Whitham Thoroughbreds’ McCracken turned in his penultimate workout for Kentucky Derby 143 by working five furlongs in 1:00.60 in company on a sunny Monday morning at Churchill Downs.
Also working toward the $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (G1) on May 6 was a quartet of hopefuls from trainer Steve Asmussen: Hence (five furlongs in 1:00), Local Hero (five furlongs in 1:00), Untrapped (five furlongs in 1:01.60) and Lookin At Lee (four furlongs in :51.20).
With regular rider Brian Hernandez Jr. aboard, McCraken came on the track at 8:30 during the special training window for Kentucky Derby and Oaks horses.
Spotting his workmate McCormick, a 3-year-old maiden, several lengths, McCraken posted fractions of :12, :24.60, :36.40, 1:00.60 and gallop outs of 1:13 for six furlongs and 1:26 for seven and well ahead of McCormick, who completed his work in 1:01. McCraken’s move was the sixth fastest of 30 at the distance.
“Everything went great,” Hernandez said. “He sat back and didn’t go until I asked him. He made up a lot of ground from the eighth pole to the wire.”
It was the second work for McCraken since finishing third in the Blue Grass Stakes (GII) at Keeneland on April 8; his first defeat in five races.
“Before, he was like the football player in high school beating up on the high schoolers and then he gets to college where the talent is deeper and he might not be as tough as he thought,” Hernandez said. “Now I’m going to start paying attention.”
Trainer Ian Wilkes, preparing his first Derby starter after serving as the exercise rider for 1990 winner Unbridled and assistant to Carl Nafzger with Street Sense in 2007, was happy with the work.
“It was a good, solid work and he galloped out strong,” Wilkes said. “It (the gallop out) shows he had something left in the tank.”
Wilkes plans to give McCraken one more work with a date and distance to be determined.
“I am going to enjoy it,” Wilkes said of the Derby ride. “Take it one day at a time and don’t get in front of the horse. Let him take you there.”
HENCE/UNTRAPPED/LOOKIN AT LEE/LOCAL HERO – Trainer Steve Asmussen’s contingent of horses breezed Monday morning at Churchill Downs which included Untrapped (five furlongs, 1:01.60); Lookin At Lee (four furlongs, :51.20); and Hence and Local Hero breezed in company (five furlongs, 1:00).
Hence (outside) and Local Hero (inside) breezed during the Derby and Oaks exclusive training at 8:30 a.m. through splits of :12.20, :23.80, :35.60 and :47.80, before galloping out six furlongs in 1:13 and seven furlongs in 1:26.60.
“Hence and Local Hero put in a great work this morning,” Asmussen said. “I’m very comfortable with both horses being here at Churchill. I think the time they spent last year here shows.”
Untrapped breezed at 6:40 a.m. through splits of :12.40, :24.60, and :49.20, before galloping out six furlongs in 1:14.60 and seven furlongs in 1:27.60.
“It’s nine days off of Untrapped and Lookin At Lee’s Arkansas Derby, so we’re in a different point with both of them,” Asmussen said. “Untrapped went five-eighths and galloped good with the blinkers off of him. I thought he was too aggressive and pulled up into a face pace in the Arkansas Derby. His breeze today was beautiful. He’s such a gorgeous moving horse.”
Lookin At Lee worked during Asmussen’s next set at 7:05 a.m. in splits of :13 and :25.80, galloping out five furlongs in 1:04.80.
“He’s on the outside looking in,” Asmussen said. “He just had an easy half-mile and went about his business.”
Hence, winner of the Sunland Derby (GIII), could give owner Calumet Farm a record-extending ninth win in the Derby.
“The race appears to be key, since the running of it,” Asmussen said. “I think from our perspective the horse has always had a lot of talent and he’s putting things together at the right time.”
Untrapped, who exits the April 15 Arkansas Derby (GI) with stablemate Lookin At Lee, recently took over the 20th spot on the Road to the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard with the defection of Cloud Computing. Lookin At Lee is on the bubble, needing one defection to make the field.
BATTALION RUNNER/MALAGACY/MASTER PLAN/TAPWRIT – St. Elias Stable’s Wood Memorial (GII) runner-up Battalion Runner was the first of trainer Todd Pletcher’s possible Derby runners to arrive at Churchill Downs, coming in by van Sunday night from Belmont Park.
Arriving from Keeneland shortly before 11 o’clock Monday morning was Bridlewood Farm, Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Robert LaPenta’s Tapwrit, fifth in the Blue Grass (GII) in his most recent start, and Sumaya U.S. Stables’ Malagacy, fifth in the Arkansas Derby (GI) in his most recent outing. Also coming from Keeneland was Al Shaqab Racing and WinStar Farm’s Master Plan. Standing 26th on the Road to the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard, Master Plan finished third in the UAE Derby (Group II) in his most recent start.
Scheduled to arrive Tuesday at Churchill Downs for Pletcher are Florida Derby (GI) winner Always Dreaming, owned by Brooklyn Boyz Stables and Teresa Viola Racing Stables, and Calumet Farm’s Patch, runner-up in the Louisiana Derby (GII).
CLASSIC EMPIRE/STATE OF HONOR – John Oxley’s Classic Empire and Conrad Farm’s State of Honor both galloped Monday morning at 6 a.m. for trainer Mark Casse.
“Both horses continue to do well,” assistant trainer Norm Casse said. “Classic Empire did a little more serious gallop today and looks great following the Arkansas Derby.”
Jockey Julien Leparoux will have the mount for Classic Empire while Jose Lezcano is slated to ride State of Honor in the Kentucky Derby.
Workout plans are in flux for both horses who are stabled in Casse’s Barn 36.
GUNNEVERA – Peacock Racing Stables’ Gunnevera walked the shedrow Monday morning at Churchill Downs. Winner of the Fountain of Youth (GII), Gunnevera arrived at Churchill Downs late Saturday night after vanning from South Florida.
Trainer Antonio Sano is scheduled to arrive in Louisville Monday and Gunnevera will go to the track in the morning.
PRACTICAL JOKE – Klaravich Stables and William Lawrence’s Practical Joke, runner-up in the Blue Grass Stakes (GII) in his most recent start, left Keeneland late Monday morning and arrived at Churchill Downs this afternoon. He is one of 12 horses trainer Chad Brown plans to have here through Derby Week.
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