Wednesday's Derby Report: Crown Pride & Taiba Works Highlight Busy Morning


Crown Pride had the backstretch buzzing at Churchill Downs Wednesday morning | Sherackatthetrack


LOUISVILLE, KY – Crown Pride (Jpn) (Reach the Crown {Jpn}) had Wednesday morning's 'Dawn at the Downs' crowd buzzing just three days out from the GI Kentucky Derby.

With the G2 UAE Derby winner continuing to warm up with his popular dressage-like jogging routine in the chute on a very cool and overcast morning, Todd Pletcher's troops of Charge It (Tapit), Mo Donegal (Uncle Mo) and Pioneer of Medina (Pioneerof the Nile) were the first to hit the track for the special Derby/Oaks training period at 7:30 a.m.

Owner Jerry Crawford stood alongside the two-time Derby winning Hall of Fame trainer on the backstretch while closely monitoring Donegal Racing and Repole Stable's aforementioned GII Wood Memorial S. winner.

With jockey Christophe Lemaire's yellow helmet cap fittingly matching Crown Pride's Kentucky Derby saddle towel, the dark bay blitzed through a visually impressive half-mile bullet breeze in :46.60. Under a nice hold approaching the quarter pole with ears flicking back and forth, Crown Pride switched leads right on cue in the stretch and powered on through the wire as he continues to impress in his training.

The unbeaten Taiba (Gun Runner), credited with just a lone six-furlong breeze breeze since his sensational GI Runhappy Santa Anita Derby win, blew out three furlongs beneath Joel Rosario in :38.40. The chestnut followed that same blueprint before his Santa Anita Derby win. Tim Yakteen's former late and legendary boss Charlie Whittingham is certainly smiling somewhere. One of the more efficient movers you'll see, Taiba brought $1.7 million as a Fasig-Tipton Gulfstream Sale 2-year-old in training.

The top two choices on Mike Battaglia's Kentucky Derby morning-line, meanwhile, were also out stretching their legs during this action-packed 15-minute time slot. Slightly favored Zandon (Upstart) continues to stride out beautifully during his preparations beneath the Twin Spires for Chad Brown. Typically out for Hall of Famer Steve Asmussen during the pre-dawn hours, Epicenter (Not This Time) looked the part as well while training much later than usual amidst the chaos.

With his neck bowed and sporting lots of blue and yellow equipment, no one stood out more than the stunning gray White Abarrio (Race Day).

The blaze-faced Zozos (Munnings) also caught the eye while galloping a powerful 1 1/2 miles along with his Brad Cox-trained stablemates Cyberknife (Gun Runner) and Tawny Port (Pioneerof the Nile).

Despite temperatures hovering in the 50s, Smile Happy (Runhappy) was a bit lathered on his neck during his routine gallop.

Back at the barn and still with cotton balls in his ears, Epicenter kept his cool before a big crowd of admiring media and fans while getting cleaned up as training hours began to wind down.

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