March 28, 2023

Frac Daddy thriving at Churchill

Last updated: 4/29/13 5:48 PM

Frac Daddy is a different horse since returning to Kentucky, according to jockey Victor Lebron
(Cecilia Gustavsson/

Magic City Thoroughbred Partners’ Frac Daddy and Charles Fipke’s Java’s
War came to the track together at 8:30 a.m. (EDT) during the Kentucky Derby and
Oaks session at Churchill Downs Monday morning.

Arkansas Derby runner-up Frac Daddy galloped with regular exercise rider Hugo
Garcia up, while Blue Grass Stakes winner Java’s War jogged two miles
under Marvin Abrego.

“Java is kind of a lighter-framed colt so we gave him an easier day,”
said Phil Bauer, assistant to trainer Ken McPeek. “We’re thrilled with the way
they came out of their works. They have plenty of energy so we’re on to

Frac Daddy will be ridden Saturday by Victor Lebron, a native of St. Croix,
Virgin Islands, making his first appearance in a Kentucky Derby. The 28-year-old
began galloping horses on his father’s farm at age 14 and first dreamed of
becoming a professional jockey after watching the Derby on television.

“It’s a privilege to ride in the Derby,” Lebron said. “Not every rider gets
the opportunity to ride in it and I feel honored, especially for Kenny to give
me a shot. It’s a dream come true; everybody dreams about it but not many get to
do it.”

Lebron has been getting on Frac Daddy since the week before the Arkansas
Derby and has kept a close watch on the Scat Daddy colt’s progress, stopping by
to see him every day regardless of whether he’s scheduled to exercise him.

“Since Oaklawn, looking at him, he’s filled out and body-wise he’s gotten
bigger,” Lebron said. “He’s gotten a lot stronger, way stronger. He’s been a way
different horse since landing here. He got way stronger than what he was over
there. He’s just been getting tougher and tougher.”

Frac Daddy has a stubborn side to him. This morning, he refused to be
escorted from the track after his gallop, repeatedly turning his head out of the
pony rider’s reach each time she stretched out to grab his halter.

“Usually he’s like that,” Lebron said. “He’s high-spirited. He’s real active
about everything. Sometimes he can get a little hot because he’s always doing
something. He’s on the go-go-go, all the time. But that’s just him —

With Monday’s news of the defection of Winning Cause, Todd Pletcher now will
start five horses in Saturday’s classic. The trainer will match his five-horse
feat of 2007, while equaling the five-horse entries saddled by Hall of Famers
Nick Zito in 2005 and D. Wayne Lukas in 1996.

Two of Pletcher’s other Derby horses stretched their legs following the break
with gallops around the Churchill oval. Blue Grass Stakes runner-up Palace
Malice and the Blue Grass third, Charming Kitten, both went strongly on the fast
surface as they continued their preparations for the 10-furlong Derby.

Palace Malice will be handled Saturday by Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith. No
rider has been named for Charming Kitten yet.

“We’ve got somebody in mind, but it isn’t official yet,” Pletcher said.

The conditioner’s other three Derby hopefuls — unbeaten Wood Memorial winner
Verrazano, Arkansas Derby romper Overanalyze and Louisiana Derby hero
Revolutionary — walked the shedrow.

“Touch wood,” Pletcher said, “they’re all doing well and we’ve only got the
regular things to do — gallops, trips to the paddock and gate — for the rest
of the week.”

Goldencents has made himself at home since arriving from Southern California
(Cecilia Gustavsson/

Santa Anita Derby hero Goldencents galloped at Churchill under exercise
rider Jonny Garcia, looking strong and moving the same way for his trip around
the main track during the Oaks/Derby-runners-only time between 8:30 and 8:45
a.m. (EDT).

Trainer Doug O’Neill took in the exercise standing trackside with a band of
his “Team O’Neill” posse and gave it his seal of approval. Saturday he’ll try to
pull off the back-to-back Derby Double (he won it last year with I’ll Have
Another), a feat accomplished only six times before.

Goldencents will be handled by California-based Kevin Krigger, who is not a
newcomer to Churchill. He won five races here during the fall meet in 2004.

O’Neill has 15 horses under his care at Barn 45 and plans on running between
10 and 12 of them in various races during the coming week. Krigger will ride
them all with the exception of two. They would be Renee’s Titan in the Grade 3
Eight Belles on Friday and Handsome Mike in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs on Derby
Day. Those two runners will be handled by Mario Guitterez, the young rider who
became a household name last year when he did the driving for I’ll Have Another
in the Run for the Roses.

Trilogy Stable and Laurie Plesa’s Itsmyluckyday galloped 1 1/2 miles under
exercise rider Peter Shelton at 7 a.m. Monday at Churchill Downs.

“He loved it. He bounced all the way around the racetrack. He handled the
surface really well — that’s what I liked the most about it,” Shelton said.
“His energy level is 100 percent.”

Trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. traveled to Louisville from his Calder base on Monday
and is expected to send Itsmyluckyday to the track following the renovation
break Tuesday morning.

Itsmyluckyday captured the Gulfstream Park Derby and Holy Bull at Gulfstream
prior to finishing second behind Orb in the Florida Derby. His exercise rider
said he expects the son of Lawyer Ron’s running style to be well suited to the

“He has tactical speed and a big kick when you ask him,” Shelton said.

Shelton said Itsmyluckyday makes his job easy.

“He’s not like a lot of horses that really want to go on the bit. He just
holds the bit enough so you can keep a perfect balance with your body,” he said.
“You don’t even have to move on him. You just have to move your wrist and he
switches his lead; you move your other wrist and he switches his lead. That’s
hard to find horses like that. He loves to train.”

Elvis Trujillo has the mount aboard Itsmyluckyday.

Following his routine, trainer Chad Brown had Fox Hill Farms’ Wood Memorial
runner-up Normandy Invasion trot on the track Monday morning, two days after
breezing five furlongs in :59.

Brown, 35, is all business as he prepares to saddle his first Derby starter.
The Mechanicville, New York, native picked up some Derby experience during a
tour as an assistant for the late Hall of Fame trainer Bobby Frankel before
opening his own stable in 2007.

“I’ve been here before. I’m excited, but I keep an even keel,” Brown said.
“We’ve got so much going on every morning that I really don’t have time to dwell
on it much.”

Trainer Rudy Rodriguez said Monday that images of Vyjack lying down and
sleeping in his stall show that the Pick Six Racing gelding has settled into his
new surroundings in Barn 4.

Rodriguez and owner David Wilkenfeld are able to monitor security cameras in
and around the stall and Rodriguez had a picture on his phone of Vyjack on the

“It’s good. He’s not nervous. He’s relaxing and enjoying himself,” Rodriguez
said. “That’s a big plus, I think. You want your horse to be able to relax and
be comfortable.”

Vyjack galloped 1 1/2 miles under Rodriguez at 8:30 a.m. during the training
period reserved for Derby and Oaks horses.

“He’s doing pretty much the same thing that we do back home,” Rodriguez said.
“He’s doing everything we ask of him and he’s very, very comfortable. I’m kind
of surprised myself, but I’m very happy where we’re standing right now.”

Vyjack opened his career with four consecutive victories and finished third
in his fifth start, the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct.

Gold Mark Farm and Whisper Hill Farm’s Mylute took to the Churchill Downs
track for a light jog shortly before 6 a.m.

“It was a light day,” trainer Tom Amoss said. “Tomorrow will be a busier day;
he’ll do a full gallop tomorrow.”

Amoss remains confident that Mylute is prepared to put forth a peak effort in
the Kentucky Derby. What remains to be seen is whether that will be enough to
make an impact.

“I’ll be frank,” Amoss said. “He’s going to have to run the best race of his
life to be competitive Saturday. But when it comes to the Kentucky Derby, that
same statement applies to the other 19 in the race. Somebody’s going to really
step forward and the one that does is going to be the winner.”

One point in Mylute’s favor — at least for those who still believe it’s a
point that matters — is his extensive experience as a two-year-old. The
Midnight Lute colt is one of three Derby probables with seven starts as a
juvenile. Four of those came against stakes company.

“It took a long time for him to show me that he was a proper horse so a lot
of those starts were important in terms of his learning curve,” Amoss said. “He
was never a horse that broke well from the gate and a lot of times that cost him
his races. It took him a long time to catch on and understand racing.

“Even in the Louisiana Derby, he passed the winner, Revolutionary, inside the
sixteenth-pole, but he still didn’t quite understand. He hasn’t quite shown that
killer instinct you need to be a top racehorse. But he learned from the
Louisiana Derby just like he’s learned from each of those races.”

Sterling Racing’s Black Onyx jogged one mile under exercise rider Aurelio
Gomez during the Derby and Oaks session. The Rock Hard Ten colt is officially
dark bay or brown but appears black. His coat and overall striking appearance
have made him a favorite with fans, especially photographers, who gather to
admire the Spiral Stakes winner as he grazes behind Barn 41 each morning.

“He’s an eye-catching horse, with his color and everything else,”
trainer Kelly Breen said. “He’s put on a little weight since the Spiral and he
looks good.”

The Spiral was March 23, six weeks out from Saturday’s Kentucky Derby.
Although few trainers would draw up a 42-day layoff between starts by choice,
the Derby success of 2011 Spiral winner Animal Kingdom rendered old assumptions
about spacing irrelevant.

“Part of racing goes by individuals and this horse looks like one that could
use the time in between,” Breen said. “It just happens to be that way. You pick
out a race and you happen to win it and if we didn’t win it we wouldn’t be

Newtown Anner Stud, James Covello and Joseph Bulger’s Falling Sky galloped
approximately six furlongs under exercise rider Cassie Garcea Monday morning at
Churchill Downs.

“He’s a good feeling colt. It looks like he came out of the breeze really
well. He’s hitting the ground great,” trainer John Terranova said. “He galloped
from near the quarter-pole to about the five-eighths pole. It was just to
stretch his legs a little bit. It was a light day, first day back after he
walked yesterday.”

Falling Sky, the Sam F. Davis winner who worked five furlongs in :59 3/5 on
Friday, will have routine gallops up to Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. Terranova
likely will school the son of Lion Heart in the paddock this week.

“He’s handled himself well in the paddock each time we’ve run him. Of course,
it will be different for all of them. It’ll be a scene that they’ve never seen
before and ever will see again,” Terranova said. “It’ll be something, but he
handles himself well. He’s a smart colt.”

Luis Saez is slated to ride Falling Sky, who finished fourth after setting
the pace in the Arkansas Derby last time out.

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