Kentucky Derby Contenders
Saffie Joseph 1000 wins
Ken McPeek 3000 wins
Sovereign Award finalists
From the rail out: Flameaway, Hofburg, Coach Rocks, and Free Drop Billy around the turn on Wednesday morning.
Wednesday morning was overcast with temperatures in the high 60's during training at Churchill Downs and the track was fast after the renovation break. Most of the Kentucky Derby and Oaks horses came out for their special private workout session at 7:30 after the break, although Mendelssohn was still in quarantine and Enticed came out at a different time. Below are photos for 19 Derby horses and 11 Oaks fillies from this morning on the track with comments for each. You can watch video of today's training session here. When they are showing the talking head guys with the spires behind them, I am in the background in a black shirt. :-)
Kentucky DerbyAudible galloped 10f under exercise rider Amelia Green. He later schooled in the Churchill paddock.
Audible Inc., the world's largest seller and producer of downloadable audiobooks and other spoken-word entertainment, will donate $25,000 to the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance as a continuation of their involvement with Kentucky Derby contender Audible.
|Bolt d'Oro schooled in the starting gate before galloping 10f under exercise rider Jose Velazquez. "When he dropped from first to fifth or sixth now after he lost the Santa Anita Derby, every week I just put more money in a suitcase to come here to bet on him Saturday," owner-trainer Mick Ruis said. "That's how confident we are. But you can't put a money value on winning the race." Jockey Victor Espinoza, on hand to watch the work, added, "I was excited because I think he's the right horse to be on in the Kentucky Derby. He has the talent; he has the power, the endurance for the 1 1/4. Also, he has experience. He's run in front; he's run from behind; he's run in the middle. I like that. He already has that experience. When it comes to a 20-horse field, it helps a lot."
|Bravazo galloped 12f under exercise rider Danielle Rosier. Trainer D. Wayne Lukas said, "He does everything right. He's a real nice horse to be around. He's not hard to train. The post position (13) I like, the strategy I won't talk about. I was hoping for 14 or 15, so it's close. We're good. There are horses on either side of us who don't break real sharp, so we should get a good position."
|Combatant galloped 12f under exercise rider Angel Garcia. Trainer Steve Asmussen said, "Noble Indy, who is directly to our inside, is capable of some pace, so we'll just follow him out. We'll let him clear a path for us and we should keep our face clean for at least the first 1/8 mile. Obviously, it's not (the post, 20) I was looking for. The horse has just been horribly unlucky with his draws. The difference with the Derby is you at least have 1/4 mile into the first turn. When you're only going 1 1/16, 1 1/8, you have very few options. Maybe staying clean for a little longer will help keep him closer. Looking at the race, there's a tremendous amount of ability. The one thing I'm sure of is a majority of the horses won't be where they want, won't get the position they want and won't get the trip they want."
|Firenze Fire jogged 5f and galloped 1 mile. Trainer Jason Servis said, "I've been here a few times. My sister (Laurie Plesa) owned Itsmyluckyday and I was here for Smarty (Jones). I think about how much pressure my brother (John) had, because Smarty was undefeated coming in here. And there was the bonus Oaklawn put on – they put up a million dollars in their 100th year to win the Arkansas Derby and the Kentucky Derby. He had a lot on his plate."
|Flameaway jogged a mile under exercise rider Chris Garraway and ponied by assistant trainer Nick Tomlinson, then galloped a mile alone and schooled in the starting gate. Trainer Mark Casse said, "I think Good Magic looks good training. I think of course Justify looks great. But I've seen Good Magic train this winter a little bit, and he's better now. I think he looks great."
|Free Drop Billy galloped 1 1/2 miles
Wednesday morning at 7:30 for trainer Dale Romans. Blue Grass third Free Drop Billy drew post two for the Kentucky
Derby and will be ridden by Robby Albarado. "Robby is my main guy,"
Romans said. "We've won multiple Breeders' Cup races together. It
would be incredibly special if we could ever win a Derby together."
Late Tuesday night Free Drop Billy's namesake, Bill Collins, arrived
in Kentucky and was able to meet his namesake Wednesday morning at
"Bill and I would always play golf and get into little arguments about the
actual rules of a 'free drop'," Albaugh said. "Bill, on the other hand, would
always take more drops than I would and somehow always dropped in a much
better spot that he was supposed to. Hence the name Free Drop Billy." "I
recall things a bit differently," Collins joked. "I swear I was always playing
by the actual rules. Joking aside it's truly an honor to be in this position
with a Derby horse named after me. It's going to be a fun week."
|Good Magic galloped 11f under exercise rider Walter Malasquez. "I'm like Chad's Sherpa," owner Bob Edwards said. "I had him move to Boca Raton, Fla. this winter, a mile from my house. We spent a lot of time together over the Gulfstream season, he was at the house quite a bit, went to dinner quite a bit, and I reprogrammed him. I'm like Deepak Chopra for Chad. Going into something like this loose and happy helps you make clear decisions. I haven't seen him smile this much in a long time." He later schooled in the paddock.
|Hofburg schooled in the paddock, galloped 12f, and schooled in the starting gate with exercise rider Penny Gardiner. Kenny McCarthy, assistant to trainer Bill Mott said, "We were probably a little stronger galloping today. We got hooked up with a little bit of company coming down the stretch, but that's also a good sign." Mott, who is still 0-for-8 in the Derby, added, "I try to downplay the Derby when I don't have a horse in. But, of course, anybody would have to realize that it would be a great race to win. We're happy to be here and we want to run well and we want to be proud of our horse after the race. And I think he will make us proud."
|Instilled Regard went out at 7:30am with exercise rider Edgar Rodriguez and followed on foot by Christina Jelm, assistant to trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. Jelm said, "He jogged over to the paddock and had a couple turns there and then came back out and galloped 1 1/2 before jogging back home. He moved very well and was very alert. His head was up and his ears were up. He's really showing how the class is coming through in his pedigree and he's being a professional and enjoying himself. I think he's matured a lot mentally and physically. I don't think we've seen the bottom of this horse and I think we should throw out his last two races. Shipping over to the Risen Star didn't go well and then being so far back in the Santa Anita Derby was just too much to ask of him to close that amount of ground. I don't feel that either race took a whole lot out of him. At this point, we're coming in really strong and with a huge foundation. He's definitely still on the improve and I think he is a stayer with a huge length of stride. He gets up in his cruising speed and you just let him roll."
|Justify schooled in the starting gate then galloped 10f under exercise rider Humberto Gomez. He also schooled in the paddock during the 1st race in the afternoon. Trainer Bob Baffert said, "They're here and they're still doing well."
|Lone Sailor galloped 12f under exercise rider Maurice Sanchez. Trainer Tom Amoss said, "We're in a great position. We know he needs to improve but he showed us in the Louisiana Derby he belongs."
|Magnum Moon galloped 10f under exercise rider Nick Bush. Bush said, "I don't know how he does it," exercise rider Bush said. "He's here every morning, early. Always calm; always in control. You can count on him. He never misses. Like a rock. His athleticism. Just the way he moves. He's so quick and so natural with it. Right from Day One you could see it and feel it. He was just professional. You like to be around horses like him." He later schooled in the Churchill paddock for the first time.
|My Boy Jack went by me twice, jogging the wrong way with exercise rider Peedy Landry with the pony in front of him, then later schooled in the paddock. Trainer Keith Desormeaux said, "We're checking all the clues and he's making us happy. He's got that good appetite and it continues. He's got good energy going to the track and back at the barn. He's feeling good and that's what you want coming up to a race, especially a big race."
|Noble Indy galloped 10f and schooled in the starting gate under exercise rider Carlos Cano. He later schooled in the Churchill paddock.
|Promises Fulfilled galloped 12f. Owner Bob Baron said, "I love seeing this atmosphere in the morning, I love all of the excitement around Derby week and I'm very lucky to have my family here enjoying it with me. I'm not too nervous yet but I'm sure when the horses are walking to the starting gate I'll get butterflies in my stomach."
|Solomini schooled in the starting gate and then galloped 10f under exercise rider Humberto Gomez. He also schooled in the paddock during the 1st race in the afternoon.
|Vino Rosso galloped 10f under exercise rider Adele Bellinger. He later schooled in the Churchill paddock for the first time.
|Blended Citizen is the lone also-eligible in the field and needs one scratch by Friday morning in order to draw in. He galloped 11f under exercise rider Jonny Garcia. Jack Sisterton, assistant to trainer Doug O'Neill said, "Fingers crossed," hoping to draw in.
Kentucky OaksSassy Sienna (post 1) schooled in the starting gate and galloped 11f. Trainer Brad Cox said, "Sassy Sienna puts a lot into her training as well. I couldn't be happier with all three of them. "The Derby and Oaks are always something to look forward to. It's fun. You just want to be competitive. We had a great weekend last year (3 stakes wins) so we hope we can repeat that. We have 11 entered Friday and three on Saturday, so it will be busy."
|Coach Rocks (post 2) galloped 12f for trainer Dale Romans. She is 12-1 on the morning line.
|Classy Act (post 3) galloped 12f and then schooled in the starting gate with exercise rider Peter Mudd. Brian Hernandez Jr. has the mount 15-1 morning line).
|Chocolate Martini (post 4) galloped 12f. Owner Amanda DaBruzzo said, "I got started in horse racing with some family friends at Arlington Park. I absolutely fell in love with the sport. Six years later I was given a share in a horse and I was hooked. It's really fitting to be a female owner and have a horse in the Oaks. I think women are really starting to break down the barriers and walls in this industry. There are so many incredible horsewomen in this game – from the Queen of England to Penny Chenery and everyone in between."
|Wonder Gadot (post 5) galloped 10f under exercise rider Orlando Cross. Trainer Mark Casse said, "Same as always, she went straight off. With the big crowd I don't want her backing up. She likes to kick people. She broke somebody's ribs, so she has a little bit of super power. She has a thing, she has a habit of liking to leap through the air. Saratoga, when she would gallop, for the first 1/8 mile she would only hit the ground maybe five times. So she actually, like her namesake, can fly."
|Kelly's Humor (post 6) schooled in the starting gate and galloped 11f. Trainer Brad Cox said, "Hopefully, the mile and an eighth will help Kelly's Humor. She needs the distance."
|Heavenhasnynikki (post 8) galloped 12f under jockey Calvin Borel, who picked up the mount for the Oaks. Trainer Anthony Quartarolo said, "She is better than she looks on paper. She is moving smoother than she has ever been and I have had her since the beginning. She really likes this track. She had issues every time she worked at Gulfstream (Park). It is just a question of if she is good enough."
|Take Charge Paula (post 9) schooled in the paddock and galloped 11f under exercise rider Jason Gracia. Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said, "She did great. She does everything right. She gets a little more worked up on race day that he does, so that's why we wanted to do something with her. We might do something again with her. She gets a little bit on her toes, but that's what makes her great."
|Midnight Bisou (post 10) galloped 10f under exercise rider Jesus Camacho. Trainer Bill Spawr said, "We'll see how she does over there (during paddock schooling) this afternoon and that will tell us whether or not we'll need to take her back tomorrow."
|Eskimo Kisses (post 13) galloped 12f under exercise rider Mario Conbento for trainer Ken McPeek. She will break from post No. 13 iwith Churchill Downs' perennial leading rider Corey Lanerie in the saddle.
|Monomoy Girl (post 14) schooled in the starting gate and galloped 11f. Trainer Brad Cox said, "It was her first day galloping after a work, so that was expected. She's aggressive in her gallops. She's moving really well."
Left: A different look at the Barbaro statue, trying to get as much equipment out the background as possible, from Tuesday afternoon.
Right: 2017 Kentucky Oaks winner Abel Tasman schooling in the paddock on Tuesday afternoon. She is entered in the La Troienne Stakes (G1) on Oaks Day.
The silver $1000 Bluegrass mint julep cup and the gold $2500 Commonwealth mint julep cup at the Woodford Reserve booth on Wednesday morning. More info about those is here.
Left: A giant (about 6 feet tall) mint julep cup showing this year's glass. I would skip them and buy the glass alone as the mass produced drink tastes awful. They at $10 today, but will be higher on Oaks and Derby days for sure.
Right: The purple torrie horse statue for Breeders' Cup tucked behind the paddock next to the ATMs. I am sure it will be out more prominently for Breeders' Cup.
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