Weekend Derby preps sending 5 horses to 2012 Kentucky Derby

Starting gate at Churchill Downs

The connections of the top two finishers from both the Santa Anita Derby and the Wood Memorial Stakes confirmed that their horses are going to the 2012 Kentucky Derby. Santa Anita Derby winner I’ll Have Another and runner-up Creative Cause will move on to Louisville as will Wood Memorial victor Gemologist and second-place finisher Alpha.

For the Kentucky Derby-bound quartet, the hard work is done; they have enough graded stakes earnings. All four appear to have come out of their respective final 2012 Kentucky Derby prep races in good order. Trainer Doug O’Neill was still mapping out plans to ship I’ll Have Another to Churchill Downs in Louisville, Kentucky.

“He came out great,” O’Neill said. “He ate up his dinner and his legs were ice cold this morning. I’m not sure whether we’ll ship to Kentucky a few weeks out or a week out. Plans haven’t been finalized.”

Creative Cause’s trainer Mike Harrington said his colt was fine Sunday morning and would be shipped to Kentucky on April 28. “He was a little tired but none the worse for wear,” Harrington said.

In the Wood Memorial, Gemologist ran his unblemished record to five wins from as many starts for trainer Todd Pletcher while he held off Alpha by a neck. Gemologist shipped on Sunday from New York to Palm Meadows Training Center in South Florida.

“He came out of the race really well,” Pletcher said. “The tentative schedule is for him to breeze twice between now and the Derby, then fly to Kentucky on May 1. We’ll leave the option to call an audible if we so chose, but as long as we’re happy with the conditions down here, that’s the plan.”

Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin was pleased with Alpha’s Wood Memorial performance and said he believes it was a great learning experience and a positive move forward in the maturation process. Alpha, who had trouble in the starting gate in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, tried a different tactic in the Wood Memorial.

“Everything went great except the photo. Had we won, it would have been perfect, but we did pass many tests. Good in the gate, took dirt, ran great, belongs in the Derby. It was a real, true, great prep.” McLaughlin said he is considering shipping Alpha to Louisville early to do some additional starting gate schooling.

Trainer Hamilton Smith indicated that owners Willie White, Lou Rehak, and Robert Omdolf of Skeedattle Stables probably would pursue an opportunity to ship 2012 Illinois Derby winner, Done Talking to Churchill Downs if he qualifies with graded stakes earnings for the Kentucky Derby.

“Hopefully it’s on to Louisville from here,” Smith said. “We came here with the intent on running in the Derby if he did well; you don’t get many chances to run in a race like that.

“The [Kentucky Derby’s] mile and a quarter [distance] should suit him with his late run, which is what you want. With the speed backing up, hopefully he’ll be kicking late.”

Kentucky Derby Tours is looking forward to seeing all these Kentucky Derby horses on Derby Day!