West Saratoga Works Six Furlongs Towards Kentucky Derby Start

April 19, 2024

West Saratoga wins the Iroquois (G3) Sep. 16 at Churchill Downs (Jenny Doyle/Past The Wire)

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Keeneland Barn Notes

LEXINGTON, Ky.— Harry Veruchi’s West Saratoga continued his preparation for an expected start in the $5 million Kentucky Derby (G1) Presented by Woodford Reserve on May 4 by working 6 furlongs in 1:16.20 over a wet-fast track Friday morning.

With jockey Jesus Castanon aboard, West Saratoga produced eighth-of-a-mile fractions of :13.60, :26.40, :39.80, :51.20, 1:04.20, 1:16.20 and galloped out 7 furlongs in 1:30.20 while working on his own.

Trainer Larry Demeritte said West Saratoga would return to his base at The Thoroughbred Center in Lexington today and stay there until vanning to Churchill Downs on Friday, April 26 with a 3-furlong breeze scheduled beneath the Twin Spires the next day.

Today’s work was the second for West Saratoga, a Keeneland sales graduate, since he finished second in the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) at Turfway Park on March 23.

“I am happy with the work, and right now everything is in place going forward,” Demeritte said of West Saratoga, who had breezed 3 furlongs at The Thoroughbred Center in :36.40 on April 6. “That work was for speed and this one for stamina. You can’t do both at the same time. He will have a lot of long gallops (leading up to the Derby).”

Demeritte opted to bring West Saratoga to Keeneland for the longer work this morning.

“The Thoroughbred Center has a 7-furlong track and working 6 furlongs there would be almost like going two turns and the turns are tighter there,” Demeritte said. “With a classic horse going longer distances, they stay on their leads longer going into the turns.”

West Saratoga is scheduled to be the first Kentucky Derby starter for Demeritte, who says the realization of the Run for the Roses has not sunk in yet.

“He still has to get there. We are preparing to win and everybody feels the same,” Demeritte said. “Hey, I might be a first-time starter (in the Derby), but I’m not a rookie. I love being over there on Derby Day. I have been in a lot of Derbies – the Ohio Derby, Indiana Derby – but this is the ultimate Derby.”

Castanon has had one Kentucky Derby mount: Shackleford in 2011. Shackleford finished fourth in the Derby, and Castanon and Shackleford won the Preakness (G1) two weeks later.

“It’s about never giving up and to keep trying,” Castanon said of returning to the Derby scene 13 years after his initial run.

Castanon has ridden West Saratoga in his past two races, beginning with a third-place finish in the Sam F. Davis (G3) at Tampa Bay Downs on Feb. 10.

“After the first time Jesus got on him, he told me ‘this guy is real’,” Demeritte said. “He flew up from Tampa to work him (at Turfway) and then flew back to ride races that afternoon. That’s how professional he is.”

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