Julien Leparoux confident in Classic Empire
Three Kentucky Derby hopefuls took advantage of the nice cool weather and worked Friday morning at Keeneland.
Blue Grass Stakes winner Irap, Tampa Bay Derby winner Tapwrit, Florida Derby runner-up State of Honor and multiple Grade 1 winner Practical Joke all worked on the main track.
Irap, who broke his maiden in winning the Blue Grass, worked a mile in 1:44 for trainer Doug O’Neill, who flew in from California to see the work.
“We go into these big races very optimistic but realistic, as well,” said O’Neill of Irap’s Blue Grass win. “We knew he was an outsider going into the Blue Grass but we had faith in him. Just to see him run the way we had hoped he would run was pretty phenomenal.”
Jockey Julien Leparoux, who rode Irap in the Blue Grass but will ride Arkansas Derby winner Classic Empire in the Kentucky Derby, said Irap worked well Friday.
“He felt good,” Leparoux said. “That’s what Doug wanted 1:01. So we had a good breeze. He did it pretty easy. Nothing else to say. He changed leads today, so that was great.”
Irap, who is fourth in the Kentucky Derby point standings, will continue to train at Keeneland for O’Neill before moving to Churchill Downs the week of the May 6 race. It’s the same strategy O’Neill used last year with Derby winner Nyquist.
Leparoux also worked State of Honor for trainer Mark Casse at Churchill Downs on Friday morning before coming to Keeneland. State of Honor worked five furlongs in 1:01.60.
“He went very good,” Leparoux said. “He relaxed early and finished up very strong. He galloped out very good so we were happy with him.”
Eleventh in the Kentucky Derby point standings, State of Honor ran third in the Sam F. Davis and second in the Tampa Bay Derby. He was second to Always Dreaming in the Florida Derby.
Practical Joke, ninth in the Derby point standings, worked four furlongs in :49 and 4/5 in company with Ticondergoa for trainer Chad Brown.
“He breezed an easy half a mile and galloped out very well,” Brown said afterward. “Happy. Moving well. So just what I was looking for.”
Practical Joke won the Hopeful and Champagne and finished third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile as a two-year-old. He has run second in both the Fountain of Youth and the Blue Grass Stakes this year.
“He’s looked really good,” said Brown, who will ship Practical Joke to Churchill on Monday. “His energy level is terrific. He’s sound and strong. He’ll have his last work for the Derby tentatively a week from today.”
Tapwrit, fifth in the Blue Grass Stakes, worked five furlongs in 1:01 2/5 in company with Wissam.
“He just has to stay focused a little bit,” said assistant trainer Ginny DePasquale, who oversaw the work while trainer Todd Pletcher is in Florida. “He galloped out well. Todd was pleased and I was pleased.”
After finishing second to McCraken in the Sam F. Davis and winning the Tampa Bay Derby, Tapwrit was a disappointment in the Blue Grass two weeks ago.
“It was obviously a dull effort,” DePasquale said, “but we’re hoping that he’s going to bounce back. Actually, the last week or so, he’s been his old self again. Obviously, we’re hoping that he bounces back big time.”
Kentucky Derby leaderboard
Irish War Cry
J Boys Echo
State of Honor
Fast and Accurate
Battle of Midway
Lookin At Lee