Kentucky Derby Contenders
Saffie Joseph 1000 wins
Ken McPeek 3000 wins
Sovereign Award finalists
All days: 4/22, 4/23, 4/24, 4/25, 4/26, 4/27, 4/28, 4/29, 4/30, 5/01, 5/02, 5/03, 5/04, 5/05
Sunday saw three timed works during the exclusive 7:30-7:45am training session for Kentucky Derby and Oaks horses. Also, Morello was dropped from the Derby which allows Pioneer of Medina to draw in. Video for this morning's works can be viewed here on YouTube. Videos of individual horses in timed works can be found here.
From a Churchill Downs press release:
With less than two weeks remaining until the $3 million Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (Grade I) and $1.25 million Longines Kentucky Oaks, top contenders Epicenter (six furlongs, 1:12.20) and Echo Zulu (six furlongs, 1:11.80) had their most serious workouts prior to the first weekend in May. Along with Derby contender Epicenter, Teruya Yoshida's UAE Derby (G2) winner Crown Pride (JPN) had another tune-up for the "Run for the Roses" and breezed a half-mile in :49.20.
L and N Racing and Winchell Thoroughbreds' undefeated filly Echo Zulu was the first of Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen's duo to work. The daughter of Gun Runner breezed with exercise rider Wilson Fabian in the saddle. The duo broke to the inside of regular workmate King Ottoman, who was ridden by former jockey Eddie Martin Jr. Echo Zulu worked through eighth-mile fractions of :12.20, :23.80, :35.60 and :47.40. She galloped out seven furlongs in 1:25.20, according to Churchill Downs clocker John Nichols.
Epicenter on Saturday morning
"We're so happy the weather has cooperated on our scheduled work days. The racetrack is in great shape this morning," Asmussen said after he arrived in Louisville following an eight-hour overnight drive from Oaklawn Park. "These were the most significant works for us. We're following a pattern that we're very comfortable with. I love the rhythm these horses are in. Both of these horses have kept their same workmates from New Orleans this winter. I'm unbelievably appreciative of the job Wilson and Eddie have done helping get them to this point. They've both started out as tremendous prospects and individuals. We're aiming with incremental improvement to not take too big of a leap forward. So everything is a building block to success. Since they have arrived here at Churchill that trend has continued. I was so excited with Echo Zulu's first work here."
Epicenter and Echo Zulu completed the $1 million TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (G2) and $400,000 Fair Grounds Oaks (G2) double in late March.
Asmussen, who is North America's all-time leading trainer in wins, has made 23 starts in the Kentucky Derby but has failed to win the 1 1/4-mile event. His trainees have finished second and third, twice each, in the Kentucky Derby. His last starter to hit the board was Lookin At Lee, who finished second in 2017. Asmussen also finished third in 2016 with Gun Runner, second in 2011 with Nehro and third in 2007 with Curlin.
"I literally know what it feels like to win the Derby," Asmussen said of Nehro. "I didn't see Animal Kingdom coming down the center of the track that day. With Lookin At Lee, when Corey (Lanerie) cut the corner with him and the acceleration he showed going by tired horses, it just looked like he was going fast enough to win the Derby. Always Dreaming had enough to hold him off. The visuals of those moments were goosebump exciting. I've got 23 different feelings on the Derby but very vividly remember Nehro and Lookin At Lee. For Curlin's Derby, I never thought that he'd get beat. The walkover for his Derby felt like it took three strides but the walk back felt like it was the Sahara Desert. He went to the Test Barn after the race with Zanjero (who finished 12th) and Zanejro was blowing hard. Curlin came out of the test barn and was his strong, usual self. He had enough ability but wasn't meant to be."
Epicenter and Echo Zulu are likely to head back to the track Tuesday.
Crown Pride at Meydan
In other Derby-related news, Asmussen removed Gotham (G3) winner Morello from Derby consideration because the colt has a foot issue. Also, Jeff Drown's Blue Grass (G1) winner Zandon arrived at Churchill Downs on Sunday morning. He is stabled with several other stablemates in Barn 25.
Florida Derby (G1) winner White Abarrio is slated to have his final training in Florida through Sunday, May 1 and arrive in Saffie Joseph's Barn 10 by Monday, May 2. Simplification, who finished third to White Abarrio in the Florida Derby, is scheduled to arrive one day prior for trainer Antonio Sano.
Saturday was the first morning for the exclusive Oaks/Derby training window from 7:30-7:45 a.m. Fans can watch the livestream on the Kentucky Derby's social media channels. Between Saturday, April 23 and Wednesday, May 4, Churchill Downs will be open free-of-charge daily from 7-10 a.m. so guests can watch the nation's top 3-year-old Thoroughbreds train toward their engagements in this year's Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks.
Horses train on Churchill Downs' main track daily from 5:15-10 a.m. Beginning Saturday, there will be an exclusive training window only for Derby and Oaks participants from 7:30-7:45 a.m. following the 7-7:30 a.m. renovation break. Those horses will be identified by special saddle towels which include their names: yellow saddle towels for Derby horses and pink saddle towels for Oaks contenders.
Kentucky Derby Morning Works presented by TwinSpires.com will begin Monday and air on www.kentuckyderby.com/works, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Fans in attendance will be able to watch the show on the track's Big Board and infield televisions. The first two days of Kentucky Derby and Oaks training (Saturday and Sunday) also will be livestreamed on the Kentucky Derby's social media channels, but without commentary.
Guests can enter Churchill Downs through the Paddock Gate and should park for free in the nearby White Lot for convenient entry. Guests will be directed to Sections 115-117 to watch the morning workouts.
No outside food and beverage is allowed. Churchill Downs' Paddock Grill will be open each morning with breakfast food and beverage options.
On Sunday, May 1 and Monday, May 2, fans can enjoy a premium breakfast in Millionaires Row or the Stakes Room for Dawn at the Downs. Tickets start at $41 and can be purchased on www.KentuckyDerby.com/tickets.
The 148th runnings of the $1.25 Longines Kentucky Oaks (G1) and $3 million Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (G1) will be held Friday, May 6 and Saturday, May 7, respectively. Opening Night of Derby Week and the 44-day Spring Meet is Saturday, April 30.