Mr. Big News enters the Big Show; Max Player puts final work at Churchill for new Trainer Asmussen

August 31, 2020

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – George Hall and SportBLX Thoroughbred’s Max Player completed his major preparations for Saturday’s $3 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve (GI) by working a half-mile in :49.80 over a fast track. 

Late Monday morning, a total of nine fillies, headed by Gamine and Swiss Skydiver were entered for Friday’s 146th running of the $1.25 Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI). 

Also announced Monday morning, Allied Racing StablesMr. Big News will target Saturday’s Kentucky Derby instead of the $500,000 American Turf (GII). 

The 146th Kentucky Derby Contenders

Likely starters in the 146th running of the $3 million, Grade I Kentucky Derby presented by Woodford Reserve to be run for 3-year-olds at 1 1/4 miles on Saturday, Sept. 5 (in order of preference):

Tiz the Law (jockey Manny Franco)

Authentic (John Velazquez)

Art Collector (Brian Hernandez Jr.)

Honor A. P. (Mike Smith)

Ny Traffic (Paco Lopez)

King Guillermo (Samy Camacho)

Thousand Words (Florent Geroux)

Max Player (Ricardo Santana Jr.)

Enforceable (Adam Beschizza)

Major Fed (James Graham)

Storm the Court (Julien Leparoux)

Attachment Rate (Joe Talamo)

Sole Volante (Luca Panici)

Finnick the Fierce (Martin Garcia)

Winning Impression (Joe Rocco Jr.)

Necker Island (Miguel Mena)

Mr. Big News (Gabriel Saez)

Money Moves (Javier Castellano)

Current status (all times Eastern)

TIZ THE LAW – With trainer Barclay Tagg already en route to Kentucky, assistant trainer Robin Smullen was left in charge of the presumptive Kentucky Derby favorite’s morning training and was aboard as he galloped twice around the Saratoga track. 

The flight bringing Tiz the Law from New York to Kentucky has been delayed until Tuesday. Also, on the flight are fellow Kentucky Derby starters Ny Traffic and Money Moves.

AUTHENTIC – Grade 1 winner Authentic was slated to arrive in Louisville along with his Bob Baffert-trained stablemates around 3 p.m. 

The son of Into Mischief turned in his final major breeze in preparation for the Kentucky Derby on Sunday, covering six furlongs at Del Mar in 1:12.40.

ART COLLECTOR – They may not be visible beneath their masks, but Bruce Lunsford’s homebred Art Collectorcontinues to inspire a round of smiles around Churchill Downs’ Barn 3.

The son Bernardini had another solid, routine morning in advance of the Kentucky Derby as he jogged a mile, then galloped 1 1/8 miles during the special training period reserved for Derby and Oaks horses at 7:30.  

“Today was his first day back galloping since his breeze (five furlongs on Aug. 28) and I thought he looked fantastic,” trainer Tommy Drury said. “Everything seems to be in good order. From here on out, we’re back in a normal gallop routine and just try to stay out of his way for a few more days.” 

Drury added he would likely do some paddock and gate schooling with Art Collector “Wednesday or Thursday.”

HONOR A. P. C R K Stable’s Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner was en route from California Monday morning along with a large contingent of West Coast horses.

NY TRAFFIC – Haskell Invitational (GI) runner-up Ny Traffic continued his Kentucky Derby preparations with a 1 ½-mile gallop at Saratoga Monday and will arrive in Kentucky Tuesday, nearly 24 later than expected.  

Trainer Saffie Joseph Jr. said via text that the horse “was doing well” and that he had “no concerns” about the travel delay.

Joseph Jr. said the colt was “doing well” via text.

KING GUILLERMOVictoria’s Ranch’s King Guillermo galloped 1 ½ miles Monday under exercise rider Edgar Garcia.  

The colt trained Monday under the watchful eye of trainer Juan Avila, owner Victor Martinez and jockey Samy Camacho, who arrived Sunday from Florida.

MAX PLAYERGeorge Hall and SportBLX Thoroughbred Corp.’s Max Player was the last Derby horse to complete his final work Monday morning, breezing an easy half-mile in :49.80 at 5:50 a.m. with regular exercise rider Juan Vargas aboard.  

The Honor Code colt put up splits of :12.40 and :24.40 before completing his work and galloping out in 1:02.80. 

“He’s continuing to do well,” Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen said. “I’m extremely excited about how he’s going to run in the Kentucky Derby. I love how he looks going over the racetrack. His attitude is really good. He came in with a really good attitude and was moving really well. That has stayed the same.” 

Asmussen assumed the training of Max Player from Linda Rice shortly after the horse finished third to likely Kentucky Derby favorite Tiz the Law in the Travers Stakes (G1) Aug. 8.

“The reason he is here is to give him time to acclimate to the track and the surroundings to hopefully make up the difference. He’s been third to Tiz the Law in his last two races. That horse is the deserving favorite and a tall task. You only have one chance to run in the Derby and we just wanted to do everything we could to give him his best chance.” 

“I kind of feel like each day, he’s gotten bigger and better. And his race in the Blue Grass, I thought it was a good race,” Casse said. 

“Obviously speed is dangerous at Keeneland and there was no way that he could have been 100 percent ready for that given that he had two months off. I thought it was a good comeback race. He was probably 80-85 percent and I feel he’s 100 percent now. That’s why we’re trying it.”

MAJOR FEDLloyd Madison Farm’s Major Fed jogged about 1 5/8 miles and schooled in the new Kentucky Derby 20-horse starting gate. 

Major Fed was accompanied to the track by 50-year-old exercise rider Margarito Fierro. The Mexico City-native Fierro has worked for Foley for more than 15 years and Major Fed is the first Derby contender he has ridden. 

“Horses are my life,” Fierro said. “I grew up in Mexico and lived and breathed horses from a young age. I credit them with everything I’ve done in my life. A couple of years ago I was battling cancer and the horses were my therapy. When I’m around them, all the stress of life goes away.” 

Major Fed is scheduled to return to the track at his normal training time of 5:15 a.m. on Tuesday. 

STORM THE COURTDavid Bernsen, Exline-Border Racing, Dan Hudock and Susanna Wilson’s Storm the Court is scheduled to arrive at Churchill Downs Monday afternoon from his Southern California base. 

Trainer Peter Eurton is scheduled to arrive in Louisville at 10 Tuesday morning and plans to be at the post position draw scheduled at 11 o’clock.

ATTACHMENT RATEJim Bakke and Gerald Isbister’s Attachment Rate walked trainer Dale Romans’ shedrow Monday morning.  

The Ellis Park Derby runner-up is expected to go back to the track Tuesday.

SOLE VOLANTEReeves Thoroughbred Racing and Andie Biancone’s Sole Volante got his first feel of the Churchill track Monday, one day after vanning from his base at Palm Meadows in South Florida. With his co-owner aboard, the Karakontie (JPN) gelding jogged one mile around the track. 

Andie Biancone, also the daughter of trainer Patrick Biancone, said she’s seeing signs that her horse is ready for a top effort in the Kentucky Derby.

“Normally, he’s the quietest horse in the barn, so yesterday (Sunday) when I took him off the van, I didn’t even use a lip chain and he dragged me off the van. This morning (Monday), he felt better than he ever has.” 

Biancone said Sole Volante would gallop Tuesday and likely school in the paddock with herself or jockey Luca Panici on board.

FINNICK THE FIERCEArnaldo Monge and trainer Rey Hernandez’s Finnick the Fierce galloped at The Thoroughbred Center in Lexington on Monday morning and then vanned to Churchill Downs.

“Everything is good,” Hernandez said.

Martin Garcia has the Derby mount.

WINNING IMPRESSIONWest Point Thoroughbreds’ and Pearl Racing’s graded stakes placed Winning Impression galloped about 1 ½ miles Monday under exercise rider Emerson Chavez

NECKER ISLANDRaymond Daniels, Wayne Scherr and Will Harbut Racing Stables’ Necker Island jogged once around under Hillary Hartman and then stood in the starting gate in the mile chute. 

Necker Island was claimed by trainer Chris Hartman in June out of an optional claiming race for $100,000 in which he finished fourth behind Art Collector, who figures to be one of the top choices for Saturday’s Run for the Roses. 

“The initial goal was we hoped to hold his previous form and not ugly it up,” Hartman said.

“We knew we were getting a nice horse who was already proven and obviously we were hoping he would be a Derby horse.”  In two starts for Hartman, Necker Island has earned back $50,455 of his claiming price with third-place finishes in the Indiana Derby (GIII) and the Ellis Park Derby. 

MONEY MOVESRobert LaPenta and Bortolazzo Stable’s Money Moves galloped a mile and three-eighths Monday morning at Saratoga and is scheduled to ship to Churchill Downs early Tuesday morning for trainer Todd Pletcher.  Money Moves will be housed in Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas’ barn.

Who’s New

MR. BIG NEWSAllied Family Stables’ $200,000 Oaklawn Stakes winner Mr. Big News will enter Saturday’s Kentucky Derby (GI), according to owner Chester Thomas.

“I know we don’t have some of the numbers like Tiz the Law, Art Collector and Honor A. P. but this horse is improving,” Thomas said. “I think he is absolutely going to love the distance and will make a big run late.” 

Trained by Bret Calhoun, Mr. Big News will be ridden by Gabriel Saez in the Derby. 

Who’s Out

RUSHIEJim and Donna Daniell’s Rushie will target Saturday’s $500,000 Pat Day Mile presented by LG&E and KU rather than the Kentucky Derby, according to vice president of racing Ben Huffman.

Edited Press Release

Photo: Max Player puts in a work at Churchill Downs. All photos credit: Churchill Downs/Coglianese Photos

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