LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Monday, April 30, 2018)
Contact: Gary Yunt
Notes Team Captain
Churchill Downs Racetrack
(303) 981-5629 (mobile)
– Winchell Thoroughbreds and Willis Horton Racing’s Combatant completed his major preparation for Kentucky Derby 144 (Grade I) by working a half-mile in :49.60 on a brisk Monday morning at Churchill Downs.
Fourth in the Arkansas Derby (GI) in his most recent start, Combatant was partnered in the work by Angel Garcia for trainer Steve Asmussen.
By day’s end, the entire cast for the Kentucky Derby was expected to be on the grounds.
Firenze Fire arrived at 3:50 a.m. by van from New York and Enticed arrived before noon by van from Florida. Arriving mid-afternoon from California were likely Derby favorite Justify, stablemate Solomini and Bolt d’Oro.
The cast was scheduled to be completed late this afternoon with the arrival of UAE Derby (GII) winner Mendelssohn.
A total of 14 fillies were entered Monday morning for the 144th running of the $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) with Monomoy Girl being made the 2-1 morning-line favorite by Churchill Downs linemaker Mike Battaglia. Midnight Bisou is the 5-2 second choice.
KENTUCKY DERBY NOTES
AUDIBLE/MAGNUM MOON/NOBLE INDY/VINO ROSSO – The four stakes winners from the Todd Pletcher barn went trackside Monday as a group to take advantage of the cleared racetrack during the 7:30 to 7:45 special training period for Derby and Oaks runners. It was a bright, sunshine-filled morning full of crisp air and the Pletcher charges – as they almost always do – sparkled with good looks and good health.
Audible, the Florida Derby (GI) champ, had regular exercise rider Amelia Green in the tack; Arkansas Derby (GI) star Magnum Moon was partnered by Nick Bush; Louisiana Derby (GII) hero Noble Indy went with Carlos Cano, and Wood Memorial (GII) ace Vino Rosso was piloted by Adele Bellinger. They all went through the six-furlong gap and backtracked past the finish line before turning to begin their gallops, which went with good energy for between a mile and three-eighths and a mile and a half.
Pletcher looked on from trackside and liked what he saw.
“They’ll gallop for the rest of the week; that’s the plan for now,” he said. “They’ll all get to the paddock at least once in the afternoon. We’ll have to figure out a plan there.”
The seven-time Eclipse Award winner as America’s top trainer was asked if any of the quartet had any quirks or habits that separated him from the others.
“Noble Indy can be a little ‘animated’ around the gate,” the conditioner noted. “But he’s been getting better. We’ve been working with him and he’s doing good.”
BLENDED CITIZEN – Greg Hall and SAYJAY Racing’s Blended Citizen jogged on the main track at Keeneland Monday under Jonny Garcia for trainer Doug O’Neill.
No. 21 on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard, Blended Citizen was scheduled to leave Keeneland at 10:30 this morning for the short van ride to Churchill Downs. Kyle Frey has the mount on Blended Citizen if he makes the 20-horse field.
BOLT D’ORO – Ruis Racing LLC’s Bolt d’Oro was scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs Monday afternoon following a flight from Southern California.
Trainer/owner Mick Ruis, who spent the past two days inspecting his newly purchased farm in Lexington, arrived at Churchill Downs earlier in the day to welcome the son of Medaglia d’Oro.
BRAVAZO – Calumet Farm’s Bravazo returned to the track two days after posting his final breeze and galloped 1 ½ miles under Danielle Rosier. The Awesome Again colt, who could give Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas his fifth Kentucky Derby win, also schooled in the paddock.
“He’s good, he’s fine,” Lukas said. “He’s a tough horse, a really tough horse. The nice thing about him is that you never get to the bottom of him. You never have to worry if you’ve done too much with him. He’s always wanting to do more.”
The Risen Star (GII) winner will be ridden for the first time in the Derby by jockey Luis Contreras.
“Luis has worked him a couple times,” Lukas said. “I’m real comfortable with him. I think he’ll be a good fit.”
COMBATANT – Winchell Thoroughbreds and Willis Horton’s Combatant, who was not worse than fourth in four prep races this spring at Oaklawn, completed his major Kentucky Derby preparations by breezing a half-mile in :49.60 and galloping out five furlongs in 1:03.80 Monday under Angel Garcia.
“It went well,” trainer Steve Asmussen said. “He’s spent a lot of time training here, so he’s comfortable with the surroundings. I thought he put in a very typical breeze for the week of the race.”
While he hopes Combatant draws outside Tuesday, Asmussen said he wouldn’t be disappointed to draw the inside after finishing second last year with Lookin At Lee, who had drawn the rail.
“It’s the Derby and 20 horses, so I’d rather him be towards the outside,” the trainer said. “However, that’s where he’s been all winter when I didn’t want him there, so I’m sure he’ll probably draw the inside this time.
“He does have a similar personality to Lookin at Lee and I thought he did a really good job of making the most of his one hole last year. I do think that’s the type of trip we’d like to recreates with a very similar horse.”
ENTICED – Godolphin LLC’s Enticed arrived at Churchill Downs mid-morning Monday following a van ride from Belmont Park.
The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained colt, who was accompanied by stablemate and Kentucky Oaks entrant Take Charge Paula, will be sent to the track at 9 a.m. to continue his preparation for a scheduled start in Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.
“Enticed will gallop the next four days, but he will go out at 9 because we only have one (exercise) rider,” said McLaughlin, noting that Take Charge Paula will gallop during the designated period for Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks horses.
McLaughlin is scheduled to arrive in Louisville Monday evening.
FIRENZE FIRE –– Mr. Amore Stable’s Firenze Fire arrived at Churchill Downs at 3:50 a.m. Monday following a van ride from Belmont Park.
Owner/breeder Ron Lombardi arrived at Churchill Downs a few hours later and was pleased to see a happy colt in Stall 22 of Barn 41.
“He’s bright and alert. It looks like he had a good trip,” said Lombardi, who owns a chain of 70 physical therapy centers in New York, Florida and New Jersey.
Firenze Fire will be Lombardi’s first Kentucky Derby entrant.
“It’s a dream come true. Since I got into horse racing, it’s been my goal to make it to the Derby. I never thought it would happen, especially with a homebred. That’s what’s amazing,” said the Winter Park, Florida and Mountain Lakes, New Jersey resident, who owns 60 horses, including 13 broodmares, 12 weanlings, seven yearlings and eight 2-year-olds.
Firenze Fire is out of My Every Wish, a Langfuhr mare whom he claimed for $16,000 and ran twice before being retired because of a breathing problem.
“I’m going back to Poseidon’s Warrior with My Every Wish to see if I can strike lightning twice,” Lombardi said.
Lombardi expected trainer Jason Servis to arrive at Churchill Downs later Monday.
FLAMEAWAY – Flameaway’s regular exercise rider, Chris Garraway, has been involved in the horse racing industry for around 45 years, but never had ridden a horse preparing for the Kentucky Derby before he started getting on the chestnut colt owned by John Oxley. Garraway, a native of Trinidad and Tobago, began working for trainer Mark Casse in 2016, and says Flameaway is the best horse he has ever ridden.
“I think he likes it down here (at Churchill Downs)… he does everything right here,” Garraway said. “Which is good, he loves the crowd – ‘cause that’s half the race. That don’t faze him. I think we haven’t seen the best of him yet. He’s maturing and he’s doing great.”
Flameaway jogged one lap around the track this morning with Garraway aboard during the 7:30-7:45 training period for Oaks and Derby Horses, ponied by Casse assistant Nick Tomlinson. Casse said Flameaway will gallop tomorrow.
FREE DROP BILLY/PROMISES FULFILLED – Albaugh Family Stables’ Free Drop Billy and Robert Baron’s Promises Fulfilled jogged one mile Monday morning at 7:30 for trainer Dale Romans.
“We’re doing well,” Romans said. “All the major stuff is out of the way and we’ll see what happens tomorrow at the draw.”
Both horses are stabled in Barn 4 at Churchill Downs.
GOOD MAGIC – Last year’s Eclipse Award-winning Champion 2-Year-Old Male, owned by e Five Racing Thoroughbreds & Stonestreet Stables LLC, “trotted once around the track” this morning with regular exercise rider Walter Malasquez aboard, according to two-time Eclipse Award-winning trainer Chad Brown.
“He was moving very, very well,” Brown said. “He bounced out of his work and I’m real happy with this horse.”
One advantage that Good Magic seems to have over a few of the other leading Derby candidates is his experience in both tight quarters and full fields. With 2017 Eclipse Award-winning jockey Jose Ortiz piloting, Good Magic split horses en route to winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) at Del Mar in a field of 12 and negotiated a full field of 14 in the Blue Grass Stakes (GII) at Keeneland.
“In the first turn he was in tight and got bounced around a little bit,” Brown said. “I’m really proud of this horse and how he sort of elbowed his way in there and held his spot. He’s a medium-sized, very athletic, well-made horse, but he’s not some monster that’s physically going to push horses around. He’s tough now and if he gets bumped he’ll bump you right back. He has a very determined attitude and that race in the Blue Grass provided him more experience in tight quarters and I was proud that he stepped up there.”
HOFBURG – Juddmonte Farms Inc.’s homebred Florida Derby (GI) runner-up Hofburg had an easy morning walking the shedrow at Barn 19, the same Churchill Downs barn that Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott has been in for 38 years. Mott reported he was pleased with how Hofburg looked the morning after a half-mile work.
Hofburg is the lone Derby horse with only two starts as a 3-year-old. Unlike favored Justify, though, the Tapit colt debuted as a 2-year-old, finishing an even fourth in a one-turn Saratoga maiden race before being sidelined by minor injuries Mott described as “baby issues.” A late-summer sprint might not seem that consequential to a horse’s Derby chances, but Mott believes it is better than being unraced at 2, the scenario known as the “Curse of Apollo,” referring to the last Derby winner, in 1882, who didn’t record a start at 2.
“If you believe in statistics you’ll believe in it and I definitely think there’s something to it,” Mott said. “Even if a horse has one race as a 2-year-old and they have that time, I think actually the time after the race is probably as important as the race at 2. You have to let them regroup a bit after their first run or two and I think any horse that’s had a couple races early on and then had that time to develop and grow really benefit from it.”
Hofburg is named for the Vienna palace and surrounding neighborhood that is the official residence of the President of Austria. Built in the 13th century, the Hofburg was the seat of power of the Hapsburg dynasty and the Holy Roman Empire.
INSTILLED REGARD – OXO Equine LLC’s Kentucky Derby sponsored by Woodford Reserve (GI) contender Instilled Regard is currently bound for Louisville, Kentucky, on a flight that is expected to land at 12:30 p.m. assistant trainer Dan Ward, second in command to Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer, confirmed that information Monday morning. The Grade III winner will take up residence in the same Barn 41 that saw fellow Hollendorfer pupil Battle of Midway prepare for an eventual third-place finish in last year’s Run for the Roses.
JUSTIFY/SOLOMINI – Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s Derby duo of China Horse Club International Ltd., Head of Plains Partners, Starlight Racing & WinStar Farm LLC’s Justify and Zayat Stables LLC, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael B. Tabor & Derrick Smith’s Solomini were en route to Churchill Downs after leaving Santa Anita Park early Monday morning. Following a flight from Southern California to Louisville, the Santa Anita Derby (GI) winner and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) runner-up are expected at Churchill Downs around 1:45 p.m. ET.
According to the H.E. Tex Sutton Forwarding Company flight tracker, Kalitta Charters Flight 725, a modified Boeing 727, departed Ontario (Calif.) International Airport at 6:50 a.m. PDT for a three-hour and 28-minute flight.
LONE SAILOR – G M B Racing’s Lone Sailor galloped 1 ½ miles with exercise rider Maurice Sanchez up at 5:30 a.m. Monday for trainer Tom Amoss.
“I’m not too nervous yet,” said jockey James Graham who will make his first start in the Kentucky Derby. “I think once I get down to the gate and see the quarter-mile run to the first turn it will truly hit me.”
“He’s doing well,” Amoss said. “We just need to keep him happy until Saturday and cross our fingers he can improve a bit.”
MENDELSSOHN – Michael B. Tabor, Mrs. John Magnier and Derrick Smith’s Kentucky Derby contender Mendelssohn is en route to Louisville, Kentucky, from his Ballydoyle base in County Tipperary, Ireland on Monday morning. The earner of $1,961,137 is expected to land around 5:30 p.m. ET. He will immediately enter quarantine in Barn 17 and is expected to clear in time to train on Wednesday morning.
Victorious over three surfaces in as many previous starts – on dirt in the UAE Derby (GII), all-weather in the Patton Stakes (Listed) and grass in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (GI) – the half-brother to four-time champion Beholder is joined on his flight by Grade I winner Deauville, Group II winner War Decree and multiple stakes-placed Threeandfpourpence. The first two appear likely for the Old Forester Turf Classic (GI), while the last named is a candidate for the American Turf (GII). Both races are on the Kentucky Derby undercard.
MY BOY JACK – Don’t Tell My Wife Stables, Monomoy Stables and West Point Thoroughbreds’ multiple stakes winner My Boy Jack galloped a bit more than a mile Monday morning under regular exercise rider Peedy Landry during the special training period for Derby and Oaks runners. The sleek, near-black colt by Creative Cause went about his business in good fashion and drew a nod of approval from trainer Keith Desormeaux.
“We’ll jog him a couple of miles tomorrow,” the conditioner noted, “and figure out some sort of paddock schooling for him as the week goes on. So far so good; he’s holding up well.”
My Boy Jack registered his initial victory in the Zuma Beach Stakes at Santa Anita last October, then followed that up by being beaten only three lengths in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (GI) at Del Mar in November. He’s run in four stakes this year, winning two and running second and third in the others. When he competes next on Saturday in Kentucky Derby 144, it will be his 11th start, the most by any runner in the projected 20-horse field.
Trainer Desormeaux will give his brother Kent a leg up in the Run for the Roses and it will be the eighth time the Hall of Fame jockey has handled the stretch-running colt.
SHAPING UP: THE KENTUCKY DERBY – Likely starters in the 144th running of the $2 million, Grade I Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve to be run for 3-year-olds at 1 1/4 miles on Saturday, May 5:
Audible (jockey Javier Castellano), Bolt d’Oro (Victor Espinoza), Bravazo (Luis Contreras), Combatant (Ricardo Santana Jr.), Enticed (Junior Alvarado), Firenze Fire (Paco Lopez), Flameaway (Jose Lezcano), Free Drop Billy (Robby Albarado), Good Magic (Jose Ortiz), Hofburg (Irad Ortiz Jr.), Instilled Regard (Drayden Van Dyke), Justify (Mike Smith), Lone Sailor (James Graham), Magnum Moon (Luis Saez), Mendelssohn (Ryan Moore), My Boy Jack (Kent Desormeaux), Noble Indy (Florent Geroux), Promises Fulfilled (Corey Lanerie), Solomini (Flavien Prat), Vino Rosso (John Velazquez).
Next up in order of preference: Blended Citizen (Kyle Frey), Restoring Hope (TBA), Sporting Chance (TBA), Givemeaminit (TBA) and Pony Up (TBA).