Messier Fires Bullet in First Work for Yakteen

Messier (inside)Ernie Belmonte

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.”

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