Trainer Richard Mandella opted to wait on working likely Grade 1 Kentucky Derby morning-line favorite Omaha Beach Friday morning, instead sending the Arkansas Derby (G1) winner out for a trip to the starting gate and a 1 ½-mile gallop over a track rated as good.
Although no Derby hopefuls put in timed works at Churchill Downs, there was activity on two other fronts.
At Palm Beach Downs in Florida, Blue Grass (G2) winner Vekoma worked five furlongs in :59.80 with jockey Javier Castellano up to the satisfaction of trainer George Weaver. Vekoma is scheduled to ship to Louisville Tuesday, the same day Weaver is to arrive.
Also at Palm Beach Downs, Todd Pletcher's duo of Cutting Humor and Spinoff worked on the fast track.
Cutting Humor breezed a half-mile in :48 with fractions of :13, :24.80 and out five furlongs in 1:00.80. Pletcher has not confirmed a rider for Cutting Humor.
Spinoff, working in company with Last Judgment who is a 3-year-old allowance winner, covered five furlongs in 1:00.60 with splits of :13, :25, :37 and out six furlongs in 1:13.60 and seven-eighths in 1:27.
At Santa Anita, Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner Roadster worked six furlongs in 1:13.80 over a fast track for trainer Bob Baffert. Later in the morning, 2018's champion 2-year-old Game Winner worked seven furlongs in 1:27 for Baffert. Both colts are scheduled to fly to Louisville Saturday.
Kentucky Derby works penciled in for Saturday at Churchill Downs include Omaha Beach, Plus Que Parfait and War of Will with Gray Magician slated to work at San Luis Rey Training Center in California.
BY MY STANDARDS – Owner Chester Thomas was on hand Friday morning at Churchill Downs to watch his Louisiana Derby (G2) winner By My Standards gallop 1 ½ miles.
Trained by Bret Calhoun, By My Standards has been dubbed the “buzz horse” from many media outlets and handicappers for this year's “Run for the Roses.”
Calhoun is scheduled to join Darren Rogers and Kevin Kerstein Friday at 6:45 p.m. on “Inside Churchill Downs” to discuss By My Standards and the lead up to the Kentucky Derby. Fans can listen to the one-hour program beginning at 6 p.m. on ESPN 680/105.7 in Louisville or online at www.espnlouisville.com.
By My Standards is slated to gallop 1 ½ miles Saturday and visit the starting gate and, barring inclement weather, breeze Sunday morning at 7:45.
CODE OF HONOR – William S. Farish's Code of Honor was on the track at 6:30, galloping a mile and a quarter under exercise rider Brian Duggan for trainer Shug McGaughey.
Code of Honor is scheduled to work Sunday with Duggan handling the work. In Code of Honor's most recent work last Saturday at Keeneland (five furlongs in 1:01), jockey John Velazquez was aboard.
Third in the Florida Derby (G1) in his most recent start, Code of Honor will have paddock and gate schooling next week according to McGaughey, who won the 2013 Kentucky Derby with Orb.
COUNTRY HOUSE/TACITUS – Juddmonte Farms' homebred Tacitus and Mrs. J.V. Shields, E.J.M. McFadden Jr. and LNJ Foxwoods' Country House visited the paddock and then galloped 1 ½ miles. Juan Quintero was aboard Tacitus and Marianne Scherer won on Country House.
Trainer Bill Mott, who saddled his first Kentucky Derby starter in 1984, is looking for his first victory in the Run for the Roses.
The Hall of Famer was asked if he thought there was a Derby trophy with his name on it lurking in the future.
“I hope to find out within the next 20 years,” Mott said with a smile. “If it takes that long, it will still be fine.”
IMPROBABLE – The good signals Grade 1 winner Improbable has been giving off since arriving at Churchill Downs continued Friday as the son of City Zip put in a spirited 1 ½ mile gallop under regular exercise rider Jose Contreras.
Improbable, the runner-up in the Arkansas Derby (G1) and Rebel Stakes (G2), visited the gate before showing off his form beneath the Twin Spires.
“He's looking good, he's focused, going over the track well,” said Jimmy Barnes, assistant to trainer Bob Baffert. “He's doing very well in the gate. We're running him fit basically because he had the whole winter off.”
Improbable captured the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) last December to cap off a 3-for-3 juvenile campaign that also featured a victory in the Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs. After finishing second by a neck to Long Range Toddy in the first division of the Rebel Stakes on March 16, the chestnut colt owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club International, and Starlight Racing was bested by Omaha Beach in the April 13 Arkansas Derby.
“Sometimes it takes horses three to four races to be fit,” Barnes said. “We're heading in the right direction.
LONG RANGE TODDY – Rebel Stakes (G2) winner Long Range Toddy galloped about 1 ½ miles Friday for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen.
MASTER FENCER (JPN) – Katsumi and Yasuyo Yoshizawa's Master Fencer (JPN) – who in eight days could become the first horse bred in Japan to race in the Kentucky Derby – arrived at Keeneland about 6 p.m. Thursday to continue preparations for the 145th running of the $3 million race at Churchill Downs.
Master Fencer came to Keeneland, said shipping agent/manager Mitsuoki Numamoto, to give him a quiet atmosphere in the days following his first international trip.
The colt is to leave for Churchill on Monday, when the owners and trainer Koichi Tsunoda are scheduled to arrive in Louisville.
While at Keeneland, Master Fencer is expected to perform only light training.
“(Exercise rider Yosuke Kono) wants him to get used to the American circumstances – horses, track and so forth,”Numamoto said.
On Friday about 6:45 a.m., Master Fencer and Kono were on Keeneland's 5-furlong all-weather training track and galloped twice around by themselves before jogging about 1½ times around with a lead pony.
“He's surprisingly laid back given the fact he's never traveled abroad before,” said Kate Hunter, Japan-based representative for Churchill Downs and the Triple Crown.
OMAHA BEACH – Fox Hill Farm's Omaha Beach visited the starting gate and galloped a mile and a half under Taylor Cambra.
Trainer Richard Mandella had considered working Omaha Beach Friday, but overnight rains left the track sloppy when training began at 5:15 and then good after the first harrow break from 7-7:30.
“I think I will have a better chance (to breeze) tomorrow,” Mandella said. “I called Mike (Smith) and told him not to come in. I have a rider (Julien Leparoux) lined up for whenever he works.”
PLUS QUE PARFAIT – UAE Derby (G2) winner Plus Que Parfait galloped about 1 ½ miles with exercise riderTom Molloy aboard Friday morning at Churchill Downs.
Trainer Brendan Walsh reported via text that Plus Que Parfait is scheduled to breeze Saturday at 7:30 a.m.
WAR OF WILL – Trainer Mark Casse was on the scene Friday morning to observe Risen Star Stakes (G2) winner War of Will one day before the son of is set to have his final breeze in advance of the first leg of the Triple Crown.
With exercise rider Jose Vasquez in the saddle, War of Will provided an eyeful for his Canadian Hall of Fame conditioner, going 1 ½ miles on a crisp morning. Saturday's planned half-mile work will be the fourth for Gary Barber's colt since finishing ninth in the Louisiana Derby (G2), a race in which he gave his connections a scare when his hind end gave out shortly after the break.
“Someone asked me today when that happened in the race, what were your thoughts. (When that happened) I forgot about even winning, it didn't really matter,” Casse said. “I was just hoping he was fine. To have that scare and to be where we are now I mean, it's amazing.”
Casse said he is mulling whether to work War of Will in company or solo Saturday, adding that part of the issue is finding a workmate who can suitably push him.
“He's a pretty good work horse. If we put a workmate with him we just let him run by him, just a little confidence builder,” Casse said. “But I haven't really decided. It's not easy finding horses to work with him. If we do put him in company, it will be one of Gary Barber's horses just to give him some confidence.”
WIN WIN WIN – Live Oak Plantation's Win Win Win, who arrived from his Maryland base Thursday morning, put in his first exercise over the Churchill Downs surface Friday morning by galloping a mile and a half under exercise rider Melanie Williams.
“The track was a little heavy after all the rain,” said Williams, who never had been to Churchill Downs until her arrival Thursday. “I like the special training time (for Derby and Oaks horses) and he handled himself well. He likes to show off; he is very athletic.”
Trainer Mike Trombetta is scheduled to be in Louisville Saturday. Win Win Win is scheduled to work Sunday with jockey Julian Pimentel aboard.
SIGNALMAN (No. 22) – Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) winner and Blue Grass (G2) third Signalman was out for a gallop with regular exercise rider Danny Ramsey. The colt – who races for the partnership of Tommie M. Lewis, Steve Crabtree, Dean Demaree, David Bernsen, Jim Chambers and Magdalena Racing – is expected to work on Saturday morning.
“Everybody was fine after galloping this morning,” said Greg Geier, an assistant to trainer Kenny McPeek.
If Signalman rises to reach one of the 20 spots in the Derby starting gate, Brian Hernandez Jr. is expected to ride.
“He's a nose away from being in the Derby,” Hernandez said Friday morning. “Every other year, 38 points would have been enough to get in, but not this year.”
Hernandez said he approaches the Derby “just like any other race. You go out there and give your horse the cleanest trip you can.”
SUENO (No. 23) – Silverton Hill's Sueno galloped a mile and a half under Juan Diaz for trainer KeithDesormeaux.
Sueno, who would need three defections from horses under consideration for the Derby to make the field, is scheduled to work Saturday.
LIKELY STARTERS/JOCKEYS: By My Standards (jockey Gabriel Saez), Code of Honor (John Velazquez), Country House (Flavien Prat), Cutting Humor (undecided), Game Winner (Joel Rosario), Gray Magician (undecided), 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 (FlorentGeroux), 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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