It was another active morning on the work tab for Kentucky Derby hopefuls on Monday with Creative Cause, Liaison, Sabercat, Daddy Nose Best and Mark Valeski all going through their final serious paces over the Churchill Downs track.
Trainer Larry Jones said Sunday he and owner Brereton Jones needed to see something special from Mark Valeski – runner up in the Louisiana Derby last time out – in his final move to ensure the son of Proud Citizen would be in the starting gate Saturday. Even after the bay colt worked five furlongs in 1:00.20 under former jockey Larry Melancon, both Joneses remained non committal saying they would likely wait until Wednesday to make a final call.
“I’m not going to guarantee that we’re in or out,” Larry Jones said. “Tomorrow will tell more and I’ll know really Wednesday morning when I get on him, especially if he tries to buck me off coming off that track.”
“You shouldn’t go to the Derby unless you feel like you’re loaded for bear,” Brereton Jones said. “This is a really good horse and he’ s getting better all the time but you better be at your best for the Derby. That’s a decision that Larry is going to need to make. We’ll just have to talk about it.”
Grade I winner Creative Cause, who arrived on Saturday, breezed four furlongs in :47.80 for trainer Mike Harrington. The son of Giant’s Causeway, third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs last November, ticked off splits of :12.60, :24.60, and :36 with a gallop out 1:01.20.
“I couldn’t ask him to work any better than he worked and I think he did it fairly easily,” Harrington said. “It wasn’t like my rider was asking him for his life. The best thing is the way he handled the racetrack so I’m just hoping Saturday the track is like it was today. When tracks are wet, you never know how even they’re going to play.”
While Creative Cause and Mark Valeski came out after the renovation break, trainer Steve Asmussen sent his duo of Sabercat and Daddy Nose Best out shortly after the track opened. Sabercat, winner of last year’s Delta Jackpot, breezed four furlongs in :48.40 with Sunland Derby winner Daddy Nose Best covering the same distance in :49.40.
“It’s amazing how similar these two horses are,” Asmussen said. “At every stage, both of them. They showed up on the same van ride, they worked together six to ten times last spring and fall and both of them had two starts at Churchill in the Spring. They are very similar horses and when you look at where they’re at here, I like the confidence level of Daddy Nose Best, the spacing of his races. And I like the experience that Sabercat has gotten with the travel and the dirt that he’s taken. I think they both have a lot of positives going for them.”
One day after his stablemate Bodemeister put in his final drill, the Bob Baffert-trained Liaison covered five furlongs in 1:00.80 working in company with Mile High Magic. The son of Indian Charlie put in splits of :24.80, :37.20, and :48.80 with a gallop out in 1:13.20, finishing on even terms with his work mate.