By US Racing Team
It’s the Monday before the first Saturday in May, a few contenders posted workouts, and the racing world awaits the announcement of the official field for the 147th Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs.
Derby Week is in full swing, albeit with COVID-19 restrictions in place that limits the amount of people at the track, and the next step is Tuesday’s post-position draw along with oddsmaker Mike Battaglia’s morning line odds.
Don’t hold your breath about the favorite – it’ll be undefeated Essential Quality, the 2-year-old champion, winner of the Southwest Stakes and the Blue Grass this year.
But that’s for another day.
On Monday, the final piece of the 20-horse puzzle appeared set after Brooklyn Strong posted a 5-furlong work at Parx, near Philadelphia, in 1:00.92 for trainer Danny Velazquez.
The winner of the Remsen Stakes to close out his 2-year-old campaign, finished fifth in the Wood Memorial on April 3. After several late Derby defections, Brooklyn Strong slipped into the field with a total of 10 qualifying points.
“It was perfect,” Velazquez said of the workout. “I’d like to say it went just as planned, but none of this has been planned. We’re excited. He worked great. Cooled out great. He’ll have all day to relax before he leaves (for Churchill Downs).”
The nice part is that Umberto Rispoli, who won the Santa Anita Derby aboard Rock Your World, will ride Brooklyn Strong. Joel Rosario will ride Rock Your World.
Midnight Bourbon, one of two expected entries for Steve Asmussen, worked 5 furlongs in 1:02.40 at Churchill Downs on Monday.
Seeking his third Derby win, trainer Todd Pletcher sent out his four contenders for a gallop around Churchill Downs on Monday.
“So far, so good,’’ he said.
Pletcher will saddle Florida Derby winner Known Agenda, Wood Memorial winner Bourbonic and runner-up Dynamic One, and Jeff Ruby Steaks runner-up Sainthood.
This will be the fifth time Pletcher sends out four starters in the Derby. He’s also sent out a record-equaling five starters on two occasions. Of the four times he sent out four starters, he won the Derby once, with Super Saver in 2010. His best finisher when he sent out five starters was third with Revolutionary in 2013.
Louisiana Derby winner Hot Rod Charlie went out for a 1-mile jog with exercise rider Jonny Garcia aboard.
Trainer Doug O’Neill, a two-time Derby winner (I’ll Have Another in 2012 and Nyquist in 2016) was a most-interested observer.
“We both shipped well Sunday,” O’Neill said. “I always ship well.”
Six-time Kentucky Derby winner Bob Baffert is back in Louisville with Medina Spirit, his lone contender in the Run for the Roses after several of his other 3-year-olds dropped off the trail.
Last year, the Derby was run in September due to the COVID-19 pandemic, so Baffert’s reign as Derby-winning trainer is shorter than usual.
“I was hoping to enjoy my Derby win a little longer, but it’s always great to be back at Churchill Downs,” Baffert said after Medina Spirit went for a gallop around the track. “I love coming here. It looked like we were coming with something really live a couple of months ago. (Life Is Good) looked really strong, but that’s part of the business.
“I think we’re here with a horse that’s in the top 10. I usually like to come in with a top five type horse. He’s top 10. He shows up every time. He’s run second to some really nice horses. He’s doing well over this track.”
While trainer Ken McPeek has a starter in the Derby in King Fury, he’s looking forward to Friday’s $1.25 million Kentucky Oaks with Crazy Beautiful.
A year ago, the trainer sent out Swiss Skydiver in the Oaks, and she finished second to Shedaresthedevil. His filly went on to beat the boys in the Preakness and was voted 3-year-old filly champion.
This time he sends out Crazy Beautiful, winner of the Gulfstream Park Oaks on March 27. Although this gray filly is 15-1 in a field of 14, McPeek believes he has a good shot.
“She’s coming into this thing like a beast,” McPeek said. “I’ve been watching some of the others out there, and I feel pretty confident that we’ll get a piece of it.”
And win? It would be “about time. I’ve been second three times and fourth three times. We’ve run well, and if you keep doing that, eventually you’re going to get it.”
Malathaat, trained by Todd Pletcher, was made the 5-2 morning-line favorite.
Also … Grammy Award-winner Tori Kelly will sing the national anthem at the Derby. Her performance is scheduled for just after 5 p.m. ET … Geoffrey Russell, the longtime director of sales at Keeneland, is retiring, but will remain as a consultant through 2021. Keeneland also announced that bloodstock agent and consignor Tony Lacy has been hired as vice president of sales.
The writing team at US Racing is comprised of both full-time and part-time contributors with expertise in various aspects of the Sport of Kings.