Brisnet Handicappers Edge Kentucky Derby and Oaks Notes 4/23/10

KENTUCKY DERBY REPORT

APRIL 22, 2010

by James Scully

Kentucky Derby (G1) favorite ESKENDEREYA (Giant Causeway) arrived at Churchill Downs on Tuesday and will be the center of attention every time he visits the track over the next nine days. One of seven possible starters for Todd Pletcher, Eskendereya exits a pair of dominant victories, rolling by 9 3/4 lengths in the Wood Memorial S. (G1) and by 8 1/2 lengths in the Fountain of Youth S. (G2).

Pletcher also has DISCREETLY MINE (Mineshaft), MISSION IMPAZIBLE (Unbridled’s Song), RULE (Roman Ruler) and SUPER SAVER (Maria’s Mon) confirmed for the Derby. INTERACTIF (Broken Vow), who presently has enough graded earnings, is under consideration. And Pletcher stated Tuesday that the filly DEVIL MAY CARE (Malibu Moon), who would be one of the favorites in the Kentucky Oaks (G1), is a viable candidate for the Derby field if she works well this weekend at Churchill. She'll have no trouble getting in with $363,000 in graded earnings.

Last week's lone Derby prep, Saturday's Lexington S. (G2), went to EXHI (Maria's Mon), who flashed to the front after the start and was never seriously threatened over the speed-friendly Polytrack at Keeneland. Exhi won't have the graded earnings to make the Derby field, but he could be pointed toward the Preakness S. (G1) at Pimlico.

This Saturday's $200,000 Derby Trial S. (G3), which highlights Churchill Downs' opening-day program, provides one last opportunity to secure enough graded earnings for the Derby field, and a couple of starters, front-running specialist EIGHTYFIVEINAFIFTY (Forest Camp) and Florida Derby (G1) runner-up PLEASANT PRINCE (Indy King), are expected to wheel back a week later should they capture the one-mile event. AIKENITE (Yes It’s True), MINER'S RESERVE (Mineshaft), GAME ON DUDE (Awesome Again) and SOARING EMPIRE (Empire Maker) are also part of an intriguing 10-horse cast.

Derby discussion

Trainers Bob Baffert, Mike Maker and John Sadler each have a pair of bullets for the Derby and Nick Zito will saddle two if JACKSON BEND (Hear No Evil) can move up a spot from 21st on the graded earnings list. But Pletcher is readying a small army and his star pupil, Eskendereya, will be the big favorite come post time.

Estimates vary on Eskendereya's eventual odds, with realistic predictions putting him as high as 5-2 and no lower than 9-5, and his final pre-race workout at Churchill this weekend could have a major impact upon his ultimate price. If he impresses with a superb drill, Eskendereya's already considerable support will continue to swell.

Given his pedigree and recent performances, Eskendereya looms as a legitimate threat to overwhelm the competition with his immense talent, but there are reasons to play against him. A common concern surrounds the favorable conditions he faced in his last two wins, where he was able to track a slow pace with his natural speed, cruise unchallenged to the lead on the far turn and then roll through the stretch like a morning workout, never having to look another horse in the eye once the serious running began. It begs the question: how will Eskendereya fare when he doesn't have everything his own way on a false pace?

Another thread centers on his trip. Eskendereya's speed benefited him in three wins this season, racing on or within a couple of lengths of the early lead from the start, but he runs the risk of getting burnt by a wicked pace duel up front if he doesn't relax during the opening stages of the Derby. Will he prove as effective stalking a fast pace?

The athletic chestnut also showed up with first-time front wraps in the Wood, a precaution necessitated due to the nature of the main track at Aqueduct, according to Pletcher, but the equipment change immediately generated speculation about the colt's soundness.

One can make a case against the favorite, but the validity of such arguments is highly debatable.

LOOKIN AT LUCKY (Smart Strike) and SIDNEY'S CANDY (Candy Ride [Arg]) are already working well at Churchill and both will likely be less than 10-1, with Lookin at the Lucky the probable second choice in the wagering and Sidney's Candy third. The remaining 17 starters could all be double-digit odds.

Lookin at Lucky is as honest as they come and will remove blinkers in Derby. With the hood, Lookin at Lucky managed to find trouble in both starts at three, mostly recently finishing third after being nearly stopped on the far turn. It will be no surprise to see him in the thick of things turning for home.

Sidney's Candy is more of a wildcard. He's performed splendidly in his last two starts at route but got away with slow fractions, on an unopposed lead, both times. The colt is blessed with talent, but he'll change tactics and make his dirt debut in the Derby.

Among other contenders, AWESOME ACT (Awesome Again) rates serious consideration. The Jeremy Noseda-trained colt turned in a terrific effort when making his U.S. debut in the Gotham S. (G3), displaying a quick burst of acceleration to put away his rivals, and his third in the Wood was compromised by the fact that he lost a shoe at the start and never settled into a comfortable stalking trip behind the tedious pace. He recorded a sharp six-furlong work at Churchill on Tuesday and appears poised to show up with his best on Derby Day.

Super Saver is eligible to move forward off his final prep. An impressive five-length winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club S. (G2) at Churchill in his second stakes appearance, the bay didn't return to competition until March and was clearly a short horse in the Tampa Bay Derby (G3), finishing third by a half-length. The front runner improved of that effort in the Arkansas Derby (G1), comfortably rating off the pacesetter before erasing a sizable gap on the far turn, and while he came up a neck short on the wire in second, he never quit trying and gained immeasurable fitness at Oaklawn Park. He should be tightened up for a career-best over a track he favors.

ICE BOX (Pulpit), PADDY O'PRADO (El Prado [Ire]) and Discreetly Mine are three candidates for the exotics that look interesting to me at long odds.

I'll give my final analysis and selections next week

Jackson Bend works five furlongs in hopes of making Derby

Jackson Bend (outside) was raring to go in his work under the Twin Spires (Reed Palmer Photography/Churchill Downs)

Multiple stakes winner JACKSON BEND (Hear No Evil) posted a strong five-furlong work on Thursday at Churchill Downs in preparation for the 136th running of the Kentucky Derby (G1). However, the Nick Zito-trained colt remains in limbo regarding his Derby status because of continued changes on the list of graded stakes earnings by horses who could be entered in the 1 1/4-mile test.

Jackson Bend, a runner-up to Derby favorite ESKENDEREYA (Giant's Causeway) in both the Wood Memorial (G1) at Aqueduct and the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park, zipped through five-eighths in company with stablemate Thomas Got Even (Stephen Got Even), clocking 1:00 over the fast track. Exercise rider Carlos Correa guided the work, which was the fasted of 19 at the distance on an overcast, cool morning at Churchill Downs. Thomas Got Even was credited with a four-furlong move in :47 4/5, which ranked as the sixth-fastest of 41 at that distance.

Jackson Bend was recorded in fractional times of :11 4/5, :23 2/5, :35 and :47 1/5. He galloped out six furlongs in 1:14 1/5.

"He went very, very well -- we were happy with him," Zito said. "Carlos did a good job with him. He looked pretty good to me."

Now Zito must wait to see what develops in the coming days as Jackson Bend, who has a record of 5-4-0 in nine races, is currently ranked 22 on the Derby's earnings list having banked $230,000 in graded purses. The race is limited to the 20 entrants with the highest totals of earnings in graded stakes races.

News was received this week that trainer Todd Pletcher has increased his group of potential Derby starters to seven with the addition of Grade 1-winning filly DEVIL MAY CARE (Malibu Moon) and San Felipe S. (G2) runner-up INTERACTIF (Broken Vow). Also, Saturday's Derby Trial (G3) -- the year's final Derby prep which carries a purse of $200,000 -- could introduce a couple of starters to the big race that will be run seven days later.

"We'll see if he gets in," Zito said. "If not, we'll just have to go on to the Preakness (G1). But I would think he's got a pretty good shot to get in."

The other hope for the two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer -- Florida Derby (G1) winner ICE BOX (Pulpit) -- galloped in preparation for a workout planned for Friday morning. Ice Box, who like Jackson Bend is owned by Robert LaPenta, is listed as eighth on the earnings list.

"The only saving grace is that the same owner owns the horse," Zito said. "If it was a different owner, I would feel awful. But being it's the same owner, at least he gets to run one of his horses. But I would be devastated if it was another owner."

Three-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert said both of his Derby hopefuls, LOOKIN AT LUCKY (Smart Strike) and CONVEYANCE (Indian Charlie), were doing well on the morning after each turned in bullet moves in their next-to-last works for the Kentucky Derby.

Lookin at Lucky breezed six furlongs in 1:12 on Wednesday under exercise rider Dana Barnes, while two-time Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Calvin Borel was in the saddle that morning as Conveyance zipped five furlongs in :58 3/5. Each work was the fastest move of the day at their respective distances.

Both Lookin at Lucky and Conveyance walked under the shedrow at Barn 33 shedrow on Thursday. Baffert said he now plans for Lookin at Lucky and Conveyance to turn in their final pre-Derby works on Monday.

"The thing is they get in here and they start blossoming," Baffert said. "There's a big change from the first days they were here. Lookin at Lucky has changed a lot -- he just gets better every day. He's a late foal, so he's still developing there."

Baffert said the son bay colt was a late May foal, so there is plenty of potential for further improvement and added maturity.

Having won three Kentucky Derbies with Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998) and War Emblem (2002), Baffert has felt good about his chances coming into earlier renewals of the "Run for the Roses." But his hopes regarding Eclipse Award winner Lookin at Lucky soared with Wednesday's work.

"After watching the work yesterday, I feel really good about it," Baffert said. "You can tell when you work 'em here if you have a chance."

Regarding Conveyance, Baffert said the Southwest S. (G3) winner has plenty of speed and will let it roll on Derby Day.

"He's a fast horse," Baffert said.

Trainer Todd Pletcher expressed satisfaction with the morning activity of the powerful hand he holds coming into Kentucky Derby 136. The conditioner currently has Risen Star S. (G2) hero DISCREETLY MINE (Mineshaft), Louisiana Derby (G2) victor MISSION IMPAZIBLE (Unbridled's Song), dual Grade 3 scorer RULE (Roman Ruler), Grade 2 winner SUPER SAVER (Maria's Mon) and Eskendereya penciled in for the classic.

"For most of them, it was their second day out there and they were a little more focused than yesterday," Pletcher said. "They all galloped a mile and quarter looked to be getting over the track well."

Pletcher plans to work all of his Derby hopefuls this weekend, but is keeping a wary eye on a dicey weather forecast that is heavy on the rain.

"Hopefully we will be able to get most of them in Saturday morning," he said.

Super Saver, winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) at Churchill Downs last fall, went out for his gallop before the renovation break under Kevin Willey. The colt has had more time under the Twin Spires than the quartet of Pletcher runners who arrived Tuesday afternoon from Palm Meadows. He came to Churchill Downs the day after his runner-up finish in the Arkansas Derby (G1).

"He seems to really like this surface," Pletcher said of the bay, who will be ridden in the Derby by Calvin Borel.

Mission Impazible was but one of Todd Pletcher's many Derby candidates visiting the track Thursday (Reed Palmer Photography/Churchill Downs)

Going on the track after the renovation break were Mission Impazible, Eskendereya, Discreetly Mine and Rule. Eskendereya was partnered by Carlos Cano and will be ridden in the Derby by John Velazquez.

Eskendereya returned to Palm Meadows in Florida immediately after his Wood Memorial victory at Aqueduct.

"He had trained well there and liked it there," Pletcher explained. "Plus, I had a whole lot of horses there instead of spread out at Keeneland and New York and it just made it easier to keep an eye on things."

Willey was also aboard Mission Impazible, who will be ridden in the Kentucky Derby by Rajiv Maragh. Obed Perez was up on Discreetly Mine and Patti Barry piloted on Rule as both colts also made trips to the starting gate. Javier Castellano has the Derby riding assignment on Discreetly Mine and Ramon Dominguez will ride Rule.

Pletcher has not totally ruled out a Kentucky Derby bid for Interactif, who with $307,950 in graded stakes earnings has enough in his bankroll to be among the top 20 earners considering the Derby.

"He is not going to run here unless it is in the Derby," Pletcher said of Interactif, who has had the bulk of his success on turf and all-weather surfaces. "He is going to work this weekend and if he works lights out, we will talk about it."

In other Derby news:

Grade 1 scorer HOMEBOYKRIS (Roman Ruler) was scheduled to return to Churchill Downs Thursday afternoon following a Wednesday visit to the Rood & Riddle Clinic in Lexington. The Rick Dutrow runner worked six furlongs in 1:14 4/5 on Wednesday.

"I was just having him checked out," Dutrow said. "I send a lot of my horses to Dr. (Larry) Bramlage for that and he checked out fine and we are picking him up this afternoon. He will go to the track in the morning."

AMERICAN LION (Tiznow) paid his first visit to the track at Churchill for trainer Eoin Harty on an overcast Thursday morning, galloping a mile under exercise rider Paul Turner.

"I liked what I saw out there," Harty said. "He will work on Monday."

American Lion vanned to Churchill Downs on Wednesday from Keeneland, where he had been stabled since April 4, the day after he won the Illinois Derby (G3) at Hawthorne. The colt worked five furlongs in 1:01 4/5 over Keeneland's synthetic Polytrack surface on Tuesday. David Flores has the Derby mount.

Gotham S. (G3) hero AWESOME ACT (Awesome Again) walked the shedrow at Barn 36 on Thursday. Third in the Wood Memorial last out, the Jeremy Noseda-trained chestnut had worked six furlongs in 1:12 3/5 on Tuesday under Derby rider Julien Leparoux.

"He will go back to the track in the morning," assistant trainer Wayne Tanner said. "He will gallop Saturday, Sunday and Monday and work on Tuesday."

Arkansas Derby winner LINE OF DAVID (Lion Heart) jogged and Santa Anita Derby (G1) hero SIDNEY'S CANDY (Candy Ride [Arg]) galloped under exercise rider Lupillo Alferez for trainer John Sadler. Sadler has a Saturday work planned for Sidney's Candy and is concerned about a rainy weather forecast.

"I'm pretty much set for Saturday, but if the weather gets real bad and the work changes, it would be the other way to Sunday and not a day ahead on Friday," Sadler said.

Line of David is scheduled for his final Kentucky Derby work on Monday. Rafael Bejarano has the mount on Line of David and Joe Talamo the call on Sidney's Candy.

Grade 1 winner DUBLIN (Afleet Alex) galloped after the renovation break under exercise rider Arielle Witkowski. Trained by four-time Kentucky Derby winner D. Wayne Lukas, Dublin will be ridden by Terry Thompson.

Bay Shore S. (G3) victor EIGHTYFIVEINAFIFTY (Forest Camp), under Nick Santagata, also galloped after the renovation break. Eightyfiveinafifty is the 8-5 morning line favorite for Saturday's Derby Trial, but would still need some defections to get in the main event even if he wins in that race.

Sunland Derby (G3) king ENDORSEMENT (Distorted Humor) galloped 1 1/2 miles after the renovation break under trainer Shannon Ritter. The chestnut is scheduled to work Sunday morning and will be ridden in the Derby by Robby Albarado.

BACKTALK (Smarty Jones) galloped 1 1/2 miles before the morning renovation break under exercise rider Maurice Sanchez. Miguel Mena, who has ridden Backtalk to all four of his victories, will have the mount in the Kentucky Derby if the Tom Amoss trainee makes the field. Backtalk currently is ranked 23rd on the list with $225,916 in graded earnings.

MAKE MUSIC FOR ME  (Bernstein) galloped 1 1/4 miles under exercise rider Andy Durnin after the renovation break. The Alexis Barba trainee is 25th on the current list of graded earnings, and his conditioner has other plans if he doesn't make the Derby field.

"If he doesn't get in, he will run in the $175,000 American Turf (G2) the day before," she said. "Either way, Joel Rosario will ride."

Grade 1 victor NOBLE'S PROMISE (Cuvee) returned to the track on Thursday after a day of walking under trainer Ken McPeek's shedrow following his bullet five-furlong work of :59 4/5 on Tuesday. The bay jogged a mile and galloped a mile under exercise rider Walter Blum Jr.

PADDY O'PRADO (El Prado [Ire]), runner-up in the Blue Grass (G1) over Keeneland's Polytrack and winner of the grassy Palm Beach S. (G3) at Gulfstream Park, is now scheduled to work on Friday as stormy weather looms for the Churchill Downs area over the weekend. Trainer Dale Romans had planned to breeze his charge on Saturday, but has moved that schedule up a day. Paddy O'Prado prepared for that work with a routine gallop under exercise rider Faustino Aquilar.

Lane's End S. (G2) winner DEAN'S KITTEN (Kitten's Joy) and Blue Grass upsetter STATELY VICTOR (Ghostzapper) both galloped Thursday morning at nearby Trackside Louisville under exercise rider Marvin Jiminez.

Trainer Mike Maker said both colts are now scheduled for five-furlong works on Friday following the maintenance break at Trackside. Dean's Kitten will work alongside Kentucky Oaks (G1) contender AGE OF HUMOR (Distorted Humor), just as he did last Saturday. The works were originally set for Saturday.

Alan Garcia has the call to ride Stately Victor in the Kentucky Derby, but Maker has not confirmed a rider for Dean's Kitten.

According to the National Weather Service, rain is expected to begin in the Louisville, Kentucky, area late Thursday night and continue through most of the morning Friday. More rain is forecast Friday night with showers and thunderstorms likely Saturday.

Announcements & Specials:

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