Monday, May 02, 2016

Creator Completes Final Kentucky Derby Work

WinStar Farm's Arkansas Derby winner Creator, with exercise rider Abel Flores aboard, worked a half mile Monday morning in :50.60, with eighth-mile splits of :12.60, :25.20 and :38.

"I'm very happy with how they've been here at Churchill,'' seven-time Oaklawn leading trainer Steve Asmussen said of Creator and stablemate Gun Runner's work. "Just an easy half-mile. The best news of the morning was the condition of the track. I'm very thankful to the Churchill grounds crew for what they did last night. We had a pretty good rain (Sunday) in the afternoon. Looking at the track, there was water standing on it about 6 o'clock last night. To come out this morning and see what kind of shape it was in was very pleasant. It definitely made the morning go well.”

Creator broke his maiden in his sixth start, on Feb. 27 at Oaklawn Park, before moving to stakes company there, finishing third in the Rebel (GII) and winning the Arkansas Derby (G1). Since their latest victories, both Gun Runner, the Louisiana Derby winner and Creator continued their

training at Churchill Downs, where they had spent significant time as 2-year-olds. Familiarity with t he track is a plus for both horses, Asmussen said.

“I feel very good about the time that they spent here last summer and last fall, very confident with the racetrack and the surroundings,'' he said. "The crew has done a wonderful job with them to put them in a position to do their best. ... It's one of the variables, and we can feel very comfortable that they're going to handle the surface and the surroundings for their preparation. And when you put 20 of them together in the draw, you're worried about other things, but I think we can check that off as far as not (being) an excuse and try to move forward.''

Asmussen said that improved focus has helped Creator find success. "He's always had a lot of talent,'' Asmussen said. "He's a great physical (specimen), a tremendous pedigree, and it's been in him. I think he just lacked focus in his races. It was a bit frustrating running him. You felt like he should have won several of the races you were watching. But he would take mental lapses and just not finish up with the effort you knew he was capable of.''

Oaklawn leading rider Ricardo Santana Jr., who will ride Creator, observed the workout. Santana said that when the colt broke his maiden, he appeared to be a changed horse.

"He made a nice move at the three-eighths,'' Santana said. "The first time he won a race, he started doing better and better and better.”

Santana, 22, from Panama, will be riding in his second Kentucky Derby. Asmussen gave Santana his first Derby mount, Tapiture, who finished 15th in 2014. "I'm happy with the barn,'' Santana said. "He has a lot of confidence in me. He gave me a lot of good shots.''

In other Kentucky Derby Developments:

Samuel F. Henderson's Suddenbreakingnews, winner of the Southwest Stakes and second in the Arkansas Derby, galloped 1 ½ miles during the special 8:30 a.m. training sesson under exercise rider Ramiro Gorostieta Monday and was scheduled to school in the paddock later in the morning.

“We just keeping him healthy and happy now,” said trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel.

Von Hemel has been a fish out of water so to speak the last few mornings at Churchill without a stable pony, but his new one is expected to arrive today from Oklahoma.

Arkansas Derby third-place finisher Whitmore met his new jockey for the first time when Victor Espinoza stopped by the barn and then watched the Pleasantly Perfect train. With Laura Moquett on board, he jogged a mile and galloped a mile.

“He all had a chance to tell Victor our thoughts on Whitmore,” said co-owner Harry Rosenblum. “He's a smart rider. He's won five of the last six Triple Crown races. We think we have a horse that just needs a good trip. Hopefully, he'll get that with Victor.”

Espinoza will be looking for his third straight Kentucky Derby victory and fourth overall when he climbs aboard Whitmore for the first time Saturday. He won the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes with California Chrome in 2014 and then became the first rider to win the Triple Crown in 37 years last year when American Pharoah swept the Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. He also the Kentucky Derby in 2002 with War Emblem.

Steve Landers Racing LLC's Dazzling Gem returned to the track for a 1 ½-mile gallop Monday during the special 8:30 a.m. training time for the first time since a five-furlong workout Saturday. Trainer Brad Cox said the Misremembered colt continues to do well and they are just waiting to see if they can make it into the body of the field. He is currently sitting at #24.

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