Hidden Stash and Like the King get their first feel for main track at Churchill; other contenders get final work

April 28, 2021

LOUISVILLE, Ky.– Two of the three final Kentucky Derby entrants to arrive at Churchill Downs on Tuesday got their first feel for the main track beneath the Twin Spires on a humid, overcast Wednesday morning.

Trainer Vicki Oliver had Hidden Stash out for a 1 ½-mile gallop at 7:30 with Like the King galloping a bit more than a mile with exercise rider Jose Hernandez aboard for trainer Wesley Ward.

Brooklyn Strong had a walk day for trainer Danny Velazquez.

Known Agenda in a Wednesday morning work. (Churchill Downs/Coady Photography)

BOURBONIC, DYNAMIC ONE, KNOWN AGENDA, SAINTHOOD – The Derby Quartet, a friendly foursome that hopes to play a winning tune Saturday in Kentucky Derby 147, was busy getting in their practice Wednesday morning under the watchful eye of bandleader Todd Pletcher, who doubles as one of America’s leading horse trainers.

Three of the colts formed a trio for the 7:30-7:45 special Kentucky Derby/Kentucky Oaks training session in order to get in their licks, each going for a mile and a quarter gallop around the big Churchill Downs oval. Known Agenda played his tunes for rider Hector RamosDynamic One harmonized with Carlos Perez Quevedo and Sainthood and Amelia Green were right in rhythm. At 7:50 their other member, Bourbonic with Ramos crooning, went solo for a similar 10-furlong session.

After training, the Derby quartet had a paddock schooling session.

Pletcher was asked if an impending rainstorm in Louisville might cause their sweet notes to be canceled Thursday morning.

“The only way we won’t train Thursday is if it’s unsafe (lightning) outside,” he said.

So the show will go on. 

BROOKLYN STRONG – Mark Schwartz’s Brooklyn Strong, who posted his final work Monday morning at Parx before vanning overnight to Churchill Downs, walked the shedrow of barn 41 and is expected to make his first trip to the track Thursday morning trainer Danny Velazquez arrived in Louisville at 11 a.m. Wednesday to saddle his first Kentucky Derby starter from his Philadelphia base.

ESSENTIAL QUALITY, MANDALOUN – Godolphin’s Essential Quality and Juddmonte Farm’s Mandaloun galloped 1 ½ miles at 5:15 a.m. for trainer Brad Cox.

The duo was scheduled to school in Race 4 Wednesday. 

Cox is counting down the hours until he saddles his first horses in the Kentucky Derby.

“I’m not too nervous yet, just getting excited,” Cox said. “This week is a lot of fun and I’m really excited to be a part of it in this role.”

For Cox, the Derby was a dream growing up in South Louisville. Now, it’s turned into a reality which he gets to celebrate with his family. His sons, Blake and Bryson, hold a pivotal role around the barn assisting in training. Cox’s youngest son, Brodie, will be at Churchill Downs for the Oaks and Derby.

“It’s really special running in these big races and sharing these moments with my sons,” Cox said.

Along with his family, Cox often has a group of his friends who spend time with him at the races. Led by former Campbellsville University Football legends Joe Don Looney and Billy Troutman, Cox’s group of friends have been known around the backside as the “Brad Cox Mafia.” Looney and Troutman have been friends with Cox for more than 15 years.

“We like to keep him relaxed and ready for game day,” Looney said. 

Cox grew up just blocks from Churchill Downs on Euclid Avenue in the south end of Louisville. If Essential Quality or Mandaloun win Saturday, Cox would be the first Louisville-born trainer to win the Kentucky Derby.

Helium (Churchill Downs/Coady Photography)

HELIUM, SOUP AND SANDWICH – D J Stable’s Helium and Live Oak Plantation’s homebred Soup and Sandwich both galloped again Wednesday morning, according to trainer Mark Casse’s assistant David Carroll, who said their Tuesday schooling session in the paddock went well also, while indicating his boss will be on the backstretch Thursday morning.

HIDDEN STASH – BBN Racing’s Hidden Stash made his first appearance at Churchill Downs since winning an allowance race last Nov. 28 galloping a mile and a half under trainer Vicki Oliver at 7:30 Wednesday morning. 

Fourth in the Blue Grass Stakes (GII) in his most recent start, Hidden Stash had been training at his home base at Keeneland since that race and arrived at Churchill Downs Tuesday morning.

With her first Kentucky Derby entrant, the time at Churchill Downs is almost like a vacation for Oliver.

“I usually gallop seven or eight a morning at Keeneland,” said Oliver, who is commuting back and forth to Lexington for the rest of the week. “The 7:30 training window is perfect for us.”

Following training, Hidden Stash had a paddock schooling session at 10 o’clock with plenty of other runners and passed with flying colors.

“I was going to do it on a race day, but with the rain in the forecast, I didn’t want to do it then,” Oliver said. “He was good and we don’t have to do that again.”

Highly Motivated (Churchill Downs/Coady Photography)

HIGHLY MOTIVATED – Klaravich Stables Highly Motivated galloped 1 3/8 miles again Wednesday morning during the 7:30-7:45 allotted training time for Derby and Oaks horses and will school in the paddock prior to Wednesday’s second race. Trainer Chad Brown said the son of Into Mischief has progressed each day since his final Derby workout this past Saturday, and definitely showed more today in his gallop than Tuesday.

“I like the way he’s going, I thought he was moving a little better today,” Brown said. “He had a strong work and now, the second day back galloping out of the breeze, he’s loosening up again and looks super. I’m really happy with him.”

Brown, a four-time Eclipse Award winner for Outstanding Trainer (2016-2019), has been on the precipice of a Derby win before, as Normandy Invasion took the lead off the far turn before running fourth in 2013, and Good Magic was second to Triple Crown winner Justify in 2018. Highly Motivated has some similarities, but some differences as well.

“He’s also making his third start off the layoff, like both those horses were,” Brown said. “But this horse is a little faster positionally than Normandy Invasion. He broke then split the field when he settled in and moved early. Highly Motivated, I can see getting a better spot than that, but both horses have a quick acceleration.”

Hot Rod Charlie (Churchill Downs/Coady Photography)

HOT ROD CHARLIE – TwinSpires.com Louisiana Derby (GII) winner Hot Rod Charlie was back at it Wednesday morning, smartly galloping a mile and a quarter under exercise rider Jonny Garcia during the special Derby/Oaks training session at 7:30. The well-made son of the 2013 Preakness winner Oxbow had his usual substantial rooting crew looking on, led by horse trainer/impresario Doug O’Neill.

The California-based conditioner has a crew of five right-hand men who oversee his latest Derby threat, including key assistant Leandro Mora as well as equine therapist Tyler Cerin.

Cerin, the 33-year-old son of Vladimir Cerin, a training mainstay on the Southern California circuit, has been practicing his “hands on” horse work for more than a decade and has become a regular around the O’Neill barn. He was there for all of their previous Kentucky Derby capers – I’ll Have Another’s score in the 2012 Run for the Roses; Goldencents going unplaced in the 2013 edition, and Nyquist proving the hero of the 2016 renewal.

He was asked about Hot Rod Charlie. Has he had to do anything special with the millionaire colt who has run short and long, dirt and turf and there or thereabout every time?

“Not really,” Cerin said. “Nothing special with him. I just make sure all’s good with his general well-being. He’s a pretty straightforward horse.”

Trainer O’Neill was queried about the ever-growing gathering that surrounds “Charlie,” which includes three separate ownership groups, families, friends, newfound friends and folks who want to be their friends, most of them from California.

“They’re quite a group,” he offered. “They’ll be good for business here in town. By Friday night I expect them to be up around 150 people.”

KEEPMEINMIND – Kentucky Jockey Club winner Keepmeinmind continues to make a favorable impression as he once again galloped strongly over the Churchill track at 5:30 a.m. Wednesday. The Laoban colt, who races for the partnership of Cypress Creek EquineArnold Bennewith and Spendthrift Farms LLC, is trying to overcome poor starts in the Rebel Stakes (GII) and Blue Grass Stakes (GII) in the Kentucky Derby.

“He’s been working really good,” trainer Robertino Diodoro said. “In his first race this year at Oaklawn (Rebel), it was a speed biased track. It wasn’t (jockey) David’s (Cohen) fault, but he got hung four or five wide and when it looked like he was about to make a move, he just hung. In the Blue Grass, we knew there wasn’t much speed so we tried to put him closer to the front. We did, but he didn’t do it on his own. David had to force him to lay closer and when it came time to run, he was empty. He’s had excuses.

“I think he’ll show up to be the real horse on Saturday. It’s hard to say I’m confident with a 50-1 shot, but I do think he’ll show up. He’ll come running.”

King Fury (Churchill Downs/Coady Photography)

KING FURY – Fern Circle Stables and Three Chimneys Farm’s King Fury repeated the usual routine established by trainer Kenny McPeek on Wednesday morning. During the period reserved for Kentucky Derby and Oaks horses, the winner of the Lexington (GIII) at Keeneland was sent for a maintenance gallop with exercise rider Lalo Jose Quiroz aboard. 

“It was a mile-and-a-half, uncomplicated,” said McPeek.

LIKE THE KING – M Racing Group’s Like the King galloped a little more than a mile after 9 o’clock with exercise rider Jose Hernandez aboard for trainer Wesley Ward.

Wednesday morning’s exercise marked the first time Like the King had been on the track at Churchill Downs. He had arrived Tuesday morning from Ward’s main base at Keeneland.

Overseeing Like the King’s preparation at Churchill Downs is California trainer Blake Heap who has served as Ward’s man on the scene when the trainer doesn’t travel.

“His father Dennis had a horse named Do Right by Dudley in 1987 at Turf Paradise,” Heap said of when the working relationship started. “A few years later we started being stabled next to each other and starting helping each other out.”

Ward, who will be starting his first Kentucky Derby runner, has won four Breeders’ Cup races with three coming at Santa Anita where Heap oversaw the preparation of the likes of Judy the Beauty and Hootenanny in 2014 as well as other runners Ward has sent to the West Coast over the past 17 years.

Medina Spirit (Churchill Downs/Coady Photography)

MEDINA SPIRIT – Zedan Racing Stables’ Medina Spirit went to the track at 7:30 a.m. with Humberto Gomez and galloped about 1 ½ miles while his six-time Kentucky Derby winning trainer Bob Baffert looked on from the main gap.

Baffert is seeking a record seventh Kentucky Derby following Authentic last year, Justify in 2018, America Pharoah in 2015, War Emblem in 2002, and back-to-back wins with Silver Charm in 1997 and Real Quiet in 1998.

“When I got beat with Cavonnier in 1996, I thought I’d never win a Kentucky Derby,” Baffert said. “Then, I won with Silver Charm and Real Quiet and started thinking this was easy, but then it got lean for a number of years. You just never know when these Derby wins are going to come. I’m just glad to be back here.”

Baffert said Medina Spirit, who has never been worse than second in five career starts, is probably among the top 10 runners in this year’s field, but that he wouldn’t be surprised to see him put in a top effort.

“The thing about Medina Spirit is he’s an overachiever,” Baffert said. “He’s a real fighter and if there’s a battle, he’ll be right there. I wouldn’t be surprised if he got a piece of it.”

MIDNIGHT BOURBON, SUPER STOCK – Winchell Thoroughbreds Midnight Bourbon and Erv Woolsey’s and trainer Steve Asmussen’s father Keith’s Super Stock both hit the track Wednesday morning during the Derby-Oaks training session at 7:30. Midnight Bourbon stretched his legs for the first time since his final Derby breeze Monday morning and continues to thrive, while looking like a bigger, stronger version of the colt who ran in all three of Fair Grounds’ Derby preps this winter. Super Stock was allowed to do a bit more, as he worked Saturday, and galloped 1 ¼ miles. 

O BESOS – Bernard RacingTagg Team RacingWest Point Thoroughbreds and Terry L. Stephens’ O Besos galloped about one mile and schooled in the paddock Wednesday morning.

“We’re ready to roll,” trainer Greg Foley said. 

ROCK YOUR WORLD – The tall, dark son of the stellar stallion Candy Ride continued his forward training toward Saturday’s Run for the Roses with a solid gallop Wednesday morning during the special Derby/Oaks period at Churchill Downs that goes from 7:30-7:45 and limits those allowed on the track to runners headed to the two classic races scheduled this weekend.

Trainer John Sadler had rider Javier Meza up for the exercise and had him put his charge through a nine-furlong move that met with his approval.

Rock Your World is three-for-three so far in his brief career with two of the wins coming on turf, but the most recent – the prestigious Santa Anita Derby (GI) on April 3 – coming on the dirt. His race before that was a score in the listed Pasadena Stakes and in both those black-type tallies he had the top California rider Umberto Rispoli in the irons. The plan was for the Italian-born Rispoli to be there for the Kentucky Derby, too, but – as happens often in the world of racing – things changed.

Joel Rosario, currently the second-leading rider in the country and a personal favorite of trainer Sadler, suddenly came open. He thought he was booked for a Derby spin on the horse Concert Tour, but when that colt came up short in the Arkansas Derby, Rosario and his agent, Ron Anderson, were back Derby mount hunting. They turned to an old friend.

The 36-year-old Rosario is a native of the Dominican Republic and was that country’s leading rider four years in a row starting at the age of 15 before heading to California and taking on tougher competition. He first made waves in Northern California where he nearly unseated the king of the Bay Area, Russell Baze, a feat considered all but impossible. Then he shifted his tack to Southern California.

“I first rode him on a horse at Golden Gate and he got beat a whisker,” said Sadler. “But I said ‘Wow’ to myself, that kid rode the hair off my horse. When he came south I was on him right away. I put him up on his first winner at Hollywood Park – he came through a hole that I didn’t think possible in order to do it — and we were off and running from there.”

Sadler and Rosario clicked and kept on clicking. They were riding and training champs together at Del Mar in 2009 and won races – and stakes races – in bunches at all three of the Southern California tracks. Thanks to the kind folks at Equibase, the record shows that – to date – Sadler has given Rosario a leg up on 1,007 horses, won 242 races with him and earned $20,886,898 in purses. They’ve won 47 stakes together and 34 of them have been graded. No other trainer in the country has ridden Rosario more times or won more races with him. It isn’t even close.

So, yes indeed, Sadler and Rosario have history, which led to their connection in this year’s Run for the Roses.

“Make no mistake,” Sadler notes, “Umberto Rispoli is a terrific rider. He’s won Santa Anita’s stakes the last two weekends for me and we’ve won a lot of races together. But the analytics with Joel are so strong I just couldn’t pass up the opportunity. I’m hoping, of course, it all works out.”

Rosario will guide Rock Your World into post 15 Saturday in the 20-horse Derby field. Then he’ll ride for all he’s worth for Sadler – the man who was the key in making him a star – to try to give him some payback that would be beyond sweet — his first triumph in the Kentucky Derby.


1. Known Agenda (Irad Ortiz Jr., 6-1)

2. Like the King (Drayden Van Dyke, 50-1)

3. Brooklyn Strong (Umberto Rispoli, 50-1)

4. Keepmeinmind (David Cohen, 50-1)

5. Sainthood (Corey Lanerie, 50-1)

6. O Besos (Marcelino Pedroza, 20-1

7. Mandaloun (Florent Geroux, 15-1)

8. Medina Spirit (John Velazquez, 15-1)

9. Hot Rod Charlie (Flavien Prat, 8-1)

10. Midnight Bourbon (Mike Smith, 20-1)

11. Dynamic One (Jose Ortiz, 20-1)

12.Helium (Julien Leparoux, 50-1)

13. Hidden Stash (Rafael Bejarano, 50-1)

14. Essential Quality (Luis Saez, 2-1)

15. Rock Your World (Joel Rosario, 5-1)

16. King Fury (Brian Hernandez Jr., 20-1)

17. Highly Motivated (Javier Castellano, 10-1)

18. Super Stock (Ricardo Santana Jr., 30-1)

19. Soup and Sandwich (Tyler Gaffalione, 30-1)

20. Bourbonic (Kendrick Carmouche, 30-1)

All starters will carry 126 pounds

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Churchill Downs Press Release

Top photo: Hidden Stash in a Wednesday morning work. (Churchill Downs/Coady Photography)

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