominated to run.

“We’re not going to do anything crazy,” Romans said. “If it’s going to compromise our chances of winning (the Derby) we don’t want to be in there. If we don’t get in, we’ll wait for the Preakness.”

Romans found himself in a similar position last year with First Dude, who was training exceptionally well for Romans but was not entered in the Kentucky Derby because of insufficient graded stakes earnings. He ran a close second to eventual 3-year-old champion Lookin At Lucky in the Preakness two weeks after that Derby.

“It’s frustrating because I think a lot of people are going to run because they have the earnings and they can get in, whether they should or shouldn’t,” Romans said. “I think we’re a legitimate contender if we get in.”

Shackleford has a record of 2-1-0 in five races with overall earnings of $271,666.

THREE DERBY 137 CONTENDERS SET FOR SUNDAY WORKS – A trio of Kentucky Derby 137 contenders is set to work on Sunday at Churchill Downs, although weather could be an issue as rain is forecast to continue in the region over the next few days.

Risen Star (GII) winner Mucho Macho Man, Gotham (GIII) winner Stay Thirsty and Vinery Racing Spiral (GIII) runner-up Decisive Moment are expected to work during Sunday’s Derby/Oaks training session at approximately 8:30 a.m. (all times EDT). All three horses galloped during that session on Saturday.

DERBY 137 NOTES – Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan will ride Tom Walters’ Santiva in the Kentucky Derby. The Eddie Kenneally trainee won the Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) last fall at Churchill Downs, but finished ninth as the favorite in the Toyota Blue Grass. Santiva galloped over the sloppy track on Saturday. … Bob Baffert trainees The Factor and Midnight Interlude galloped during the Derby-Oaks training period. … Trainer Kelly Breen’s Pants On Fire, winner of the Louisiana Derby (GII), is set for a Sunday arrival at Churchill Downs after working five furlongs in 1:00.80 on Saturday at Florida’s Palm Meadows.

KENTUCKY OAKS 137 CONTENDERS R HEAT LIGHTNING, KATHMANBLU WORK – Two fillies likely to be among the top betting choices for the $1 million Kentucky Oaks (GI) -- E. Paul Robsham’s R Heat Lightning, winner of the Gulfstream Oaks (GII) and the likely Kentucky Oaks favorite, and Five D Thoroughbreds and Wind River Stables’ Golden Rod (GII) and Rachel Alexandra (GIII) winner Kathmanblu – braved a steady rain and sloppy track conditions just after the track maintenance break for Saturday workouts at Churchill Downs.

The Todd Pletcher-trained R Heat Lightning breezed four furlongs in: 49.80 under exercise rider Hector Ramos. Fractional splits for the work were :12.40, :24.80 and :37.20 and the daughter of Trippi galloped out five furlongs over the sloppy footing in 1:03.40.

“I thought she handled it pretty well,” Pletcher said. “She looked a little unsure when she first went off, she was kind of pricking her ears and looking at it (the track) a little bit. But once she settled in, she went fine and I thought her gallop-out was particularly good.

“You’re always a little concerned when you go out in conditions like that, but I think Churchill is one of the few places where you can kind of feel OK about it. It seems to handle bad weather well.”

Kathmanblu worked five furlongs in 1:02.80 in a move trainer Ken McPeek as a “maintenance work.” Exercise rider Will Aldana was in the saddle as the daughter of Bluegrass Cat worked in company with 4-year-old male stablemate Noble’s Promise, who ran fifth behind Super Saver in last year’s Kentucky Derby and is scheduled to compete on Kentucky Derby Day in the $300,000-added Churchill Downs Presented by Navistar (GII).

Fractional times for the move over the sloppy surface were :13.20, :25.40, :37.40 and :49.80. Noble’s Promise, who worked on the outside of Kathmanblu, was a neck in front of the Oaks contender at the finish.
“We just wanted her to stretch out,” McPeek said. “Noble’s Promise needed a work mate and she needed to do something over it, and it was good. We let him gallop out because he hadn’t run in four or five months.

Kathmanblu is coming off a third-place finish behind Lilacs and Lace as the favorite in Keeneland’s Central Bank Ashland (GI), which was run over the Lexington track’s synthetic Polytrack course. McPeek’s filly endured a wide journey during most of that 1 1/16-mile race

“We ran the best filly in the Ashland, but that’s just the way the ball bounced,” McPeek said.

OAKS 137 NOTES – Trainer Benard Chatters had hoped to work Martha Washington winner Holy Heavens on Saturday, but decided to wait on that move because of the weather. Chatters hopes the daughter of Holy Bull can work on Sunday. … Trainer J. Larry Jones arrived in Louisville to oversee the Oaks preparations by Fox Hill Farm’s Joyful Victory, an easy winner this year in Oaklawn’s Fantasy (GII) and Honeybee (GIII). Jones, who won the 2008 Oaks with Brereton Jones’ Proud Spell, said Joyful Victory would work on Monday. … Fantasy runner-up Arienza came out of a Friday work well, according to trainer Dan Peitz. The daughter of European champion Giant’s Causeway out of 2002 U.S. Horse of the Year Azeri breezed four furlongs over a fast track in :49.40. Peitz said the Kentucky Oaks remains an option for his filly, but the $100,000 Eight Belles Presented by ACS, A Xerox Company (GIII) could be a more likely spot for Arienza’s fourth career start. … Dede McGehee’s Fair Grounds Oaks (GII) runner-up St. John’s River galloped over Saturday’s sloppy going. Trainer Andrew Leggio Jr. said the daughter of Include would work on Thursday and would be ridden in the Oaks by Rosie Napravnik. … Peachtree Stable’s Plum Pretty, a 25-length winner of the Sunland Oaks, galloped after the break for trainer Bob Baffert.