Haskin's Derby Trail: Summer School

It sure felt like summer as several Derby horses schooled this morning and afternoon.

The handicapping is over, the works are over, most of the gallops are over; the only thing left in addition to the dreaded draw, of course, are the schooling sessions.

We didn’t get to see as many schoolers Wednesday as we would have liked. The ones we did see today were Union Rags, Creative Cause, Went the Day Well, Liaison, Rousing Sermon, Done Talking, and Trinniberg.

The afternoon was extremely hot and humid and provided a good test for these horses. Although he was lathered up noticeably under his saddle and on his neck coming off the track this morning following his gallop, Union Rags was by far the star of the paddock, schooling before the third race.

Union Rags - Photo by Steve Haskin

The son of Dixie Union never turned a hair, as they say. He stood in the saddling stall for about 20 minutes and barely moved a muscle. He was the quintessential perfect gentleman. He didn’t walk around the paddock, he moseyed. He never sweated up and did everything about as perfectly as you could ask. For those who saw him this morning, this probably was reassuring, but we’ve heard that he sweated up quite often in Florida, so it’s likely that’s just him. The fact that he was perfect in the paddock was much more important.

Creative Cause came out before the second race, and his two handlers did all they could to keep him on the ground. Although he was really on the muscle and quite a handful, once again we’ve heard that he did this all the time in California, so it’s just him. Trainer Mike Harrington, at one point, hosed him down, although he really wasn’t sweating much, as he was the day before. That’s why those second day schooling sessions are important. In the stall, they kept him facing the wall and he was fine, standing motionless each time they brought him in.

Creative Cause - Photo by Steve Haskin

Went the Day Well, who schooled the same time as Union Rags, was just the opposite of Creative Cause. He was perfect walking the paddock, but got a bit antsy every time they brought him in the saddling stall. This was the first time we’ve really seen him close up, and he’s a powerfully built colt; strong in the shoulders and hind end. Walking the paddock, however, he seemed dwarfed by the massive presence of Mucho Macho Man, who has indeed grown into a man.

All in all, it was a good schooling session for Went the Day Well, who looked terrific galloping this morning, moving with good energy.

Rousing Sermon schooled before the fourth race and did well for most of the time, but then started getting a bit wet on his body and under his belly. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said the colt was not used to the humidity and would be fine tomorrow, as many horses are the second day. As he finished up his walking around the paddock, he started getting on his toes. But he was fine in the stall, so we’ll see how he does tomorrow.

If there is a horse who has really flourished at Churchill Downs it is Liaison, whose coat looked fantastic, as it did this morning when he was out for his jog. He’s starting to dapple out a bit and just has a great look to his coat. We’re certainly not saying he’s going to win; just beware of those horses who start improving dramatically at Churchill Downs. And he did look very good in his workout on Monday.

Liaison - Photo by Steve Haskin

Done Talking just goes about his business in a professional manner, whether it’s galloping or schooling. He didn’t turn a hair doing either today, much like his trainer, Hamilton Smith. Trinniberg did everything right and had a good schooling session.

A quick look back at this morning’s activity. This was the first appearance of Gemologist and El Padrino and both had excellent gallops. Gemologist, who is two-for-two over this track, showed his affinity for it with a very smooth gallop, his ears pricked. And he looked great coming off the track.

Gemologist - Photo by Steve Haskin

The other Florida shipper, Take Charge Indy, was into the bit, galloping with his neck arched, and he also made an excellent appearance.

Take Charge Indy - Photo by Steve Haskin

The strongest galloper continues to be I’ll Have Another, who again was rolling around there, but was on his wrong lead when he went by us. Also strong was the newest addition to the field, Optimizer, who is another who seems to love this track.

It’s hard to find fault with any of these horses. Alpha had good energy again and Prospective continues to impress, while way under the radar. Done Talking goes about his business in a professional manner.

So, now that we’ve cleared everything up for you, you all have your selections, right?

Tomorrow, we’ll go into more detail on the post position draw and how it should or could affect the race. There was a great deal of drama played out, especially toward the end, when the connections of several horses had to sweat it out, with the dreaded one-post still lurking out there. As it turned out, the Ballydoyle colt, Daddy Long Legs, drew the short straw, with only him and Hansen left. That means there is going to be a lot of activity going on from post 14 out, and from post 1 to 6, which we’ll get into tomorrow.

Bodemeister - Photo by Steve Haskin

Union Rags - Photo by Steve Haskin


Leave a Comment:


I love the #19 hole for I'll have another.  Keeps the rookie jockey out of trouble. He's now my bet

02 May 2012 9:06 PM
Bill Two

I like Gemologist and his post position.  I also love having Castellano up on him.  This guy makes a lot of good decisions in races and seems unphased by pressure.  Not bad having Todd Pletcher as a trainer either. I like Walden's confidence in the horse and rider as well.  With two wins at CD under his belt and seemingly in the bloom of health, what's not to like???

02 May 2012 9:17 PM

Steve, your photo of Creative Cause is reminiscent of the fiery steed of yore, just breathtaking!  Thanks for the mention of Mucho Macho Man.  I have heard he looks terrific, quite grown into himself.  I couldn't pick from this group for anything right now.  You are quite right in saying confusion reigns :)  The breeders, owners, trainers, grooms, and riders of this group have a lot to be proud of.  From what I read earlier, so do you - nice award at the Trainers Dinner!  Congratulations!  We've all known forever you are the best, but it never hurts to have tangible proof, eh?

Thanks for all you do for those of us who long to be there, but cannot.

02 May 2012 9:24 PM
Don from PA/DE

Thanks for the photo of "Gem" Steve, you gotta admit, he is looking right at you or your camera or both, this guy is #1 right now, just look at your photo again, and if you were looking at him bet he gave you a nod, he is the winner, Saturday. Don

02 May 2012 9:30 PM

Take Charge Indy is 1 nice looking animal!  Re: CC:  I saw him for a bit in the paddock prior to the San Felipe, & he was definitely a handful, then, too.  It seems to be just the way he is.  I remember his daddy trying to kick the gate handlers in the 2000 BCC.

02 May 2012 9:53 PM

I am rooting for Gemologist, just have to Love Tiznow and always have and my husband is a jeweler, not to mention he is undefeated.  However I also love Union Rags, there is not a better looking horse, he's absolutely gorgeous, wouldn't mind seeing him win either.  I'm from California so have to add I'll Have Another to the list.  Good luck to all.

03 May 2012 12:42 AM

Well, the focus is no longer on how they will start the triple crown quest, but how they will finish it. Lucky break, Hansen. Hope your luck stays with you through Saturday. 30% of the horses who won the triple crown shot from the 1 hole in the Derby, so hang in there Daddy Long Legs, you're in good company. Don't get yourself hurt Trinniberg, you have a bright future as a top sprinter if this don't work out. Good luck and a safe trip to all, that's most important. There's always life after the Derby. Keep those ponies safe and sound.

03 May 2012 2:16 AM
Matthew W

The two faves didn't draw so well--Ragsy will need to work out a trip from down there, and Bode, while he draws between two slow early runners, also draws inside the speed, so he'll likely need to go faster early than preferred--I think both will go off at higher odds than the morning line, while Creative Cause and Rosario will be lower, perhaps 8-1 from 12-1, and 12-1 on I'll Have Another, at 12-1, looks about right from the nineteen--15-1 on Daddy Nose Best from the ten hole? Not happening! Daddy Nose is the wiseguy play, and he'll drop down to 10-1...I'm standin' pat, gonna play I'll Have Another, w/p/s, big---and Daddy Nose Best, w/p/s, small, maybe tossing in four others in an exacta box:  Dullahan, Union Rags, Creative Cause and Gemologist!

03 May 2012 3:29 AM
steve from st louis

Steve, Liason is a must use if he's your "dappled coat" pick. Over the years, you always have a knack for picking a Derby surprise just on his physicality. Your talent is probably wasted on picking horses in the paddock and would be better used at the yearling sales.

The coach, D.W.L., always bases his yearling purchases on the same at the sales and a horse has to fit his bill in conformation and looks before he falls in love with the pedigree page in the catalogs. Some stable should hire you as their agent. Seriously.

03 May 2012 9:39 AM

The last two Kentucky saw the least talk about horse taking the title as derby winner.A far as this year go Liaison and Rousing Sermon are the ones to watch to spring a surprise. As for the well know i am sticking with Alpha i think he is a great horse.

03 May 2012 11:03 AM

The last two Kentucky saw the least talk about horse taking the title as derby winner.A far as this year go Liaison and Rousing Sermon are the ones to watch to spring a surprise. As for the well know i am sticking with Alpha i think he is a great horse.

03 May 2012 11:14 AM

Tht photo of Creative Cause almost makes mewant to change my choices.  You can see how hard those two big guys are working to keep him steady.  Reminds me a bit of old footage of Native Divcer.

03 May 2012 11:25 AM
Linda in Texas

Steve great up close photo of Creative Cause, takes two men with their heels dug in just to hold him back on a morning walk over!

His name should be Don't Hold Me Back!  He is amazing. Union Rags and Take Charge Indy, sure like their looks. And Dullahan, what can i say?

On the post position draw, i found it quirky that Pletcher's 2 horses are running side by side, 15 and 16. (reminders of Stay Thirsty and Uncle Mo). I'll Have Another at post 19 i like along with another poster, keeps him out of the fray, he can observe the initial stampede and hopefully position himself appropriately. Creative Cause Post 8 is fine, lots of my picks are for the 8 spot horse, and of course The Gray. Always bet on the gray. And Hansen, will he set the pace? Also whichever horse has the longest shot, were i there, that would be a given when it comes to betting. And Daddy Long Legs will handle Post 1 just fine. No problemo.

Just want to take a moment to state that this group of Kentucky Derby Contenders is absolutely breathtaking, every darn one of them. And the industry, the owners, trainers, jockeys, stable care givers are to be commended for having this many beautiful specimens at their peak in the merry month of May for Kentucky Derby Day. Congratulations to everyone.

Have fun Steve, i hope you have a golf cart so you can get to every stall in every barn pronto, and don't peak too soon, we need you all the way to Saturday at 5:24 cst and then some. 54 1/2 hours to go. All the handicappers are sure being quiet. Dr. D., Bob from Boston and so many more. Ya'll have a super time.    

03 May 2012 11:37 AM
Pedigree Ann

I have been behind Creative Cause all spring, but I find his draw less than ideal. After he was mugged in the Del Mar Futurity, he has shown a dislike of being close between horses, as he was at the finish of the SA Derby. I would have preferred to see him farther outside. His performance is going to be strongly determined by his trip - not getting close between horses at any point.

I must add: in a logical world, I'll Have Another would be favored over Bodemeister. After all, AHA defeated the horse who blew by Bode in a few strides in his previous race.

Liaison excelled on Cushion track but has done little on real dirt this spring. Healthy he may be, but his ability to handle these must be open to considerable doubt.

03 May 2012 11:49 AM

I have all kind of systems. Steve gave me a new one last year..."GEORGE COSTANGA" theogy LAST YEAR. Give me "BODE"

03 May 2012 12:44 PM
El Kabong

Pedigree Ann,

I couldn't have said it better about Creative Cause. I just had that conversation with my bro right after the draw and I will not have him on my tickets. This is no race for a horse with those type of issues and I do not feel this race and that post(imagine the funnel to the turn) will enable him to show his talent. You can't make mistakes in the Derby, and with this field of talent, you will not be able to recover if you do.  

03 May 2012 4:50 PM

Linda in Texas,

Loved your post!  Now I have the mental image of Steve and Lenny scooting about in golf carts trying to see every barn and having a ball!!!  I loved the "And They're Off" segment Steve with the audience, cute.  

It's amazing how good all of the colts look this year.  Dullahan is beautiful, Alpha is adorable and little, IHA looks like he owns the place and Daddy Nose Best looks like a prince.  And they all seem to love Steve and know he is taking their photos and posing!  The post positions don't seem too bad, Hansen and Gem seem to be fine, Bode may have to step it up a bit earlier, and IHA hopefully will save ground early and not get too wide coming out of the 19 hole.

Calvin doesn't have far to go if he wants to skim the rail out of Post 3.  

Thanks for the paddock school photos Steve.  Still picking:


I'll Have Another

Union Rags



Good luck to all betting and may all the horses stay safe.

03 May 2012 6:19 PM

Creative Cause appears to be bitless in your fine paddock shot. He gets extra credit for deportment wearing only a common halter and no chain over the nose or steel on the gums.

05 May 2012 12:15 AM

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