A day after storms drenched Churchill Downs, Kentucky Derby contenders Mor Spirit, Gun Runner and stablemate Creator have enjoyed solid footing in their final work-outs for racing’s marquee event.
All three came through Monday’s gallops in good order as a result, with newly elected Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen particularly encouraged by the showings of Gun Runner and Creator ahead of Saturday’s 142nd Run for the Roses.
“They’re cooling out extremely well and we’re very excited for the Derby,” Asmussen said.
Fellow Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert was just as confident about Mor Spirit, his lone Derby entrant this year.
The colt covered five furlongs (1000m) in 59.80 with race jockey Gary Stevens aboard.
“It went just as planned,” Baffert said. “Gary was happy with him. He loves the surface. He goes over it much better than Santa Anita. That’s half the battle, if they like it.”
Baffert has tempered expectations of Mor Spirit following former stablemate American Pharoah as a Triple Crown champion.
Stevens was just as cautious and pointed out Saturday’s challenge would be trying to knock off unbeaten Nyquist, the likely favourite in the 1-1/4 mile (2000m) Derby.
But he suggested anything was possible with the colt’s impressive record – three wins and four seconds in seven starts – and his progress toward the Derby after a runner-up finish to Exaggerator in the Santa Anita Derby.
“Like Bob has said, he’s no American Pharoah, but we don’t know that yet,” Stevens, who was second in last year’s Derby aboard Firing Line,” said.
Most important on Monday was the absence of lightning and any threatening weather on a mostly sunny morning.