Kentucky Derby Notes for 5/3/22

Florida Derby winner White Abarrio jogged at Churchill Downs on Tuesday. (Coady Photography)

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White Abarrio Gets Reacquainted with Churchill Downs

(Edited Press Release)

C2 Racing Stable and La Milagrosa Stable’s White Abarrio made his first appearance on the Churchill Downs racetrack since last November when he jogged the of morning May 3 over the sloppy surface.

Trained by Saffie Joseph Jr., White Abarrio finished third in the Kentucky Jockey Club (G2) two days after Thanksgiving last fall. Settling in after vanning to Louisville from Gulfstream Park, the son of Race Day is coming into the Kentucky Derby (G1) off a victory in the Grade 1 Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park on April 2.

“He jogged a mile today and did fine,” Joseph said. “He’s going to gallop every day, and go to the gate. How about this Kentucky weather? You’re always hoping for a fast track for the Derby, and hopefully it won’t be sloppy.

“They say grays like the slop,” Joseph added. “So hopefully, if it is sloppy, this gray will do great.”

White Abarrio has won four of five career starts with the Kentucky Jockey Club being his lone defeat. The gray colt captured the Holy Bull Stakes (G3) in his seasonal bow on Feb. 5 before notching a 1 ¼-length win in the Florida Derby.

Rainy conditions kept many of the Derby and Kentucky Oaks (G1) hopefuls from doing too much during their time on the track but Teruya Yoshida’s UAE Derby (G2) winner Crown Pride (JPN) was his usual energetic self during training on Tuesday.

With trainer Koichi Shintani looking on, Crown Pride jogged for 10 minutes in the mile chute and then galloped the Kentucky Derby distance of 10 furlongs under Masa Matsuda.

“From Dubai (where he won the UAE Derby on March 26), he has really improved and he likes this track,” Shintani said. “He will have a fast work in the morning (on Wednesday) and (jockey) Christophe Lemaire will be on him.”

Lemaire, who most recently rode at Churchill Downs during the 2010 and 2011 Breeders’ Cup World Championships, arrived in Louisville at 3 this morning.

Crown Pride’s only defeat in four career starts came in the Hyacinth at Tokyo in February over a muddy track.

With thunderstorms in the forecast for later in the week, an off track for Derby 148 is possible.

“In Japan, when the track is muddy a horse’s foot can sink into the surface,” Shintani said.

“This track, there is more cushion and it is safer. I don’t see that as being a problem.”

Trainer Brad Cox called an audible because of the weather and sent all three of his Kentucky Derby hopefuls to the track early with Zozos, under exercise rider Kelvin Perez, heading out in the first set to gallop 1 ½ miles. Arkansas Derby (G1) winner Cyberknife followed in the second set with his regular rider Katie Talbot aboard, while Tawny Port went out in the third set with Edvin Vargas handling the riding duties.

The stablemates will be close together when they enter the Kentucky Derby starting gate on Saturday. Cyberknife drew post 16, Tawny Port drew post 18 and Zozos drew post 19.

“I’m good with where they are starting from,” Cox said. “The post doesn’t really matter with Tawny Port. Zozos has a little more speed so he’ll be able to get out of there. Cyberknife is a quick gate horse, so he should he fine. He has one speed horse to his outside (Classic Causeway) and that should help him.

“If we get a wet track on Saturday, I’m fine with that. We train over a wet track all the time and they all handle it good. So far so good, I’m happy with all of them. The key is getting a good trip. I expect all of them to make a good showing.”

Cox said his horses will school in the gate tomorrow and will more than likely go out during the special 7:30 a.m. training time.

Winchell Thoroughbreds’ Epicenter, the 7-2 second choice on the morning line for Derby 148, returned to the track at his usual 5:30 a.m. time to gallop. The morning rains had turned the track muddy, but that did not stop him from impressing his trainer, Steve Asmussen.

“He is a horse that has not skipped training days in the mud but he has not performed in a race (in the mud),” Asmussen said. “My favorite thing today about Epicenter is how consistent he has been, how he has looked (in the mornings). I think he looked the same on the racetrack today, four days before the Derby, as he did at New Orleans this winter. Very professional. Very consistent with his temperament and his stride. We are just wanting more of the same, just a little faster which is what he has done in every one of his starts this year and there is no reason he shouldn’t carry on.”

Monday’s draw was not without drama for Epicenter’s connections. With two pills to pull, post three and post six remained, and once again, Asmussen’s highly touted Derby entry drew an inside post, the three.

“I’m not crazy about the three hole with him,” Asmussen said. “There is a lot of pace to his immediate outside. You just want (to get) away from there fast. You don’t want to get shuffled back, covered up to a position he is not familiar with.”

Aaron Sones and Julie Gilbert’s Ethereal Road had his first gallop Tuesday morning as an official Kentucky Derby starter after becoming the last horse to make the 20-horse field with the defection of Un Ojo. He galloped 1 ½ miles during the special 7:30 a.m. training time.

Ethereal Road will be the 50th Kentucky Derby starter for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, who already has four Derby trophies. His most recent starter was Bravazo, who finished sixth in 2018.

“I guess getting 50 horses qualified for the Kentucky Derby is an achievement,” Lukas said. “I’m real tickled to get this horse qualified because this is a new client. He wanted to get in and have this experience, so I’m happy for him (Aaron Sones). It’s important to get them this experience because it’s what it is all about.

“Ethereal Road is doing good. He’s has a good of couple weeks here. I was surprised how well he handled the wet track this morning. He did really good out there. He got over it awfully nice.”

Trainer Tim Yakteen has settled in nicely for his first go-round at the Kentucky Derby and had a good battle plan in place for his two Derby colts Taiba and Messier, the 1-2 finishers in the Santa Anita Derby (G1).

With the rain coming down and the lightning flashing all around, it was wondered if his California-based twosome might be affected by the wet track conditions, something that is more the exception than the rule out his way.

“No, they’ll be fine,” Yakteen said. “We had a pretty good rain and an off track at Santa Anita a couple of weeks back and they handled it well. No problems today.”

At the start of the special Derby/Oaks training period at 7:30, the track was wet but the rain and lightning had abated and Yakteen gave exercise rider Beto Gomez a leg up on Messier in the shedrow of Barn 37. The duo went to the racetrack and headed to the mile chute where the good-sized Canadian-bred stood nicely in the starting gate for him. They then headed to the main track and galloped 1 1/4-miles.

From there the two walked back to Barn 37 and Yakteen was ready to go with a quick shedrow leg-up transfer of Gomez from Messier to Taiba without missing a beat. The rider went trackside and repeated the same program with his chestnut charge and all went well again.

“Things are good,” Yakteen said. “Thumbs up.”