EPICENTER FINALIZES MAJOR KENTUCKY DERBY PREPARATION WITH FIVE-FURLONG WORK
LOUISVILLE, KY (Sunday, May 1, 2022) – Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Epicenter completed his final major piece of work for Saturday’s 148th running of the $3 million Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve (GI) by working five furlongs in company in 1:01 over a track labeled as muddy Sunday morning at Churchill Downs.
Coming onto the track at 7:30 (all times Eastern) under overcast skies and working with the 4-year-old Alejandro, Epicenter produced fractions of :12.60, :24.40, :36.20, :48.40 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.80.
Scheduled to work Monday morning at Churchill Downs will be Summer Is Tomorrow who is slated for a half-mile breeze at 7:30.
BARBER ROAD – WSS Racing’s Barber Road had a scheduled walk day at trainer John Ortiz’s Barn 46 following his half-mile move in :48.80 Saturday.
The Arkansas Derby (GI) runner-up is scheduled to return to the track Monday.
CLASSIC CAUSEWAY – Kentucky West Racing and Clarke Cooper’s Classic Causeway walked trainer Brian Lynch’s Barn 40 Sunday.
Classic Causeway completed his major Derby preparation Saturday with a six-furlong move in 1:13.20.
CHARGE IT, MO DONEGAL, PIONEER OF MEDINA – While stablemates Charge It and Pioneer of Medina simply had walk days at Barn 35 following their final Kentucky Derby works Saturday, Mo Donegal – who also had put in his final prep the day before – was sent to the track Sunday morning for a bit of leg stretching under trainer Todd Pletcher’s right-hand lady Amelia Green.
The Uncle Mo colt with a distinctive star on his forehead went trackside with two of the barn’s Kentucky Oaks fillies -- Shahama and Nest – during the special 7:30-7:45 Derby/Oaks training period at Churchill Downs.
All three of the Pletcher runners galloped separately, with “Mo” well out in the middle of the track and going about his business in fine fashion as he covered roughly a mile and one quarter.
“He’s very happy,” Green said as she took her mount off the track and back to the barn.
The trio of the Pletcher Derby colts were likely to be gallopers Monday morning. “We might have them go stand at the gate tomorrow or Tuesday depending on the track condition,” the trainer said.
CROWN PRIDE (JPN) – Teruya Yoshida’s Crown Pride (JPN) jogged in the mile chute for 10 minutes and then galloped a mile and a quarter under exercise rider Masa Matsuda.
Crown Pride is scheduled to have his final pre-Derby work on Wednesday.
Trainer Koichi Shintani is scheduled to arrive in Louisville late tonight and will be at the Post Position Draw Monday afternoon.
CYBERKNIFE, TAWNY PORT, ZOZOS – Trainer Brad Cox’s Derby trio of Cyberknife, Tawny Port and Zozos all walked the shedrow at Barn 22.
The trio is scheduled to return to the track Monday.
EARLY VOTING – Owner Seth Klarman notified Churchill Downs officials that Early Voting will not enter this year’s Kentucky Derby.
EPICENTER – Making his final work before carrying Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen’s hopes of his first Kentucky Derby on his back, Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Epicenter hit the track at 7:40 a.m., delayed from his usual 5:45 training slot by the morning rain. Over a muddy track, exercise rider Roberto Howell piloted him through five furlongs in 1:01 with splits of 12.60, 24.40, 36.20, 48.40 and galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.80.
Asked if Epicenter worked so easily today so as not to overdo it, Asmussen said, “Honestly I have so much confidence in Epicenter right now I don’t think you could overdo it [with a horse like him]. He has taken a lot of training extremely easy. Including, I thought he took the Louisiana Derby extremely easy, how he came back from the test barn and walked into the barn, and that's why his training and his works ever since have been faster, or stronger, than is the norm for me.”
Epicenter worked inside stablemate Alejandro, a 4-year old maiden winner by Curlin, different company than his recent partner, Gun It.
“It felt perfect, knowing [Alejandro] and how he goes about what he is doing,” Asmussen said. “His previous workmate, Gun It, is a very strong, very physical horse … somewhat hard to manage, and that brings out a little extra in [Epicenter], especially getting to the pole, getting off, getting away from the pole and what you are getting out of it. And as you saw today, they were away from it a lot smoother, just a lot easier to the pole. Still strong, still very smooth. I think [Epicenter] is in a beautiful rhythm, and we are trying to create the circumstances and prepare for what we are expecting to happen in the races this week.”
When asked if he was nervous, Asmussen joked, “I’m not running. I’m good. I am unbelievably excited to be doing this well with this much on the line. I had a pretty anxious drive last night with rain and thunderstorms for most of it, and if it's meant to be then it's meant to be, but everything seems to be working out perfectly. This year’s Oaks and Derby are extremely exciting with how strong the races look and how well all the horses are doing going into it. It is going to be an extremely exciting five or six days.”
HAPPY JACK – The Oxbow colt, who finished third in the Sana Anita Derby (GI) in his most recent start, was scheduled to ship over from Keeneland Sunday afternoon and arrive at Churchill Downs at 3 p.m. His trainer, California-based Doug O’Neill, said he’d join up with his charge Monday morning at Barn 41.
The Calumet Farm homebred put in his final Kentucky Derby prep Saturday morning at Keeneland when he worked a mile in 1:39.60 over a fast track with his rider, Rafael Bejarano, aboard.
O’Neill was following a pattern he used with his 2016 Derby winner Nyquist, that is shipping his California horse to Keeneland a week in advance of the race to train and settle in. Another reason was to enable the now Kentucky-based Bejarano to work the horse.
“He’s just a positive, super successful jock,” O’Neill said about the rider he gave a leg up with great success for many years in Southern California. “It has amazed me he hasn’t already won a Kentucky Derby. I would love to be part of that much-deserved victory for him.
“Rafy got to know (Happy Jack) a little bit. ‘Jack’ has a lot of ability and maybe the light bulb hasn’t gone completely on, so I’m hoping it does next Saturday.”
MESSIER, TAIBA – The 1-2 finishers in the Grade I Santa Anita Derby – Zedan Racing Stables’ Taiba and SF Racing, Starlight Racing, et al’s Messier – were in the air and en route to Louisville by way of Indianapolis Sunday morning where their conditioner, Tim Yakteen, was ready to meet them for their arrival at Barn 37 on the Churchill Downs backside.
After their van ride down from Indy, the duo – along with stablemate Doppelganger (coming for the Pat Day Mile Saturday) – were expected to reach their destination at approximately 3 p.m. Sunday. Yakteen, who had taken the red eye out of Los Angeles Saturday night, planned to be at the barn when his trio of 3-year-old colts came on board.
Yakteen has two Hall of Fame riders scheduled to take the reins on his two Derby colts on Saturday: Mike Smith on Taiba and John Velazquez on Messier.
RICH STRIKE – Trainer Eric Reed said that RED TR-Racing’s Rich Strike would be entered Monday in the Kentucky Derby.
“We are entering and hoping and praying,” Reed said of Rich Strike, who is No. 22 on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard and likely will be on the also-eligible list for the Run for the Roses.
Third in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (GIII) at Turfway Park in his most recent start, Rich Strike had a scheduled walk day Sunday.
Sonny Leon has the Derby mount.
SIMPLIFICATION – Tami Bobo’s Simplification arrived at Churchill Downs shortly before 1 o’clock Saturday afternoon and will make his first appearance on the track Monday morning at 7:30.
Trainer Antonio Sano is scheduled to arrive in Louisville this afternoon.
SMILE HAPPY, TIZ THE BOMB – After Magdalena Racing’s Tiz the Bomb and Lucky Seven Stable’s Smile Happy worked a half-mile Saturday, the colts under trainer Kenny McPeek’s care had an easy Sunday morning. Both spent some time walking and didn’t go out on the track softened by overnight rain.
“Everyone came out of their workouts in good shape,” said Greg Geier, assistant to McPeek.
The colts breezed together on Saturday, clocked in 48 seconds for the half-mile, with Brian Hernandez Jr. aboard Tiz the Bomb and Corey Lanerie on Smile Happy.
SUMMER IS TOMORROW – Michael Hilary Burke and Negar Burke’s Summer Is Tomorrow galloped a mile and a half under Heinz Runge during the 7:30-7:45 training window for Kentucky Derby and Oaks horses.
“I am happy with the horse,” Runge said. “His is doing well and all is going as planned.”
Summer Is Tomrrow is scheduled to breeze a half-mile Monday morning with Caroline Seemar, wife of trainer Bhupat Seemar, to handle the work.
“I am glad we did not work today,” Bhupat Seemar said after overnight rains left the track muddy when Summer Is Tomorrow trained this morning. “God is looking out for us.”
UN OJO – Cypress Creek Equine and Whispering Oaks Farm’s Un Ojo walked the shedrow at Barn 4 a day after working a half-mile in :47.60.
WHITE ABARRIO – Weather delayed the final workout plans that trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. had for Florida Derby (GI) winner White Abarrio at Gulfstream Park on Saturday. Later in the day, the track dried out under sunny skies, and Gulfstream Park permitted Joseph to work the colt between the 10th and 11th races, rather than waiting until early Sunday.
“I’m glad we were able to get it in yesterday afternoon, because it rained again this morning,” Joseph said by phone.
Shortly after 6 p.m. Saturday, C2 Racing Stable and La Milagrosa Stable’s White Abarrio, with exercise rider Vincente Gudiel aboard, was timed in 48.11 seconds, off fractions of :12.66 and :24.24. He galloped out under urging to 1:00.12, with a mile posted at 1:41.64.
“He came out of the work in fine shape,” Joseph said of White Abarrio’s third workout since winning the Florida Derby on April 2. “I’m so grateful that Gulfstream Park was able to help us out.”
The van carrying White Abarrio to Louisville was leaving South Florida late Sunday morning.
ZANDON – Jeff Drown’s Blue Grass Stakes (GI) winner Zandon returned to the track Sunday for the first time since his eye-catching five-furlong move in 1:00.80 Friday.
Zandon had a light one-mile jog and is scheduled to gallop Monday.
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); 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); Pioneer of Medina (TBA, Todd Pletcher).