Edited Churchill Staff Release — St. Elias Stable and Repole Stable’s Kentucky Derby favorite Forte arrived at Churchill Downs from South Florida just after 4 a.m. Monday.
Forte arrived following a 14-hour van ride from his winter base at Palm Beach Downs in Delray Beach, Fla. The talented 3-year-old colt will enter this year’s Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (Grade I) with a deep résumé that includes victories in the Hopeful (GI), Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI), Fountain of Youth (GII) and Florida Derby (GI).
Forte, the champion 2-year-old male of 2022, is based in Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcher’s Barn 39 at Churchill Downs, which has quickly become full with 36 horses including fellow Kentucky Derby contenders Kingsbarns and Tapit Trice.
Spendthrift Farm’s Kingsbarns arrived around 9 a.m. from Palm Beach Downs. Less than 24 hours earlier, Whisper Hill Farm and Gainesway Stables’ Tapit Trice vanned from Keeneland to Churchill Downs.
SUNLAND PARK DERBY WINNER WILD ON ICE BREEZES FIVE FURLONGS IN 1:00 – Frank Sumpter’s Sunland Park Derby (GIII) hero Wild On Ice had his first published workout at Churchill Downs on Monday morning when he breezed five furlongs in 1:00 with 60-year-old jockey Ken Tohill in the irons.
Trained by Joel Marr, Wild On Ice began his work at 6 a.m. and breezed through fractions of 11:40, :23, :35.20 and :47.60, according to Churchill Downs clocker John Nichols. The New Mexico-based gelding galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.20 and completed seven furlongs in 1:28.
“Everything seemed to work perfectly this morning and you don’t really see that a lot in horse racing,” Marr said. “We’re taking every day in stride and enjoying being part of this year’s Kentucky Derby.”
Wild On Ice would be the first mount for Tohill at Churchill Downs and first starter for Marr. Also, Tohill would become the oldest jockey to ever ride in the Kentucky Derby, surpassing Jon Court, who was 58 when he rode Long Range Toddy to a 16th-place finish in 2019.
“We know coming to Kentucky there are a lot more accomplished jockeys and trainers than us,” Tohill said. “It is the elite of the elite. But, we’re coming to compete with them.”
Marr has stayed in Louisville with Wild On Ice for a week and could stay through the duration of the Kentucky Derby.
“I’ll probably stick around here,” Marr said. “Not that I don’t trust the guys at the barn but it could be a once in a lifetime opportunity and I want to savor every moment.”
Marr, who’s most known for training star mare Pepper’s Pride throughout her 19-for-19 campaign in the mid-2000s, trains primarily in New Mexico but knows what it’s like to prepare horses at Churchill Downs. In 2018, Marr’s trainee Blamed, who qualified for the Longines Kentucky Oaks by winning the Sunland Park Oaks, was based at Churchill Downs. Blamed did not get to run in that year’s Kentucky Oaks due to injury.
“It was a tough go the last time we were here,” Marr said. “We were in the southeast corner of Barn 43 last time. Maybe it’s better we switched things up and are on the southwest corner this time.”
Marr and Tohill have had a long relationship on and off the racetrack. Marr began riding Tohill in the mid-2000s and has been his go-to rider ever since.
“The great thing about Ken is you never have to worry about his work ethic,” Marr said. “He always shows up at 5:30 each morning and is ready to work hard. I’ve seen his same work ethic 15 years ago as I do today. He’s been a part of Wild On Ice’s journey to the Kentucky Derby since he started his career at Zia Park.”
“Loyalty is what comes to mind when I think of Joel,” Tohill continued. “When I first met Joel, I rode a winner for him at Zia Park. During the race there was an incident at the gate and a horse got loose at the start. At the time, I really didn’t know what happened but my wife told me, ‘Did you see what Joel did?’ Joel ended up going onto the racetrack and herded the horse to the outside rail after the outriders weren’t able to catch him. By doing that, he saved all of us in the race from what could’ve been a really bad situation. And the loose horse came back safe. That’s just the type of guy Joel is. He’s more like family to me than anything. He’s supported me and trusted me to ride some of his best horses. He’s allowed me to be on this journey with him. Even if I wasn’t riding this horse in the Derby, I’d still be supporting Joel.”
No matter what happens in the Kentucky Derby, Marr is enjoying his time training a contender for this year’s “Run for the Roses.”
“I know we’ll be one of the longest shots on the board. However, last year’s race proved anything can happen in the Kentucky Derby,” Marr said.
SHAPING UP: THE KENTUCKY DERBY – Here are the horses (with trainers) that are qualified for the Kentucky Derby and those on the also-eligible list (in alphabetical order with AEs listed last in preference order):
Angel of Empire (trainer Brad Cox); Blazing Sevens (Chad Brown); Confidence Game (Keith Desormeaux); Continuar (JPN) (Yoshito Yahagi); Derma Sotogake (JPN) (Hidetaka Otonashi); Disarm (Steve Asmussen); Forte (Todd Pletcher); Hit Show (Brad Cox); Kingsbarns (Todd Pletcher); Lord Miles (Saffie Joseph Jr.); Mage (Gustavo Delgado); Practical Move (Tim Yakteen); Raise Cain (Ben Colebrook); Reincarnate (Tim Yakteen); Rocket Can (Bill Mott); Sun Thunder (Kenny McPeek); Tapit Trice (Todd Pletcher); Two Phil’s (Larry Rivelli); Verifying (Brad Cox); and Wild On Ice (Joel Marr).
Also-Eligible: Jace’s Road (Brad Cox); Skinner (John Shirreffs); Cyclone Mischief (Dale Romans); Major Dude (Todd Pletcher); and Mandarin Hero (JPN) (Terunobu Fujita).
SHAPING UP: THE KENTUCKY OAKS – Here are the horses (with trainers) that are qualified for the Longines Kentucky Oaks and those on the also-eligible list (in alphabetical order with AEs listed last in preference order):
Affirmative Lady (Graham Motion); And Tell Me Nolies (Peter Miller); Botanical (Brad Cox); Defining Purpose (Kenny McPeek); Dorth Vader (Mike Yates); Flying Connection (Todd Fincher); Gambling Girl (Todd Pletcher); Mimi Kakushi (Salem bin Ghadayer); Pretty Mischievous (Brendan Walsh); Promisher America (Ray Handal); Shidabhuti (Chad Brown); Southlawn (Norm Casse); The Alys Look (Brad Cox); and Wet Paint (Brad Cox).
Also-Eligible: Wonder Wheel (Mark Casse); Taxed (Randy Morse); Julia Shining (Todd Pletcher); Hoosier Philly (Tom Amoss); and Punchbowl (Brad Cox).
DOWN THE STRETCH – Sunland Park Oaks winner Flying Connection had her first local workout where she completed five furlongs in 1:01 with jockey Florent Geroux in the saddle for trainer Todd Fincher. Flying Connection galloped out six furlongs in 1:14.20. … Lexington Stakes (GIII) third-place finisher Disarm returned to Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen’s Barn 38 at Churchill Downs on Sunday morning. Disarm jumped into the Kentucky Derby field with his finish in the Lexington Stakes. … Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott is on the grounds at Churchill Downs. Mott arrived Saturday morning and has been overseeing his string of horses in Barn 19 that includes Kentucky Derby contender Rocket Can. Among Mott’s other trainees at Churchill Downs is Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI) winner Elite Power who returned to the work tab Monday with an easy three-furlong move in :38.20. …