LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Doug O’Neill’s first full day at Churchill Downs already has him feeling like he could achieve something special in the Kentucky Derby.
Back at the track for the first time since winning last year’s Derby with I’ll Have Another, the trainer is thinking about winning another Run for the Roses.
And why not?
This time around, the trainer has Goldencents, who like I’ll Have Another, comes into the Saturday’s Derby off a victory in the Santa Anita Derby.
"It’s great to be back," O’Neill said. "It’s wonderful looking at the twin spires and dreaming of what could be coming on May 4."
Goldencents has O’Neill looking forward to Saturday, especially after the 3-year-old colt took his first jog around the track. A day after making the cross-country flight from California, the colt co-owned by Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino jogged a leisurely mile with exercise rider Jonny Garcia aboard. Jockey Kevin Krigger looked on.
"He looked great," O’Neill said before showers passed over the track following the jog. "We just had an easy day with him, but I was real happy with the way he looked, Jonny was happy with the way he felt. If all goes well, we’ll gallop him tomorrow."
Goldencents had his last workout Thursday at Santa Anita, covering six furlongs in 1:16.20 at Santa Anita. Most notable about the workout was covering the final three furlongs in 36.00, boosting O’Neill’s Derby outlook.
Goldencents has won two of three starts this year and totals four wins in six career races. After a fourth-place finish in the San Felipe Stakes, the colt rebounded with a 1 1/4-length win over Flashback in the Santa Anita Derby.
Krigger has been the regular rider and will have a chance on Saturday to become the first African-American jockey to win the Derby since 1902.
Though Krigger wasn’t sure if he’d get aboard Goldencents before Saturday, O’Neill has about 10 mounts planned for him so the jockey becomes familiar with the track and its surface.
"I’m happy either way how we do it, so it doesn’t really matter to me if I do or not," Krigger said. "I would like to, though."
Also, Florida Derby runner-up Itsmyluckyday jogged just over a mile following his van trip from Florida. The Holy Bull winner had his last workout Thursday at Calder Race Course, clocking 53:00 over four furlongs before making an 18-hour van trip to Kentucky.
Exercise rider Peter Shelton said Itsmyluckyday was bouncing and eager to keep going during his jog, just the kind of enthusiasm trainer Eddie Plesa Jr. was looking for.
"Everything went according to the plan that we had," Plesa said by phone. "It couldn’t have gone any better."
The only Derby contender to post a workout Sunday was Code West, who went five furlongs in 1:00.40 under Hall of Famer Mike Smith. The workout pleased trainer Bob Baffert following the horse’s sixth-place run in the Louisiana Derby, but Code West’s status for the Derby will be determined after Baffert meets with owner Gary West.
The Derby field is limited to 20 starters. Code West is one of three horses tied for 20th in the qualifying points with 20, so it’s uncertain whether he would make the field.
"Our options are the Derby, the Preakness, the Peter Pan," Baffert said. "The Belmont has been the target for him. … We’re going to go over it. There’s no rush to judgment just yet."
Baffert plans to send out Govenor Charlie on Monday for the first time since April 11, a layoff caused by a foot bruise and soreness in his hind end.