Four Kentucky Derby (G1) hopefuls put in their final major moves on Saturday ahead of the May 6 Run for the Roses – two in Kentucky and two on Santa Anita Park’s fast dirt.
Louisiana Derby (G2) victor Girvin finally returned to the track on Saturday after his move a week ago was first postponed to Monday, and then again to today.
Trainer Joe Sharp has been forced to contend with a quarter crack in Girvin’s right front hoof since April 19, employing a special bar shoe as well as the hyperbaric chambers and swimming amenities at Kentucky Equine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Center (KESMARC).
Based on the colt’s move Saturday, Sharp appears to have brought the Tale of Ekati sophomore through the hiccup.
With Rosie Napravnik aboard, Girvin breezed five furlongs in company with Hotfoot over Keeneland’s fast main track in :59.60, the second best of 16 moves at the distance on the day.
The dark bay colt recorded splits of :12, :24, :36 and :48 while on the inside of his workmate, who had Sharp in the irons. Girvin posted his final eighth in :11.60 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.
“He worked extremely well and cooled out great,” Sharp said. “Every day the foot has been better and better, but typically this kind of issue does improve like that. It’s definitely been a huge team effort.”
Girvin’s last work came on April 15, when he breezed a bullet half-mile in :47.80 over Trackside Louisville. He’ll remain at Keeneland until vanning to Churchill Downs on Wednesday morning.
“He will train here that day and then ship over. I know we have to be there 72 hours out,” Sharp said.
Gotham Stakes (G3) winner J Boys Echo recorded his final major work for the Derby in company with stablemate Little Irishdancer after the morning renovation break Saturday at Churchill Downs.
Regular exercise rider Tammy Fox was in the pilot’s seat as the Mineshaft colt clocked five furlongs in 1:01 over the good main track for trainer Dale Romans.
J Boys Echo posted splits of :11.40, :23.20, :35.60 and :48.20 before galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.60 and seven-eighths in 1:28.60.
“That’s what we wanted,” Romans said. “The gallop-out was strong. He did that by himself. You couldn’t ask for much better.”
The bay sophomore enters the Kentucky Derby off a fourth-place run in the April 8 Blue Grass Stakes (G2) at Keeneland.
“He is a blue-collar horse, he just gets out and does what he needs to,” Romans said. “The best scenario for us in the Derby is there is a lot of speed. We’ll settle back toward the middle of the pack, get a clean trip like Mine That Bird did a few years ago and hopefully come running at the end.”
On the West Coast at Santa Anita Park, trainer John Shirreffs sent out his Kentucky Derby hopeful Gormley as well as Royal Mo, who moved within one of making the field on Saturday with the defections of Malagacy and Battalion Runner.
Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner Gormley covered seven, fast-track furlongs in 1:26.20 under regular exercise rider Francisco Alvarado in company with maiden Ziconic. Victor Espinoza, who has been tabbed to ride Gormley in the Kentucky Derby, was aboard Ziconic.
“Cisco has been working Gormley since before the Santa Anita Derby (on April 8), so we didn’t want to change anything,” Shirreffs explained. “He’s been doing a great job so there was no need to change. Having Victor on the pace horse was very important, too, because he has a good sense of pace.
“Also, it gives Victor a good chance to look at Gormley when he gets alongside of him, so it worked out well. I did that quite a bit with Mike Smith when he rode Zenyatta. You need a rider who knows how to set up a nice pace.”
“It was a good work for (Gormley); just what we wanted to get him ready for the race,” Shirreffs added.
Alvarado was aboard Royal Mo as well Saturday, guiding the Grade 3 winner through a six-furlong move in 1:13. Espinoza held the reins on Royal Mo’s workmate Shazara.
Gormley and Royal Mo are scheduled to fly from California to Louisville, Kentucky, on Monday.
“Both he and Royal Mo will ship early Monday for Kentucky and arrive Monday afternoon,” Shirreffs said. “Tuesday they’ll probably jog or do something, get out and stretch their legs somehow.”
In other Kentucky Derby news:
Grade 1-placed Battle of Midway followed his six-furlong Friday work in 1:13.40 at Santa Anita Park by boarding a flight to Churchill Downs on Saturday.
The Jerry Hollendorfer pupil, who posted splits of :24.80, :37, :49.20 and 1:00.40 on Friday with a seven-furlong gallop out time of 1:27.20, arrived at Churchill during the afternoon.
“It was a very good work, nice and smooth,” Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said. “When they hit the wire he drew off from his workmate very well.”
Maiden Sonneteer, who just made the Derby field with the defections of Malagacy and Battalion Runner, was aboard the same flight as Battle of Midway and arrived at Churchill just before noon. The Keith Desormeaux trainee’s last work came on April 9, when he covered six furlongs in a bullet 1:13.
While Todd Pletcher took Malagacy and Battalion Runner out of consideration for the Kentucky Derby, the trainer still has three runners targeting the Run for the Roses.
Leading that trio is Always Dreaming who, along with stablemates Patch and Tapwrit, worked on Friday and one day later galloped 1 1/4 miles over Churchill’s sealed track after a night of rains.
“I’m pleased with how they came out of their works yesterday,” Pletcher said. “Always Dreaming (who clocked a bullet five furlongs in :59.60) especially so. He demolished his breakfast after that work, then ate up again last night. You love to see that when you put a good work into them.
“I liked the way he galloped this morning, too. He was more relaxed. We took some of the vinegar out of him with that work, which is what we wanted to do. I don’t have any problems with a good, stiff work eight days out from the race. It’s what he needed.
“I remember working Invisible Ink in :59 and change here back in 2001 ahead of the race and he came running to finish second,” Pletcher added.
John Velazquez is tabbed to ride Always Dreaming in the Kentucky Derby while Jose Ortiz has the call on Tapwrit. An announcement on Patch’s Derby jockey is still forthcoming.
“(Tyler) Gaffalione rode (Patch) well last time (when second in the Louisiana Derby [G2]) and we’d have to give him serious consideration for the mount,” Pletcher said.
Spiral Stakes (G3) upsetter Fast and Accurate galloped 1 1/8 miles at Trackside Louisville on Saturday with exercise rider Joel Cano aboard. The Mike Maker-trained son of Hansen is scheduled to van to Churchill Downs on Sunday for his final major Kentucky Derby work.
The Steve Asmussen-conditioned pair of Sunland Derby (G3) victor Hence and multiple Grade 2-placed Untrapped visited the paddock and galloped once around Churchill Downs on Saturday during the special Kentucky Derby training period beginning at 8:30 a.m. (ET). The duo are expected to put in their final Derby work Monday morning, according to Asmussen.
Once-beaten Grade 2 scorer McCraken and last-out Wood Memorial Stakes (G2) hero Irish War Cry are both scheduled to breeze Sunday morning.
McCraken will have jockey Brian Hernandez Jr. aboard for his move at Churchill Downs while Irish War Cry will go six furlongs under rider Rajiv Maragh at Fair Hill.