By Steve Sherack
LOUISVILLE, Ky – Fresh off the heels of notching his second career GI Kentucky Derby victory with Always Dreaming (Bodemeister), trainer Todd Pletcher’s troops were out in full force on a sun splashed and chilly Monday morning at Churchill Downs.
Retired Hall of Fame jockey Pat Day held court (perhaps reliving Lil E. Tee’s memorable upset beneath the Twin Spires back in 1992) during the track renovation break shortly after 7 a.m.
Bloodstock agent and e Five Racing Thoroughbreds advisor Mike Ryan made his way through the crowd on the backstretch-pretty large for this early of Derby week-to get a closer look at last year’s champion 2-year-old colt and $1 million KEESEP grad Good Magic (Curlin) as the 15-minute training window for Derby/Oaks horses, held an hour earlier than years past, was quickly approaching.
Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas, aboard his stable pony, and Calumet Farm homebred Bravazo (Awesome Again), led the cavalry charge as the floodgates opened at 7:30 a.m.
Lukas was all smiles as he exchanged pleasantries with WinStar Farm’s Elliott Walden as his aforementioned former protege’s loaded quartet–all equipped with white bridles, of course–made their way out.
All four showed great energy in their gallops, led by the unbeaten GI Arkansas Derby hero and ‘TDN Rising Star’ Magnum Moon (Malibu Moon), GI Xpressbet Florida Derby winner Audible (Into Mischief), GII Wood Memorial S. hero Vino Rosso (Curlin), GII Twin Spires.com Louisiana Derby winner and ‘TDN Rising Star’ Noble Indy (Take Charge Indy). They all had their final breezes at Churchill Downs Friday.
Trainer Mark Casse stood on the track by the chute as his long-striding ‘TDN Rising Star’ Wonder Gadot (Medaglia d’Oro) continued her preparations for the Oaks. Casse will also be represented by the tenacious GII Toyota Blue Grass S. runner-up Flameaway (Scat Daddy) in the Derby.
Keith Desormeaux exercise rider Peedy Landry, the regular morning partner of 2016 GI Preakness S. winner and Derby runner-up Exaggerator (Curlin), was aboard the stretch-running GIII Stonestreet Lexington S. winner My Boy Jack (Creative Cause) for his Monday morning gallop. Free Drop Billy (Union Rags), winner of last term’s Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity, had a nice bounce in his step as he jogged the wrong way. Combatant (Scat Daddy), fourth in the Arkansas Derby, was the lone Derby worker of the day, covering four furlongs for trainer Steve Asmussen in :49.60 (8/19).
With the Derby/Oaks training period winding down, a large group of media flocked back to Barn 40 to get a closer look at the Pletcher runners as they were getting cleaned up.
Bloodstock agent Jacob West was among the crowd keeping a close eye on Magnum Moon (he picked out the striking bay on behalf of the Lows for $380,000 as a KEESEP yearling) while Pletcher observed from inside his shedrow while chatting with Walden.