Updated on 04/27/2012 1:54PM

2012 Kentucky Derby field coming into focus

Barbara D. Livingston
Isn’t He Clever works a half-mile in 51.60 seconds on Monday at Churchill Downs.

With the likely field for the 138th Kentucky Derby on May 5 at Churchill Downs starting to come into sharper focus, five horses with Derby aspirations worked Monday morning at Churchill Downs, and a surprise Derby starter worked at Calder in advance of his van trip to Kentucky later this week.

Daddy Nose Best, Mark Valeski, and Sabercat – who are certain starters in the Derby – and Isn’t He Clever and Optimizer, who are currently on the bubble in terms of graded earnings, all worked Monday at Churchill Downs, while in Florida, Trinniberg also worked.

Trinniberg – who was timed in 1:02.40 for five furlongs – was added to the Derby field over the weekend, and his addition changes both the complexion of the race, because of his keen early speed, and the potential lineup. He is among the top 20 horses in terms of graded earnings, so his presence knocks those below him down a peg.

A maximum of 20 horses can run in the Derby. If more than 20 horses enter the race on May 2, the 20 who get in are those with the most earnings in graded stakes who also were nominated to the Triple Crown in either January or March. Hero of Order, though 10th on the earnings list, was not nominated, so he essentially goes to the back of the line. He also must be supplemented for $200,000. Also, for the first time this year, there will be as many as four also-eligibles named at entry time, and preference for those horses also is given to those who are nominated to the Triple Crown.

So, as of Monday, Isn’t He Clever essentially was No. 21, with Optimizer right behind him. Both worked, but only one is certain to try and get into the Derby.

Steve Asmussen, who over the weekend took over as the trainer of Isn’t He Clever, on Monday said that even if Isn’t He Clever works his way into the top 20, he’s not certain to be entered or run. Isn’t He Clever worked a half-mile in 51.60 seconds on Monday.

“For now, I’d say the Preakness or the Woody Stephens would be far more likely,” said Asmussen, who said he needed to speak to owner J. Kirk Robison before making a definitive plan.

“The decision to come to us had to do more with opportunities down the road, not necessarily to run in the Derby,” Asmussen said. “At the time that decision was made, however, he was 23rd or 24th on the graded earnings list, so the complexion has changed.”

Asmussen also worked Daddy Nose Best and Sabercat. Daddy Nose Best was timed by Daily Racing Form in 1:13.70 for six furlongs, while DRF gave Sabercat a clocking of 1:02.62 for five furlongs. Both will work again next Monday, Asmussen said.

Optimizer worked a half-mile in 48.82 seconds, while Mark Valeski went five furlongs in 59.63 seconds.

“As of today, I couldn’t be happier,” said Larry Jones, who trains Mark Valeski. “Bringing him back for his last work next Monday would be ideal.”

Ramon Dominguez on Monday committed to Hansen for the Kentucky Derby, choosing him over Alpha. Also, trainer Todd Pletcher said that Rafael Bejarano would ride El Padrino.

- additional reporting by David Grening and Mike Welsch

John More than 1 year ago
4 Horses can win - Bode, CC,Gem,UR others are running for place and show. IHA,Hansen( remember congaree- Lead at top of stretch but hung on to get a piece).Dullahan and DNB -- El Padrino is a wild card. The draw will tell us alot slots 1 and 20 will be out of the picture
James More than 1 year ago
Assmussin , Nakatani and Sabercat 50 to 1 ? I'll take some of that action . That is the hottest trainer- jockey combo in the country right now . I don't think we're being told everything about Sabercat right now . I think his two prior races were just rehearsals for the first weekend in May .
Fatih Cidago More than 1 year ago
Kentuck Derby, followed by many people from Turkey.
randy boley More than 1 year ago
I was at the rail in arkansas when bodemeister had his morning work-out in the arkansas dderby . mike smith had a hand ride, and he appeared to me that he was just getting wound wound up. it will be tough for me to bet on any-thing else, unless it's for second..
Gregg Krieger More than 1 year ago
Daddy Nose Best will be on my tickets.
POD More than 1 year ago
Gregg, don't make too much noise about DKB, we want him to stay at 20-1.....but Iam with you
JeanK More than 1 year ago
I love the derby it is the best horse race of the year. Unpredictable, yet can be studied. Every horse to have won the derby in the past 20 years had the breeding and the class, the trainer and the jockey. For me this race is between Union Rags, Gemologist, Liaison and if he looks dapple and shiny in the post parade I'll add Daddy Long Legs. One of the classiest and best looking horse I've sen in a while. Maybe the trip to the Juvenile Breeder's Cup was about teaching DLL how to travel long hours on a plane, plus the quarantine etc.... .They already knew he could run. Hail king Aidan (if he could pull this historic feat! ) I believe he has the horse. So does Matz, with Union Rags. For me the others are looking for fame and Glory but these two were born with it and they do have that aura of Majesty that only a few can possess! See you at the windows!
st More than 1 year ago
Add owners with Deep Pockets to your list even more so than jockey/trainers,,, Sport of Kings
texas4life45 More than 1 year ago
I am looking at Liaision as my Derby horse. Bafferrt mention that Laison hated the track at Santa Anita in his last race and he loves the track at Churchill Downs. He is very healthy at this time and will make a forward move around the final turn. This race reminds me of the 98 Derby where Indian Charlie was the now horse but then Real Quiet took the Derby! This is very similar! Everyone is focus on Bodemeister! I will love the odds on Liaision! Maybe 15 to 1 or hgher! Bet the Farm on this one!
Artax120 More than 1 year ago
Only one horse will get second and that is Isn't He Clever. If entered.
Mr 6 More than 1 year ago
only 2 horses have a chance to win the derby, Daddy nose best and Ill have Another
Michael More than 1 year ago
El Padrino is certainly a sleeper. Bejarano has always ridden well at churchill. I'm boxing a bunch of these long shots and crossing my fingers. Bodemeister and creative cause certainly have my attention. Check out creative cause's race in the SA derby. When he was passed he seemed to kick it in at the finish although to late. Both have the benefit of not worring about getting the distance...Fun time for us horse racing experts..
Joe Tartaglia More than 1 year ago
I love how so many guys have landed on one horse already - without having seen the draw or final works, etc. There are at least 10 horses that can win this race.
POD More than 1 year ago
Well said!!!....once post positions are announced I will spend my time creating my trifecta and super......I think 8 horses have a good shot, post position and specially the postion of the speed horses will determine my tickets
Matthew Sanchez More than 1 year ago
bode cleared the field in 23 flat from post 11 in the ark derby n will probably have a tough time clearing from anywhere outside that in the derby if hes 13 n out giving more chances to other horse that have speed... that might make him right there at the finish with maybe like 4 or 5 horses... and if they send him he aint getting away with a soft 3rd quarter...