Photos Courtesy of Churchill Downs and Coady Photography
LOUISVILLE, KY (Thursday, May 4, 2023) – Less than 48 hours remain until the first Saturday and trainers are eagerly watching as their Kentucky Derby contenders log their final training sessions before the Run for the Roses.
It was an eventful morning for trainer Brad Cox with three of his four Derby contenders scheduled to gallop at 7:30 a.m. Two of three contenders were completing their final circuit around the racetrack when the third runner,Verifying, passed the five-furlong marker and got loose from his rider. He was apprehended at the quarter pole by Outriders Greg Blasi and Lee Lockwood.
Cox reported Verifying was fine following the training mishap.
Moments later, Peter Miller’s filly And Tell Me Nolies reared as she was walking off the track and ran off the gap back to her Barn 24.
Miller stated And Tell Me Nolies was OK.
There will be special training hours on Friday and Saturday
with training from 5:30-7:30 a.m. with Friday’s 7:45-8 slot reserved for Oaks and Derby horses and the same time Saturday for Derby horses.
ANGEL OF EMPIRE/HIT SHOW/JACE’S ROAD, VERIFYING – Gary and Mary West’s Hit Show went out to train at 5:15 a.m., while his other three Derby running stablemates, Albaugh Family Stables’ Angel of Empire, West Point Thoroughbreds and Albaugh Family Stables’ Jace’s Road, and Coolmore’s Verifying went to out to train at 7:30 a.m. during the special training time Thursday.
Three of the four had routine 1 ½-mile gallops, but Verifying had a little more eventful training session. He dumped his exercise rider and had to be caught by outrider Greg Blasi and Lee Lockwood. About an hour later, Cox reported Verifying was “fine.”
In addition to the four horses in the Kentucky Derby, Cox also has three fillies in the Kentucky Oaks as he seeks his third win in that race. When asked how he was holding up from the pressures of the week, the Louisville native said, “I’m great. It’s cool, it’s great. Since we got all of our works in and our gate schooling in, I’m just ready for race day to get here.”
All four of the Cox Derby runners will school in the paddock during the first race Thursday.
CONFIDENCE GAME – Don’t Tell My Wife Stables’ Confidence Game walked the shedrow of barn 24 as is the normal routine for the Keith Desormeaux stable. He will return to the track Friday to gallop and is likely to also gallop Saturday morning, race day.
A lot has been made out of the fact that Confidence Game has not run since the Rebel Stakes (GII) Feb. 25 at Oaklawn this week, but the only ones not concerned are his trainer and owner.
“The answer is simple, it took the ownership a month to sober up,” Desormeaux said. “That’s the funny answer. How do you want me to make a decision when the ownership was still partying a month later? It was awesome. The Rebel was fun for those guys. The serious answer is it was 40 degrees all weekend in Hot Springs that week, he ran in that kind of weather and then we shipped back to New Orleans on Sunday and it’s 80 degrees. In New Orleans it was 80 degrees all week. So, he went from 40 to 80. And, it zapped him. I knew I was going to give him a couple of light weeks. And, right when I got him up to race readiness again, which was around Louisiana Derby time, around Arkansas Derby time, Blue Grass time, it was time to ship here. And, horses need to acclimate. He was going from New Orleans to Louisville, changing homes, changing routine. I just didn’t think adding a race on top of that was beneficial to what I wanted to do Saturday, so we chose not to run and I feel very comfortable with that decision. The horse is just thriving right now.”
“Ten weeks, there’s been a lot of talk about this, but Keith and I talked about it and we felt it was in the best interest of the horse,” Don’t Tell My Wife Stables Managing Partner Kirk Godby said. “We wanted to have him fresh and ready to run in the Triple Crown. We felt this gives him the best chance to compete in this race and then go on from there. We’re excited.”
CONTINUAR – Lion Race Horse Co. Ltd.’s Continuar (JPN) walked from the Quarantine Barn to the front of the grandstand and then went to the mile chute where he warmed up during the first harrow break of the morning.
When the track reopened for training at 7:30, Continuar cantered a mile with trainer Yoshito Yahagi looking on.
Ryusei Sakai will be aboard Continuar for his first Derby mount and will break from post 20.
DERMA SOTOGAKE – Hiroyuki Asanuma’s Derma Sotogake (JPN) walked from the Quarantine Barn to the front of the grandstand and then went to the mile chute where he warmed up during the first harrow break of the morning.
When the track reopened at 7:30, the UAE Derby (GII) winner galloped a mile and a quarter as trainer HidetakaOtonashi and jockey Christophe Lemaire looked on.
Derma Sotogake will represent the second Derby mount for Lemaire, who was aboard Crown Pride (JPN) last year when that runner finished 13th.
Lemaire rode the son of Mind Your Biscuits for the first time in the UAE Derby, a front-running 5 ½-length victory, a performance that propelled Derma Sotogake to the co-fourth choice on the Derby 149 morning line at 10-1.
DISARM – Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Disarm galloped Thursday at 7:30 a.m. for Hall of Fame trainer SteveAsmussen.
FORTE/KINGSBARNS/MAJOR DUDE/TAPIT TRICE – As per usual, Hall of Fame trainer Todd Pletcherhad his Derby trio trackside and ready to roll for the special 7:30 to 7:45 training period for Derby and Oaks runners. They all went about their business by galloping about a mile and three eighths around the big Churchill oval.
The threesome consisted of Derby favorite Forte (with exercise rider Hector Ramos up), the undefeated Kingsbarns (Elder Flores) and the Blue Grass Stakes (GI) star Tapit Trice (Amelia Green).
Green, a young English horsewoman who has worked for Pletcher for the past six years, was asked about the possibility of her charge – the gray Tapit Trice – winning Saturday’s Derby and what that would mean to her.
“Well, I’m lucky to be working in a good barn with good horses,” she said. “All our horses are working well, including mine. But I don’t think you’re going to find anyone here this week with a Derby horse that wouldn’t tell you their horse is training well.
“If one of the horses from our barn were to win, I’d be delighted. We’re a team here and we root for each other and want the others to do well. But probably – deep in my heart – there’s a place that would feel very warm if my horse was to win the Derby. That would be special.”
Pletcher said “All is good so far,” when asked about his Derby hopefuls. He’s scheduled them for a visit to the paddock with the horses for today’s Race six and indicated his runners would be ready to train again Friday in the special 7:45 to 8 a.m. training session for Derby and Oaks runners.
LORD MILES – Vegso Racing Stable’s Wood Memorial (GII) winner walked the shedrow Thursday morning.
MAGE – The Good Magic colt, runner-up to Forte in the Florida Derby (GI), galloped Thursday with regular exercise rider J.J. Delgado.
“Today he was schooling at the gate, and he looked really, really good on the track,” said trainer Gustavo Delgado. “There wasn’t any problem when the horse (Verifying) got loose. Today he’s probably going to the paddock, too.”
“The talent he’s showing is very great,” Delgado added after lightly raced Mage galloped a strong mile-and-a-half.
Javier Castellano will ride the colt, owned by OGMA Investments LLC, Ramiro Restrepo, Sterling Racing LLC and CMNWLTH, out of post eight. He’s listed at 15-1 on the morning line.
PRACTICAL MOVE/REINCARNATE – Trainer Tim Yakteen sent his Santa Anita Derby winner Practical Move out for a good gallop at the start of the special 7:30 to 7:45 training session Thursday morning at Churchill Downs. The big colt by Practical Joke galloped under exercise rider Baltazar Contreras for a mile and three-eighths and schooled in the starting gate as well.
At 7:55 Contreras got a leg up on Reincarnate, the Sham Stakes (GIII) winner, and he, too, headed to the racetrack for a good gallop, covering a mile and a quarter when all was said and done.
The trainer was asked if all was good with his charges heading toward Derby 149.
“Yes, I’m happy with where my horses are,” he said. “Everything is going well.”
Practical Move will break out of Post 10 Saturday with regular rider Ramon Vazquez aboard. Reincarnate will come out of Post seven and have Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez in the saddle.
RAISE CAIN – Andrew and Rania Warren’s Raise Cain galloped 1 ½ miles under Rene Morales for trainer Ben Colebrook.
“This morning was as good as he ever trained,” Colebrook said. “His ears were pricked.”
Raise Cain will represent the first Derby starter for the 45-year-old Colebrook, who went out on his own in 2012.
“The first Derby I saw in person was Thunder Gulch in 1995,” Colebrook said. “The first Derby I really remember was Alysheba (in 1987). He was my favorite horse.”
ROCKET CAN – The Into Mischief colt, owned by Frank Fletcher Racing Operations, was on the track Thursday morning for a gallop of about a mile-and-three-eighths with regular exercise rider Guelser Cardona.
“We got held up a bit, but it turned out OK,” said Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, referring to Verifying dumping his exercise rider and taking off.
Rocket Can, who drew the No. 18 post position and was listed at morning-line odds of 30-1, will have Junior Alvarado aboard in the Derby. He’ll wear blinkers, and has trained with them on.
SKINNER – Following a pattern he set on his first Churchill training morning this past Monday, trainer John Shirreffs sent his colt Skinner to the racetrack at 9 a.m. for his morning exercise.
The Curlin colt, a $510,000 2-year-old-in-training purchase by owners C R K Stable, had exercise rider Donnie Balthazar up and a stable pony alongside as they came through the six-furlong gap and backtracked to the finish line and up into the paddock. The rider then took the bay onto the racetrack from there for a strong mile and one-half gallop, moving smartly in the middle of the racetrack. Skinner was on the bit and wanting to run.
“Oh, yeah, happy with that strong move,” said Shirreffs, who watched he drill from a viewing stand on the backside.
Skinner was escorted by veteran pony lady Monnie Goetz. She has taken Shirreffs previous Kentucky Derby winner, Giacomo, to the post for the 2005 Kentucky Derby. She was asked if she had happy memories of that.
“Oh, yes,” she said. “That’s always fun when you’re working with a winner. I’ve had a couple of others that I took to the post, too – Orb in 2013 and California Chrome in 2014.”
Who, it was wondered, would she be taking postward for Derby 149?
“Don’t know yet,” she noted. “I’ve been working with about 13 of them leading up to the race. I’ll wind up with one of them.”
Made aware of the special training hours in place for Friday because of the Kentucky Oaks card, Shirreffs indicated that he would send his charge out during the special 7:45 to 8 a.m. training period set aside for Derby and Oaks runners. The track closes for training after that.
SUN THUNDER – Trainer Kenny McPeek had his colt back on the track Thursday with regular exercise rider Martin Vargas, galloping slightly more than a mile.
On Oaks Day, McPeek plans to send Sun Thunder out in the first set when the track opens at 5:15 a.m.
Riding Sun Thunder in his breeze was his Derby jockey, Brian Hernandez Jr. The colt, owned by R.T Racing Stable and Cypress Creek Equine, has been training with blinkers on, and will wear them in the Derby. Sun Thunder and Hernandez will leave the Derby starting gate from post position 13. He’s listed at 50-1 on the morning line.
McPeek has made headlines throughout the week sporting University of Kentucky and University of Louisville gear. However, Wednesday night McPeek and his family attended the Davenport Derby Dash, a benefit for the Scott Davenport Foundation at Bellarmine University.
When asked at the event his instructions to Hernandez in the Derby, McPeek stated, “I’m just watching along. I’ll let Brian decide what to do.”
TWO PHIL’S – Patricia’s Hope, Phillip Sagan, and Madaket Stable’s Two Phil’s visited the track earlier than usual on Thursday, galloping his standard 1 and 1/4 miles at 6 a.m. under exercise rider Gonzalo Gonzales. The son of Hard Spun by the General Quarters mare Mia Torri was bred by the father and son team of Chicago natives Philip and Anthony Sagan, who have retained 10 percent ownership.
One of the two eponymous Phils, Phil Sagan arrived in Louisville on Wednesday and joined son Anthony on the backside Thursday morning.
“Two Phil’s is the first horse we ever bred, and nobody wanted him,” Anthony Sagan said. “His mother is a Florida-bred and we actually bought her off Michael “Bo” Yates (trainer of Oaks filly Dorth Vader). She was the first horse we ever bought. The mom is the same type of horse—relaxed, easy going, nothing bothered her, she didn’t lose her mind in the paddock—so he got that from her. How many guys get involved in the game with one horse and then after she’s done racing, breed that horse, and the first horse she has is now in the Derby.”
Two Phil’s has two brothers, a two-year-old by Omaha Beach and a baby by McKenzie. The chestnut colt will school in the paddock ahead of Race three on Thursday.
ALSO-ELIGIBLES – Trainer Dale Romans is making sure Cyclone Mischief is fresh, fit and ready to step into the 20th starting gate on Saturday, if a horse is scratched from the Derby field.
“He went out to school in the gate, and will stand in the paddock today,” Romans said Friday following a gallop of about a mile-and-three-eighths with exercise rider Faustino Herrarte. “He galloped super today.”
Hiroaki Arai’s Mandarin Hero galloped two miles under Yuji Horita.
Brereton C. Jones and Naber Racing’s King Russell galloped 1 ½ miles Thursday at 7:30 a.m.
LONGINES KENTUCKY OAKS UPDATE
AFFIRMATIVE LADY – AMO Racing USA’s Affirmative Lady had an eventful mile and a half gallop under Kevin Lundie.
“She had an interrupted mile and a half,” trainer Graham Motion said. “She had to pull up because of the loose horse. It’s ironic, really, with the special training time and there is supposed to be no drama.”
Winner of the Gulfstream Park Oaks (GII) in her most recent start, Affirmative Lady will exit post 13 underJohn Velazquez in Friday afternoon’s Oaks.
“I’d like to see Johnny save some ground going into the first turn,” Motion said. “He has done it so many times, I will leave it up to him.”
Motion said Affirmative Lady would not go to the track in the morning.
AND TELL ME NOLIES – Peter Redekop’s And Tell Me Nolies went out to train at 7:30 a.m. with the other Kentucky Oaks and Derby contenders and was appearing to have a routine morning of galloping and standing in the starting gate until the very end of the session. As she was walking back to the barn, she reared and dumped her exercise rider before galloping at full speed off the track and back to the barn.
Trainer Peter Miller, who had been watching training with his two sons Jacob and Seth, reported the filly appears to be fine and they are moving forward to the Oaks.
“She just got real happy and reared up,” Miller said. “Luckily, she didn’t go down or anything, so she’s OK. She seems OK.”
BOTANICAL, THE ALYS LOOK, WET PAINT – Trainer Brad Cox sent Botanical and The Alys Look to the track together first set at 5:15 a.m. along with Derby runner Hit Show for their Thursday training and they both galloped a 1 ½ miles. Kentucky Oaks morning line favorite Wet Paint went out to train at 7:30 with three of her stablemates running in the Kentucky Derby, Angel of Empire, Jace’s Road and Verifying, and she also galloped 1 ½ miles.
“They’re really good,” Cox said. “They just had regular gallops. They all schooled yesterday and were great. They’ll just walk tomorrow.”
DEFINING PURPOSE – The Ashland Stakes (GI) winner took to the track Thursday morning during the period reserved for Oaks and Derby horses, with regular exercise rider Shelby Spalding aboard, for the usual gallop of about a mile-and-three-eighths.
“My filly was off the track before it happened, so she got in her full gallop,” trainer Kenny McPeek said of the incident with Verifying dumping his exercise rider and running off. She’ll walk the shedrow early Friday, before the Oaks later in the day.
The filly, who races in the silks of Magdalena Racing, Collette Marie Vanmatre and James Ball, drew the No. 11 post position in the field of 14. Brian Hernandez Jr. will ride 12-1 Defining Purpose Friday.
DORTH VADER – John Ropes’ Dorth Vader had a routine 1 ½-mile gallop at 7:30 a.m. Thursday.
FLYING CONNECTION – Brad King, Randy Andrews, G. Chris Coleman, Jim Cone, Suzanne Kirby and Lee Lewis’ Flying Connection galloped a mile and a half under Oscar Rojero.
“She had to pull up (because of the loose horse), but a couple minutes later I saw her around the seven-eighths pole and see was going strong,” trainer Todd Fincher said.
Fincher said the wire-to-wire winner of the Sunland Park Oaks (Listed) in her most recent start would not go to the track Friday morning.
Florent Geroux, who worked Flying Connection twice here, has the mount and will leave from post 10.
“I’d like to see her break a length and front and have a clean trip,” said Fincher, who is saddling his first Oaks starter. “Then we will see how she stacks up.”
GAMBLING GIRL/JULIA SHINING – Trainer Todd Pletcher had his two Kentucky Oaks possibles trackside for the special training session between 7:30 and 7:45 Thursday morning. Exercise rider Carlos Quevedo was at the controls for Gambling Girl, while Humberto Zamora was in the saddle with Julia Shining.
Gambling Girl is guaranteed a spot for the 149th edition of the “Run for the Lillies,” while Julia Shining will need a couple of scratches in the race prior to 9 a.m. Friday. Both took their Thursday exercise over a mile and three eighths on a sunny Louisville morning.
Gambling Girl will have Irad Ortiz Jr. in the tack and break from Post three. Julia Shining may wind up in the Black-Eyed Susan on Preakness weekend in Baltimore
MIMI KAKUSHI – Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed Al Maktoum’s Mimi Kakushi jogged a mile alongside a pony and then galloped a mile under Xavier Ziani.
Trainer Salem bin Ghadayer said Mimi Kakushi could go to the track in the morning or be hand-walked in the Quarantine Barn.
Mimi Kakushi will represent bin Ghadayer’s first starter in the United States and the trainer is optimistic about his filly.
“She has improved every race and I think she has a good chance,” bin Ghadayer said of the UAE Oaks (GIII) winner. “It is a very open race, but we came here to win and not to turn around and go back home.”
PRETTY MISCHIEVOUS – With trainer Brendan Walsh on pony overseeing the preparations, Pretty Mischievous galloped her regular distance of one mile and a half during the 7:30 – 7:45 a.m. Derby/Oaks training window.
“She’s had a great week, really she’s doing super,” Walsh said. “She’s got a lot of class. It’s been a good couple of days so far, which feels good heading into a big weekend.”
Walsh has saddled three winners from four entries in the first three days of Churchill’s Spring Meet, including winning two maiden races on Wednesday’s card with Gloria’s Princess and Eddie M.
PROMISEHER AMERICA – Forgoing the Derby and Oaks training window, Hoffman Thoroughbreds, TomMcCrocklin, and Medallion Racing’s Promiseher America jogged one mile at around 6:00 a.m. Thursday.
“She did perfect. She’s a quiet filly. She’s not nervous at all and seems like her normal self in the new environment. (Her exercise rider Fernando Tapara) was really happy with the gallop yesterday,” assistant trainerRodrigo Montecino reported.
SOUTHLAWN – Robert Masterson’s Southlawn had a 1 ½-mile gallop Thursday morning for trainer Norm Casse.
Jockey Rey Gutierrez was on hand watching his Oaks mount train while getting interviewed in the Kentucky Derby Morning Works Show.
WONDER WHEEL – A day after making an appearance during the Oaks and Derby training window, the Mark Casse-trainee Wonder Wheel returned to her routine exercise time of 6 a.m. on Thursday morning. Assistant trainer David Carroll led D.J. Stable’s filly through an easy gallop.
“If the real Wonder Wheel shows up, she’ll be tough,” Mark Casse said. “She is 2 for 2 here at Churchill. My wife brought two dresses, her fancy dress for Derby day and her other dress which is nice but is for the Oaks, and I told her she might want to reverse that. I can’t say anything better than that about how she is doing.”