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Derby & Oaks News: Brisk, Damp Morning Greets Kentucky Derby Hopefuls

Derby & Oaks News: Brisk, Damp Morning Greets Kentucky Derby Hopefuls

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Thursday, May 5, 2016) – Temperatures are forecast to be in the low 80s under sunny skies Saturday afternoon for Kentucky Derby 142, but Thursday morning’s conditions were nowhere close to that as the 22 entrants for the $2,391,600 race went through their paces.

Temperatures were in the upper 40s with a light, steady rain falling when the track opened at 5:45 (all times Eastern) with the track condition labeled as “wet-fast” by Churchill Downs clockers. The rain stopped at 6:30 but by the time the track reopened at 8:30 after the renovation break, conditions were downgraded to “good” as a light drizzle began to fall along with a biting breeze.

Conditions are forecast to be more favorable for the weekend with warmer temperatures and little chance of rain.

Training hours Friday and Saturday will be from 5:45-8 a.m. with the 5:45-6 window reserved for Kentucky Derby entrants and any Kentucky Oaks starter wanting to test the track the morning of their Run for the Lilies.


BRODY’S CAUSE/CHERRY WINE – Trainer Dale Romans sent Albaugh Family Stable’s Brody’s Cause and William Pacella, Frank L. Jones Jr. and Frank Shoop’s Cherry Wine to the Churchill Downs track Thursday morning for 1 ½-mile gallops.

Brody’s Cause, the Blue Grass (GI) winner, drew post 19 and is rated at 12-1 in the morning line for Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, while Blue Grass third-place finisher Cherry Wine is second on the also-eligible list and will need two defections by 9 a.m. Friday to draw into the field.

Romans was joined by Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer during the training session for Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks horses Thursday morning. A lifelong resident of Louisville, Romans will be seeking his first Kentucky Derby success.

“A lot is being made about me being from Louisville. But it wouldn’t mean any more to me than anyone else in this game,” Romans said. “Once you come into this game, walk through the gate at any racetrack and starting taking care of horses, you’ve got to be thinking about Kentucky Derby. It would mean as much to the Japanese who came over here to go back home and say, ‘Konnichiwa, everybody,’ and wave the trophy.”

Brody’s Cause has given his trainer a lot of confidence about his Derby chances.

“Because he’s peaking at the right time; he’s as good right now as he could possibly be; he’s extremely sound; he likes this racetrack; he’s won over this racetrack; he’s beaten a 14-horse field; he’s beaten an 11-horse field; he was third in a 14-horse field; he’s not a plodding closer; he’s an accelerating closer,

“He went from the half-mile pole to the quarter pole in the Blue Grass and passed – what? – 10 horses? I thought it was pretty amazing. He’s not one who’s going to be a victim of horses stopping in front of him. He’s one who, when he’s ready, he’ll catch up to them.

“In this race, what I’ve seen all the times I’ve tried it, acceleration is important. When the hole opens, you can get through it. He can get to it quickly. There will be trouble for anyone passing horses,” Romans added. “Those horses that can accelerate can get to the spot the jockey wants them and won’t get in trouble.”

CREATOR/GUN RUNNER – Trainer Steve Asmussen sent WinStar Farm’s Creator and Winchell Thoroughbreds and Three Chimneys Farm’s Gun Runner to the starting gate for schooling after the renovation break Thursday. For exercise, the colts galloped.

Asmussen said that the colts, “to this point,” have behaved well at the gate. “The Derby and that many runners, and both of them drawn considerably inside, it’s going to test their patience,” he said.

Creator will break from post position three and Gun Runner drew post five in the 20-horse Derby field. Since the draw Wednesday, Asmussen said, he has been envisioning race scenarios and trying to come up with the best strategies for both colts.

“Nothing but,” he said. “Nothing but. Simulate it in your head. You know, who’s where and who’s doing what? You know, tendencies. Then go back and watch the replays of them. See if there’s a reason they were where they were.”

And there are two more days to gather information and form plans. “Overanalyze it to say the least,” Asmussen said.

DANZING CANDY – Trainer Cliff Sise Jr. continues to be pleased with Danzing Candy’s training and schooling sessions as the big day nears.

“He really settled in right away, and has been perfect,” Sise said Thursday morning before sending out the colt for a gallop under Rolando Quinones and to stand in the gate. “This weather is cold for us, but for the horses, they like it.”

Perfect wouldn’t be the word to describe post 20 the front-runner drew for the Derby, but Sise and jockey Mike Smith prefer to put a positive spin on it.

“Mike texted me yesterday and said, ‘Well, it’s better than one,’ ” Sise said. “We’ll just let (Danzing Candy) do his thing, which means go to the front, because it’s really up to the owner (Ted Aroney) and he’s a kind of a speed-bias type of owner. If it were up to me, I would lay second, because Nyquist has speed, too.”

Aroney of Halo Farms co-owns Danzing Candy with Jim and Dianne Bashor. Aroney bred Danzing Candy from his dam, Talkin and Singing. The colt’s sire is Twirling Candy, a son of Candy Ride.

“Compared to my other 2-year-olds early last year, I (ranked Danzing Candy), at times, second, third, or maybe fourth,” Aroney said this week. “He started to come around in July, and then he became No. 1, without even making his first start.

“Every day after the Santa Anita Derby, he kept getting better and better and better. I wouldn’t run him if he didn’t have a chance; and I think he has a good chance.”

Danzing Candy, who is 15-1 in the morning-line odds, was scheduled to school in the paddock Thursday during the first race. 

DESTIN/OUTWORK – The Todd Pletcher-trained duo of Destin and Outwork were trackside at 8:30 Thursday morning to take advantage of Churchill Downs’ special Derby/Oaks training period.  It was chilly and it had rained earlier and the track had gone from “wet-fast” early to “good,” but the two colts and their showcase training partners warmed things up noticeably.

With exercise rider Ovel Merida in the saddle on Destin and Hector Ramos aboard Outwork, the two moved handily over the track for solid gallops of a mile and three-eighths.

The evening before they had drawn posts for Saturday’s $2,391,600 Kentucky Derby (GI) with Destin being slotted in post nine and Outwork in post 15.

Pletcher spoke to the fact that it appears that the way the Derby horses drew, the majority of the “speed” horses – which would include Outwork – have drawn outside in the 20-horse field.

“It looks like the speed is on the outside and most of the deep closers have drawn inside,” the trainer said. “That certainly is something that has to be considered coming up to the race. I’ll have my thoughts on what I think should be our race strategy and my riders (Javier Castellano on Destin and John Velazquez on Outwork) will have their ideas, too. They’ll be riding (other) horses for me during (Saturday) and walking back after races we can discuss what we’re likely to do for the Derby. Waiting until then gives us the extra advantage of seeing how the track is playing that afternoon, which is another factor that has to be considered. We’ll work up a plan; we’ll get it figured out.”

EXAGGERATOR – The Santa Anita Derby (GI) winner Exaggerator headed to the track at 8:30 a.m. Thursday to train with other Derby and Oaks contenders. Trainer Keith Desormeaux’s dark son of Curlin had exercise rider Peedy Landry attached and the two did a double “wrong way” jog around the track.

Among those watching the two-mile exercise was one of the colt’s owners, Matt Bryan, who is the “big chief” in the Big Chief Racing stable.

“You dream about this,” the tall Texan said. “It is a blessing. If you’re in the horse business, this is where you want to be. Just to be in the Derby is great. And then to have a horse that has a real chance to win (Exaggerator is the 8-1 second choice in the 20-horse Derby field), that is so special.”

Bryan recalled his initial meeting with Desormeaux at a horse sale in Texas in 2012.

“Keith was there trying to pick one out and I saw how hard he was working,” Bryan remembered. “I think I have a bit of a gift to be able to read people and I just got a really good vibe off him. We were together for about 30 minutes and in that time I just knew he was the guy I was looking for. I grew up around horses; not Thoroughbreds, but work horses, Quarter Horses. I know a bit about them. And I could tell that Keith knew a lot about them and that he had an eye for them. I saw the way he looked at horses, how focused he was. I knew he was good. So I signed on with him and the first horse we bought – Ive Struck a Nerve – turned into a stakes winner. We bought others (including Exaggerator, of course) and now I think I’ve got about 20 horses with him.

“And one of the nicest parts of all this is that Keith has become one of my best friends. I like him so much and the team and family he has here at the barn. It’s just all so good.”

Exaggerator will break from post 11 Saturday in Kentucky Derby 142 and be ridden by three-time Derby winner (and Keith’s brother) Kent Desormeaux. 

LAOBAN – McCormick Racing LLC and Southern Equine Stable’s Laoban, the first horse on the Kentucky Derby also-eligible list, jogged two miles Thursday after the renovation break while accompanied by a pony. As Laoban is stabled in trainer Wes Hawley’s Barn 20, Guillot used his host’s exercise rider, Eric Scherer, for the jog.

Barn 20 and stall 15, where Laoban is residing, is the same accommodations used by 2014 Kentucky Derby winner California Chrome.

Failing a defection at the 9 a.m. Friday scratch time for the Derby, Laoban will be on a 10 a.m. van bound for Keeneland, which is where he has been stabled this spring. The Preakness is the backup plan, and Guillot said the fourth-place finisher in the Blue Grass (GI) may go to Pimlico as early as next Tuesday.

“If it’s meant to be, it’s meant to be,” said Guillot, who never has started a horse in the Derby. “He’ll run past his odds if he gets in.”

If he does secure a spot in the starting gate, Laoban, who is 50-1 in the morning line, will race without blinkers, equipment the front-runner has worn in four of his five career starts.

“I’m getting him to relax,” Guillot said. “I’ve been working him behind horses.”

LANI – Koji Maeda’s Lani returned to the track Thursday morning for a half-hour exercise under exercise rider Eishu Maruuchi for trainer Mikio Matsunaga.

Lani came on the track at the five-eighths gap, walked to the head of the stretch and jogged around for his first lap. Lani combined a jog and a gallop on his second circuit, galloped a third circuit and part of a fourth before slowing at the three-quarter pole and turning right to walk in the mile chute before walking back to the gap on which he entered the track.

“I have seen him many mornings here and today was his best form,” Matsunaga said.

Lani, winner of the UAE Derby (Group II) in his most recent start, drew post position eight for Saturday’s Run for the Roses and will be ridden by Yutaka Take. Lani was listed at 30-1 on the morning line.

Matsunaga has had Lani visit the starting gate twice in the past week, but has no paddock schooling planned for his runner.

“He has raced at several courses in Japan and behaved well, so I am not concerned,” Matsunaga said. “He has a strong mind of himself. He may get aggressive when horses come to him, but in the race he always concentrates. If horses don’t want to be around him that is good for the horse.”

With an early 10:30 a.m. post time Friday, training hours will be from 5:45-8 a.m. with the 5:45-6 slot reserved for Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks horses. Matsunaga indicated that Lani would take advantage of the reserved time Friday.

Mansunaga was not fazed by his colt’s longshot status.

“Someone has to make the odds, but that doesn’t matter to me,” Matsunaga said.

MAJESTO – Grupo 7C Racing Stable’s Majesto was sent to the Churchill Downs track Thursday morning for an easy gallop.

“He is very, very happy,” trainer Gustavo Delgado said. “He went very easy. He had his open gallop (Tuesday), he doesn’t need to do more.”

The Florida Derby (GI) runner-up drew the No. 18 post and was rated at 30-1 in the morning line.

“I prefer to be inside more, but what can I do?” Delgado said. “But you don’t know what will happen. Anything can happen.”

Delgado reported that jockey Emisael Jaramillo is scheduled to arrive in Louisville Thursday evening.

MOHAYMEN – Shadwell Stable’s Mohaymen galloped once around the Churchill Downs track Thursday morning.

“The track superintendent and his crew have again done a great job. We were able to gallop after the break. We changed up today and went off to the right and just went once around, because it was a little wet,” trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said. “He went great. He wasn’t too keen. We had another great morning.”

Mohaymen, who had won his first five races before sustaining his first loss in a fourth-place finish in the Florida Derby (GI) at Gulfstream Park April 2, will be looking to rebound from post 14 Saturday.

“The outside horse (Danzing Candy) and Mike Smith are probably going to have to go to clear. Hopefully, we break good and follow Nyquist and him and see how it unfolds,” McLaughlin said. “We won’t be too far away – stalking from fifth-ish, hopefully.”

MOR SPIRIT – Michael Petersen’s Mor Spirit, runner-up in the Santa Anita Derby (GI) in his most recent start, galloped once around the Churchill track for the second straight day under exercise rider George Alvarez during the special 8:30 a.m. training time.

“He’s doing well,” Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert said. “I’m happy with him. He’s a nice horse. He’s just as good as any of them here.”

The Eskendereya ridgling drew post position 17 Wednesday night, a spot that has yet to produce a Kentucky Derby winner in the 141-year history of the race.

“The last time I had post 17, it was with Gary Stevens and Point Given (in 2001),” Baffert said. “And, we all know how that turned out. But, it wasn’t the post that got him beat that day. We’ll just have to make history again this year.”

Point Given and Stevens, who will be aboard Mor Spirit on Saturday, did go on to win the Preakness (GI) and Belmont Stakes (GI) as well as Horse of the Year after finishing fifth as the 9-5 favorite in the Kentucky Derby.

MO TOM – G M B Racing’s Mo Tom, with exercise rider Mario Garcia aboard, jogged to the starting gate for schooling before having a short gallop. On Friday, he’ll gallop his usual two miles, trainer Tom Amoss said.

The colt was to go to the gate Wednesday, but Amoss said he called a last-minute audible. “I ended up changing my mind, because I was schooling him in the paddock, and I didn’t want to throw too much at him.” he said.

Corey Lanerie, Mo Tom’s jockey, said he’s grateful to have retained the mount. Lanerie’s status was uncertain after the Louisiana Derby (GII), in which Mo Tom had a troubled stretch run. Lanerie tried to move him along the rail, but couldn’t find running room. Mo Tom had to be checked for about a sixteenth of a mile and finished fourth.

After the race, Amoss strongly chewed out Lanerie, and in newspaper reports, Amoss put the blame squarely on the jockey.

“Like I tell everybody, the minute I came back on the horse, I wanted to get under a rock,” Lanerie said. “And I could hear Tom, and I was just like, ‘You know what Tom, give me what you’ve got. I’m sorry. There’s nothing I could do. It’s my fault. I don’t remember what he said. …

“I told that to him. I don’t know if he heard it, but he’s hollering. … I was so embarrassed with myself for what had happened and for all the connections. I was so sorry for them. And I couldn’t take it back and go do it again. So, I was heartbroken and embarrassed. I was in another world. I didn’t hear him. I know he was mad and hollering, but I didn’t know what he said.”

Back in the jockeys’ room, Lanerie received a text from Amoss, who apologized for his outburst. “But like I told him, he really didn’t have to do that, because, anybody in my life will tell you, I’m not a mean person,” Lanerie said. “I give everybody all kind of options and look at things from the other side. It’s not going to change our relationship. If he never rides me on another horse, I’ll play golf with him next week or do whatever. Tom’s a great guy and a great trainer, and he’s been really helpful in my career.”

Mo Tom also had encountered traffic trouble in the stretch in the Risen Star (GII). Bistraya crossed toward the rail in front of him and Lanerie had to check Mo Tom sharply. He finished a close third.

“You know, everybody says, twice; I did it to him twice,” Lanerie said. “The first time was not my fault at all.”

Amoss agrees that Lanerie wasn’t at fault in the Risen Star. “He did nothing wrong,” Amoss said.

But the Louisiana Derby was different, Lanerie said. “I really hadn’t moved yet, and I ended up in a bad spot,” he said. “I watch the replay, and I don’t know how I ended up there. But it’s only really been one time where I might have made a bad choice. So, we all make mistakes, and I know the horse. I don’t blame them for sticking with me, but if they would not have, I could not be mad at them one bit. I’m human. My dad trains. I could have been on the other side of the fence. … You can see them going somewhere else. But thank God, they didn’t.”

Amoss said that as he was driving to Louisville on the Monday after the Louisiana Derby, he and Lanerie talked by telephone and tried to figure out how Lanerie could stay on Mo Tom.  Emotions had cooled.

“I know the media played it out for a long time after that, but Corey had other horses to ride in preps, and so we didn’t want to say, ‘Corey’s our rider’, and have Corey tell us, ‘Listen, you know, I’m going to do something different.’ So we wanted to wait for Corey. … That’s why we didn’t say anything.”

Lanerie said that his non-combative response to the situation probably helped him stay on the horse. Also, Lanerie said, his success at Churchill Downs probably helped him, too.

“We all make mistakes, and I’ve done really well at Churchill, obviously,” Lanerie said. “If I hadn’t been leading rider here 10 times, I’m sure I wouldn’t be on the horse. But I’ve done really well here.”

Amoss said: “It’s a huge advantage. You know, people are like, ‘Are you going to tell him not to go to the inside?’ I’m not going to tell him anything. Corey knows how to ride a horse. I watched him win on the rail yesterday. If that’s where he chooses to go, he thinks it’s the best move.”

Lanerie, who will be riding in the Derby for the second time, finished 16th on Harry’s Holiday in 2014. Mo Tom is a much different animal, Lanerie said.

“I only rode the Derby once, so it’s easy to say it’s my best chance, but I really think he has a real good chance,” he said. “In my mind, he’s one of the favorites. Besides what Nyquist has done, I think it’s wide-open, and, you know, I really haven’t had a chance to see his quarter of a mile run, except for in the LeComte.”

MY MAN SAM/SHAGAF – Trainer Chad Brown’s Kentucky Derby duo followed their usual routine of going to the track to gallop 1 3/8 miles Thursday during the special 8:30 a.m. training time. Daniel Bernardini was on My Man Sam and Gian Cueva was on Shagaf.

On Wednesday evening, My Man Sam drew post position six and Shagaf got the 16 hole. Both positions were just fine with Brown.

“I’m happy with them,” Brown said. “I was hoping for more of inside post for My Man Sam and I wanted more of an outside post for Shagaf. He’s just a big, steady moving horses and I don’t want him losing his momentum once he gets to running. He should be OK from the 16.”

NYQUIST – The Kentucky Derby morning-line favorite Nyquist was in the sizable grouping of Derby/Oaks horses who slipped through the six-furlong gap on the Churchill Downs’ backside Thursday morning at 8:30 to take advantage of a cleared racetrack for a bit of training. He was led out by assistant trainer Jack Sisterson on a pony with regular exercise rider Jonny Garcia in the tack.

Trainer Doug O’Neill and a sizable contingent of the Nyquist “family” — including owner Paul Reddam – watched the bay colt set out on his own and accomplish a gallop of a mile and three-eighths in strong fashion.

On Saturday, the man in the saddle for Nyquist will be Mario Gutierrez, the same fellow who piloted the Reddam-owned and O’Neill-trained I’ll Have Another to Derby glory in 2012.

What, O’Neill was asked, did the I’ll Have Another experience in Derby 138 do for him coming up to this year’s Derby 142?

“It has allowed me to not be overwhelmed this time,” O’Neill said. “We found out that time that we had success doing what we’d been doing all along. It worked. So we’re just doing that again – same patterns, same style. We just want to stay on course. That’s what’s going to work. We know that now.” 

OSCAR NOMINATED – Ken and Sarah Ramsey’s Spiral (GIII) winner Oscar Nominated galloped at 8:30 Thursday morning with exercise rider Joel Barrientos at the controls. The son of Kitten’s Joy, a $200,000 supplemental nominee, arrived from nearby Trackside Training Center on Wednesday, and Thursday marked his first day on the Churchill track, although the colt had his final work for the big dance here April 29.

Back at the barn after Oscar Nominated’s Thursday training session, trainer Mike Maker, said it was business as usual for his 50-1 Derby entrant.

“Didn’t see anything that we don’t see every day from him — nice, smooth action,” Maker said.

Oscar Nominated will be Maker’s ninth Kentucky Derby starter and his fourth for the Ramseys.

“Ken’s enthusiasm is contagious — what a fun ride we have had together,” Maker said of the 13 years he has trained for the loquacious owner.

SUDDENBREAKINGNEWS – Trainer Donnie Von Hemel and jockey Luis Quinonez have teamed for a lot of races together over the past 20 years, but Saturday will be biggest one when Quinonez rides the Von Hemel-trained Suddenbreakingnews in his first Kentucky Derby.

Overall, the two have won 202 races together, including such graded stakes as the Southwest Stakes (GIII) with Suddenbreakingnews, the Azeri Stakes (GII) with Gold Medal Dancer and Oaklawn Handicap (GII) and Pimlico Special (GIII) with Alternation.

“Luis has proven to be a very good jockey,” Von Hemel said. “He has a good, level head. He can tell you a lot about a horse. He’s always been known as a strong finisher, which fits well with this horse. This race won’t be too big for him.”

Suddenbreakingnews, owned by Texan Samuel F. Henderson, continued to prepare for his start in the Kentucky Derby by galloping 1 ½ miles Thursday morning under regular exercise rider Ramiro Gorostieta. 

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

Trainer Dallas Stewart said he’s relieved that in the post draw Wednesday Tom’s Ready avoided landing in one of the inside three positions. He drew No. 12.

“When the one, two, three are sitting down in there, you’re sitting there like, ‘We’ve got to get by this,’ ” Stewart said. “The maiden (Trojan Nation) gets the one. Now the two’s laying out there. And somebody jumped in the three. Then they call out the 12, and your name goes out, and you go, ‘Whew. I’ll take it.’

“The horse just needs to get out of the gate good, get a position, hopefully not get in trouble. A lot of things can happen with a 20-horse field. Don’t kid yourself.”

Stewart said he’s expecting a fast pace.

“Mohaymen is going to rock and roll,” he said. “I think he’ll rock and roll. If you work in :46, :47 in the morning, you can look for that in the afternoon, in my opinion.”

Positioning for Tom’s Ready, of course, will be up to jockey Brian Hernandez Jr.

“You just have to leave it up to him,” Stewart said. “You can’t over-coach him. … You just have to let it play out. I don’t want him to be thinking (too much). I hired him to do the job. He knows how to get it done.”

TROJAN NATION – The big Street Cry colt Trojan Nation went out during the special Derby/Oaks training period at 8:30 Thursday morning just two days ahead of his attempt to become the first non-winning winner of the Kentucky Derby in 83 years.

Trainer Paddy Gallagher had exerciser rider Andy Durnin take the Kentucky-bred maiden for a mile and one-half gallop on the Churchill strip. They reported back to Barn 41 in good order following the exercise.

Trojan Nation drew post number one for the mile and a quarter test Saturday, which is sort of a “good news/bad news” thing in the trainer’s mind.

“I don’t mind the post at all for position,” Gallagher said Thursday. “We’re going to come from the back anyway, so we’re on the rail right away and able to save ground. But I don’t like the fact that we’ll load first and will have to wait for everyone else to come in. But what are you going to do? That’s horse racing.”

WHITMORE – Earlier in the week, trainer Ron Moquett used the word “happy” to describe his second straight Kentucky Derby starter and that continues to be the case, although Whitmore is putting more of a game face on each day.

“He cracks me up. He’s all attitude,” said Moquett, who described how Whitmore threw him a warning kick Thursday morning when he was in his stall. “It’s got to be his way. If we get the trip, they’re going to know who we are after the race.”

Whitmore, accompanied by a stablemate, galloped one mile under Laura Moquett during the special 8:30 a.m. training session and also schooled in the paddock during this time.


CATHRYN SOPHIA – Cathryn Sophia’s owner, Chuck Zackney, was on hand to watch his filly gallop Thursday morning after the renovation break, her final track session in her preparation for tomorrow’s Kentucky Oaks.

The John Servis trainee, who was reluctant to exit the track after her Wednesday training session, was escorted off the track by a pony on Thursday without incident.

Zackney, of Afleet Alex fame, said he hasn’t run a horse at Churchill Downs since Afleet Alex finished third in the 2005 Derby. Afleet Alex, who was co-owned by Zackney, went on to win the Preakness (GI) and Belmont (GI).

Afleet Alex was named for his son, Alex, and Zackney has continued that tradition of naming horses for relatives. Cathryn Sophia is named after Zackney’s 19-year-old niece, a freshman at Rowan University in New Jersey.

“It’s actually going to be the first time Cathryn has seen her race,” Zackney said. “Everybody is really excited. I think we have about 20 people out here.”

The owner said he really tries to gauge a horse’s ability before attaching someone’s name to the horse.

“I asked John (Servis) if he thought this filly had a little bit of talent,” Zackney said. “I told John I wanted to name her after my niece, and he said that was a really good idea. I’m always looking to name horses after people, but I want to find out how the horses are before I name them. It’s a very tricky business, and I’ve been burnt several times with horses who haven’t been that successful.”

Zackney purchased Cathryn Sophia, the co-second choice in the Oaks, for $30,000 at auction and said the daughter of Street Boss completely surpassed his expectations. The filly enters the Oaks with a record of four wins in five starts, including the Forward Gal (GII) and Davona Dale (GII). Her sole defeat came in the Ashland (GI) when she finished third, beaten a half-length.

“This is a complete surprise,” Zackney said. “We were never expecting to be here at the Kentucky Oaks. It’s been a dream trip — since Oct. 30, her first race. Other than the last race, and losing by a couple feet, she has been perfect. We’re very optimistic; she has been training well and we’re happy with her post. We have our fingers crossed for tomorrow.” 

DOTHRAKI QUEEN – Magdalena Racing’s Dothraki Queen galloped a little less than a mile and half under Erin Walker shortly after the track opened for training at 5:45 a.m.

Dothraki Queen is on the also-eligible list for the Kentucky Oaks and would need one defection by scratch time at 9 a.m. Friday to make the race. Should she run, she would be ridden by Gary Stevens.

Dothraki Queen won her first start at Churchill Downs in September in the Pocahontas (GII) and was placed third in the Golden Rod (GII) in November.

“If she gets in, I’d like to see her get comfortable,” trainer Kenny McPeek said. “Have a decent pace and have something to run at. They are not going to worry about us.” 

DREAM DANCE – Stoneway Farm’s Dream Dance was on the track shortly after 6 o’clock Thursday morning to gallop a mile and three-eighths under Joel Dominguez.

“I wanted to get her out early when the track was good,” trainer Neil Howard said of his filly who galloped on a track labeled as “wet-fast.”

Brian Hernandez Jr. will be aboard Dream Dance in her quest for her first stakes victory.

“She has her work cut out for her,” Howard said. “I’d like to see her take advantage of the (early) speed.”

GO MAGGIE GO – Mike Tarp’s Go Maggie Go schooled at the starting gate and galloped 1 ½ miles under exercise rider Tammy Fox Thursday morning at Churchill Downs.

“She’s doing terrific,” Fox said. “She doesn’t act like a horse that’s run only twice. She’s very mature out there. She acts like an older horse. She does nothing wrong. She’s very professional out there.”

The late-developing Dale Romans-trained filly broke her maiden in her March 13 debut at Gulfstream Park by four lengths before scoring by 2 ¼ lengths in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (GII) April 2.

LAND OVER SEA – The chestnut Bellamy Road filly Land Over Sea was sent trackside at approximately 6:50 Thursday morning for a final bit of exercise before her Friday run in the Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI).

She had regular exercise rider Jonny Garcia up top and assistant trainer Jack Sisterson alongside on a pony as they went through the six-furlong gap on the Churchill Downs’ backstretch. The duo stayed together for a two-mile “backtracking” tour of the oval, a feat the filly accomplished with vim and vigor.

“She’s ready,” Garcia said on the way back to Barn 41.

Her trainer, Doug O’Neill, echoed that thought. “She is ready,” he said. “She had a good jog this morning. She’s feeling good and doing good. It’s time.”

Since entering stakes company six races back, Land Over Sea has been stakes-placed four times and won another. The four stakes placings were all in the wake of champion Songbird. There will be no Songbird tomorrow and O’Neill and the other Land Over Sea connections – owner Paul Reddam and rider Mario Gutierrez – will tell you readily they are thankful for that.

Land Over Sea is listed at 5-1 in the track’s morning line and will start from post 13 in the Oaks.

LEWIS BAY – Gazelle (GII) winner Lewis Bay changed up her routine slightly Thursday, training after her Kentucky Derby-bound stablemates My Man Sam and Shagaf instead of before. She came to the track at 9 a.m. and galloped 1 3/8 miles under Gian Cueva.  “She’s doing well,” trainer Chad Brown said. “I’m happy with all my horses. They all drew good post positions, so we’re good.”

Lewis Bay drew post three for Friday’s Kentucky Oaks.

MO D’AMOUR/RACHEL’S VALENTINA – The pair of 3-year-old fillies trainer Todd Pletcher will saddle in the 142nd edition of the Kentucky Oaks (GI) Friday had their final bits of exercise Thursday morning at Churchill Downs, each galloping a mile and a quarter under exercise rider Amy Mullen.

Mo d’Amour went out with the barn’s two Derby colts – Destin and Outwork – during the 8:30 special training period allotted for Derby and Oaks horses. Rachel’s Valentina had put in her high stepping at 6:30.  Both galloped strongly, especially so in the case of Rachel’s Valentina, who has seemed to get stronger in her drills as the week has gone along.

Pletcher has captured the Oaks three times already — with Ashado in 2004, Rags to Riches in 2007 and Princess of  Sylmar in 2013. He was asked if Rachael’s Valentina, who is the 7-2 morning-line favorite for this year’s edition, reminded him of any of his previous winners.

“She has the same kind of qualities they did,” he said.  “Class and ability. Ashado had won the Spinaway (at Saratoga in her 2-year-old season), just like she did. Rags to Riches was a Grade I winner. And Princess of Sylmar had run well with the top horses. Rachel’s Valentina has run against the best; she’s already shown her class.”

And around the barn?

“She’s just an absolute sweetheart,” the trainer said. “She’s so kind; a pleasure to be around. Rags to Riches was just the reverse. She was tough, almost mean. If you didn’t watch out, she’d hurt you.”

Rachel’s Valentina is by Bernardini and out of the 2009 Oaks winner (and Horse of the Year) Rachel Alexandra. She’ll be handled Friday by Hall of Famer John Velazquez as they start from post 11 in the 14-horse field.

MOKAT – Trainer Richard Baltas had planned a long, strong gallop for his filly Mokat on the morning before her run in the Kentucky Oaks (GI), but weather and track conditions at Churchill Downs caused the veteran conditioner to call an audible.

Instead, he had exercise rider Martin Ruiz mix in a bit of jogging and galloping when they went out on the “good” mile oval during the 8:30 Derby/Oaks training period. The Uncle Mo filly jogged one time around the track, then put in a gallop of about a mile and a quarter to finish up her exercise.

Baltas felt the filly benefitted from her leg stretching Thursday and indicated that – as is his style – he’ll put her back on the track for a one-mile jog Friday morning.

Mokat will be piloted by Flavien Prat in the $1,000,000 Oaks and begin her nine-furlong journey from post six.  She has been made 20-1 in the track’s morning line. 

PAOLA QUEEN – Grupo 7C Racing Stable’s Paola Queen galloped 1 ½ miles at Churchill Downs Thursday morning.

The Gustavo Delgado-trained filly finished second behind Go Maggie Go in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (GII) after breaking her maiden in her fourth lifetime start.

“I really like Paola Queen. Her last work was very, very good. Her post position (nine) is good for her and she loves the Churchill Downs track,” Delgado said. “She’s getting better and better.”

ROYAL OBSESSION/TAXABLE/TERRA PROMESSA – Trainer Steve Asmussen’s Kentucky Oaks threesome – Stonestreet Stable and Regis Farms LP’s Royal Obsession, Winchell Thoroughbreds’Taxable and Stonestreet Stable’s Terra Promessa – schooled in the starting gate Thursday before the renovation break. The fillies also had routine gallops.

Exercise rider Abel Flores was aboard Taxable and Terra Promessa. Exercise rider Carlos Rosas was on Royal Obsession.

All three fillies typically behave well at the gate, Asmussen said. Because Terra Promessa will break from the rail, gate behavior before the Oaks will be especially important for her, the trainer said.

VENUS VALENTINE – Rosemont Farm’s Venus Valentine galloped a mile and a half after the renovation break Thursday under exercise rider Maurice Sanchez. Trainer Tom Amoss said the filly will walk in the barn Friday morning before racing in the Oaks that afternoon.

Jockey Shaun Bridgmohan’s plan is simple. “I don’t want to take her out of her game,” Bridgmohan said. “It seems like she’s just a one-run horse, so I’m not going to try to reinvent the wheel and do something creative.”

The field appears to have plenty of early speed. “Which there always is,” Bridgmohan said. “So we’re going to ride her the way she wants to be ridden and go from there.”

WEEP NO MORE – Ashbrook Farm’s Weep No More galloped a mile and a half with exercise rider Alex Gonzales shortly after the track opened for training at 5:45.

Corey Lanerie will have the mount on the co-second choice for the Oaks and break from post position two.

Lanerie rode the filly for the first time in winning the Ashland (GI) at Keeneland when she closed from far back to get her first graded-stakes victory.

“I hope they go quick up front (early) and we fall out the back door and follow them around,” said Jack Bohannan, assistant to trainer Rusty Arnold. “I hope it unfolds the same as the Ashland.”

Churchill Downs

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