Sidelines with John Clay

Kentucky Derby: Girvin’s work rescheduled; McCraken looks strong

Louisiana Derby winner Girvin walks near his barn at Keeneland on Monday, April 24, 2017. The Kentucky Derby points leader was scheduled to work Monday at the track but trainer Joe Sharp postponed the work until Friday.
Louisiana Derby winner Girvin walks near his barn at Keeneland on Monday, April 24, 2017. The Kentucky Derby points leader was scheduled to work Monday at the track but trainer Joe Sharp postponed the work until Friday. Lexington Herald-Leader

After indicating he would work Kentucky Derby points leader Girvin at Keeneland on Monday, trainer Joe Sharp called an audible.

The Louisiana Derby winner was moved from the Churchill Downs’ Trackside training facility to Keeneland last week. After taking his colt to the track over the weekend, Sharp had indicated he would work Girvin on Monday. Instead, the son of Tale of Ekati jogged around the track around 7:30.

“We just decided we’re going to work him Friday,” Sharp said later. “Just one solid work going into the Derby instead of trying to squeeze like two half-miles in. We’ll probably go 5/8 or 3/4 eight days out.”

Sharp said the work could be Saturday, but it will be at Keeneland, where Girvin will remain until he ships to Churchill Downs sometime next week.

“We’re going to stay here until we have to travel to Churchill,” he said. “That’s my plan as of now.”

Why Keeneland?

“I just like the facility here,” Sharp said. “He’s able to graze. It’s quiet. It’s just more horse-friendly here.”

Sharp said he likes the fact he can use Keeneland’s all-weather training track if necessary. He said Girvin won’t return to Churchill until the required 72 hours before the race.

▪ Blue Grass Stakes winner Irap has also remained at Keeneland for trainer Doug O’Neill, who used a similar strategy last year leading up to his Kentucky Derby win with Nyquist.

After working on Friday, Irap galloped three times around the five-furlong all-weather track Monday morning, reports Keeneland. He is scheduled to work again this Friday with jockey Mario Gutierrez aboard. O’Neill, who returned to California over the weekend, will be back in Lexington for the work.

Irap will ship to Churchill Downs on April 29 or 30.

▪ A leg fracture suffered Sunday at Keeneland will keep jockey Robby Albarado out of the Derby. Scheduled to ride Gotham Stakes winner J Boys Echo, Albarado underwent surgery on Monday morning. Rods and screws were inserted into his left tibia. He could return to riding in three to four weeks.

Trainer Dale Romans said he had not yet decided on replacement for Albarado aboard J Boys Echo. Luis Saez, Gary Stevens and Kent Desormeaux are among those being considered.

▪ Classic Empire tops the latest NTRA three-year-old poll. The Arkansas Derby winner is second behind Girvin in the Kentucky Derby point standings.

▪ McCraken, third in the Blue Grass Stakes, worked five furlongs in 1:00.60 at Churchill Downs on Monday morning, according to a press release from the track. McCraken was ridden by his jockey Brian Hernandez, Jr.. The Bloodhorse reported that McCraken finished strong.

“Everything went great,” Hernandez said. “He sat back and didn’t go until I asked him. He made up a lot of ground from the eighth pole to the wire.”

“It was a good, solid work and he galloped out strong,” trainer Ian Wilkes said. “It (the gallop out) shows he had something left in the tank.”

McCraken is Wilkes’ first Kentucky Derby horse, though as an assistant to Carl Nafzger he helped train 1990 Derby winner Unbridled. Wilkes also helped with 2007 Derby winner Street Sense, also trained by Nafzger.

▪ Sunland Derby winner Hence worked five furlongs in 1:00 at Churchill on Monday morning for Steve Asmussen. The trainer also sent out Local Hero, who worked five furlongs in 1:00; Untrapped, who worked five furlongs in 1:01.60 and Lookin At Lee, who went four furlongs in :51.20.

Hence is a homebred by Calumet Farm, which is looking for its ninth Kentucky Derby victory. Jockey Florent Geroux has been named as Hence’s rider for the Derby.

Untrapped is 20th in the point standings, so has a spot in the 20-horse Derby field. At No. 21, Lookin At Lee needs one defection to earn a spot in the gate.

▪ Wood Memorial runner-up Battalion Runner arrived at Churchill on Sunday via a van ride from Belmont Park in New York. Tampa Bay Derby winner Tapwrit arrived from Keeneland at 11:00 on Monday morning. Both horses are trained by Todd Pletcher.

Florida Derby winner Always Dreaming, trained by Pletcher, is scheduled to arrive at Churchill on Tuesday. Louisiana Derby runner-up Patch, also in Pletcher’s barn, is to arrive Tuesday, as well.

▪ Fountain of Youth winner Gunnevera is scheduled to go to the Churchill track for the first time on Tuesday morning. The horse arrived in Louisville on Saturday night. Trainer Antonio Sano was scheduled to arrive on Monday.

▪ Trainer Chad Brown moved Blue Grass Stakes runner-up Practical Joke from Keeneland to Churchill Downs on Monday.