The special 7:30-7:45 (all times Eastern) morning training window for Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks horses was put to major use Sunday morning with six Derby hopefuls and three Oaks likely starters turning in works during that time frame.
The Derby workers were:
• By My Standards, four furlongs in :48.40 (12th fastest of 76 at the distance). Fractions of :12.40, :24, :36.40, out five furlongs in 1:00.60, six furlongs in 1:12.80 and seven furlongs in 1:26.60.
• Code of Honor, four furlongs in :46.80 (Second fastest of 76). Fractions of :11.80, :23.20, :35.20, out five furlongs in :59.40, six furlongs in 1:13.20.
• Country House and Tacitus in company together, five furlongs in 1:00 (Fourth fastest of 25). Fractions of :12.20, :24.20, :35.80, :48, out six furlongs in 1:12.80, seven furlongs in 1:26 and a mile in 1:39.80.
• Improbable, five furlongs in company in 1:00.60 (Ninth fastest of 25). Fractions of :11.80, :23.60, :36.40, out six furlongs in 1:13 and seven furlongs in 1:25.60.
• Win Win Win, four furlongs in company in :47.60 (Fourth fastest of 76). Fractions of :24.20, :36, out five furlongs in 1:00.20.
On Monday, works are scheduled on two fronts for Derby runners: Long Range Toddy at Churchill Downs and Maximum Security at Palm Meadows in Florida. Restless Rider is scheduled to work here for the Oaks.
Scheduled to arrive early Sunday afternoon from Keeneland is 2018 Champion 2-year-old filly Jaywalk for a run in Friday's $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks (GI).
BODEXPRESS – Top Racing, Global Thoroughbred and GDS Racing Stable's Bodexpress, No. 21 on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard and needing one defection to make the main body of the race, is scheduled to work Monday at Gulfstream Park West and then ship to Louisville Tuesday.
BY MY STANDARDS – Louisiana Derby winner By My Standards, who has been known as the “buzz horse” for the past 10 days, completed his major work prior to Saturday's Kentucky Derby with a half-mile move in :48.40 with jockey Gabriel Saez aboard.
“Well, that couldn't have gone any better,” trainer Bret Calhoun said. “It's just a blessing how well he's doing entering the Derby. He's doing everything we've asked him to do and just moves so effortlessly around the racetrack. He went in :48.40 this morning but when Gabe got back to the barn he said he could've went around there again. It was like nothing to them.”
Owned by Chester Thomas' Allied Racing Stables, By My Standards worked through eighth-mile clips of :12.40, :24 and :36.40 before galloping out five furlongs in 1:00.60, six furlongs in 1:12.80 and seven furlongs in 1:26.60, according to Churchill Downs' Clocker John Nichols.
By My Standards is scheduled to have a walk day Monday.
CODE OF HONOR – William S. Farish's Code of Honor completed his major work for Saturday's Kentucky Derby by working a half-mile in :46.80 with exercise rider Brian Duggan aboard for trainer Shug McGaughey.
Working on his own, Code of Honor produced fractions of :11.80, :23.20, :35.20 and galloped out five furlongs in :59.40 and six furlongs in 1:13.20.
“I told (Brian) to go in :48, but the track was pretty good this morning,” McGaughey said. “I was pleased with the way he handled it and glad I got the kind of track we did today. He had two good works at Keeneland and the last one was on an off track, so we know he can handle an off track and what he was on today is probably what he will see Saturday.”
Code of Honor earned his spot on the Kentucky Derby trail with a victory in the Fountain of Youth (GII) on March 2 at Gulfatream Park.
“He had to run well in the Fountain of Youth, not necessarily win but run well, or we were going to back off,” McGaughey said. “He came out of the Florida Derby fine and had the two good works at Keeneland.”
John Velazquez, a two-time Derby winner, has the mount on Code of Honor.
COUNTRY HOUSE/TACITUS – The Bill Mott-trained duo of Mrs. J.V. Shields et al.'s Country House and Juddmonte Farms' Tacitus had their collective final breeze for the Kentucky Derby, drilling five furlongs in tandem in 1:00 flat during the special Kentucky Derby/Oaks 7:30-745 training session.
What began as a routine workout — the pair were meant to mirror each other throughout in a controlled fashion — became a lot more interesting when they were spontaneously joined by another Derby worker, Win Win Win, and his workmate (maiden Souper Courage) to their outside on the far turn. The now-quartet ran four abreast turning for home, with Win Win Win closing to pass the Mott pair, who finished on even terms by design.
The furlong splits for the Mott workers were :12.20, :24.20, :35.80, :48 and out six furlongs in 1:12.80, seven furlongs in 1:26 and a mile in 1:39.80.
Garrett O'Rourke, general manager of Juddmonte's U.S. operations, was pleased, despite the work going a bit off-script. Tacitus is one of the favorites for the $3 million affair and has only raced four times, including a win in the Wood Memorial (GII) at Aqueduct.
“I thought it went well,” O'Rourke said. “He handled Win Win Win coming up on the outside really professionally. He was under control and got a good blow. That's all you can ask for, really.”
Mott added: “I thought it worked out very well. It was a good tightener, was what I expected from them and what I wanted. It should be enough, as far as conditioning, and the fact that we saw them work well gives you a good feeling that they're coming into it the right way. So far, they have cooled out great and neither was exhausted. They had a little bit of a blow initially, then caught their air and they're cooling out really well.
“We generally would see something like that happen occasionally when they don't have a (designated) 15-minute break just for Derby and Oaks horses. I thought about that (beforehand) because I knew there would be some other workers. You just can't really anticipate it. My team was ready to break off and they probably didn't know we were going to work. All the riders did a really good job and I really have to commend all of them. It's not going to hurt them and they better get used to (traffic) if they're not already or they'll get a surprise on Derby Day. It's pretty crowded out there.
“We have a week to go until the Derby and we look like we're in good shape. They finished up right together. They may have been a head apart. I told them if they could work together, that would help each other during the work. Both of my horses have pretty laid-back dispositions and they probably needed their company to encourage each other. For me, it worked out perfectly.
“I'll just try to keep them out of trouble and get them over there on race day; nothing fancy going into it. We just hope they come out of this in good shape and stay healthy and sound.”
Mott reported that Country House and Tacitus may school Tuesday or Wednesday during the races.
CUTTING HUMOR/SPINOFF – It was walk day at the Todd Pletcher barn in Florida for the two Derby colts he's handling for owners Starlight Racing (Cutting Humor) and Wertheimer and Frere (Spinoff).
Each of the runners had put in works Friday, then jogged Saturday, as is the trainer's style. The Sunday walk also followed the Pletcher pattern.
The next step for the sophomores is to jog Monday morning at their Palm Beach Downs location, then make an early trip Tuesday morning to Churchill Downs with an expected arrival time of between 8 and 8:30 at the trainer's Barn 40.
Rider Manny Franco has the call on Spinoff. Cutting Humor's jockey is still to be decided.
GAME WINNER/IMPROBABLE/ROADSTER – As Elliott Walden pondered what he had just witnessed from Improbable during the colt's final serious workout in advance of the Kentucky Derby, the CEO and President of WinStar Farm couldn't help but get hit with a pretty ambitious case of déjà vu.
“He's feeling good and I think (trainer) Bob (Baffert) has him right where he wants him,” Walden said of Improbable, whom WinStar Farm co-owns along with China Horse Club International and Starlight Racing. “He reminds me of Super Saver when he came in here off Arkansas. The three weeks were a good three weeks.”
Super Saver famously gave the WinStar team its first Kentucky Derby triumph when he captured the Run for the Roses in 2010, three weeks after running second in the Arkansas Derby (GI). Whether Improbable can follow in those footsteps remains to be seen but the son of City Zip certainly inspired confidence with his five-furlong work in 1:00.60 at Churchill Downs on Sunday.
As Improbable headed onto the track during the special time slot reserved exclusively for Oaks and Derby runners, the chestnut bucked and played under jockey Florent Geroux – who is actually set to ride fellow Baffert trainee Roadster in the 1 ¼-mile classic. His good-feeling mood continued to show itself as he broke off just a couple lengths behind workmate Embolden, quickly catching up to that one and moving past his stablemate down the lane as he registered splits of :11.80, :23.60, and :36.40 before galloping out six furlongs in 1:13 and seven furlongs in 1:25.60.
“I don't think he was rank. He was just maybe a little bit keen and feeling good,” Geroux said. “He's very easy (to ride) actually. Down the lane he was responding exactly to what I was asking him to. I could have gone faster if I wanted to. I could have gone a touch slower if I wanted to. He was just very cooperative.”
Improbable captured all three of his starts during his juvenile campaign, capping off his 2018 season with a victory in the Los Alamitos Futurity (GI). He finished second in both the Rebel Stakes (GII) and the Arkansas Derby (GI) but has seemingly thrived during his time in Louisville.
“He loves this track. I just love the way he kept on galloping out today,” Baffert said. “That's what we wanted to see. He gets over it well. He's not really big but he jumps a long way. Now I can relax. Now we have to wait for the draw. That's the last of the anxiety is the draw.”
Improbable's work Sunday was his second since arriving at Churchill following his loss to Omaha Beach in the Arkansas Derby. He previously posted a four-furlong work in :48 on April 22.
One day after arriving from California and joining stablemate Improbable in Churchill Downs' Barn 33, reigning juvenile male champion Game Winner and Grade I winner Roadster went to the Churchill Downs track for the first time in their Kentucky Derby preparations.
Veteran exercise rider Humberto “Beto” Gomez was up on both runners, first taking Gary and Mary West's Game Winner out at 6:30 a.m. The Breeders' Cup Juvenile (GI) hero jogged one lap the wrong way with the pony two days after working seven furlongs in 1:27 at Santa Anita Park.
The routine was much the same for Speedway Stable's Roadster, who came out during the 7:30 a.m. time slot along with Improbable. The Santa Anita Derby (GI) winner also worked at Santa Anita on April 26, going six furlongs in 1:13.80.
“They just jogged. They're not going to do much,” Baffert said of the duo.
Both Game Winner and Improbable have proven form over the Churchill Downs track with the former earning his Breeders' Cup triumph beneath the Twin Spires and Improbable capturing the Street Sense Stakes on the Breeders' Cup undercard. Roadster's Breeders' Cup chances went by the wayside last summer when he underwent throat surgery following his third-place finish in the Del Mar Futurity (GI).
“All three (of my runners) have different styles. Game Winner he's like the fullback, Roadster he's real light and lean but he gets over the ground well. I'm just happy to be here with three really nice horses.”
GRAY MAGICIAN – Wachtel Stable, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Gary Barber's Gray Magician pleased trainer Peter Miller one day after his final breeze for the Kentucky Derby. The son of GI winner Graydar and GII-placed stakes winner Burg Berg worked five furlongs in 1:00.40 on Saturday at San Luis Rey Training Center in Southern California.
“Looks great,” Miller said, confirming that all systems are “go” for the UAE Derby (GII) runner-up.
Per Miller, the improving colt is scheduled to ship to Kentucky on Monday.
HAIKAL – Shadwell Stable's Haikal galloped 1 3/8 miles at Belmont Park on Sunday morning. Per trainer Kiaran McLaughlin, the consistent homebred is scheduled to ship to Kentucky following training.
Haikal carries the blue and white of His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Rashid Al Maktoum of Dubai, as well as a depth of pedigree tied closely to McLaughlin's operation. The conditioner trained his sire, the Cigar Mile (G1) winner Daaher, as well as sprint star Takaful, a half-brother to Haikal who won the Vosburgh Stakes (G1) in 2017 beating older horses.
“I thought Takaful, being by Bernadini, would ultimately go long, but he was really keen and tough to train,” McLaughlin said. “This horse's mind is different. He's much more relaxed. He's not as tough to train and I think he has the kind of mind you need in this kind of a race.
“It's great to have this horse do so well; by a sire you trained and owned by a great man like Sheikh Hamdan,” he continued. “I'm really honored to get him into the starting gate.”
LONG RANGE TODDY – Rebel Stakes (GII) winner Long Range Toddy galloped 1 1/2 miles Sunday morning and is likely to breeze Monday, according to Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen's assistant Scott Blasi.
MASTER FENCER – Japan's representative in this year's Kentucky Derby, Koichi Tsunoda-trained Master Fencer, continues to train at Keeneland Racecourse in Lexington.
At 6:30 a.m., the chestnut son of Just A Way jogged one lap on the all-weather training track and then another on the main dirt track under exercise rider Yosuke Kono. Adorning a hood that matches the pink silks he will carry on race day for owners Katsumi and Yasuyo Yoshizawa, he was led on both occasions by pony “Fox” and rider Mary Ellet.
Per connections, the proverbial mystery horse of the Kentucky Derby 145 is eating up his feed markedly well and thriving since arriving in the United States.
The stakes-placed colt is scheduled to ship to Churchill Downs on Monday evening.
MAXIMUM SECURITY – Gary and Mary West's Maximum Security galloped Sunday morning at Palm Meadows Training Center in Florida where he is scheduled to work Monday for trainer Jason Servis.
Maximum Security is scheduled to ship to Louisville Tuesday. Servis will be making the drive from South Florida and is not expected to arrive in town until Tuesday night.
OMAHA BEACH – Trainer Richard Mandella swung by Barn 28 Sunday morning to do a little “easy” training. His likely Kentucky Derby favorite, Fox Hill Farm's Omaha Beach, had done the heavy lifting the day before when he fired a :59 in a five-furlong drill that was the primary finishing touch on his preparations for Derby 145. Sunday all the Hall of Fame trainer had to do was oversee a 30-minute walk around the shedrow for his big colt – and that went just fine.
“To be honest, I didn't sleep too well last night,” Mandella said. “Anytime you have an important work like we did yesterday, you've got to be concerned for the next morning and how they come out of it. But he's fine; good as gold. It sure has me feeling better.”
The trainer and his wife, Randi, were off later in the day for a trip over to Spendthrift Farm to see one of their favorites, the multi-champion mare Beholder, who Mandella guided through four Eclipse Award seasons – 2012 (2-year-old filly), 2013 (3-year-old filly), 2015 and 2016 (older dirt female). Along the way she managed to win $6,156,000. The trainer noted that the mare already had a yearling colt by Uncle Mo and a weanling filly by Curlin, and that she had been bred back to War Front, the sire of Omaha Beach.
As for his Derby charge looking ahead to Monday, Mandella left all options open.
“We'll either jog him, or gallop him, or ride him under the shed. That ought to about cover it.”
PLUS QUE PARFAIT – Imperial Racing's UAE Derby (GII) winner Plus Que Parfait exited his final Kentucky Derby breeze in top shape, according to his connections. The chestnut ridgling son of Point of Entry walked the shedrow and did a routine trot on the concrete to check soundness Sunday morning.
“He came out great,” trainer Brendan Walsh said. “We're very happy with him. He's a real solid horse.”
“I don't think I've seen him come out of a work that (well),” added assistant trainer Tom Molloy. “He's very happy right now. He's a 'people-horse' and he barely pays attention to other horses. It's funny how much he likes people.”
The Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) runner-up will school during the second race Thursday along with with multiple Grade II-winning stable star Proctor's Ledge, who is slated to defend her title in the Longines Churchill Downs Turf Distaff (GII) on Derby Day.
SIGNALMAN – Kentucky Jockey Club (GII) winner and Blue Grass (GII) third Signalman spent his Sunday morning just walking the shedrow following a five-furlong workout on Saturday at trainer Kenny McPeek's barn, assistant Greg Geier said.
The colt – who races for the partnership of Tommie M. Lewis, Steve Crabtree, Dean Demaree, David Bernsen, Jim Chambers and Magdalena Racing – was not showing any ill effects from a slight, one-inch cut over his left eye, from bumping his head while in his stall. He worked the five furlongs in 1:00 on Saturday with jockey Brian Hernandez Jr.
Signalman still needs a couple of defections to make the Derby field. McPeek plans to take the colt to Pimlico for the Preakness on May 18, no matter what happens in Louisville.
SUENO – “Walking only” was the report on the colt Sueno from the Keith Desormeaux barn Sunday morning, the second day the Silverton Hill LLC youngster had merely toured Barn 24.
Assistant trainer Julie Clark was in charge of proceedings while Desormeaux had headed back to check on his main string at Santa Anita in California. She noted – realistically – that their dark bay or brown 3-year-old was unlikely to make the cut for Derby 145 in light of the fact that he stood at No. 23 on a roster that was only going to allow for 20.
Though official word on the colt's next race won't come until the owners make the call later in the week, it appears the son of the Medaglia d'Oro stallion Atreides is likely next to be seen in the lineup for the Preakness Stakes (GI) in Maryland on May 18.
TAX – According to trainer Danny Gargan, Wood Memorial (GII) runner-up Tax galloped one mile at Belmont Park on Sunday morning and is scheduled to ship to Kentucky later on during the day. The Withers (GIII)-winning gelded son of Arch breezed a half-mile in 47.80 three days prior.
“He's improved with each run,” Gargan said. “I think he ran an '8+', then an '8-' and then a '6' in his last three starts on the sheets. He continues to do well.”
Tax is owned by R.A. Hill Stable, Reeves Thoroughbred Racing, Hugh Lynch and Corms Racing Stable. Reeves Thoroughbred Racing (Dean and Patti Reeves) owned Mucho Macho Man, who was third in the 2011 Derby.
VEKOMA – R.A. Hill Stable and Gatsas Stables' Vekoma had a walk day at trainer George Weaver's barn at Palm Beach Downs in Florida.
Winner of the Blue Grass Stakes (GII) in his most recent start, Vekoma is scheduled to ship to Louisville on Tuesday. Weaver expects to be at the post position draw Tuesday at 11 a.m.
WAR OF WILL – When asked how Gary Barber's multiple graded stakes winner War of Will had come out of his bullet four-furlong work in 47.60 on Saturday, trainer Mark Casse found the nearest piece of wood by his office and playfully knocked his head up against it.
“They just walked today, so far so good,” said Casse, also referring to War of Will and his Oaks contender Chocolate Kisses, who also worked Saturday.
War of Will also got some new shoes put on in advance of his expected Kentucky Derby run.
WIN WIN WIN – Jockey Julian Pimentel likely will never forget his first trip to Churchill Downs.
In town to work Live Oak Plantation's Win Win Win for Saturday's Kentucky Derby, he would up having more company than he bargained for as he piloted the colt through a half-mile in :47.60, the fourth fastest of 76 works at the distance.
As Win Win Win and his workmate, Souper Courage, were getting ready to break off at the half-mile pole, to their inside came the Bill Mott-trained Derby hopefuls Country House and Tacitus who were in to their five-furlong works.
“That was a little different, but it worked out well,” Pimentel said of the work in which Win Win Win raced just behind the Mott duo. “He went about his business and he wanted to go get them.”
Trainer Mike Trombetta was watching from the fourth floor stakes room balcony and could see how things were going to unfold.
“I was on the radio with Mel (exercise rider Melanie Williams on Souper Courage) and told her there was company coming behind her,” Trombetta said. “They started their work at the 5/8ths and that is why they caught up to us so fast. Those things happen, but it is unusual that it happened here with limited traffic. Hey, they jump in and join the party and everybody gets around there OK and everybody is happy.”
At the end of the day, there were smiles all around.
“Julian was very happy with it,” Trombetta said of the rider who has been on board for all three of the colt's victories including a track-record score in the Pasco Stakes at Tampa Bay Downs.
Pimentel returned to Maryland after the work and is scheduled to return to Louisville on Friday.
SHAPING UP: THE KENTUCKY DERBY – Likely starters in the 145th running of the $3 million Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (Grade I) to be run for 3-year-olds at 1 1/4 miles on Saturday, May 4: By My Standards (jockey Gabriel Saez), Code of Honor (John Velazquez), Country House (Flavien Prat), Cutting Humor (undecided), Game Winner (Joel Rosario), Gray Magician (Drayden Van Dyke), Haikal (Rajiv Maragh), Improbable (Irad Ortiz Jr.), Long Range Toddy (Jon Court), Master Fencer (JPN) (Julien Leparoux), Maximum Security (Luis Saez), Omaha Beach (Mike Smith), Plus Que Parfait (Ricardo Santana Jr.), Roadster (Florent Geroux), Spinoff (Manny Franco), Tacitus (Jose Ortiz), Tax (Junior Alvarado), Vekoma (Javier Castellano), War of Will (Tyler Gaffalione), Win Win Win (Julian Pimentel).
Next up in order of preference: Bodexpress (undecided), Signalman (Brian Hernandez Jr.), Sueno (undecided) and Bourbon War (undecided).
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