By Steve Sherack
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – With no shortage of racing fans, horsemen and media lined up along the outer rail, the Churchill Downs backstretch got awfully quiet in a hurry as Verifying (Justify) lost his exercise rider leaving the five-eighths marker during Thursday morning's special training session for GI Kentucky Derby and Oaks horses.
A big tip of the cap goes out to outriders Greg Blasi and Lee Lockwood, who did a fantastic job of apprehending the GI Blue Grass S. runner-up at the quarter pole.
Trainer Brad Cox later reported that Verifying was in fine form following the mishap and remains on target for the Derby.
The siren went off for a second time just moments later as last term's GI TVG Del Mar Debutante S. heroine And Tell Me Nolies (Arrogate) beelined for her current digs at Barn 24 after rearing up and losing her rider exiting the track. Trainer Peter Miller said that all was O.K. with the 15-1 Kentucky Oaks longshot afterwards.
Practical Move (Practical Joke)–the subject of plenty chatter after just jogging the past few days–made his presence felt while out for a routine gallop. Nearly six hours later, however, trainer Tim Yakteen broke the gut-punching news that Practical Move would be scratched from the Derby due to an elevated temperature. Really doesn't get much rougher than that.
On a much lighter note, it was business as usual for Todd Pletcher's imposing trio of Kentucky Derby morning-line favorite Forte (Violence), unbeaten Kingsbarns (Uncle Mo) and Tapit Trice (Tapit), who all galloped a mile and three eighths at 7:30 a.m.
Kentucky Derby ML favorite Forte in action this morning pic.twitter.com/IVFgPWXgTK
— Steve Sherack (@SteveSherackTDN) May 4, 2023
If anyone stood out on the sunsplashed morning during Thursday's trackwork, it had to be the stunning chestnut Disarm (Gun Runner). He just couldn't be looking any more locked and loaded for the first Saturday in May.
With the late defections of Practical Move and the Saffie Joseph, Jr.-trained Lord Miles (Curlin), Cyclone Mischief (Into Mischief) and Mandarin Hero (Jpn) (Shanghai Bobby) have drawn into the body of the Derby field.