11 HOPEFULS COMPLETE MAJOR DRILLS AT CHURCHILL DOWNS FOR KENTUCKY DERBY 148
LOUISVILLE, KY (Saturday, April 30, 2022) – The action started when the track opened for training at 5:15 (all times Eastern) on a cloudy but mild Saturday morning at Churchill Downs when the Brad Cox-trained duo of Cyberknife and Zozos worked six furlongs together in 1:11.20 and 1:11.40, respectively.
Following during the 7:30-7:45 training window for Kentucky Derby and Oaks horses beneath the Twin Spires were Cox’s third Derby hopeful Tawny Port (five furlongs in 1:01.60); the Todd Pletcher trio of Mo Donegal (half-mile in :48.60), and Charge It and Pioneer of Medina who worked a half-mile together in :47.40; the Kenny McPeek tandem of Smile Happy and Tiz the Bomb who worked a half-mile together in :48; Barber Road (a half-mile in :48.80) for trainer John Ortiz; Classic Causeway (six furlongs in 1:13.20) for trainer Brian Lynch and Un Ojo (a half-mile in :47.60) for trainer Ricky Courville.
Working at Keeneland was Calumet Farm’s Happy Jack, who covered a mile in 1:39.60 under jockey Rafael Bejarano.
Scheduled to work Sunday at Churchill Downs are Epicenter for Steve Asmussen and Crown Pride (JPN) for Koichi Shintani. Scheduled to work after the 10th race this afternoon at Gulfstream Park is C2 Racing Stable and La Milagrosa Stable’s White Abarrio.
BARBER ROAD – WSS Racing’s Barber Road had his final move prior to the Kentucky Derby with a half-mile move in :48.80 under trainer John Ortiz’s exercise rider Elexander Aguilar.
“We’re ready,” Ortiz said. “We’ve had a really strong campaign leading into the Derby and he has a lot of good seasoning underneath him. We know we have a fit horse and will be ready for the mile and a quarter.”
CLASSIC CAUSEWAY – Kentucky West Racing and Clarke Cooper’s Classic Causeway had his final Derby work Saturday morning with a strong six-furlong move in 1:13.20 outside of three-time winner Sounion.
Classic Causeway, ridden by jockey Julien Leparoux, clipped through early fractions of :24.60, :36.60 and :48.60. Classic Causeway started about one length behind Sounion and drew away inside the eighth pole. Classic Causeway galloped out seven furlongs in 1:27.
“He’s been doing everything right on the track to earn his spot in the Derby,” trainer Brain Lynch said. “With the way he’s training, I don’t want to be the one to hold him back.”
Classic Causeway, the winner of the Sam F. Davis (GIII) and Tampa Bay Derby (GII), will be ridden in the Derby by Leparoux.
CHARGE IT, MO DONEGAL, PIONEER OF MEDINA – The trio of Todd Pletcher trainees took advantage of the special 7:30-7:45 a.m. training period on the Churchill Downs racetrack reserved for Derby and Oaks contenders to put in their final serious exercises for next Saturday’s 148th edition of the Run for the Roses.
Working inside stablemate My Prankster (who had Hector Ramos up and a date in next Saturday’s Pat Day Mile), Mo Donegal covered a half mile in :48.60 with a gallop out in 1:01.80 with Derby rider Irad Ortiz, Jr. at the controls.
Pletcher watched his colts’ drills from the Churchill grandstand and called Mo Donegal’s move “excellent.”
“He was in hand and it was a good controlled work and gallop out,” the Hall of Fame conditioner offered afterward on the backside. “I was very happy with it.”
Next up was the stable’s duo of Charge It and Pioneer of Medina with the former, handled by Derby rider Luis Saez, inside of his partner, who had exercise rider Carlos Perez in the saddle.
The roan Charge It and the bay Pioneer of Medina moved as one through splits of :12.20, :23.60, :35.80 and :47.40 with out times of :59.60 and 1:12.40.
“It was a solid move,” Pletcher said. “I got them in :23 and one for the last quarter. I was in touch with them on the radio and we had that scary moment when the siren went off (a workmate of an Oaks horse on the track lost the rider) just as they were at the wire so I alerted them. But I saw they picked up the loose horse right away and I was able to let them know about that, too.”
Mo Donegal, who has won three of five lifetime starts, most recently in New York’s Wood Memorial (GII), and Charge It, a winner of one of three outings, but second in Gulfstream’s Florida Derby (GI) in his latest attempt, are both assured of a starting spot in the Derby. But Pioneer of Medina, a double winner from six starts with a third-place finish in the Louisiana Derby (GII) as his latest effort, is currently listed as No. 21 on the Derby roster that only allows for 20 runners. But with the connections of at least one of the top 20 Derby eligibles indicating they’ll wait for another day, it appears likely that “Pioneer” will suit up for the mile and one-quarter classic.
“From here,” Pletcher concluded, “we’ll do the usual stuff – like visiting the gate and galloping. We’ll be galloping up to the Derby.”
CROWN PRIDE (JPN) – Teruya Yoshida’s Crown Pride (JPN) galloped under regular morning partner Masa Matsuda and is scheduled for a half-mile work Sunday morning at 7:30.
The UAE Derby (GII) winner will be ridden by Christophe Lemaire who rode at Churchill Downs for the Breeders’ Cup in 2010 and 2011.
CYBERKNIFE, TAWNY PORT, ZOZOS – Trainer Brad Cox’s Derby trio of Cyberknife, Tawny Port and Zozos all had their final works prior to the “Run for the Roses” Saturday.
At 5:15 a.m., Gold Square’s Cyberknife worked outside of Barry and Joni Butzow’s Zozos through swift opening eighth-mile fractions of :23, 34.60, :47 and :58.80. Cyberknife began the work about one-length back of Zozos and the duo finished on even terms.
At 7:30 a.m., Tawny Port, with newly named jockey Ricardo Santana Jr., worked five furlongs in 1:01.60 outside of stablemate Shared Sense.
“There’s a lot of excitement leading into these final Derby works,” Cox said. “You start to get a little anxious as the days near closer to the Derby. Things went very smooth this morning.”
Jockey Florent Geroux was aboard Cyberknife for his work Saturday. The 35-year-old native of France spent some time outside of Cox’s barn following the work as he was anxiously awaiting for his brother to arrive from France.
“I think this is the part of Derby Week that is special because a lot of family and friends are here to support you,” said Geroux, who hasn’t seen his brother for more than two years due to COVID-19 restrictions in France. “I’ve been watching his plane on my phone and my family is excited to spend some time with him once he arrives.”
EARLY VOTING – Trainer Chad Brown reported a decision will come Sunday morning whether Klaravich Stable’s Wood Memorial (GII) runner-up Early Voting will run in this year’s Kentucky Derby.
EPICENTER – Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Epicenter visited the paddock before galloping under exercise rider Roberto Howell.
Epicenter is scheduled to work Sunday morning, rain or shine, according to assistant trainer Scott Blasi.
HAPPY JACK – While Kentucky Derby horses populated the work tab at Churchill Downs, Calumet Farm’s homebred Happy Jack, 20th on the Kentucky Derby points leaderboard, was 75 miles east at Keeneland, where he worked a mile in 1:39.60 over a fast track under jockey Rafael Bejarano.
The colt by 2013 Preakness (GI) winner Oxbow had arrived at Keeneland the previous weekend from trainer Doug O’Neill’s Southern California base.
“We’ve had some good fortune doing this before,” O’Neill said about shipping to Keeneland prior to heading to Churchill for the Derby. “We did it with Nyquist where we came here and did our final prep (before winning the 2016 Derby). It’s so quiet; the track’s got a good cushion so it’s a little bit demanding, which we think they get a little bit better exercise out of it. Very happy with the way it went this morning.”
O’Neill, who also won the Derby in 2012 with I’ll Have Another, said working Happy Jack a mile was a good test.
“(He’s a) horse who’s got the potential but he hasn’t put up the numbers that we need to be a huge player in the race,” O’Neill said. “We wanted to ask him firmly and make sure he was fit and ready. To me, he answered that question, and he’s ready.”
Happy Jack is scheduled to leave Keeneland for Churchill around 1 p.m. Sunday.
MESSIER, TAIBA – Trainer Tim Yakteen reported from Santa Anita Saturday morning that his two Kentucky Derby colts, the bay by Empire Maker named Messier, and the chestnut by Gun Runner named Taiba, were doing just fine and all but ready for their plane ride to Churchill Downs early Sunday morning.
“Messier (who had his final Kentucky Derby drill Friday morning at Santa Anita) just walked the shed today,” the 57-year-old conditioner said. “Taiba (who had his last Derby work Thursday, also at Santa Anita) had a jog day today and we had jockey Ryan Curatolo do the honors. He (Tabia) looked great on the track.”
Also on the plane will be his charge Doppelganger, who is bound for the Pat Day Mile (GII) on Derby Day.
Yakteen said he planned to catch the red eye out of Los Angeles Saturday night and was hoping to meet his trio at Churchill when they pulled in at approximately 3 o’clock Sunday afternoon following their flight to Indianapolis and their 2 �-hour van ride to Louisville.
SIMPLIFICATION – Tami Bobo’s Simplification arrived at Churchill Downs early this afternoon following a van ride from Gulfstream Park in South Florida.
Trainer Antonio Sano is scheduled to arrive in Louisville Sunday afternoon and Simplification will go to the track Monday morning.
Jose Ortiz, who was aboard Simplification in his past two starts in the Fountain of Youth (GII) victory and a third-place finish in the Florida Derby (GI), has the call in the Kentucky Derby.
SMILE HAPPY, TIZ THE BOMB – Trainer Kenny McPeek was satisfied with the final maintenance work for his two Derby hopefuls – Magdalena Racing’s Tiz the Bomb and Lucky Seven Stable’s Smile Happy – despite a slight change in plans on the track.
They cruised together under the Twin Spires on Saturday in :48 for the half-mile and galloped out five-eighths in 1:00.20, with Brian Hernandez Jr. aboard Tiz the Bomb and Corey Lanerie on Smile Happy. The first quarter was clocked in :23.80.
“I had him at 12s all the way around,” Hernandez said of Tiz the Bomb, the Jeff Ruby Steaks (GIII) winner at Turfway Park. “Just kind of a maintenance half the Saturday before Derby. Just one of those deals that he did his half and galloped out just like we wanted him to. Now it’s all about getting to the Derby in good order.”
Smile Happy, who has only raced four times, finished second in the Blue Grass Stakes (GI) at Keeneland to Zandon, surrendering the lead in the stretch. “In the Blue Grass, that track was tiring,” Lanerie said. “I was disappointed when he let that horse come and get him so easy. But I think he’s doing better than ever. I like our chances.”
The two also worked together a week earlier, with Tiz the Bomb taking the position out in front. This time, plans called for them to swap roles, putting Smile Happy ahead, but that didn’t happen.
“It’s like the coach who calls the play, and everybody is supposed to do this and that, but that’s not what we called,” McPeek said. “Corey said he was worried about Brian’s horse getting a little keen in front of him. He was afraid they were going to go too fast. We wanted a 12s workout, and I think that’s how it played out. I wanted them to go 12s, kind of side by side, and not totally engage. I think they ended up going that, to 48. But no, that’s not the play I called.”
“Last week, I was on Tiz the Bomb, and we broke off about a half-length behind Smile Happy,” Hernandez said. “Today we were supposed to swap places, but when we got to the pole, Smile Happy was a little further back than we thought he would be. So I went on and worked my horse like I thought he needed to be worked. It wasn’t quite the work that Kenny was looking for, but it looked like both horses got what they needed out of it.”
“It happens,” McPeek said. “Brian’s horse is doing exceptionally well, and Corey was worried they were going to go too fast, because I was adamant that I didn’t want them to go too fast. They didn’t need to go down there in :46.”
“Once you’re in the process of working, you don’t want to stop and make it perfect,” Hernandez said. “Sometimes you’ve got to call an audible and unfortunately that’s what we had to do today. The biggest thing is you don’t want to overdo it … and blow your race in the morning.”
“I hope we get a good, clean break, and find a good position going into the first turn,” Lanerie said about where he wants to be in the Derby with Smile Happy. “Hopefully I’d like to be no further back than fifth or sixth, and get a good, clean trip. But it’s the Derby, you never know.”
“I like that this is a home game for us,” McPeek said. “Both Brian and Corey have been around this oval all their lives, and both are solid journeyman riders. I don’t have much concern about them finding their way around there. Both Corey and Brian are due a signature horse, so maybe one of them’s got it this week.”
McPeek also had Hernandez out with Rattle N Roll, who’s 24th in the Derby points standings, and would need a number of defections to make the field.
“I’m not intending on running him. The horse is doing fine, but he’s unlikely,” McPeek said of the colt, who finished fourth in the Louisiana Derby (GII) and sixth in the Blue Grass. “I’d like to get him back to his winning ways, maybe in a Grade III or a nice listed two-turn race somewhere, and get him back to winning, and start from there. It’s a long season.”
SUMMER IS TOMORROW – Michael Hilary Burke and Negar Burke’s Summer Is Tomorrow is scheduled to have his final work for Kentucky Derby 148 on Monday rather than Sunday.
“I like what I have seen so here so far,” said trainer Bhupat Seemar, who arrived in Louisville Wednesday night. “I usually work five days out from a race and I wanted to keep on the same schedule.”
Summer Is Tomorrow went twice around the track this morning with Heinz Runge aboard. Mickael Barzalona, who was aboard for the first time in Summer Is Tomorrow’s runner-up finish in the UAE Derby (GII), has the Derby mount and is expected to arrive in Louisville on Friday.
“It has been a long journey and it will be 11 days between works,” Seemar said. “He is putting weight back on and I wanted to give him an extra day.”
UN OJO – Cypress Creek Equine and Whispering Oaks Farm’s Un Ojo worked a half-mile in :47.60 under jockey Colby Hernandez. The work was the 14th fastest of 130 at the distance.
Working on his own, the Rebel (GII) winner posted fractions of :24.60, :36.40 and :47.60.
“I was worried about the weather last night and thought we may have to push it back a day,” trainer Ricky Courville said. “Colby has won a lot of races for us (in Louisiana).”
Ramon Vazquez will have the Derby mount.
Un Ojo worked without a piece of equipment that had been tested the day before to cover his missing eye.
“It was just a hood and he didn’t like it all,” Courville said. “He kept shaking his head.”
WHITE ABARRIO – Weather interrupted trainer Saffie Joseph Jr.’s plans for a final workout for Florida Derby (GI) winner White Abarrio at Gulfstream Park. The rain and a wet track means he’ll work at a special time Saturday afternoon in South Florida after the finale at Gulfstream Park.
“There was no rain at Palm Meadows, but Gulfstream Park got hit with a lot,” Joseph said by phone from South Florida. “It’s his last work before the Derby, an easy half-mile work. It looks like the weather is improving, but it takes just one shower to make a track bad.”
ZANDON – Jeff Drown’s Blue Grass Stakes (GI) winner Zandon had a scheduled walk day following his sharp five-furlong move in 1:00.40 Friday at Churchill Downs.
Zandon is scheduled to go to the track Sunday and school in the starting gate Tuesday.
Drown confirmed the pronunciation of Zandon is (Zan-Den).
ALSO ELIGIBLE – Trainer Kelly Breen confirmed Saturday morning that Edge Racing, Medallion Racing and Parkland Thoroughbreds’ In Due Time, No. 22 on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard, would not be participating in this year’s Run for the Roses.
SHAPING UP: THE KENTUCKY DERBY – Here’s the current Top 20 horses in this year’s Kentucky Derby (with jockey and trainer): Epicenter (Joel Rosario, Steve Asmussen); Zandon (Flavien Prat, Chad Brown); White Abarrio (Tyler Gaffalione, Saffie Joseph Jr.); Mo Donegal (Irad Ortiz Jr., Todd Pletcher); Tiz the Bomb (Brian Hernandez Jr., Kenny McPeek); Cyberknife (Florent Geroux, Brad Cox); Crown Pride (JPN) (Christophe Lemiere, Koichi Shintani); Taiba (Mike Smith, Tim Yakteen); Simplification (Jose Ortiz, Antonio Sano); Smile Happy (Corey Lanerie, Kenny McPeek); Classic Causeway (Julien Leparoux, Brian Lynch); Tawny Port (Ricardo Santana Jr., Brad Cox); Barber Road (Rey Gutierrez, John Ortiz); Un Ojo (Ramon Vazquez, Ricky Courville); Early Voting (TBA, Chad Brown); Messier (John Velazquez, Tim Yakteen); Zozos (Manny Franco, Brad Cox); Summer Is Tomorrow (Mickael Barzalona, Bhupat Seemar); Charge It (Luis Saez, Todd Pletcher); Happy Jack (Rafael Bejarano, Doug O’Neill).