Kentucky Derby

Kentucky Derby contender hits the pool as rivals take to the track

Asmussen's trio of Derby contenders loving life at Churchill

Trainer Steve Asmussen says Hence, Lookin at Lee and Untrapped have not missed a beat since arriving in Louisville.
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Trainer Steve Asmussen says Hence, Lookin at Lee and Untrapped have not missed a beat since arriving in Louisville.

There’s rain in the forecast for Saturday’s 143rd running of the Kentucky Derby and, for at least one horse, that might come as good news.

If the skies open up and it becomes necessary to dog-paddle home, nobody is beating Girvin.

The leader in Kentucky Derby points this spring, Girvin has been preparing for Saturday’s race in the pool.

The Louisiana Derby winner has been battling a quarter crack on his right front hoof since April 19 and has been swimming at the Kentucky Equine Sports Medicine and Rehabilitation Center to maintain his fitness.

Girvin ran his final breeze for the Kentucky Derby on Saturday, covering 5 furlongs at Keeneland in 59.60 seconds. He is expected to arrive at Churchill Downs on Tuesday evening.

“He’s doing well,” trainer Joe Sharp said Monday. “He just went for a swim today.”

‘Best horse I’ve ever owned’

Solomon Del-Valle, the majority owner of Gunnevera, is enjoying his brief stay in the United States.

“I’m very excited. This is the best horse I’ve ever owned,” said Del-Valle, who is visiting Churchill Downs for the first time. “I live in Venezuela, in Valencia, a long time. I want to die in Valencia, Venezuela, but I will be here 52 days in the United States.”

Del-Valle is planning to remain in the U.S. through the Triple Crown campaign.

Three for the show

Trainer Steve Asmussen’s trio of Kentucky Derby contenders all put in half-mile workouts Monday at Churchill Downs.

Hence was the fastest of the trio, covering 4 furlongs in 48.40 seconds but had the advantage of a track labeled as “good” following a break for maintenance renovation. Lookin at Lee went in :50.20 and Untrapped in :50.40 over a track labeled as “sloppy” after over night rain.

New arrival

Gormley, winner of the Santa Anita Derby, arrived at Churchill Downs on Monday afternoon after a flight from California.

Gormley is trained by John Shirreffs, who won the 2005 Kentucky Derby with Giacomo.

Bring it on

Some horses love the crowds during Derby week. Others not so much.

WinStar Farm’s Battle of Midway appears to be of the former category.

“He’s taken everything in stride since he’s been here,” said Christina Jelm East Coast assistant to trainer Jerry Hollendorfer. “He loves the people, he likes the attention, he likes the commotion. He’s a very alert horse and nothing seems to faze him at all.”

The Santa Anita Derby runner-up put in a 1½-mile gallop at Churchill on Monday.

“His ears were pricked and he was looking around,” Jelm said. “He did everything perfectly.”

His name is the game

No Derby winner has led the race wire-to-wire since War Emblem in 2002.

If there’s a wire-to-wire candidate in this year’s field, it could be Fast and Accurate, winner of the Grade 3 Spiral Stakes at Turfway Park in his most recent outing in March 25.

“He’s going to have to run the race of his life to win, but as good as he breezed, it’s not out of the question,” jockey Channing Hill said. “He has speed and we will likely go (to the front). I would not mind ‘War Emblem-ing’ the field at all.”

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