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Kentucky Derby Barn Notes

April 29, 2014

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horse racing kentucky derby kentucky oaks

Candy Boy at Churchill Downs on April 29.

© Cindy Pierson Dulay

CALIFORNIA CHROME (No. 1) - Trainer Art Sherman, coming on strong despite running on very little sleep, and California Chrome, coming on strong, too, despite not being allowed to do much running, made the Churchill Downs scene Tuesday morning and proved big hits.

Both trainer and horse had jetted in from their Southern California headquarters Monday and both were ready to get on about the business of showing what the likely Kentucky Derby favorite does five days in front of America's foremost horse race. Wearing a simple green saddle cloth (his Derby cloth had his name mispelled and they are having to make a new one) and with regular exercise rider Willy Delgado aboard, the chestnut colt started trackside from Barn 20 at approximately 6:45 a.m. with Art's son and assistant - Alan Sherman - guiding him on a shank through traffic and the five-furlong gap.

The California-bred son of Lucky Pulpit backtracked all the way around the big Churchill strip, hugging the rail all the way. Delgado reported afterward that his mount felt "more aggressive" than usual during the jog, though he responded positively to stout restraint and there were no incidents of note along the way. "He shipped good and he's doing good, just like we thought," Art Sherman said afterward. "He's a laid-back colt, so we knew the trip wasn't going to bother him. And he's feeling awful good right now, so I'm not surprised to hear he was pulling hard."

Sherman said he'd have his horse back to galloping Wednesday, though he wasn't quite sure if he'd be out during the Derby/Oaks training period at 8:30 a.m., or come to the track earlier given the colt's strong want to get on with his business. He indicated he'd school in the paddock Wednesday, then stand in the gate Thursday.

VICAR'S IN TROUBLE (No. 2) / GENERAL A ROD (No. 14) / HARRY'S HOLIDAY (No. 19) - Starlight Racing and Skychai Racing's General a Rod worked a half-mile Tuesday in 49.40 seconds to the satisfaction of trainer Mike Maker and jockey Joel Rosario. The move was the 17th fastest of 27 at the distance over a fast track. "I never worked him in the morning, and Mike asked me to be on him, and yeah, just to work for the race," said Rosario, who rode General a Rod to a victory in the Gulfstream Park Derby and a third-place finish in the Florida Derby (GI). "He looked good, steady going the whole way."

"He was his typical self today, into it the whole way, worked very smooth," Maker said. General a Rod showed his competitive nature when he encountered a Kentucky Oaks filly galloping in the middle of the turn. Maker said. "He felt the pressure, jumped into the bit, worked just fine," Maker said.

Maker's other two Derby contenders – Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Vicar's in Trouble and Skychai Racing, Terry Raymond and Jana Wagner's Harry's Holiday – galloped under exercise rider Joel Barrientos. Rosario won the Kentucky Derby last year on late-running Orb. "It was something," Rosario said."Last year I had a chance to win the race. A very good moment for me, and going to the race, I have a horse again. I'm excited just to be there again."

On Monday, Starlight Racing and Skychai Racing completed the outright purchase of General a Rod from J. Armando Rodriguez. The horse will race in the orange and turquoise colors of Jimmy Shircliff, who was among several of the new owners watching the workout. Shircliff is involved in the ownership of three horses in this Derby field – General a Rod, Harry's Holiday and Intense Holiday. He joked about having small interests in each. "I'm a stock buyer," he said. "We don't buy whole companies. Hey, buy a little piece of this, a little piece of this. ... The one (Harry's Holiday) got claimed for $30,000 and I'm a 5 percent owner, so how much did that cost me."

DANCE WITH FATE (No. 3) – Sharon Alesia, Bran Jam Stable and Ciaglia Racing’s Dance With Fate got acquainted with the Churchill Downs racing surface Tuesday morning, jogging a mile under exercise rider Issac Muniz for trainer Peter Eurton. Dance With Fate arrived at Churchill Downs at 12:45 p.m. Monday after flying in from his Southern California base. Eurton arrived a few hours later.

Winner of the Blue Grass Stakes (GI) in his most recent start on April 12, Dance With Fate earned his second trip to the Eastern time zone with a good week following the Blue Grass back at Santa Anita. "We made the decision a week after the race,” Eurton said. "I wanted to see how his weight was and soundness and everything was good.”

Dance With Fate galloped and jogged leading up to a halfmile work in :47 on Saturday at Santa Anita. Eurton said Dance With Fate would gallop the next three mornings and has paddock schooling sessions scheduled for Thursday and Friday.

WICKED STRONG (No. 4) -- Centennial Farms’ Wicked Strong schooled in the gate Tuesday morning and had a routine gallop at Churchill Downs under exercise rider Kelvin Pahal. Trainer Jimmy Jerkens said he had Pahal jog the colt the wrong way -- clockwise -- from the gap on the backstretch to the gate at the head of the stretch. Since Wicked Strong acted up in the gate prior to the running of the Holy Bull at Gulfstream Park, Jerkens wants to make sure he is familiar with the gate at Churchill Downs.

Pahal galloped the colt after the trip to the gate. Jerkens said Wicked Strong likely will be schooled in the paddock. He is considering giving the colt a "blow-out,” a short workout through the stretch during training hours Thursday.

SAMRAAT (No. 5) - My Meadowview Farm's Samraat went to the track for the first time Tuesday morning and jogged twice around the oval in the wrong direction under exercise rider Rodney Paine. Samraat winner of his first five career starts before finishing second in the Wood Memorial (GI) on April 5 at Aqueduct, shipped from New York on Monday afternoon. Trainer Rick Violette said the trip on a charter flight took five hours, stall to stall.

"It was almost like he was beamed here," Violette quipped and said the son of Noble Causeway out of the Indian Charlie mare Little Indian Girl handled the journey well. "He was squealing and throwing his head walking around here after we got unpacked," Violette said. "He likes traveling."

Samraat and Uncle Sigh with be the ninth and 10th New York-breds to run in the Derby since Funny Cide became the first winner from the Empire State in 2003. Violette noted that Funny Cide also finished second in the Wood. "It's a horse race. This is a real horse," Violette said. "He's beat all but one horse in six starts. I think he's a high-quality horse, period, as is Gary Contessa's horse, Uncle Sigh. It's a little bit of a different breed than it might have been years ago."

DANZA (No. 6)/INTENSE HOLIDAY (No. 8)/WE MISS ARTIE (No. 10)/VINCEREMOS (No. 18) - Trainer Todd Pletcher chose to go light on his quartet of Derby contenders Tuesday morning at Churchill Downs and instructed his hands to simply walk the foursome around the shedrow at Barn 34 rather than take them to the track for exercise. The colts previously had worked half-miles Sunday, then jogged a full mile each on a "sloppy" track Monday.

In light of his "audible" call, Pletcher was asked about instructions and audibles for his crew of riders come Derby Day. "Overall, I don't like to give riders too many instructions," the trainer noted. "My preference is to give them a general plan for the race. I might tell them I think there's a whole lot of speed in the race and that we probably want to take back, for instance. Or maybe let them know about a little quirk or situation with a particular horse. Things like that. But I realize that races often don't come up the way you think they will. And that's why you've got to leave room for that 'audible' by a rider. I've got to have trust in my riders that they'll do the right thing. And they've got to have trust in me to understand that things don't always go as you've planned. In the case of a race like the Derby, the situation changes because of the multiple entries. With a regular race where I'd only have one runner going, you can talk your strategy in the paddock. But with the Derby, the paddock is just too busy. I talk to my riders ahead of time then, leaving me time to deal with all there is to do in the paddock that day."

HOPPERTUNITY (No. 7)/CHITU (No. 12) - Tanma Corporation's Chitu schooled in the gate and jogged about a mile for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert Tuesday morning.

Meanwhile Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Paul Weitman's Hoppertunity walked the morning after his final pre-Derby work. Baffert said the colt came out of the work in fine condition. "I do a lot of gate (schooling); the gate is very important here," Baffert said. "I hate when they act up in the gate. I blame myself for it. It's like a coach who doesn't use his timeouts. It's the coach's fault, right? Use them wisely."

Sunland Derby winner Chitu runs in the colors of Tanma Corporation, owned by Boston residents Susan Chu and her husband Charles. Susan Chu is very active in international show jumping and decided to enter Thoroughbred racing after watching Super Saver win the 2010 Derby. Tanma owns Super Ninety Nine, a 2013 Derby prospect following a victory in the Southwest Stakes. He did not run in the Kentucky Derby and has resumed training in March after a long layoff. Baffert said he did not realize he was being interviewed when Susan Chu had a meeting with him at Santa Anita.

"She actually interviewed a lot of trainers, she picked me and she wanted to go to the Kentucky Derby," Baffert said. "Here she is, her second horse and she's at the Kentucky Derby. It's not supposed to be happening like this, but it just worked out."

Baffert chuckled as he recalled the conversation with Chu. "I passed the interview. That's a big thing," he said. "She goes by stats and reads every article. She said she picked me because I'm a very kind person."

Chitu, named after a famous horse in Chinese history, is the son of Henny Hughes out of the A. P. Indy mare Sea Gift. He will be ridden by jockey Martin Garcia. "He's one of those horses that is quiet and low-key," Baffert said. "He's got a great mind. He'll walk into the paddock and he's quiet. Nothing really stirs him up. That's what I loved about him when I bought him, he was just so quiet. He would make a great riding horse and he's beautiful to boot. And he's fast. He really runs. He's not bred to go that far, but the bottom side, the A.P. Indy, just carries him a little bit farther. He likes a fast racetrack, we know that."

WILDCAT RED (No. 9) - Honors Stable Corp.'s Wildcat Red returned to the Churchill Downs racetrack Tuesday morning for a strong 1 1/8-mile gallop under exercise rider Juan Belmonte. "The way he went today was amazing. I'm very happy with it," trainer Jose Garoffalo said. "We're still very optimistic."

The Fountain of Youth (GII) and Hutcheson (GIII) winner had walked the shedrow Monday morning after breezing five furlongs in 1:04 2/5 at Churchill Sunday morning. "It seems he likes the track. I saw a big difference between today and Sunday," Garoffalo said. "He's full of himself.

Wildcat Red, who finished second in the Florida Derby (G1) at Gulfstream Park last time out, is slated to be ridden by Luis Saez, who was aboard for his Fountain of Youth score.

RIDE ON CURLIN (No. 11) - Daniel Dougherty's Ride On Curlin galloped Tuesday under exercise rider Bryan Beccia for trainer Billy Gowan. Gowan is quick to praise the legendary trainer Jack Van Berg for bringing him up in the business. Gowan completed an internship under Van Berg as the final requirement for Gowan to receive an equine degree from Louisiana Tech. He wound up working 4 1/2 years for Van Berg.

"He makes you learn," Gowan said. "He wants you to learn. Where a lot of people won't tell you anything, Jack, he will explain stuff to you. He'll feel the horse's legs, and he'll make you feel the horse's legs, and he'll ask you, 'What did you feel?' And then, if you don't see what he sees, he'll call you a dumbass, and he'll show you what it is. You just learn."

TAPITURE (No. 13) - Winchell Thoroughbreds' Tapiture walked the shedrow at trainer Steve Asmussen's barn and was reported to be in fine shape the morning after his steady half-mile maintenance move in :50. Since arriving at Churchill Downs in mid-April with both Tapiture and Oaks favorite Untapable, the barn has strived to keep their surroundings and their patterns consistent with what they were accustomed to in Hot Springs, Ark., and New Orleans, respectively.

"I love a routine," Asmussen said. "I love consistency. I think it measures where you're at. It takes some of the variables out. When you get here, to the Oaks or the Derby, with the new TV screen for instance, there's just a lot to take in. You just want to mentally be in a position where they can show their talent."

MEDAL COUNT (No. 15) - Spendthrift Farm's Medal Count galloped 1 1/2 miles under exercise rider Faustino Aguilar during the Oaks and Derby training session. Prior to the exercise, the Blue Grass Stakes (GI) runner-up stood motionless by the half-mile gap for five minutes, enjoying another opportunity to acclimate to his surroundings. "Everything went fine," trainer Dale Romans said.

Medal Count is very likely to be the last Derby starter by Dynaformer, the hugely influential stallion who died two years ago today - April 29, 2012. "I think he was a very good sire," Romans said. "If we could get a good Dynaformer colt in the breeding shed I think it would be important for the future of racing. Those are good, rugged, hearty horses."

CANDY BOY (No. 16) - Trainer John Sadler sent his Kentucky Derby charge Candy Boy to the track Tuesday morning just as the special Derby/Oaks training period began following the mid-morning renovation break. Exercise rider Jelani Grant was at the controls and steered the husky colt through a strong gallop of a mile and one-half on the big Churchill oval.

Back at Barn 43 afterwards, Sadler was pleased with the exercise for his son of Candy Ride and said everything was moving forward in their quest for honors in Derby 140. "He's doing well here," Sadler said. "Tomorrow and Thursday, I'll stand him in the gate. He'll school with horses for the first race this afternoon."

The trainer also noted that his owners - Lee and Susan Searing of the C R K Stable - would return to Louisville today from Southern California and stay through the Derby. The Searings bred Candy Boy in Kentucky from their In Excess mare She's an Eleven. Obviously hoping to catch lightning in the jar twice, they currently have She's an Eleven back in foal to Candy Ride again.

UNCLE SIGH (No. 17) - Wounded Warrior Stable and Anthony Robertson's Uncle Sigh galloped about two miles under exercise rider Benito Alvarado Tuesday morning before schooling in the Churchill Downs starting gate.

The son of Indian Charlie is scheduled to school in the paddock for the fifth race Thursday afternoon and, tentatively, Friday. "If he goes over there on Thursday and does nothing wrong, I don't think I'll school him again," trainer Gary Contessa said.

Although Uncle Sigh is scheduled to be Contessa's first Derby starter, the New York-based trainer already has saddled a horse for the Run for the Roses. He subbed for trainer Stanley Hough in 1982 and saddled Harbor View Farm's Reinvested, who closed from far back to loom boldly in the stretch before settling for third behind Gato Del Sol and Laser Light. "Reinvested was (part of the mutual field), and I don't think I did a single interview. After he finished third, everyone wanted to talk to me," Contessa said. "Stanley had been here the year before with Proud Appeal and didn't do well. He didn't want to come back for Reinvested, so he sent me down here. It was cool."

COMMANDING CURVE (No. 20) - When Robby Albarado commited to ride Medal Count in this Derby, veteran jockey Shaun Bridgmohan landed the mount on West Point Thoroughbreds' Commanding Curve for trainer Dallas Stewart. "It's always nice to ride in the Derby," said Bridgmohan, who will be riding in his sixth Derby. His best finish was sixth on Santiva on 2011. Bridgmohan called Commanding Curve "a very improving 3-year-old that's coming into himself at the right time." "Definitely, the distance is in his favor," Bridgmohan said. "He's such a kind horse. He does everything nice and easy."

Commanding Curve was impeded at the start of the Louisiana Derby (GII) before finishing third. The experience might benefit him, Stewart said. "The horse that was on his outside just came over on him, and Robby had to take him up, couldn't do anything, had to just get himself back together," Stewart said. "And then as he went around the turn and down the backside, he kind of geared him up. Geared him up on the turn and dropped him on the rail, then came back outside, and the horse handled it great. So hopefully, that'll all play in good for this race." On Tuesday, Commanding Curve galloped under exercise rider Emerson Chavez.

PABLO DEL MONTE (No. 21) - Susan Magnier, Derrick Smith, Michael Tabor and trainer Wesley Ward's Pablo Del Monte continued to train strongly at Keeneland Tuesday morning. "He galloped around the track here at Keeneland unbelievably," Ward said.

Ward's homebred son of Giant's Causeway is scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning. Pablo Del Monte sat 21st on the points list Tuesday and needs one horse to defect by Friday morning in order to make it into Saturday's 20-horse Derby field. Ward will continue to train his colt the next few days with a run in the Derby as the goal.

"If he gets in Friday morning, schooling in the paddock Friday afternoon is something we'd probably do," Ward said.

SOCIAL INCLUSION - Rontos Racing Stable Corp.'s Social Inclusion, who currently sits 22nd, two spots away from qualifying for the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field, will not ship to Churchill Downs, his connections reported Tuesday morning. "We're going to keep the horse here at Gulfstream Park. We ran out of time. It wouldn't be fair to the horse," Ron Sanchez of Rontos Racing Stable Corp said. "We have no time. It doesn't look like he'll get into the field."

The Manny Azpurua-trained Social Inclusion, who finished third in the Wood Memorial (G1) after launching his career with two dazzling victories at Gulfstream, will be pointed to the Preakness Stakes (G1) at Pimlico on May 17. "We'll probably look for a prep. We're going to have a meeting with Manny tomorrow morning," Sanchez said.

BIG BAZINGA (No. 22) - Derby Dreamers Racing Stable's Big Bazinga galloped 1 1/2 miles after the morning renovation break with Loren Diego up for trainer Katerina Vassilieva.

Vassilieva said unless there were a couple of defections from the anticipated Derby field at entry time Wednesday, Big Bazinga would be supplemented into Saturday's $250,000-added American Turf (GII) and Brian Hernandez Jr. would have the mount. "My owner wants to hold on to the last bit of hope," Vassilieva said of making the Derby field that is limited to the top 20 entrants from the Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by TwinSpires.com.

KENTUCKY OAKS UPDATE UNTAPABLE (No. 1) - Winchell Thoroughbreds' Untapable returned to the track for the first time since her :48.60 half-mile breeze Sunday. The Kentucky Oaks favorite hit the track with regular exercise rider Angel Garcia shortly after 6 a.m. with trainer Steve Asmussen's second set of horses, per her routine. Garcia took a hard hold on Untapable, who was clearly eager to do more than the easy gallop her trainer sent her on. Leaving Asmussen and his pony behind at the half-mile pole, Garcia tried to find a rhythm while keeping her relaxed in the middle of the track. As they finished their gallop down the backside, Untapable tossed her head and continued to give the impression of an aggressive filly who can't wait for Friday.

"I think keeping her on the ground between here and Friday is completely the issue," Asmussen said. Untapable will school in the paddock today during the fifth race. "How she schools today will determine if we go back, most likely once or, if necessary, all three days previous," Asmussen said.

SUGAR SHOCK (No. 2) - On Cloud Nine LLC's Sugar Shock galloped 1 1/2 miles after the morning renovation break with Seth VanDyke aboard for trainer Doug Anderson.

Anderson said it did not matter where Sugar Shock and jockey Calvin Borel wound up in the starting gate for Friday's Kentucky Oaks (GI). "She will put herself in position," Anderson said before Sugar Shock landed in post position three. "She is very quick from the gate and I can see her being in front if she draws inside. If she draws outside, she can sit and stalk a little."

Anderson, who has the remainder of his stable housed at Prairie Meadows, has not done a lot of scouting of the opposition. "I am familiar with Kiss Moon (from Oaklawn) and I have watched (Wayne) Catalano's filly (Aurelia's Belle) train," Anderson said. "Kiss Moon has looked very well, but they are the only ones I have paid attention to."

FASHION PLATE (No. 3) - Arnold Zetcher and Michael Tabor's Fashion Plate jogged a mile under exercise rider Paul Eddery after the morning renovation break for trainer Simon Callaghan.

Undefeated in three starts on dirt that include victories in the Las Virgenes (GI) and Santa Anita Oaks (GI), Fashion Plate arrived at Churchill Downs at 12:45 p.m. Monday. Callaghan is scheduled to be here Tuesday afternoon. Fashion Plate, who will be ridden Friday by Gary Stevens, is scheduled for a light gallop Wednesday according to Eddery. The filly, second choice on the morning line at 6-1, drew post position seven.

SUGAR SHOCKFASHION PLATE (No. 2) - On Cloud Nine LLC's Sugar Shock galloped 1 1/2 miles after the morning renovation break with Seth VanDyke aboard for trainer Doug Anderson. (No. 6) - The Kentucky Oaks (GI) duo of My Miss Sophia and Got Lucky took advantage of the Derby/Oaks training session starting at Churchill Downs Tuesday morning to turn in smart gallops of about a mile and one-half.

Got Lucky, from the final crop of A.P. Indy, had regular exercise rider Amy Mulen aboard, while Humberto Zamora was at the controls for My Miss Sophia, a daughter of Unbridled's Song. Both females went through their exercise in strong fashion and both appear to be coming up to top efforts in the $1 million classic.

ROSALIND (No. 5) - Landaluce Educe Stables' Rosalind full-galloped on the main track during the Oaks and Derby training session, hitting the track at 8:30 a.m. with regular exercise rider Danny Ramsey aboard. "We've just got to keep an even keel," trainer KennyMcPeek said. "It's basic stuff; the hard stuff is over with."

The Broken Vow filly drew post four for the Oaks at Tuesday morning's draw. "It's a good spot," MePeek said. "I'm pleased. I wasn't too concerned one way or another, inside or outside. We just need the speed to set up for her."

Rosalind will be ridden Friday by Joel Rosario, last year's Kentucky Derby-winning rider whose best finish in the Oaks is a third in 2011 aboard Zazu. The Dominican native has been Rosalind's regular rider since November's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (GI), a race in which they finished a fast-closing third. "He knows her real well," McPeek said. "She's a little tricky to get to the gate but that's something he's obviously aware of by now. She's not a tough filly to ride."

AURELIA's BELLE (No. 7) - Owner Jim Miller and his wife, Terry, were at Churchill Downs on Tuesday to watch Aurelia's Belle gallop Tuesday under exercise rider Calamity Compton for trainer Wayne Catalano.

"It's where I've always wanted to be," said Jim Miller, who works in infrastructure finance. "It's a lifelong dream to be here." The Millers, who are from Hagerstown, Md., own 47 horses. "Just had one the night before last at Mill Ridge (Farm)," Terry Miller said of a foal born there.

Jim Miller spoke highly of the pedigree of Aurelia's Belle, a daughter of Lemon Drop Kid and the Danzig mare Aurelia. Aurelia, she's part of the Courtly Dee family," Jim Miller said. "It's a very good family, probably one of the better families." Courtly Dee was the dam of Althea, who won the Arkansas Derby in 1984.

Aurelia's Belle drew the No. 8 post position for the Oaks and is 50-1 in the morning line. At the Oaks post draw, Catalano joked about linemaker Mike Battaglia. "What's wrong with him?" Catalano said with a laugh. "Maybe it's time for a new odds-maker."

RIA ANTONIA (No. 8) - Christopher Dunn and Loooch Racing Stable's Ria Antonia walked Tuesday, the morning after she breezed a half-mile in :47.70. Trainer Bob Baffert said she came out of the work in good condition. She drew post position two in the Kentucky Oaks and will be ridden by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith.

KISS MOON (No. 9) - Carl Pollard's Kiss Moon visited the starting gate, jogged to the seven-eighths pole and then galloped a mile under exercise rider Otto Thorwarth for trainer David Vance. Victor Espinoza will have the mount on Kiss Moon, who enters the Oaks off a second-place finish to Sugar Shock in the Fantasy (GIII).

Vance was hoping for post position five or six for the Malibu Moon homebred, "but I wouldn't cry if she got the one. That might make somebody else do something they might not want to do." Vance got his wish: Kiss Moon drew post position six.

UNBRIDLED FOREVER (No. 10) - Trainer Dallas Stewart said he expects Charles Fipke's Unbridled Forever to run better in the Kentucky Oaks than she did in the Fair Grounds Oaks (GII). She finished third in that Oaks prep race, 9 1/2 lengths behind winner Untapable.

Unbridled Forever was returning from a 10-week layoff when she ran in the Fair Grounds Oaks. "I thought she ran pretty good off a layoff," Stewart said. "I actually thought she was a little bit fitter than she was. She worked a couple of really good three-quarters, and I came back two weeks before and just worked her half-miles, easy, and I guess that might have been a little short on fitness looking back. But she came out of it very healthy. ... She had a black-letter work here the other day, did it very easy. So she seems like she's moved her game up since the last race to me."

On Tuesday, Unbridled Forever galloped under exercise rider Pedro Velez. She drew No. 9 and is 12-1 in the morning line for the Oaks. Robby Albarado will ride. Stewart said he likes that Unbridled Forever's starting position is inside of favorite Untapable, who drew No. 13 in a 13-filly field. "I'll talk to Robby, see what he thinks, but I think it's OK."

THANK YOU MARYLOU (No. 11) - Exercise rider Joel Barrientos galloped Ken and Sarah Ramsey's Thank You Marylou on Tuesday for trainer Mike Maker.

She drew No. 5 for the Oaks and is rated at 30-1 in the morning line. Julien Leparoux, who will ride her, said he thinks she might step forward from her performance in the Ashland on the synthetic surface at Keeneland. She finished third in that race, her first around two turns. "I think it was a good race for her at Keeneland," Leparoux said. "The first race I rode her going short at Gulfstream, I think she might handle the dirt a little better than the Polytrack. I mean, she handled the Polytrack good, but I think the dirt might be where she likes it better. The distance I think is still a little question, but I think the race at Keeneland definitely set her up for it here."

EMPRESS OF MIDWAY (No. 12) - Daniel Kramer and Rick Pitino's Empress of Midway galloped 1 1/2 miles after the morning renovation break with Humberto Gomez aboard. "Much better track today," Gomez said as he gave the morning activity a big thumbs up.

Empress of Midway is trained by Doug O'Neill and will be ridden in the Oaks by Corey Nakatani. O'Neill is scheduled to arrive in Louisville Thursday afternoon. Jack Sisterson, assistant to O'Neill, said post position would not be a concern to the filly. "Wherever we draw is fine," Sisterson said before Empress of Midway drew post 10. "She's a classy filly and the post won't matter."

PLEASE EXPLAIN (No. 13) - Trainer Tom Proctor said that he planned to enter Niall Racing's Please Explain in Friday's Kentucky Oaks and that Jose Lezcano would have the mount.

The Curlin filly broke her maiden in her fourth start at 1 1/16 miles at Gulfstream Park. In her next start, Please Explain won the Suncoast Stakes at Tampa Bay by six lengths. Following the Suncoast victory, Please Explain finished third in the Honeybee (GIII) and seventh in the Fantasy (GIII).

"She ran a good race in the Honeybee but the Fantasy was just a bad race," Proctor said. "Maybe she just didn't like the track. You can just throw that last race out." Please Explain has had two works here since the Fantasy, the first being a 1:01.20 move on April 19. "She worked head and head with Myositis Dan and you saw how he ran the other night," Proctor said of the colt who was beaten two noses in a third-place finish in the Derby Trial (GIII). "That kind of sealed the deal." Please Explain had her final Oaks work on Saturday, going five furlongs in 1:01.60. Please Explain drew post position one.

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