05/02/2016 11:36AM

Baffert and Asmussen trainees ready to roll

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Barbara D. Livingston
Gary Stevens guides Mor Spirit through five furlongs in 59.57 at Churchill Downs on Monday.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – After a wet weekend that impacted the workout schedule of several horses, the sun was shining bright on the Derby’s ol’ Kentucky home, Churchill Downs, on Monday as Derby Week commenced with three horses turning in their final drills for the 142nd Kentucky Derby on Saturday.

Bob Baffert, one year removed from winning the Triple Crown with American Pharoah, put the finishing touches on his lone contender for this year’s Derby, Mor Spirit, just moments before trainer Steve Asmussen, seeking his first Derby win, sent out his pair of Creator and Gun Runner.

Those three are among the overflow field that is expected to be entered Wednesday, after which posts will be drawn. The Derby field has a maximum of 20 runners, and there is the strong likelihood that more than that will be entered, so an also-eligible list will be needed.

As of Monday, at least 25 horses were still being considered for the Derby. The field is determined by points earned in 34 designated stakes races from September through April. The top 20 get in, and in the case of ties – which matters this year – earnings in non-restricted stakes is the tiebreaker.

Fellowship is currently 21st on the points list. He is one of four horses with 32 points, but Mo Tom got the 20th spot based on earnings. Fellowship is expected to enter. However, Adventist, currently 22nd, is unlikely to enter and travel from New York unless there were defections from the top 20 by Tuesday.

If Adventist does not travel, Laoban moves up to 22nd on the points list, and trainer Eric Guillot on Monday said he would enter if Laoban was ranked that high.

Dazzling Gem is next, so he would be 23rd. His connections would then have a decision to make – roll the dice and hope to draw in by scratch time Friday or instead enter the Pat Day Mile on Saturday. Under Kentucky Horse Racing Commission rules, horses cannot enter two races on the same card.

Cherry Wine would be the 24th horse if Adventist does not travel, and he, too, is expected to enter.

If those 24 enter, the top 20 would draw for posts, and the other four would be placed on the also-eligible list in points order. The also-eligibles get in only if there are defections from the main body of the field before scratch time at 9 a.m. Friday, and they would get the outside posts. For instance, if Fellowship was the first also-eligible and then drew in because of one scratch before Friday morning, he would break from post 20 while wearing saddle cloth 21.

Entries are due Wednesday morning, and then posts for the 20-horse field will be drawn during a live half-hour telecast on NBCSN from 5:30-6 p.m. Eastern.

Nyquist, the unbeaten champion male 2-year-old of last year and a winner of all seven of his starts, is the acknowledged favorite for the Derby. But the three horses who worked Monday all are expected to have their share of support.

:: Kentucky Derby Day 2016 previews, analysis, and plays

Mor Spirit, second last time out in the Santa Anita Derby, will seek to give Baffert his fifth Derby victory. He worked five furlongs in 59.57 seconds while in company with his regular jockey, Gary Stevens, aboard. In a work last week, Mor Spirit went off quickly and didn’t finish as strongly as usual.

“It was a good work,” Stevens said of Monday’s drill. “That one work last week got screwed up.”

Baffert has his work riders wear earpieces so he can communicate during drills. Mor Spirit started to get a bit keen just before the work began. “Get him back!” Baffert said, according to Stevens.

“He went easy,” Stevens said. “It felt like he went 1:01.”

“He looks ready,” Baffert said. “He’s in position to run his race. We’ll see if he’s good enough.”

Both Creator and Gun Runner worked a half-mile without company right after Mor Spirit drilled. Creator was timed in 50.67 seconds, Gun Runner in 50.43.

“I’m very pleased,” said Asmussen. “They were comfortable, smooth, traveled well.”

Asmussen praised the work of track superintendent Jamie Richardson for having the surface fast for works Monday after a downpour hit the area Sunday afternoon.

“Can you believe the shape the track is in this morning?” Asmussen said.

The forecast is encouraging for most of the week, according to The Weather Channel. There is an 80 percent chance of rain Wednesday, but after that, it is predicted to be dry and progressively warmer Thursday through Saturday, with a high of 83 on Derby Day.

– additional reporting by Marty McGee, Nicole Russo, and Mike Welsch

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Here's a clue: remember what Espinoza said after winning the Belmont on AP! To paraphrase:
"he's an amazing horse... you don't think your going that fast.. you look back at the other horses...
its like you are in slow motion.." 
Well Steven's just has said of Mor Spirit's last work: "I didn't know we went :59 and change. I thought we went 1:01. When I'm off 2 seconds off on a good horse, that usually turns into a good thing."
In late April, Stevens: "he's deceivingly quick..."

Anyone ready for a Baffert Derby Double! A Derby Repeat!

L.S. Heatherly
(on the web)
cajunway54 More than 1 year ago
Just because Kent and Keith are Cajun , doesn't mean they grew up in the muddy swamps . I know they were on Dry Land . Exx wasn't born on Wet track .He'll do just fine on Fast track .

Max Worth More than 1 year ago
fine but not win
Eddie Lazaro More than 1 year ago
WE all know, but in the Derby, "being fine is not good enough", aside from having a great horse, they need a lot of luck, hoping that they were never trapped in the pocket, nor getting checked or being swiped too wide by the others on turns. I got Mor Spirit, but, Good luck!


Elizabeth Carlyon-Pitura More than 1 year ago
Nyquist will be overbet so look for value in closers.Fast pace will setup Exagg and Creator and give GunRunner Steve A his first KD.IMO
Lefty More than 1 year ago
I haven't blogged on here for like forever. Heck, I didn't even know Andrew Beyer is semi retired now. Anyway, I think the two top horses are going to be Nyquist and Creator.
Mohaymen will be this years Dortmund
Rick Lamond More than 1 year ago
Nyquist will perform on any surface, but watch out for Danzing Candy, Mor Spirit and Outwork on a fast track. The connections of Exaggerator are praying for rain, of course.
Eddie Lazaro More than 1 year ago
Nyquist will be joined by Outwork and Danzig Candy in the front, Mor Spirit and Mohaymen will be behind them.... My Man Sam coming from the clouds in the end. I see Mor Spirit first, followed by My Man Sam, DH Nyquist and Mohaymen, followed by DC, Exaggerator