Trainer Todd Pletcher sent four of his Kentucky Derby hopefuls out for their final serious works at Churchill Downs Friday morning. Three of them confirmed to the seven-time Eclipse Award winner they deserved to start in the first leg of the Triple Crown.
With rain in the forecast for Saturday, Pletcher made the decision to move his contingent’s works up a day. While unbeaten Florida Derby winner Materiality and Grade II winner Itsaknockout made positive impressions when they breezed four furlongs in 48 flat on a cool, clear morning, Madefromlucky’s status as a Derby contender was downgraded after he struggled to keep pace with stablemate Stanford when those two also worked a half mile.
Madefromlucky was credited with four furlongs in 48.40 while his stablemate was clocked in 48.60. Jockey John Velazquez, who was aboard Madefromlucky, said the chestnut colt struggled to get a hold of the track causing the Hall of Fame rider to noticeably get after him in the lane as Stanford finished about a length in front.
Pletcher concurred with that assessment and said he was now leaning against running the son of Lookin At Lucky in the Kentucky Derby and would instead likely consider pointing the fourth place finisher in the Arkansas Derby to a race like the Grade II Peter Pan at Belmont Park on May 9.
“He didn’t handle the turns particularly well, and we kind of noticed that at Arkansas,” Pletcher said of Madefromlucky. “The big turns at Belmont might suit him well. We’d be looking more at the Peter Pan-Belmont Stakes route with him.
Added Velazquez, “He worked okay. It was not a bad work but the other horse (Stanford) worked much better.”
Prior to Friday, Pletcher had said the only contenders of his he considered definite for the Derby were multiple Grade I winner Carpe Diem – who is slated to work at Keeneland Saturday morning – and Materiality.
By holding his own against the latter, Itsaknockout earned his own Derby green light from Pletcher, notching splits of 12, 23.60, and 35.60 with a gallop out in 1:01 and 1:14.60. And though Pletcher seemed most on the fence about Stanford heading into Friday’s move, the Louisiana Derby runner up showed real affinity for the Churchill surface as he ran off splits of 12.40 and 24.20 with a gallop out in 1:01.60 and 1:15.
“I thought Itsaknockout breezed really well and I thought assuming he comes out of it as good as he breezed today, that he earned his way in,” Pletcher said. “Stanford arguably breezed as good as anybody this morning. I thought his gallop out was particularly good. A lot of the success you’re going have here is based on how the horses handle the surface. It can be a quirky surface and it’s certainly not for all horses. He handled it really well.”
With Madefromlucky being taken out of Kentucky Derby consideration, it allows Donegal Racing’s Keen Ice – most recently fourth in the Grade II Louisiana Derby – to get into the field that is limited to 20 runners.
Trained by Dale Romans, Keen Ice broke his maiden at Churchill Downs last September 6 but is winless in five tries against graded stakes company.
“He’s going to be an extremely live longshot,” Romans said Friday morning when informed of the news. “I’m absolutely confident he will go the distance, which is a big factor in the Derby. I know there will be pace in this race, there always is, and he has not had enough pace in front of him.
“We don’t control our own destiny in this race. We do have to have some pace, we do have to have a clean trip. But with those two things, this is a prototype Derby horse. We’ll be running at the end.”
Hall of Fame jockey Kent Desormeaux will have the mount on Keen Ice for the Derby.
Danzig Moon, Far Right breeze
Impending rain also prompted the connections of Derby hopefuls Danzig Moon and Far Right to work their horses on Friday instead of waiting for the weekend.
After recording what assistant trainer Norman Casse deemed too quick of an outing last Saturday when he covered five furlongs in a bullet 58 flat, Danzig Moon was much more settled Friday morning as he worked four furlongs in 48.80 in company.
“Very pleased with the work. We wanted to be a little more controlled, last week got a little out of hand,” said Casse. “Things couldn’t have been any better today. Now all the heavy stuff is done.”
Far Right worked solo for trainer Ron Moquett, covering four furlongs in 49 flat.
“He’s a very efficient horse that basically..can go forever,” Moquett said.