Top GI Kentucky Derby contender Messier (Empire Maker), recently transferred from Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert to his former assistant Tim Yakteen, breezed six furlongs Sunday for a start in the GI Runhappy Santa Anita Derby Apr. 9 in a bullet 1:11.40, fastest by nearly three seconds of five recorded works at the distance.
“He worked lights out,” Yakteen said of Messier. “We had Johnny [Velazquez] work him and he'll ride him in the Santa Anita Derby. He gave us a thumbs up. The horse looked great, although he ended up with some unexpected company. We almost had a little training race out there.”
Messier was last seen winning the GIII Robert B. Lewis S. by 15 lengths Feb. 6 in Arcadia.
Yakteen, a 57-year-old native of Germany who assisted Baffert off and on for almost 10 years between a tour with the legendary Charlie Whittingham, also received promising 3-year-old Doppelganger (Into Mischief) from the Baffert barn.
“Both horses came to me in good shape,” said Yakteen, who began training solo in 2004. “They were always well cared for.”
A $570,000 Fasig-Tipton Selected Yearling who worked five furlongs at Santa Anita in 1:00.20 (5/54) Saturday, Doppelganger is headed to the GI Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park Apr. 2.
“We'll see if he can validate himself as a [Kentucky] Derby horse, earn some points and take it from there,” Yakteen said. “The horses are doing well, but you still need a little bit of luck.”