“Much better. One hundred percent better.”
That was the verdict from exercise rider Nick Bush on Tuesday as Florida Derby (G1) winner Always Dreaming galloped while using draw reins for a second consecutive day at Churchill Downs in advance of Saturday’s Kentucky Derby (G1).
“He didn’t fight me at all. He was a lot more relaxed,” said Bush, who had to deal with Always Dreaming bucking and pulling on Monday while getting adjusted to the new equipment. Draw reins provide a rider more leverage and the ability to force the horse to drop his head while galloping.
“I thought he went great this morning,” trainer Todd Pletcher said. “I very much liked what I saw.”
Exercising over the Churchill main track for the first time on Tuesday were Wood Memorial (G2) winner Irish War Cry, U.A.E. Derby (G2) hero Thunder Snow, and the California shippers Gormley and Royal Mo, the latter still ranked 21st on the Derby leaderboard and looking to confirm a spot in the field.
Under David Nava, Irish War Cry galloped about a mile after arriving at Churchill from Maryland late Monday afternoon.
“He was a little bit on the muscle today, being his first time out here,” trainer Graham Motion said. “He didn’t train (Monday morning) obviously, with traveling. He was a little sharp, but I think he’ll settle down as the week goes on.”
Thunder Snow, who recently cleared quarantine, jogged and cantered under Godolphin exercise rider Daragh O’Donohoe.
“We wanted to make sure he had a nice jog before we cantered him off and it was a good idea because he’s never had people so close around him,” O’Donohoe said. “That was the first time he’d been with a pony, as well; it was a good lesson.
“It was really nice to get him out because he was getting pretty fresh in that barn. He’s got a very high recovery rate so there’s not a lot that fazes him. He was pretty professional out there on the track and I was actually pretty surprised because we’re used to our own private gallops at Al Quoz in Dubai. We don’t see a lot of traffic so his behavior this morning was exceptional. He floated over the track and I had no problems on him. He moved well, he’s breathing well. He changed leads a couple times on the bend. I was really happy.
“It was just a normal, steady canter. I was just so happy he was changing his leads at the most important parts.”
Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner Gormley and Royal Mo went to the track at at separate times, both accompanied by trainer John Shirreffs on a pony.
“It went very well,” said Shirreffs of Gormley’s tour of the track.