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Thursday’s Trackside Derby Report

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Game Winner | Sherackatthetrack

By Steve Sherack

LOUISVILLE, KY – With the shocking news of Omaha Beach (War Front)’s late evening defection continuing to dominate all the backstretch chatter, it was back to business for the GI Kentucky Derby and GI Kentucky Oaks horses on a warm Thursday morning at Churchill Downs.

Bellafina (Quality Road) and last year’s champion 2-year-old filly Jaywalk (Cross Traffic) briefly took in their surroundings by the chute as the special 15-minute training session was underway at 7:30 a.m.

Trainer Simon Callaghan, fitted with a sling on his right arm, stood alongside bloodstock agent Ben McElroy as the 2-1 morning-line favorite for the Oaks galloped strongly for 1 1/2 miles. Callaghan dislocated his shoulder after taking a spill in his rental house in Louisville earlier this week.

Bill Mott was all smiles leading out the stunning Juddmonte homebred Tacitus (Tapit)-the Hall of Famer certainly has reason to be feeling good these days–while aboard his stable pony. He will also saddle the stretch-running Country House (Lookin At Lucky) in the Derby.

It was another impressive trip to the track for By My Standards (Goldencents), who continues to give off nothing but good vibes training with his necked arched, during his morning preparations. Kentucky native Chester Thomas has made the rounds on the backstretch throughout the week and is the subject matter of an owner profile in TDN’s Kentucky Derby preview edition.

Trainer Mark Casse gave the thumbs up while walking by the large contingent of media lined up along the rail after watching the blaze-faced War of Will (War Front) turn in another energetic gallop.

Now officially in the starting gate following Omaha Beach’s defection, the also-eligible maiden Bodexpress (Bodemeister), sporting four red wraps, was a bit of handful for his exercise rider throughout his 1 1/2-miles gallop.

Win Win Win (Hat Trick {Jpn}) got a nice pat on the neck from exercise rider Melanie Williams while heading off. Trainer Mike Trombetta, of course, saddled 2006 Kentucky Derby favorite Sweetnorthernsaint to a seventh-place finish behind the ill-fated Barbaro.

Haikal (Daaher), noticeably absent from the training window, is currently dealing with an abscess in his left front, it was revealed. A decision will be made on his Derby status by Friday morning, according to trainer Kiaran McLaughlin.

The sun began to emerge through the cloud cover as the media flocked to Barn 33 to get a closer look at Bob Baffert’s GISWs Roadster (Quality Road) and Improbable (City Zip), who both galloped during the special training session. The large crowd in attendance also included Roadster’s breeder Arthur B. Hancock III.

After suffering what has to be the toughest blow of his Hall of Fame career, Richard Mandella’s class was on full display, graciously granting interviews throughout the morning while continuing to love on Omaha Beach.

Good to see that he hasn’t lost that sense of humor of his, either.

“I’m very appreciative-it seemed like a lot of people have been rooting for me here all week,” Mandella, winless with six starters in the Derby, said at his press conference later Thursday morning. “My wife has got a little bucket. She’ll walk around. If you throw a donation in there to help us get home.”

Champion Game Winner (Candy Ride {Arg}), who has now inherited the role of 9-2 morning-line favorite in the Derby, came out to train at 9 a.m. along with Baffert’s Oaks filly Flor de La Mar (Tiznow). Former NBA great Avery Johnson was one of several well-wishers back by the Baffert camp as last year’s GI Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner was getting his bath on the sun splashed backstretch.

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