Haskin's Derby Report: The Players Up Close

What better way to kick off live Kentucky Derby coverage than with a photo gallery of some of the major players and some early observations.

Thursday and Friday have been sort of the calm before the storm, literally, as beautiful crisp weather is expected to turn a bit nasty over the weekend when the majority of final works are scheduled, especially on Sunday, which promises to be a hectic 15 minutes from 8:30 and 8:45.

There actually were three works Friday – Vyjack, who went five furlongs in 1:00 2/5, with a final quarter in :24 2/5, out six furlongs in 1:14; Falling Sky, who drilled six furlongs in 1:13 in company with two workmates, out seven panels in 1:28; and Golden Soul, who went five furlongs in 1:00 4/5, taking a little while before changing leads.

Verrazano galloping

From a physical standpoint, Verrazano is a standout; a big handsome powerhouse of a colt, whose coat is resplendent. He appears to be an easy-going horse who goes about his business like a pro.

Verrazano walking

Verrazano has been galloping smoothly, and like most of the Pletcher horses, not being asked for anything too strenuous, especially with the final work coming up in a couple of days.

Revolutionary Standing

Unlike the hulking Verrazano, Revolutionary is more light-framed and refined, and is built like a true stayer. He seems very intelligent and does whatever he’s asked to. From all appearances he looks like the kind of horse you’d love to train.

Revolutionary Galloping

Revolutionary has been putting in steady gallops each day.

Palace Malice

Nothing flashy about Palace Malice. He just looks like one those blue-collar horses who is just now coming around to peak form. We have no idea how good this colt really is, because he hasn’t been given the opportunity to show his best. The well might be deeper than many people think.


Orb has one of the most attractive, alert heads and is very interested in the goings on around him. He seems to be feeling good and the way he briefly shied from the pony this morning, he would appear to be the type of colt trainer Shug McGaughey will school in the paddock several times.


A powerfully built horse, Vyjack definitely is the aggressive type, at the barn or on the track, and can be a bit ornery. In his work this morning, he had his ears pinned from the start and even while galloping out, and had to be being strongly encouraged by trainer Rudy Rodriguez down the stretch, according to veteran observers. If ever a horse would seem to have benefited from a little down time at Fair Hill and several visits to the hyperbaric chamber it is Vyack. It’s obvious he came to Churchill Downs looking for action. Fortunately, he’s been more professional in his races, and he better be on Derby Day.


Overanalyze is just one of the crowd among the Pletcher brigade, who is not going to make you sit up and take notice, but those are the types that often make the most noise. Many people are dismissing him because of the slow time of the Arkansas Derby, but that could prove to be a costly mistake. This colt should never be taken lightly, as he has accomplished too much in his career, from winning at five furlongs in his career debut to winning grade II stakes at 1 1/8 miles at 2 and 3.


If you’re looking for a high energy horse, you won’t find one more high energy than the compact Oxbow, who is pretty much a coiled spring, as evidenced by the photo above. If any horse is due for some good luck at the draw and the start, and the entire running for that matter, it is him. You can bet Gary Stevens will be much more familiar with him this time.

Oxbow, Will Take Charge, D. Wayne Lukas

Oxbow and Will Take Charge return from their gallops escorted by trainer Wayne Lukas. They may be stablemates, but that’s where any similarities end. They are totally different both physically and mentally. Lukas has always been touting Oxbow as something special, but he welcomes the challenge of getting Will Take Charge to the Derby in top shape off an unprecedented seven-week layoff. He feels he’d rather have the big, long-striding colt, who is still maturing, go into the Derby fresh.

Normandy Invasion

No one has been galloping stronger than Normandy Invasion, who seems to be coming into the Derby in peak form. Each morning, he rolls around there at a good clip while galloping out near the middle of the track. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see him closer to the pace than most people think. He has already shown he can close off a fast pace or a slow pace, and it is important that he make his move on the far turn, as he did in the Remsen, and not wait until the final sixteenth to give that big burst.


Tom Amoss proudly shows off Mylute, who goes out very early each morning. He is an extremely well-balanced colt, who looks like his sire Midnight Lute, although not quite as imposing. He is a solid longshot play who definitely is on an upward spiral.

Java's War

Java's War has to be the smallest horse in the race, standing no more than 15.1 or 15.2 hands and weighing no more 950 pounds. He’s been skipping over the ground smoothly each morning and will have his final work in company with fellow Derby starter Frac Daddy. The question with him is getting through that 20-horse field. But it won’t take a large hole for him to slip through.


Leave a Comment:



I know everyone is raving about how well Normandy Invasion has been galloping over the CH surface.  I just cannot back this horse his flesh looks poor to me and he isn't carrying any weight to speak of coming from the Wood.  Just look where the blanket is raised in the above picture. He is so light in his hind and elsewhere.  I was sent a pic from the backstretch and he looks horrible.

26 Apr 2013 2:45 PM

nice job on the photos. very informative!

26 Apr 2013 3:01 PM
Rusty Weisner

Forgive my ignorance (you've forgiven it before).  What do the wraps on some indicate?

26 Apr 2013 3:23 PM
Karen in Indiana

Hi Steve, the weather forecasts are calling for a possibility of rain for the Derby. Even though that's a bit of a while out, I'd still be interested in hearing how the horses do sunday morning if the track is wet. Especially how Oxbow & Java's War handle it.

26 Apr 2013 3:25 PM
A Horsey Canuck

Thanks for your valuable insight as usual, Steve. A lot of info to absorb for sure. Enjoy your time at CD. I look forward to reading every word that you post up to the Derby.

26 Apr 2013 3:31 PM

Wow!  Vyjack looks gooooooood!!!  And I love the way Revolutionary seems to be eyeballing you, as if to say "and where is this pic gonna end up, man?"

Thanks for the great photos, Steve.

26 Apr 2013 4:00 PM
Judi Tilley

Steve - love the pictures and reports. Sounds like all are healthy and happy at CD. Let's pray they all finish that way too!

I wonder if you might be able to use your skill with the lens on a fellow I've been following -- Black Onyx. I think he's a lovely colt, but I'd really like your assessment of his condition/form and temperament. He seems to have some good bloodlines, so I'm just curious about him. Thank you so, so much.

26 Apr 2013 4:16 PM

Thanks, Steve, for a wonderful "up close" look at these beautiful horses.  Bless them all for safe trips on Derby day, hoping for a blanket finish that all will give a good account of themselves!

26 Apr 2013 4:20 PM

better rains this weekend than next. Thankfully supposed to be nice all next week so expect some trainers will hold off final works for nicer conditions. TY for the wonderful pics and glad your on grounds already so will be able to see them all through your eyes as doubt Ill make it there this year.

26 Apr 2013 4:27 PM
El Kabong


Great Photos and Comments. Thanks for sharing, I think my little man Java is as agile and slippery as they come. Looking forward to a caffeine burst on May 4th.

26 Apr 2013 5:02 PM
Age of Reason

Who says Christmas is the most wonderful time of the year? Now that BloodHorse has boots on the ground in Louisville, I'm very excited about the next week and will be checking here as often as I can. Thanks for kicking this off with more of your awesome photography, Steve!

26 Apr 2013 5:08 PM
The Doctor

Great pics Steve - keep them coming. Vyjack looks fantastic!!

26 Apr 2013 5:16 PM

Horse racing!

26 Apr 2013 5:52 PM

Beautiful photos!

Glad you brought up Revolutionary's intelligence. It shows in every run.

It's Orb inquisitiveness that makes me think he would benefit from blinkers. (He seems to be easily distracted, but I luv 'em!)

Vyjack has awesomely defined muscles.  TNT from the photo, ready to explode.

As great a Verrazano looks, let's see a photo of Black Onyx next to him. (I think they're both tops in the looks department).

Oxbow looks ready to fire.  Maybe things will finally go right for him. (Looks like a powder keg ready to burst.)

Java's War just might surprise a lot of folks.  Don't be deceived by that small size. (Remember the heart of Jackson Bend).  If I remember, Mine That Bird was not too big.

Mylute looks like pops.  But whoever discards him should remember that although Midnight Lute won sprints, he was actually bred for distance.

Normandy Invasion seems to have really, really long hind legs.  No wonder he has such a powerful push.

Least impressive in the photos is Overanalyze, but he was impressive when he ran and won.  If folks think he was slow, what does it say for the colts who couldn't catch him?

26 Apr 2013 6:18 PM

Great pics, Steve!  Thank you!

It seems like Vyjack is moving forward from The Wood.  Do you feel like Verrazano has as well?  Also, how tall is Overanalyze?  I have to go back & look at photos but for some reason Citation came to mind when looking at Orb.

I know he's touting Oxbow but could Lukas be playing a little possum on WTC?  Trying to stay off radar?

26 Apr 2013 6:57 PM

What a treat, thank you Steve.  So glad you are at Churchill.  The photos are gorgeous.  How can we not love all of them.  I think Oxbow and Java's War are cute as a button.  Verrazano looks amazing, what a strapping, good looking colt, and Revolutionary looks athletic and fit and ready.  Oxbow looks like he's doing dressage out there and Mylute is pretty nice looking too.  

Sounds like it's time for some to go to paddock school!  It has got to be so exciting Steve being there, enjoy every minute of it.  And keep the photos coming.  We all can't thank you enough for them.

26 Apr 2013 7:02 PM

If this is a contest of who looks the best, I'd be betting on Vyjack, Palace Malice, Orb, WTC and Revolutionary.  Man, they look good.

Looking forward to more photos of Mylute in action, as well as Black Onyx.  

Thanks for the updates and the photos!

26 Apr 2013 8:41 PM

Ive been a big Vyjack supporter but have read from a couple of sites that his work today was average at best and had to be really ridden to finish.

I don't know folks I may be getting cold feet on this horse?

Steve enjoy your time their and thanks.

26 Apr 2013 9:17 PM
Mister Frisky

Revolutionary was striking,beautiful head and great scope.Gotta throw him in everything.

26 Apr 2013 9:45 PM

Hi Steve,

Thanks for the pics and observations.  

I like Java's War. If I recollect rightly, I don't think Northern Dancer was much bigger.  He did OK.

For a sentamental journey...the Janey/Phipps combo would be a nice thing.

Vyjack is a beast.  I don't know if it's the picture but he sure seem to be large in the head.  His Wood with a lung infection, unreal to do as well as he did.

I'm also wondering what's up with Gov Charlie? I know he had foot problems...but the race he had in NM was fast.  I feel that coming down from that altitude to more oxygen can be an advantage first race out.  It worked for MTB.

Can't wait for you to do the rest of the Derby field.

take care

26 Apr 2013 10:48 PM

Wow thanks for the pictures! I think Verrazano and Revolutionary look awesome! I agree with those who are saying that Normandy looks thin...or is it just the angle or something Steve? I still can't seem to settle on a favorite since my two previous choices (Flashback and Hear The Ghost) are sitting this one out. I think I may be favoring Itsmylucky day.  Would love to see a picture of him.....hint hint...LOL

26 Apr 2013 11:10 PM

Sweet stuff man. Keep it coming.

A few of these look chiseled but Orb looks regal...

26 Apr 2013 11:33 PM
Mike Monarchos

Very nice photos Steve! Thanks! I haven't been to the Derby since 2004 when Smarty Jones won. I can't believe I've missed the last eight Derbies. I thought Verrazano and Revolutionary looked the best in your photos. Normandy Invasion looked skinny to me. Orb looked good too, but wasn't a full body shot. Can't leave out the little guy Java's War. I did in the Tampa Bay Derby and regreted it. Revolutionary has the eye and Calvin Borel (Mr. Kentucky Derby) so he's my number one.

27 Apr 2013 12:05 AM

Your description of the above ponies makes the glass of water appear to be half full rather than half empty. Something good about every one of them. I enjoy your articles but sometimes you don't make it easy to pick a winner!

27 Apr 2013 12:31 AM
Lexington Bloodstock

You left out the winner....Itsmyluckyday!!!  

27 Apr 2013 1:25 AM
Sail On

What beautiful horses, thanks Steve.

27 Apr 2013 2:08 AM

Pictures tell a story, without knowing which horse, which race you would presume half these horses were to run in sprint/mile races. Moreover, one can only imagine what Normandy Invasion 'will be' when he matures like Verrazano already has become. Albeit, they have very different phenotypes. Orb, appears composed but this is not 'Derby Day.'

27 Apr 2013 3:26 AM

Thanks for the pics, Steve, great shots.  No place better than the backside at CD during morning works.  Looking forward to your thoughts if anyone is having trouble handling the surface.

Love your comments on Oxbow; a coiled spring and you captured it.  If one thought Verrazano broke well in the Wood, watch Gary Stevens break this guy in the Derby.  Boinnnggggg!!!!!

27 Apr 2013 7:41 AM

great photos steve-looks like revolutionary is practicing his stare for the horses he passes at the eighth pole.

27 Apr 2013 8:40 AM

Rusty- Wraps are an ounce of prevention.  

27 Apr 2013 9:39 AM

I agree with the comment above, Normandy Invasion looks terribly thin to me. If he is this thin now, what will he look like after another week of prep and the race? If he was my horse, I would be worried about him.Everyone else looks great..good muscle, good weight and looking fit and ready to run. Love Oxbow's compactness... a future after racing in dressage? Still sticking with my picks Revolutionary, Verrazzano and My Lute...all subject to change on race day of course.

I kinda disagree with you one point Steve, Orb's head...alertness I cannot judge from one photo, so I take your word on that, but sorry, do not particularly like his head...I know heads shape does not win the race, but in my opinion, Orb does not have a very pretty head. Of all the pictures, My Lute has the prettiest head...but then this is just a chick's opinion. Thank you for the pictures and the comments.

27 Apr 2013 10:34 AM

Thanks for the pictures Steve, they are great. It really helps to see them when we are are trying to figure out this race. Very confusing to see Normandy Invasion looking somewhat thin, yet he is working up a storm; what would he be like if he looked better? wow...

Now that it looks like a better than 50% chance of rain on Derby day, what are your thoughts as to who is going to like the wet going?

First horse I would expect to not like a wet track would be Will Take Charge. I can't remember when

Grindstone beat the favorite Unusual Song(wtc's sire),if that was a wet track or not, I kind of think it wasn't wet that year.

27 Apr 2013 11:44 AM
Indiana Johnny

Steve, nice write up with some very good pics. Will you be doing video updates from Churchill soon, woorkout reports and then your selections? Thanks for the info.

27 Apr 2013 11:51 AM
Steve Haskin

Lexington Bloodstock, I left out Itsmyluckyday because he wasnt here.

27 Apr 2013 12:10 PM
Plod Boy Phil


I echo David's sentiments regarding the value of the photos beyond the natural beauty. I have to believe that w/out the names on the saddle cloths,  you could mix in 3yr olds that are far less accomplished or bred as regally and the oohs and aaghs would be the same.  Of course, the genuine eye for horses may see the difference, but for the majority, much like  a tainted police line-up,  expectations and information sway objectivity.

27 Apr 2013 12:46 PM

Thank you for giving us these wonderful pictures Mr. Haskin. I believe all horses, every last one of them, are beautiful.

I still have not picked my Derby horse. I think I'll just sit back and enjoy everything leading up to the big race and then will celebrate with the winner and his connections.

I pray that all horses and humans remain safe and sound on Oaks day & Derby day.

27 Apr 2013 2:09 PM
Pedigree Ann

Those of you who like big, muscle-y horses....,

I am currently watching the Cross-Country phase of the Rolex 3 Day-Event on streaming. The competition covers several miles, over many fences, up to 5+ feet high and 6f or so wide. It is a test that only mature horses, 7 and up, to the mid 'teens, can handle. The competitors are TBs and TB crosses (Sporthorse breeds are just TBs crossed with something slower but sturdier).

One of the local legends in this event was the Pinto mare Poltroon, a mighty mite who was 15.2, maybe. Her sire was a TB but her dam was a pinto pony. That little lady tackled the course with a fierce look in her eye, determined to dominate it. And she did.

To paraphrase, it's the not the size of the horse in the race, it's the size of the race in the horse.

27 Apr 2013 2:10 PM

Unusual Song????... meant UNBRIDLEDS SONG, sorry, senior moment.

27 Apr 2013 2:32 PM
Golden Gate

Thank you for the great pictures and write ups on the contenders.

My picks are:

Palace Malice



I saw Oxbow at Oaklawn and he looked great. I am sorry he did not get to really show like I believe he could at the Ark Derby.

I am hoping though that Palice Malice wins. I loved his dam. She is just a big beautiful mare with lots of class.

27 Apr 2013 2:40 PM
Love 'em all

Thanks for all the wonderful photo treats, Mr. Haskin.  

I'd almost swear Palace Malice and his rider are skipping along singing ...

'Zip-a-dee-doo-dah, zip-a-dee-ay.  My, oh my, what a wonderful day!'

But, where's Mr. Bluebird?

Oxbow ("Little JB") reminds me of Jackson Bend.  I like that lil' fella!

Vyjack ("Mr. Sexy") is one good-looking horse!  Gotta love those geldings!

Java's War is just too precious!  Looks happy, too!

May they all stay happy and healthy!  Thanks again for sharing.

27 Apr 2013 2:57 PM

bigtex--even more than citation, orb's profile is a dead ringer for whirlaway...it's uncanny.

larry jones made an interesting comment the other day. he was commenting on how cold it's been at churchill all week and he said that the last time it was this cold before the derby was the last time shug was there with a derby contender--easy goer.

but shug and orb are more in the charlie whittingham/ sunday silence role this time around--orb even has a sunday silence-esque resume: nothing special as a 2 year old; starts his 3 year old campaign with an allowance win, followed by the foy (sunday silence followed his 3 yo allowance win with a win in the san felipe), followed by winning the fl derby (sunday silence followed the san felipe with a win in the santa anita derby)--and going into the ky derby as the 2nd favorite to the winner of the wood memorial (though verranzo is no easy goer)...it's supposed to be an off track next week too, like it was 24 years ago...

and then there's the whole claiborne farms/hancock/phipps connection all over again (both sunday silence and easy goer had hancock/phipps connections), along with the trainer nearing the twilight of his career, who rarely brings horses to the derby and then only if he truly believes they can win, angle...

this has nothing to due with who will next week, i just thought it was interesting....

windolin, i agree that orb is not pretty, but he has a very classic, regal thoroughbred head...their heads never used to be so dishy as they are now...they are almost starting look like arabians...

pedigree ann--i agree with your point completely, but just as in racing, successful, elite smaller horses are the exception, not the rule, in eventing, jumping, and dressage--the big, scopey horses like shutterfly are much more common at the elite level.

27 Apr 2013 4:41 PM

if you want to see more photos of the horses in action, including orb--bloodhorse's face book page has them up. when you click on them, it takes you to more photos

the contrast in bridle philosphy between pletcher and shug is striking--pletcher keeps all of his horses in stranglehold figure 8 bridles, while shug has orb in a simple western bridle, without a noseband

27 Apr 2013 6:12 PM

Thank you so much for the report and the pictures!!

Revolutionary is definitely giving you what my husband would call "THE EYE". lol.

I am too young to remember Citation and Whirlaway, as they came before my birth - though I can remember the three Triple Crown winners from the 70's from my childhood. I hope to see at least one more before I pass. There have been great horses in the meantime - but there's just something about a Triple Crown that brings so much excitement to the sport.

I had to go look for pictures of Citation and Whirlaway when people starting comparing Orb to them. I can see why there are the comparisons to Citation. Not show ring pretty (but who needs that - Man o' War had that Roman nose and was not pretty at all, but was rather all masculine magnificence in his photos) - but both Orb and Citation have an alert intelligent look in their eyes - two horses who appear to be aware of everything going on around them.

If he goes on to have even a third of the career of Citation, he will be a very good one.

I am still leaning towards Orb, Revolutionary, and Black Onyx for the simple reason that in their final nine furlong preps they looked like they could comfortably keep going.

It sure wouldn't surprise me, though, if other colts step up and do very well next Saturday.

I guess we have to wait and see the post positions and the weather. I would think heavy mud would eliminate some (Will Take Charge) and give a better chance to others (though I would have to look at past performances to see who likes mud), and unfortunately the colt who pulls post position one will be an auto-toss for me.

I would like to add that the last time I heard so many complaints about what a slow crop of colts we had was the year which ended up producing:

*Animal Kingdom


*Mucho Macho Man

*Stay Thirsty

*Caleb's Posse

*Fort Larned

*Point of Entry

Though not all of them ran in the Triple Crown races.

I would be very happy to have another crop of colts like that one, most of whom stuck around for awhile and stayed more or less sound through at least the beginning of their four year old seasons - as opposed to last year's crop, filled with high quality very fast brilliant colts who all seemed to fall apart before our eyes.

28 Apr 2013 1:47 AM

Can someone please provide insight on WTC...I just think he has the size and stride to win it all

28 Apr 2013 10:21 AM

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