Juddmonte Farms' Hofburg tuned up for Kentucky Derby 144 by working a half-mile in company in :48.20 at Churchill Downs on a cool Sunday morning.
With exercise rider Penny Gardiner up for trainer Bill Mott, Hofburg produced fractions of :13.20, :24.60, :36.20, :48.20 and out five furlongs in 1:01.20 and three-quarters in 1:14.80 in the work over a fast track.
Meanwhile, at Santa Anita, Zayat Stables, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor and Derrick Smith's Solomini worked six furlongs in 1:14.60.
Solomini will be part of a three-horse Derby-Oaks contingent for trainer Bob Baffert that also will include Justify and Rayya that is scheduled to arrive in Louisville early Monday afternoon. Others on the flight will be Bolt d'Oro and Midnight Bisou.
Another Derby contender at Santa Anita, OXO Equine's Instilled Regard worked five furlongs in 1:00.80 for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer a day before shipping to Louisville.
Also scheduled to arrive late Monday afternoon is Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (GI) and UAE Derby (GII) winner Mendelssohn.
In Kentucky Oaks news, Cleber Massey's Blamed has been withdrawn from Oaks consideration because of injury. This opens the door for Exuberance to move into the Oaks field of 14. Also, the connections of Red Ruby removed her from Oaks consideration with Heavenhasmynikki rising to No. 15 on the Oaks leaderboard and first on the bubble for the field.
AUDIBLE/MAGNUM MOON/NOBLE INDY/VINO ROSSO – It was walking morning at the Todd Pletcher barn, two days after the stable's four Kentucky Derby-bound colts had gone through their final workouts prior to the 144th edition of the world's most famous race.
Audible, Magnum Moon, Noble Indy and Vino Rosso had all come back Saturday after their Friday drills to either gallop or jog one time around the big Churchill Downs oval, thus earning the right to “take a day off” Sunday with their low-key ambles around the shedrow at Barn 40.
Trainer Pletcher got his version of a “day off,” too, which in his case meant an early flight to New York to check on stable business there, then a later flight back to Louisville in the evening.
His long-time and most-able right hand, Ginny DePasquale, ran the relatively quiet show Sunday and reported that all was good with the four stakes winners.
Audible is owned by China Horse Club International, Head of Plains Partners, Starlight Racing and WinStar Farm. Magnum Moon races for Lawana and Robert Low. Noble Indy goes postward for the pairing of WinStar Farm and Repole Stable, while Vino Rosso is in the hands of Repole Stable and St. Elias Stable.
BLENDED CITIZEN – Greg Hall and SAYJAY Racing's Blended Citizen walked the shedrow at Keeneland Sunday morning a day after working a mile in 1:41.60 for two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Doug O'Neill.
Sitting at No. 21 on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard, Blended Citizen would need one defection from the horses under consideration for the race to make the 20-horse field when entries are taken Tuesday.
O'Neill assistant Jack Sisterson said Blended Citizen likely would van to Churchill Downs after training hours Monday.
BOLT d'ORO – Assistant trainer Shelbe Ruis, who handles the horses when her father, Mick, is away, was doing just that Sunday at Santa Anita Park in sunny California.
Mick, both the owner and trainer of the Kentucky Derby contender Bolt d'Oro, had overseen his horse's four-furlong drill Saturday morning at the Los Angeles-area track, then climbed aboard a plane later that day headed to Kentucky.
Shelbe reported that the husky son of the top stallion Medaglia d'Oro came out of his final serious Derby exercise just fine and had only walked at the barn that morning. The horse is scheduled to join with several other California runners in boarding a plane early Monday morning en route to Louisville International Airport.
Owner/trainer Ruis was in the Lexington area Sunday inspecting his newly purchased Chestnut Farm. He'll drive over to Louisville Monday in time to greet his $630,000 yearling purchase upon arrival at Churchill Downs.
BRAVAZO – Calumet Farm's Bravazo, looking to provide Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas with a fifth victory in the “Run for the Roses” stayed in the barn Sundaymorning and just walked the shedrow, one day after completing his final major work. The Risen Star (GII) winner had worked five furlongs in 1:01.40.
“He's doing really good,” Lukas said. “He was really sharp when we took him out to graze yesterday afternoon. I'm happy with him.”
Bravazo will return to the track to gallop Monday and also will school in the paddock, according to his trainer. Luis Contreras has the Derby mount.
COMBATANT/DREAM BABY DREAM – One day before his final major piece of work before the Kentucky Derby, Winchell Thoroughbreds and Willis Horton's Combatant galloped 1 ½ miles with regular exercise rider Angel Garcia during the 7:30 a.m. window allotted for Oaks and Derby horses.
Ricardo Santana Jr., who has ridden Combatant in his past six starts, has the mount in the Derby.
Joining Combatant on the track was stablemate Dream Baby Dream Racing Stable's Dream Baby Dream, who needs two defections to make the 20-horse Derby field. He also galloped 1 ½ miles.
ENTICED – Godolphin Racing's Enticed galloped Sunday morning at Palm Meadows Training Center and scheduled to ship to Churchill Downs at 4 o'clock Sundayafternoon with a Monday arrival.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is scheduled to arrive in Louisville Monday night. Junior Alvarado has the Derby mount.
FIRENZE FIRE – Mr. Amore Stable's Firenze Fire walked the shedrow at trainer Jason Servis' barn at Belmont Park a day after working a half-mile in :51.02 over the Belmont training track.
Firenze Fire, who will be ridden in the Derby by Paco Lopez, is scheduled to leave for Kentucky by van around noon today.
FLAMEAWAY – John Oxley's Flameaway walked the shedrow of trainer Mark Casse Sunday morning after working four furlongs in 47.80 Saturday.
One commonality shared by Casse's Derby horse and his Kentucky Oaks contender Wonder Gadot is that they were both bred in Ontario.
“I look at pretty well every Ontario-bred there is (at sales),” Casse said. “I've had tremendous success with Canadian-breds. The truth is, both those horses, though they are Canadian breds, they have tremendous pedigrees. I know there are consignors and pinhookers out there that actually probably target me because they know that I am going to come and look at them. I've had such great success with them, if I see a good one, I try to buy them. And both of those horses fell in that category.”
FREE DROP BILLY/PROMISES FULFILLED – It was a usual walk day at trainer Dale Romans' Barn 4 Sunday at Churchill Downs for his Derby contenders Free Drop Billy and Promises Fulfilled following their Saturday breezes.
Blue Grass third Free Drop Billy worked a half-mile in :49.40 while stablemate Promises Fulfilled breezed five furlongs in 1:00.40.
Both colts are expected to train Monday morning at 7:30.
GOOD MAGIC – The day after posting a five-furlong work, last year's Eclipse Award-winning Champion 2-Year-Old Male, owned by e Five Racing Thoroughbreds &Stonestreet Stables LLC, walked the shedrow at Barn 42.
“Generally when my horses breeze the next day they all walk the shedrow,” trainer Chad Brown said. “We give them an easy day, examine them – the horse examined perfect this morning, he's happy, his appetite is good, and all systems go.
“Tomorrow he'll probably just jog once around the track to loosen him up and then we'll ease him back into galloping after that. We'll do a little gate-schooling this week, a little paddock-schooling, and just try to bring him into the race happy and healthy.”
HOFBURG – Juddmonte Farms Inc.'s homebred Florida Derby (GI) runner-up Hofburg was the lone Derby worker at Churchill Downs this morning, breezing a half-mile in :48.40 under exercise rider Penny Gardiner. Breaking off behind workmate Villamay, a Juddmonte 3-year-old filly who won her debut last month, Hofburg went through splits of :13.20, :24.60 and :36.20, according to Churchill Downs clockers, with gallop-out times of 1:01.20 for five-eighths and 1:14.80 for six furlongs.
Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott watched the work from horseback near the eighth pole and made use of the “Big Board” video screen to follow the early stages and the gallop out.
“He looked like he went off well and he joined his company a little bit early – the company was maybe going a little slow the first eighth of a mile – but he looked smooth as silk coming by me. Approaching the wire he looked really good, switched leads, went into the turn and galloped out well around the turn.”
Hofburg galloped out nearly the length of the backstretch.
“He has a lot of energy,” Mott said. “That's not something we made him do, we just let him do it. We wanted him to work out pretty good around the turn and keep going and just have a steady gallop-out, which is what he did and he does that as well as anything.
“It was a nice, useful work, the kind of work that you like to see right on top of a race. He looked, visually, as good as you could look. The main thing is that they're doing it easily, well within themselves, and he wasn't being pushed to do it, he was just doing it on his own.”
Gardiner, the former jockey turned exercise rider, was equally as pleased with the move.
“I was really happy with him,” she said. “He just did everything right. He's handling all of the people around and he handles the track and does exactly what we want him to do.
“Everything was on his own. All I had to do was steer. You just get into a rhythm and a pace and you want everything to be smooth, a nice progression. He's so willing and does just what you want.”
Gardiner also galloped Hofburg coming into the Florida Derby and was asked if she could feel a difference between then and now.
“He's definitely moved forward,” she said. “It feels like he's maturing and more focused. He knows what's going on now.”
INSTILLED REGARD – The $1,050,000 yearling purchase Instilled Regard – pointing for Saturday's Kentucky Derby – turned in his final pre-race work Sunday morning at Santa Anita in 1:00.80 for five furlongs and it must have been a very good drill. It actually caused his trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer – normally the most no-nonsense of men – to feel so good he cracked a joke.
Shortly after the move, Hall of Famer Hollendorfer was asked about it via phone. It had been accomplished with Derby rider Drayden Van Dyke in the irons and a workmate up ahead.
“It was a very good move for my horse,” he said. “Very good. Drayden was up and he's worked him before for me and we gave him a target to run at. He ran him down and looked good doing it.”
Who, Hollendorfer was asked, was the target?
“Oh, it really doesn't matter,” he initially offered. “Just another horse.”
But then the veteran conditioner changed gears.
“Oh, wait, I forgot,” he offered. “It was Justify. Yeah, he ran down Justify and went right by him.”
Then there was a chuckle.
Justify, of course, is the undefeated colt who is the likely favorite for Derby 144. In his most recent start, he captured the Santa Anita Derby leaving six horses in his wake, including Instilled Regard nearly 11 lengths back.
Hollendorfer switched back to serious mode to note than his charge, owned by OXO Equine, would board a plane with several other California horses early Monday morning headed to Louisville. He said further that he'd follow in trace on Wednesday.
Instilled Regard will take up residence in Barn 41.
JUSTIFY/SOLOMINI – Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) runner-up Solomini – owned by Zayat Stables LLC, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael B. Tabor & Derrick Smith – worked six furlongs from the five-eighths marker in 1:14.60 at Santa Anita Park with Martin Garcia aboard for four-time Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert. The move came in company, with Solomini maintaining an advantage on the inside of his workmate Once On Whiskey through the stretch and into the Clubhouse turn. Santa Anita clockers recorded gallop-out times of 1:28.20 for seven-eighths and one mile in 1:42.80.
“He worked really well,” Zayat Stables racing manager Justin Zayat said afterwards. “Bob told me he was happy with him and Martin really liked the work, which is always a good sign. The plan was to not do anything too stressful with him. Bob was just letting him stretch his legs a little bit.”
Zayat has described Solomini as a “quirky” horse that does not always like to switch leads and can hang on his wrong lead.
“He changed leads at the right time this week, so that was good,” he said.
The vast majority of Solomini's works this year have come in company, though Baffert likes to change up the scenarios so the Curlin colt continues to absorb new lessons.
“Bob is a master at work,” Zayat said. “He'll work him inside, outside, with older horses, just to show him something different. He's got all the bases covered.”
While Solomini hasn't notched an official win since his debut in September, there are logical reasons for horseplayers to not discount him, especially for those that are swayed by company lines.
“We're coming to the Derby with a horse that always runs a good race and he's done it against all of the top 3-year-olds – Bolt d'Oro, Good Magic, McKinzie, Magnum Moon,” said Zayat. “He's a competitive fighter.”
Flavien Prat, leading the standings at Santa Anita's current Spring Meet, has ridden Solomini in all six of his starts and retains the Derby mount.
Meanwhile, Baffert's main Derby threat Justify, the undefeated Santa Anita Derby winner owned by China Horse Club International Ltd., Head of Plains Partners, StarlightRacing & WinStar Farm LLC, had an easy jog on his first day back to the track since breezing Friday.
“He looks great,” Baffert said Saturday, reflecting on the previous morning's work. “He did it the right way so we're happy and now we just have another week of waiting and keeping him happy, keeping him at that level.”
The Baffert contingent for major Derby weekend stakes, also including Kentucky Oaks contender Rayya is scheduled to arrive Monday.
LONE SAILOR – G M B Racing's Lone Sailor jogged one mile early Sunday morning with exercise rider Maurice Sanchez aboard for trainer Tom Amoss.
James Graham has the call on Lone Sailor in the Derby.
“It's fantastic being in this spot,” Graham said. “You just have to hope you get a clean enough trip. On big days like this you have to carry the same attitude and not get ahead of yourself.”
Lone Sailor was the runner-up in the March 24 Louisiana Derby (GII), finishing just a neck behind Noble Indy.
“I felt a big improvement from the last two races,” Graham said. “He kind of got real lost on me in the Louisiana Derby. In the stretch, when I moved him back near the other horse, he started kicking back in. He's not really a closer but he's not really a second-flight horse either. He's not difficult to ride by any means but the way he ran in the Louisiana Derby it got me excited.”
MENDELSSOHN – UAE Derby (GII) winner Mendelssohn is expected to arrive in Louisville Monday at 5:30 p.m., according to Director of the Stable Area Steve Hargrave.
The colt is expected to stay in quarantine for 42 hours and could train Thursday morning.
MY BOY JACK – The Southwest (GIII) and Lexington (GIII) stakes winner merely walked the shedrow at Barn 25 on the Churchill Downs backstretch Sunday morning after putting in his final Kentucky Derby work assignment Saturday with a 1:03.20 move at the Louisville oval.
Assistant trainer Julie Clark was running the show for head man Keith Desormeaux and she reported that the late-kicking colt had done all the right things following his drill.
“He did them all – ate up, drank his water, slept well, walked fine; it's all good,” she said.
The dark colt by the young stallion Creative Cause is owned by Don't Tell My Wife Stables, Monomoy Stables and West Point Thoroughbreds and will enter Derby 144 with the most starts – 10 – of any runner in the expected 20-horse lineup.
He'll be handled on Saturday by the trainer's brother, Hall of Fame rider Kent Desormeaux.
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), 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).
Possible starters within the Top 20 on the preference list: Combatant (Ricardo Santana Jr.).
Next up in order of preference: Blended Citizen (Kyle Frey), Dream Baby Dream (TBA), Restoring Hope (TBA), Sporting Chance (TBA), Givemeaminit (TBA) and Pony Up (TBA).
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