Kentucky Derby

Derby & Oaks News: Mor Spirit Works for Baffert

Mor Spirit - Morning Work - CD - 050216 - Photo Credit: Churchill Downs/Coady Photography
Churchill Downs/Coady Photography

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Monday, May 2, 2016) – Three Kentucky Derby hopefuls put in their final works for Saturday’s $2 million Run for the Roses with breezes over a fast track Monday morning.

Trainer Steve Asmussen worked Louisiana Derby (GII) winner Gun Runner and Arkansas Derby (GI) winner Creator with trainer Bob Baffert working Santa Anita Derby (GI) runner-up Mor Spirit.

Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm’s Gun Runner breezed a half-mile in :50.40 while working on his own under exercise rider Carlos Rosas. Following right behind, his stablemate WinStar Farm’s Creator worked a half-mile in :50.60 under Abel Flores.

Michael Petersen’s Mor Spirit, with jockey Gary Stevens aboard and working in company, breezed five furlongs in :59.80, the second fastest of 27 at the distance on the morning.

Five fillies, with their sights set on Friday’s $1 million Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI) worked.

Asmussen worked four of them before the break when the track was listed as “good.” Stonestreet Stables’ Terra Promessa worked a half-mile in :50.80, and Royal Obsession, also owned by Stonestreet, worked a half-mile in :50.40. Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Taxable worked a half-mile in :50.40 and LNJ Foxwoods’ Nickname worked a half-mile in :50.60.

Working after the break was Three Chimneys Farm’s Carina Mia, who drilled a half-mile in :49.40.

The draw for the Kentucky Oaks will take place at 11 a.m. Tuesday in the Parlay/Media Center’s media briefing room.


BRODY’S CAUSE/CHERRY WINE – Albaugh Family Stable’s Brody’s Cause and William Pacella and Frank L Jones Jr.’s Cherry Wine returned to the Churchill Downs track Monday morning for “wrong way” jogs.

Brody’s Cause, the Toyota Blue Grass (G1) winner, has secured a spot in the 20-horse field for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, while Blue Grass third-place finisher Cherry Wine would need some defections to draw into the field.

“They both jogged two miles, both of them looked like they were moving great,” trainer Dale Romans said. “They’ll gallop a mile and an eighth tomorrow.”

Brody’s Cause breezed five furlongs in 1:00.20 and Blue Grass third-place finisher Cherry Wine worked five furlongs in 1:00.60 at Churchill Downs Saturday, earning a day off Sunday.

Brody’s Cause is slated to make the third start of his sophomore campaign in the Derby after finishing a disappointing seventh in the Tampa Bay Derby (G2) and surging late to capture the Blue Grass. The son of Giant’s Causeway had a four-race juvenile campaign that included a maiden win at Churchill, a triumph in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland and third-place finish behind Kentucky Derby favoriter Nyquist in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Keeneland.

“He had 15 points banked and he had enough of a foundation as a 2-year-old, so we wanted the third race in his form cycle to be the Derby,” Romans said. “Everything’s gone perfect, except for the fact that he didn’t run that well in the Tampa Bay Derby. But in the big picture, it might have helped him.”

Brody’s Cause was bumped at the start of the Tampa Bay Derby, but Romans offered no excuses for the lackluster performance.

“It was a long four weeks between two races to make sure he was the horse we thought he was all along,” said Romans, whose trainee prevailed over 13 rivals in the Blue Grass after rallying from 11thunder jockey Luis Saez.

CREATOR/GUN RUNNER – Trainer Steve Asmussen’s Kentucky Derby duo – WinStar Farm’s Creator and Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm’s Gun Runner – posted half-mile workouts after the renovation break.

Creator, with exercise rider Abel Flores aboard, worked in :50.60, with eighth-mile splits of :12.60, :25.20 and :38. Gun Runner, with exercise rider Carlos Rosas aboard, worked in :50.40, with splits of :12.60, :25 and :37.80.

Asmussen expressed satisfaction with the workouts.

“I’m very happy with how they’ve been here at Churchill,” he said. “Just an easy half-mile. The best news of the morning was the condition of the track. I’m very thankful to the Churchill grounds crew for what they did last night. We had a pretty good rain (Sunday) in the afternoon. Looking at the track, there was water standing on it about 6 o’clock last night.

“To come out this morning and see what kind of shape it was in was very pleasant. It definitely made the morning go well. Carlos and Abel, as always, were spot-on with the horses. They liked how they felt. I thought they were cooling out extremely well, and we’re very excited for the Derby.”

Gun Runner, who spent the winter at Fair Grounds, won both of his Derby preps there – the Risen Star (GII) and Louisiana Derby (GII). “Obviously, I’m very happy with the trajectory that he’s shown to this point,” Asmussen said.  “But we also know we need to be better. We’re in the process of it. The Louisiana Derby was a nice step in the right direction, and we’re expecting another step forward.”

Creator broke his maiden in his sixth start, on Feb. 27 at Oaklawn Park, before moving to stakes company there, finishing third in the Rebel (GII) and winning the Arkansas Derby (G1). Since their latest victories, both Gun Runner and Creator continued their training at Churchill Downs, where they had spent significant time as 2-year-olds. Familiarity with the track is a plus for both horses, Asmussen said.

“I feel very good about the time that they spent here last summer and last fall, very confident with the racetrack and the surroundings,” he said. “The crew has done a wonderful job with them to put them in a position to do their best. … It’s one of the variables, and we can feel very comfortable that they’re going to handle the surface and the surroundings for their preparation. And when you put 20 of them together in the draw, you’re worried about other things, but I think we can check that off as far as not (being) an excuse and try to move forward.”

Asmussen said that improved focus has helped Creator find success. “He’s always had a lot of talent,” Asmussen said.  “He’s a great physical (specimen), a tremendous pedigree, and it’s been in him. I think he just lacked focus in his races.

“It was a bit frustrating running him. You felt like he should have won several of the races you were watching. But he would take mental lapses and just not finish up with the effort you knew he was capable of.”

Ricardo Santana Jr., who will ride Creator, observed the workout. Santana said that when the colt broke his maiden, he appeared to be a changed horse. “He made a nice move at the three-eighths,” Santana said.  “The first time he won a race, he started doing better and better and better. ”

Santana, 22, from Panama, will be riding in his second Kentucky Derby. Asmussen gave Santana his first Derby mount, Tapiture, who finished 15th in 2014. “I’m happy with the barn,” Santana said.  “He has a lot of confidence in me. He gave me a lot of good shots.”

People connected to the ownership of Gun Runner and Creator also watched the workouts.

WinStar CEO Elliott Walden was among those focusing on Creator. “He’s doing super,” Walden said.  “Couldn’t be happier with how he’s doing, and Steve’s done a great job. That’s all you can ask for, is to go over there with a good chance.”

Chris Baker, There Chimneys CEO, was pleased with what he saw from Gun Runner. “He’s really developing at the right time,” Baker said.  “Look at his races, and see what he’s done. It’s almost like his physical developing has kind of mirrored that. So hopefully, he hasn’t peaked yet.”

DANZING CANDY – Halo Farms, Jim and Dianne Bashor’s Danzing Candy was en route to Kentucky on Monday morning, with an estimated arrival at Churchill Downs around 2 p.m. local time. Trainer Cliff Sise Jr. said by phone that the San Felipe (GII) winner departed Ontario Airport in Southern California about 5:30 a.m. PT.

“The plane was actually delayed 90 minutes because the pilots who were flying it were delayed coming [to California] because of weather,” Sise said. “Because of regulations, the pilots had to have more time out of the cockpit before they flew again.”

Sise is also scheduled to arrive in Kentucky this afternoon, and will be at the barn Tuesday morning to see Danzing Candy jog or gallop during the training session for Derby and Oaks contenders at 8:30 a.m. Danzing Candy will be housed in Barn 41.

DAZZLING GEM – Steve Landers Racing LLC’s Dazzling Gem returned to the track for a 1 ½-mile gallop Monday during the special 8:30 a.m. training time for the first time since a five-furlong workout Saturday. Trainer Brad Cox said the Misremembered colt continues to do well and they are just waiting to see if they can make it into the body of the field. Dazzling Gem is 24th on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard.

DESTIN/OUTWORK – Trainer Todd Pletcher had his Derby duo of Destin and Outwork dressed out and ready to take advantage of the Churchill Downs special training period (8:30-8:45) for Derby and Oaks horses Monday morning.  The colts came with their regular exercise riders attached – Ovel Merida on Destin and Hector Ramos aboard Outwork.

The two galloped smartly around the big oval, covering about a mile and a quarter in the process. Pletcher watched alertly, as he’s done before. This is the seven-time Eclipse Award winner’s 16thDerby and his 13th in a row. Is this Derby, he was asked, feeling any different to him?

“Not really,” the trainer said. “It has been awful quiet so far, but it’s early in the week.”

Pletcher trains one of the largest collections of racehorses in the world. He currently has approximately 160 runners under his control, a number that will head upward when racing across the country hits it peak in mid-summer. He has 14 of those runners at Churchill Downs, but also is now stabling at Keeneland (for a few more days), Palm Meadows training center in Florida (for a few more weeks), Saratoga and Belmont Park in New York. Shortly he’ll send a string to Monmouth Park in New Jersey.

Among his stable help he employs somewhere around 26 to 28 exercise riders, which obviously requires a fair bit of scheduling and adjusting. Part of that was being sure that Merida and Ramos stayed close to Destin and Outwork.

“Those two have been getting on my Derby colts since the winter, so when we came to Churchill for the Derby, we had to be sure they stayed with them,” Pletcher said. “The Derby colts get an edge when it comes to our scheduling of exercise riders.”

DISCREETNESS – Xpress Thoroughbreds’ Discreetness jogged a mile after the renovation break under Paul Griffith for trainer Jinks Fires.

Discreetness is 26th on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard.

EXAGGERATOR – Santa Anita Derby (GI) winner Exaggerator had another quiet morning, walking the shed, then later in the morning taking a tour of the paddock.

The son of Curlin had put in his final Derby drill Saturday morning at Churchill (five furlongs in 1:02.60) and had walked Sunday morning.

Monday at about 10:15 a.m. he joined 11 other horses who made their way from the Churchill backside to walk and stand in the track’s iconic paddock, where he’ll be one of 20 runners eagerly anticipating the 142nd edition of the Kentucky Derby (GI). Exaggerator had two handlers for his paddock tour and was watched closely by trainer Keith Desormeaux. The colt handled his business in good order. Previously, he had toured the paddock last Thursday. Desormeaux had indicated that he would do several paddock sessions with Exaggerator prior to his Derby run.

FELLOWSHIP – For Team Casse, it is business as usual when it comes to preparing Fellowship, No. 21 on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard, for his next race, wherever that may be.

After Jacks or Better Farm’s Fellowship galloped 1 1/2 miles over the Churchill oval, Norm Casse, assistant to his father, Mark, said: “We’re just training like he is going to run. We’re not wishing any bad luck to anybody; we’re just ready to run if someone comes out.”

Casse reported that Fellowship will be entered Wednesday with Jose Lezcano named to ride.

Fellowship will visit the starting gate Tuesday, as well as paddock school during the second race.

LANI – Koji Maeda’s Lani spent another leisurely morning on the track at Churchill Downs combining walking, jogging and galloping for five circuits around the track with Eishu Maruuchi in the saddle.

Winner of the UAE Derby (Group II) in his most recent start, Lani came on the track at the five-eighths gap and walked to the starting gate where he stood before resuming his morning activity.

“I was at the gate and I saw him go around at least four times,” said Keita Tanaka, agent for Maeda. “It is his temperament; if he wants to go, the rider lets him go.”

Lani has been at Churchill Downs since April 3. He had arrived in Dubai for the UAE Derby on March 16, spent two weeks there and then flew to Chicago where he quarantined before coming to Louisville.

Tanaka said the atmosphere surrounding the Derby is totally different than in Japan.

“At home, there is no public entry to the barn area, just some media,” Tanaka said. “He is at a training center that is totally apart from the track.”

However, with plenty of spectators watching from the backstretch this morning, Lani had no issues with the added attention.

“The crowds don’t bother him,” Tanaka said. “He likes people.”

Trainer Mikio Matsunaga is scheduled to arrive in Louisville today and be at the barn Tuesday morning.

MAJESTO – Grupo 7C Racing Stable’s Majesto schooled in the starting gate and galloped a mile and a half Monday morning at Churchill Downs.

“Tomorrow, it’s open galloping,” trainer Gustavo Delgado said.

The son of Tiznow, who finished second behind Nyquist in the Florida Derby (GI), his ownership group, his trainer and his jockey Emisael Jaramillo hail from Venezuela. Delgado, who dominated the trainer standings in his native country before venturing to Gulfsteam Park two years ago, said Majesto’s scheduled start in the Kentucky Derby has provided a bright topic of conversation for his countrymen at a difficult time in Venezuela.

“My country’s conditions are very bad now. The people only speak about the Kentucky Derby, they don’t speak of the bad conditions in Venezuela,” Delgado said. “They speak of the Kentucky Derby, the owners going to the Kentucky Derby, the trainer going to the Kentucky Derby and Jaramillo going to the Kentucky Derby. They don’t speak about the bad conditions.”

MOHAYMEN – Shadwell Stable’s Mohaymen celebrated his official third birthday Monday morning by galloping 1 3/8 miles at Churchill Downs in preparation for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.

The Kiaran McLaughlin-trained colt is scheduled for an attempt to rebound from a disappointing fourth-place finish in the April 2 Florida Derby (GI), in which he sustained his first loss after winning his first five starts.

Mohaymen’s birthday celebration would surely have been more well attended had he prevailed in his showdown with undefeated Kentucky Derby contender Nyquist in the Florida Derby.

“Had we won the press would have been lined up to the next barn, so maybe it was a blessing of some sort. But we were very disappointed, because we thought he couldn’t lose,” McLaughlin said.

Mohaymen was favored at 4-5 in the Florida Derby, but finished 8 ¼ lengths behind Nyquist after racing wide over a “good” Gulfstream surface.

“It was the only two bad minutes he’s had since he came into the barn. June 23 he came in and he worked two weeks later. Since then he’s never missed a day; he’s never had a bad moment, except that day for two minutes,” McLaughlin said. 

MOR SPIRIT – Hall of Famers Bob Baffert and Gary Stevens, who teamed together to win the 1997 Kentucky Derby with Silver Charm, are hoping lightning will strike again when they join forces with Michael Petersen’s Mor Spirit on Saturday. Both the trainer and jockey were feeling even more confident about their chances after the Eskenderaya ridgling, with Stevens on board, completed his major preparation with a five-furlong breeze in :59.80 during the special 8:30-8:45 a.m. training time.

The clockers caught Mor Spirit in splits of :12.40, 23.60, 35.40 and 46.80. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.20.

“It was a cruising half mile,” Stevens said. “He gave me everything I wanted. Bob wanted an easy half mile in 49 and I let him gallop out an easy five-eighths. He wanted to do more than I let him. He’s getting over the surface well. He’s always been a good mover. No wasted action. He does seem to be handling this surface better than Santa Anita’s.

“I thought he went in 1:01. I had no idea of his time until I was told. To hear that puts a smile on my face. If I’m two seconds off on a good horse that usually means good things for me.”

“In his last work, he broke off a little too fast, but today he went really nice,” Baffert said. “It looks like he was moving really well. Now, we just need a good draw and a good break. So many things can happen. The break can make you or destroy you. The last work is important and then the last stressful thing is the draw, waiting to see what number you get.”

When asked about the favorite Nyquist maybe not getting as much respect as his Triple Crown winner American Pharoah last year, Baffert responded, “I think we all have American Pharoah hangover. Nyquist is a nice horse. I remember it being the same way with California Chrome and after he won people were like ‘he is a really good horse.’ Nyquist is fast and he keeps himself out of trouble. He definitely deserves to be the favorite because he’s the most accomplished in the field.”

MO TOM – G M B Racing’s Mo Tom, with exercise rider Mario Garcia aboard, galloped two miles Monday shortly after the track opened.

“Everything went well,” trainer Tom Amoss said.

Concerning the mile-and-a-quarter of the Kentucky Derby, Amoss said he doesn’t expect Mo Tom, a son of Uncle Mo, to have a problem with the distance.

“The pundits will debate whether Uncle Mo’s can get the mile-and-a-quarter, and that will not only apply to my horse, but it will apply to the post-time favorite, Nyquist, as well as Outwork,” Amoss said. “I can’t speak to the other two horses. I don’t know them. But in training Mo Tom, I have no doubt a mile-and-quarter is something he can do, and farther. I’m very comfortable with the distance.”Reply all

MY MAN SAM/SHAGAF – Sheep Pond Partners, Newport Stables and Jay W. Bligh’s My Man Sam and Shadwell Stable’s Shagaf had easy 1 1/4-mile gallops during the 8:30 a.m. training session. Daniel Bernardini was aboard My Man Sam, while Shagaf followed closely behind under Gian Cueva.

“Both of the colts continue to train really well,” trainer Chad Brown said. “From here until the race I’m looking for these horses to continue moving smooth over the track, like they are. And I want to see them maintain their weight. Right now I couldn’t ask for any more from either of them.”

Shagaf has turned the heads of fans and even rival trainers in recent days because of his striking appearance. The Gotham (GIII) winner is by Bernardini, who himself was and is known as a superb physical specimen, and out of Muhaawara (by Unbridled’s Song), a two-turn stakes winner in New York for owner Shadwell Farm and trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. Second dam Habibti was a multiple Grade I winner at 2 for owner The Thoroughbred Corporation and trainer Bob Baffert.

“I don’t see any way that this horse isn’t made to go a mile-and-a-quarter or farther, between his pedigree and the way he looks and trains,” Brown said. “I’m confident he’ll get the distance and I love the way he’s training.”

NYQUIST – Reddam Racing’s Nyquist stretched his legs Monday morning at Churchill Downs, jogging twice around five days in front of his date with destiny in the 142nd Kentucky Derby.

The Uncle Mo colt moved out from Barn 41 with regular exercise rider Jonny Garcia attached in time to take advantage of the special 8:30-8:45 training period reserved for Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks horses. He went trackside with a pony handled by trainer Doug O’Neill assistant Jack Sisterson.

Among the stable crew on board to take in the activity was O’Neill’s chief assistant, Leandro Mora, who had flown in from the stable base in Southern California on Sunday.

“Love to be where the action is,” Mora said, “and this is the place.”

The O’Neill stable has horses in six stakes Friday and Saturday. On Friday they’ll run Jeremy’s Legacy in the $150,000 Edgewood (GIII), Guns Loaded in the $150,000 Twin Spires Turf Sprint (GIII) and Land Over Sea in the $1,000,000 Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI). On Saturday they’ll go for the $250,000 Pat Day Mile (GIII) with Ralis, the $300,000 American Turf (GII) with Frank Conversation and, of course, the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (GI) with Nyquist.

“I think we’ve got legitimate chances in every race we’re in,” O’Neill said. “That’s fun when you believe you’re live like this.”

O’Neill also indicated that Nyquist would return to galloping Tuesday, a routine he’ll likely follow right up to the Run for the Roses.

OSCAR NOMINATED – Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Oscar Nominated, winner of the Spiral Stakes (GIII) at Turfway Park in April, galloped 1 1/4 miles at the Trackside Training Center, according to a text from trainer Mike Maker.

While Maker and Ken Ramsey have both expressed confidence in the Kitten’s Joy colt’s ability to handle dirt under any circumstances, they wouldn’t mind if it were an off track, which is often more to the liking of horses with turf pedigrees.

“I think if the track comes up sloppy that would put him in the top five or at least put him in the money,” Ramsey said.

SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS – Samuel F. Henderson’s Suddenbreakingnews galloped 1 ½ miles after the renovation break under exercise rider Ramiro Gorostieta and schooled in the paddock later in the morning.

“We’re just keeping him healthy and happy now,” trainer Donnie Von Hemel said.

Von Hemel has been a fish out of water so to speak the past few mornings at Churchill Downs without a stable pony, but his new one is expected to arrive today from Oklahoma.

TOM’S READY – G M B Racing’s Tom’s Ready, exercise rider Emerson Chavez aboard, galloped a mile and a half Monday after the renovation break.

Tom’s Ready is a son of More Than Ready, a sire generally not considered a stamina influence, but trainer Dallas Stewart that the colt should get distance blood from his dam, the Broad Brush mare Goodbye Stranger.

“(With) the Broad Brush mare, he should get the distance,” Stewart said.  “Get some help on that end, I’m hoping. The mama’s dad …  he could run nine miles. There’s not weakness in his pedigree.”

Stewart recalled that in 1994, when he was an assistant to trainer D. Wayne Lukas, Concern, a son of Broad Brush, won the Breeders’ Cup Classic at Churchill Downs. Tabasco Cat, trained by Lukas, finished second.

“Jerry Bailey rode Concern,” Stewart said. “Tabasco Cat was on the lead, looked like he couldn’t lose. It was right here in the mud. He (Concern) ran him down. He came off the turn like a motorcycle.”

TROJAN NATION – The California-based maiden Trojan Nation who had ventured east to run second in New York’s Wood Memorial and earn himself entrance into Saturday’s Derby, was on another plane Monday en route to Louisville, confirmed trainer Paddy Gallagher.

Gallagher put the Street Cry colt on a van at 2 a.m. Los Angeles time and the four-legged traveler was scheduled to be joined by another California colt who is Derby bound – Danzing Candy – for their early afternoon arrival at Churchill Downs.

“All’s good,” Gallagher said from Santa Anita.  “I’ll be on a plane to join him tomorrow.”

Trojan Nation will set up shop at Barn 41 along with Danzing Candy and another California-based colt, likely race favorite Nyquist.

WHITMORE – Whitmore met his new jockey for the first time when Victor Espinoza stopped by the barn and then watched the son of Pleasantly Perfect train. With Laura Moquett on board, Whitmore jogged a mile and galloped a mile.

“We all had a chance to tell Victor our thoughts on Whitmore,” co-owner Harry Rosenblum said. “He’s a smart rider. He’s won five of the last six Triple Crown races. We think we have a horse that just needs a good trip. Hopefully, he’ll get that with Victor.” Espinoza will be looking for his third straight Kentucky Derby victory and fourth overall when he climbs aboard Whitmore for the first time Saturday. He won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes with California Chrome in 2014 and then became the first rider to win the Triple Crown in 37 years last year when American Pharoah swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. Espinoza also won the Kentucky Derby in 2002 with War Emblem.


CARINA MIA – Three Chimneys Farm’s Carina Mia, who remains at 17th on the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard, worked a half-mile Monday morning at Churchill Downs with exercise rider Penny Gardiner in the saddle.

The Bill Mott trainee covered the distance in :49.40, with splits of :24.40 and :37. Her five-furlong gallop-out time was 1:02.80.

“We had a really fast work last week, so I thought this was good,” Mott said of his filly’s bullet five-furlong breeze in :58.80 at Churchill on April 25.

The Hall of Fame trainer conceded that with the clock ticking on entries tomorrow for the Oaks — and Carina Mia on the outside looking in — it is likely he will enter the winner of last year’s Golden Rod (GII) at Churchill Downs in the Eight Belles (GII) on the Oaks undercard. Kentucky rules do not allow for Mott entering Carina Mia in both races.

“If we’re still at [17] tomorrow, I would certainly be inclined to enter in the Eight Belles,” said Mott, who then quipped, “I’ve checked on [the rule], and I tried to change the rule, and they wouldn’t do it.”

CATHRYN SOPHIA – Cash is King’s Cathryn Sophia got her first feel of the Churchill Downs’ surface this morning when she and exercise rider Jerry Ortega jogged once around the track during the training session for Derby and Oaks horses.

Trainer John Servis was on hand to watch Cathryn Sophia, who arrived in Louisville early Sunday afternoon after a van ride from Keeneland. Servis, who won the Kentucky Derby in 2004 with Smarty Jones, reflected on what it would mean to him to earn his first Oaks victory.

“It would be great, are you kidding me, it would be a nice one for the resume — that’s for sure,” the trainer said with a big smile.

Cathryn Sophia, who suffered the first defeat of her career in Keeneland’s Central Bank Ashland (GI) when finishing third as the odds-on favorite in the 1 1/16-mile race, is a winner of four races, ranging from six furlongs to a mile. After the Ashland defeat, Chuck Zackney, the filly’s owner, and Servis planned on skipping the Oaks, and returning Cathryn Sophia to sprinting in the Eight Belles (GII) on the Oaks undercard. But, when the undefeated Songbird, last year’s champion 2-year-old filly was removed from Oaks consideration, Cathryn Sophia’s connections had a change of heart.

“I don’t want to say it was an easy decision,” Servis said. “Chuck and I talked about it quite a bit, actually. But I think it was a combination of things — how well she did run in the Ashland, and that the field included five of the top horses we have to beat in the Oaks, as well as how she is doing — she is actually doing better now than she was going into the Ashland. She is eating better and her coat looks better. She’s just changed.”

“I feel great about her,” he continued. “The only question is the mile and an eighth.”

Javier Castellano, who is seeking his initial win in the Kentucky Oaks, has the mount aboard Cathryn Sophia.

DOTHRAKI QUEEN – Magdalena Racing’s Dothraki Queen galloped a mile after the renovation break under Erin Walker.

Trained by Kenny McPeek, Dothraki Queen finished eighth in the Appalachian (GIII) at Keeneland on April 16 in her 2016 debut, a grass race in which she lost a shoe shortly after the break.

Winner of the Pocahontas (GII) here in September, Dothraki Queen is 16th on the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard.

DREAM DANCE – Stoneway Farm’s Dream Dance galloped 1 ¼ miles under Joel Dominguez before 7 o’clock for trainer Neil Howard.

“She cut back a little this morning because she did a little more in her work Friday (five-eighths in :59.60), so we are compensating for that,” Howard said.

Howard is seeking his second Oaks victory, having scored in 2000 with Secret Status.

“This filly (Dream Dance) is similar to Secret Status in that both of them are good feeling fillies,” Howard said. “The biggest battle Secret Status had was with herself. She was kind of a nervous filly.”

Prior to the Oaks, Secret Status had compiled an 8-4-0-3 record with a victory in the Florida Oaks (GIII) before winning the Kentucky Oaks. Dream Dance will bring a 9-2-0-4 mark into Friday’s race and fresh off an allowance victory April 16 at Keeneland.

Secret Status won the Kentucky Oaks 47 days after winning the Florida Oaks.

“She was a light-framed filly and you didn’t need to over-train her,” Howard said of Secret Status, who followed her Oaks victory with a triumph in the Mother Goose (GI).

Brian Hernandez Jr. has the mount Friday.

GO MAGGIE GO – Mike Tarp’s Go Maggie Go jogged two miles the “wrong way” around the Churchill Downs racetrack Monday morning.

Trainer Dale Romans said the daughter of Ghostzapper is scheduled to gallop 1 1/8 miles Tuesday morning.

Go Maggie Go, who debuted with a four-length victory at six furlongs at Gulfstream March 13, earned her way into the Oaks field with her 2 ¼-length triumph in the 1 1/16-mile Gulfstream Park Oaks (GII) April 2 in her first trip around two turns.

“It was way too much to ask of a 3-year-old filly second start of her life, and it’s the same thing in the third start of her life for her to go in the Kentucky Oaks,” Romans said. “It’s not something you would expect, but she’s a strong filly. She’s more like a colt. She’s good-minded, and she’ll be a force to be reckoned with in the Oaks.”

LAND OVER SEA – Exercise rider Jonny Garcia has been a busy man in Kentucky of late. His boss, trainer Doug O’Neill, has brought in a string of stakes runners to go along with his Kentucky Derby hopeful Nyquist and his Kentucky Oaks candidate Land Over Sea. Garcia gets on them all in the mornings.

Monday morning at Churchill Downs he boarded one runner after another, including an 8:30 date with likely Derby favorite Nyquist. Shortly thereafter, he was in the boot once more with Land Over Sea, who will be among the favorites for Friday’s rich Oaks.

Garcia guided the Bellamy Road filly through a smart gallop of about a mile and quarter, then returned her to her Barn 41 headquarters.

“Good gallop, good energy,” said the always-upbeat O’Neill, who took in the exercise trackside. “We like where we are with her.”

Land Over Sea has raced eight times. In two of them she was a winner and in a third she went unplaced. Five other times she had the grand misfortune to run into the strapping Songbird, the 3-year-old lassie who most everyone believes is the best in the land. Songbird, who has beaten everyone she faced, won’t be in Friday’s Oaks because of a sickness. It has given the other fillies in the division an unexpected ray of hope.

“We like our filly on Friday,” O’Neill assistant trainer Leandro Mora said. “And one of the big reasons is that there won’t be any Songbird this time. If she was in the race, we’d all be running for second place.”

LEWIS BAY – Alpha Delta Stables’ Lewis Bay, winner of the Gazelle Stakes (GII) at Aqueduct last month, galloped 1 1/4 under exercise rider Gian Cueva at about 9 a.m., shortly after her Derby-bound stablemates My Man Sam and Shagaf returned to the barn.

“We wanted to wait until they harrowed the track so we’d have a little bit better surface,” trainer Chad Brown said. “She’s moving very, very well over the track and she seems happy and her weight’s good.”

MARQUEE MISS – The multiple stakes winner Marquee Miss, who is 18th of the Kentucky Oaks leaderboard, continued to train as if she’s going in the race by galloping Monday morning, but is most likely going to be entered Tuesday in the Eight Belle Stakes (GII) on the same card, according to trainer Ingrid Mason. The Kentucky Oaks is limited to 14 starters.

MO D’AMOUR/RACHEL’S VALENTINA – “Back her up to the finish, then go from the seven to the five,” said trainer Todd Pletcher to exercise rider Amy Mullen as she slipped out of Barn 40 at 6:30 Monday morning aboard the back of a nicely made bay filly named Rachel’s Valentina.

The conditioner wanted his rider to backtrack from their entry at the six-furlong gap on Churchill Downs’ backstretch to the finish line, then jog to the five-furlong marker where she commenced a gallop once around the track and on to the seven-furlong pole – a working journey of about a mile and a quarter. He then went trackside and watched horse and rider do just that.

And do that Rachel’s Valentina did – in spades. The offspring of a mating between top sire Bernardini and the champion filly Rachel Alexandra virtually pranced through her exercise, going after the furlongs with vigor.  Mullen had a handful under her all the way around.  Rachel’s Valentina acted like a horse who was looking very much forward to racing, which she’ll get to do this Friday in the $1,000,000 Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI).

“She’s not as big as her mother,” Pletcher said. “But she’s really well balanced and she’s got a big stride on her.”

Rachel’s Valentina, a winner of two of three as a 2-year-old and a close second in her comeback race at Keeneland April 9, will have the saddle services of Hall of Famer John Velazquez on Friday. She’ll be one of the favorites for this 142nd edition of the Run for the Lilies.

The trainer’s other Oaks hopeful, Mo d’Amour, also had Mullen up when she went out for a mile and a quarter gallop at 8:30 a.m. with the stable’s two Kentucky Derby colts, Destin and Outwork.

Mo d’Amour will be handled by Joel Rosario on Friday as she attempts to build on a record that shows the Uncle Mo filly winning three of her six starts.

MOKAT – JK Racing Stable’s Mokat jogged one mile “the wrong way” (clockwise) before a spirited 1 1/4-mile gallop under Martin Ruiz during the 15-minute Oaks and Derby training session.

“She had her last work 10 days out from the race so I think some good, strong gallops are the right thing for her,” trainer Richard Baltas said. “I just let the horse do what she wants. I’m not trying to go slow and easy with her. She got a lot out of the gallop and she’s getting used to the track. I didn’t see a horse train better than her today. I got excited when I saw her go by. She looked good yesterday but she looked even better today.”

Mokat had her final timed work April 26 at Santa Anita, the day before shipping to Louisville. Baltas has learned that his Uncle Mo filly benefits when she has extra time to recover from her breezes.

“I don’t think she’s one that can work right on top of a race,” he said. “That’s just the type of filly she is.”

The scheduling appears to be having its desired effect, as Baltas has seen incremental improvement from Mokat in terms of energy and comfort nearly every day since arriving at Churchill Downs.

“It’s just the ground she’s covering and the way she’s been wanting to do it,” he said. “My rider said she was nice and relaxed this morning and he could feel she wanted to pick it up so we let her pick it up a little bit.

“She gets a lot better hold of this track than she did Santa Anita. The way she looks right now, hopefully there’s a lot of speed in the race because she’ll be coming from behind.”

NICKNAME/ROYAL OBSESSION/TAXABLE/TERRA PROMESSA – Trainer Steve Asmussen’s Kentucky Oaks hopefuls had easy, half-mile workouts before the renovation break Monday at Churchill Downs.

In the first set of the morning, Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Taxable, with exercise rider Abel Flores aboard, worked in :50.40 with splits of :24.40 and :37.40. Also in that set, Stonestreet Stables and Regis Farms LP’s Royal Obsession, with exercise rider Carlos Rosas aboard, worked in :50.40 with a first quarter in :24.60.

In the next set, Stonestreet’s Terra Promessa, with Flores riding, worked in :50.80 with fractions of :12.60, :25.40 and :38. LNJ Foxwoods’ Nickname, with Rosas riding, worked in :50.60 with splits of :25.60 and :38.40.

“I’m happy with them physically and mentally,” Asmussen said of the four fillies.

Terra Promessa is on a four-race winning streak, her latest victory coming in the Fantasy (GII) at Oaklawn Park. Taxable was second in that race. Royal Obsession is coming off a runner-up finish in the Gazelle (GII). Nickname, who won the Frizette (GI) last year, has finished second in all three of her starts this year, the most recent being the Beaumont (GII), an about seven-furlong race April 17 at Keeneland.

Asmussen acknowledged that the withdrawal of undefeated Songbird from consideration for the Kentucky Oaks greatly

PAOLA QUEEN – Grupo 7C Racing Stable’s Paolo Queen had an “open gallop” around the Churchill Downs track Monday morning, reported trainer Gustavo Delgado.

“She went very, very, very good,” Delgado said. “Her last work was a good one. She has trained very good at Churchill Downs. I like her.”

The daughter of Flatter broke her maiden in her fourth career start Feb. 14 at Gulfstream before stepping up to finish second behind Go Maggie Go in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (GII).

Emisael Jaramillo, Venezuela’s all-time win leader who has ridden with a high level of success at Gulfstream Park this year, has been named to ride Paolo Queen, as well as the Delgado-trained Majesto in the Kentucky Derby.

VENUS VALENTINE – Rosemont Farm’s Venus Valentine galloped a mile and a quarter Monday under exercise ricer Maurice Sanchez for trainer Tom Amoss, and the filly also schooled in the starting gate.

Amoss said that Venus Valentine, who will be a longshot, would have been entered for the Oaks even if Songbird would have been running. Undefeated, champion Songbird was withdrawn because of a fever.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the Eigels of Rosemont Farm (owned by Mr. and Mrs. James Eigel),” Amoss said. “They bred this filly. They earned their way in with a Grade II victory down in New Orleans (in the Rachel Alexandra), and we were going to run no matter what. It’s not lost on us that Venus Valentine has to improve quite a bit to make the winner’s circle in the Kentucky Oaks, and we’re doing all we can to prepare for that.

“I think it’s very disappointing that the fans are not going to see (Songbird) run, because she’s such an exceptional horse, and truly, would probably be one of the top choices if she ran in the Kentucky Derby, much less the Kentucky Oaks. So they’re going to miss an opportunity to see a really good horse. But that’s how horse racing is. It can be cruel at times.” 

WEEP NO MORE – Ashbrook Farm’s Weep No More was one of the first horses on the track Monday morning, jogging a mile under exercise rider Alex Gonzales for trainer Rusty Arnold.

Weep No More, who made her racing debut here last fall, has spent a lot of time at Churchill Downs.

“She came into the barn here last summer and was here through the fall until we went to Payson (Park in Florida),” said Jack Bohannan, who oversees Arnold’s Churchill Downs string. “She was only at Keeneland for 10 days for the (Central Bank) Ashland before coming back here April 11.”

Bohannan did not see “future Kentucky Oaks winner” stamped on Weep No More in the early going.

“She is a two-turn horse,” Bohannan said. “She had the least ability of any of them because she didn’t have the speed to stay with the sprinters. Her first start here was a mess (breaking slow and finishing eighth in a field of 12).

“When she got to Payson, she started training better. She was a different filly than she was here. Maybe that first race woke her up. That first race was the reason she made her first start this year at Tampa (Bay Downs) instead of Gulfstream Park.”

Weep No More broke her maiden going a mile and 40 yards at Tampa on Jan. 22 and came back three weeks later to win the Suncoast Stakes. In her graded stakes debut, she ralled from far back to win the Ashland and punch her ticket to the Oaks.

“She is not the biggest or the strongest and is not the prettiest mover,” Bohannan said. “But, what she does have is a real good kick the last eighth.”

Corey Lanerie will have the mount Friday.


$2 MILLION KENTUCKY DERBY PRESENTED BY YUM! BRANDS (GI) (Entries taken Wednesday, race Saturday, May 7) – Probable (in order of preference): Gun Runner (ridden by Florent Geroux, trained by Steve Asmussen, Barn 38); Nyquist (Mario Gutierrez, Doug O’Neill, Barn 41); Exaggerator (Kent Desormeaux, Keith Desormeaux, Barn 25); Outwork (John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher, Barn 40); Brody’s Cause (Luis Saez, Dale Romans, Barn 4); Creator (Ricardo Santana Jr., Steve Asmussen, Barn 38); Lani (Yutaka Take, Mikio Matsunaga, Barn 17); Mor Spirit (Gary Stevens, Bob Baffert, Barn 33); Mohaymen (Junior Alvarado, Kiaran McLaughlin, Barn 42); Danzing Candy (Mike Smith, Cliff Sise Jr., Barn 41); Destin (Javier Castellano, Todd Pletcher, Barn 40); Suddenbreakingnews (Luis Quinonez, Donnie Von Hemel, Barn 22); Oscar Nominated (Julien Leparoux, Mike Maker, Barn 27); Shagaf (Joel Rosario, Chad Brown, Barn 42); Whitmore (Victor Espinoza, Ron Moquett, Barn 10A); Tom’s Ready (Brian Hernandez Jr., Dallas Stewart, Barn 48); My Man Sam (Irad Ortiz Jr., Chad Brown, Barn 42); Majesto (Emisael Jaramillo, Gustavo Delgado, Barn 43); Trojan Nation (Aaron Gryder, Paddy Gallagher, Barn 41) and Mo Tom (Corey Lanerie, Tom Amoss, Barn 29). Possible: Fellowship (Jose Lezcano, Mark Casse, Barn 36); Adventist (TBA, Leah Gyarmati, Belmont Park); Laboan (TBA, Eric Guillot, Keeneland); Dazzling Gem (TBA, Brad Cox, Barn 9); Cherry Wine (TBA, Dale Romans, Barn 4) and Discreetness (Jon Court, Jinks Fires, Barn 40).

Link to Brisnet Past Performances:

$1 MILLION LONGINES KENTUCKY OAKS (GI) (Entries taken Tuesday, race Friday, May 6) – Probable (in order of preference): Terra Promessa (TBA, Steve Asmussen, Barn 38); Lewis Bay (Irad Ortiz Jr., Chad Brown, Barn 42); Land Over Sea (Mario Gutierrez, Doug O’Neill, Barn 41); Weep No More (Corey Lanerie, Rusty Arnold, Barn 28); Go Maggie Go (Luis Saez, Dale Romans, Barn 4); Cathryn Sophia (Javier Castellano, John Servis, arrives from Keeneland Sunday); Mo d’Amour (Joel Rosario, Todd Pletcher, Barn 40); Venus Valentine (Shaun Bridgmohan, Tom Amoss, Barn 29); Mokat (Flavien Prat, Richard Baltas, Barn 43); Rachel’s Valentina (John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher, Barn 40); Royal Obsession (TBA. Steve Asmussen, Barn 38); Dream Dance (Brian Hernandez Jr., Neil Howard, Barn 25); Nickname (TBA, Steve Asmussen, Barn 38) and Taxable (TBA, Steve Asmussen, Barn 38). Possible: Paola Queen (Emisael Jaramillo, Gustavo Delgado, Barn 43); Dothraki Queen (TBA, Kenny McPeek, Barn 6); Carina Mia (TBA, Bill Mott, Barn 19); Marquee Miss (Channing Hill, Ingrid Mason, Barn 15).

Link to Brisnet Past Performances:

$400,000 ALYSHEBA (GII) (Entries taken Tuesday, race Friday) – Probable: Cat Burglar, Coin Broker, Departing, La Macchina, Looks to Spare, Majestic Affair, Natchez, Noble Bird, Regally Ready. Possible:  Blue Tone, Eagle.

$300,000 LA TROIENNE (GI) (Entries taken Tuesday, race Friday) – Probable: Angela Renee, Curalina, Penwith, Sheer Drama.

$200,000 EIGHT BELLES (GII) (Entries taken Tuesday, race Friday) – Probable: Blast, Blip n’ Th Bye, Durango, Frozen Hannah, Put Da Blame On Me, Stageplay. Possible: Cash Back.

$150,000 EDGEWOOD (GIII) (Entries taken Tuesday, race Friday) – Probable: Adore, Believe in Bertie, Catch a Glimpse, Dothraki Queen, Enjoy Yourself (GB), Harmonize, Jeremy’s Legacy (IRE), Nodiac (IRE), Outsider Art, Sky My Sky. Possible: Ava’s Kitten.

$150,000 TWIN SPIRES TURF SPRINT (GIII) (Entries taken Tuesday, race Friday) – Probable: Billy Two Hats, Guns Loaded, Latent Revenge, Mongol Bull, Something Extra, Speightsong. Possible: Alsvid, Power Alert (AUS).

$500,000 WOODFORD RESERVE TURF CLASSIC (GI) (Entries taken Wednesday, race Saturday) – Probable: Big Blue Kitten, Bolo, Chocolate Ride, Danish Dynaformer, Divisidero, Finnegans Wake, Grand Arch, Reporting Star, Roman Approval, Tourist, World Approval. Possible: Tepin.

$300,000 HUMANA DISTAFF (GI) (Entries taken Wednesday, race Saturday) – Probable: Dancing House, Kathbalu, Sarah Sis, Spelling Again, Stonetastic, Taris, Wavell Avenue.

$500,000 CHURCHILL DOWNS (GII) (Entries taken Wednesday, race Saturday) – Probable: Barbados, Calculator, Holy Boss, Kobe’s Back, Limousine Liberal, Salutos Amigos, Squadron A.

$300,000 CHURCHILL DISTAFF TURF MILE (GII) (Entries taken Wednesday, race Saturday) – Probable: Bureau de Change, Cash Control, Celestine, Isabella Sings, Josdesanimaux, Mississippi Delta, Rainha Da Bateria, Super Saks, Zipessa. Possible: Tepin.

$300,000 AMERICAN TURF (GII) (Entries taken Wednesday, race Saturday) – Probable: Airoforce, American Patriot, Azar, Camelot Kitten, Converge, Dressed in Hermes, Frank Conversation, J R’s Holiday, Surgical Strike, Two Step Time.

$250,000 PAT DAY MILE (GIII) (Entries taken Wednesday, race Saturday) – Probable: American Freedom, Cocked and Loaded, Discreetness, Forevamo, Imperial Hint, Lookin for a Kiss, Ralis, Sea Wizard, Star Hill, Unbridled Outlaw.

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