Following the Friday morning renovation break at Keeneland, Reddam Racing's Toyota Blue Grass (G2) winner Irap turned in his final work for the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) by covering a mile in 1:44.20 on a fast track with Julien Leparoux aboard.
Irap, the first maiden to win the Toyota Blue Grass, has remained at Keeneland since he and Leparoux won the race on April 8 at odds of 31-1. Last Friday, Irap worked a mile in 1:44 with Leparoux aboard.
“(Today's work) was very similar (to Irap's last work), just kind of a good leg stretch,” said trainer Doug O'Neill, who described the work while it happened to owner Paul Reddam via cellphone. “Having him finish up good and getting a good mile work with a good gallop in and good gallop out was what I was hoping for and that's what I saw. So I'm very happy.”
Leparoux, who worked horses early this morning at Churchill Downs and drove 75 miles east to Keeneland for works by Irap and Kentucky Oaks (G1) hopeful Daddys Lil Darling, will ride champion Classic Empire in the Kentucky Derby. Mario Gutierrez, who will be aboard Irap in the Derby, was scheduled to be at Keeneland to ride Irap today but remained at Santa Anita because of his racing schedule there.
“He was going to have to take off a lot of horses,” O'Neill said. “That was just Paul and (his wife) Zillah being super classy and saying, 'As much as we want you to fly out here and work the horse, we don't want you to ruin any relationships with other barns.' ”
A year ago, O'Neill and Gutierrez won the Kentucky Derby with Reddam Racing's champion and then-undefeated runner Nyquist, who spent April at Keeneland following his win in the Florida Derby (G1). Nyquist turned in his final Derby work less than an hour before the Keeneland races began on closing day.
Nyquist attracted a great deal of attention while he was at Keeneland. Irap, who has one win in eight starts, has been a little more under the radar.
“He's always been a physically imposing individual,” O'Neill said about the Tiznow colt, a half-brother to champion sprinter Speightstown. “He was always a little bit mentally immature. I think his win in the Blue Grass has moved him way forward on confidence. It sure has made all of us around the barn treat him with a lot more confidence. He's doing super.”
O'Neill, who flew in for Irap's work last week, arrived in Lexington Thursday evening for Irap's latest move. Before his afternoon flight back to California, he hoped he would be able to visit Nyquist, who entered stud this year at nearby Darley. O'Neill is scheduled to fly to Louisville on Monday.
Irap will leave Keeneland for Churchill tomorrow.
“The plan is for him to eat up everything and look great in the morning, then get on a van around 11 a.m.,” O'Neill said.
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