California Horses Make Big Impression

Following Sunday's rainy, chilly morning, the sun was out Monday morning and the Derby horses were out in full force, including three arrivals from California -- Dortmund, Firing Line, and Bolo -- all of whom looked terrific, as you will see below.

At 5:30 this morning, a Brook Ledge van pulled up to Todd Pletcher's barn, carrying Blue Grass winner Carpe Diem, who looked as good as a horse could possibly look in the dark. Earlier, a 4 a.m., El Kabeir arrived following an 11-hour van ride from Belmont Park. The colt was bedded down in Bob Baffert's barn, with trainer John Terranova out there bright and early. Shortly after, El Kabeir's jockey, Calvin Borel, and his agent Jerry Hissam stopped by and the three engaged in a general discussion about the colt.

International Star was due to arrive this afternoon from the nearby Trackside Training Center, and the Derby's mystery horse, Mubtaahij, is scheduled to arrive from Arlington Park around 6 o'clock this evening. Upstart and Frosted are due in tomorrow from Palm Meadows training center, along with Frammento, who trainer Nick Zito desperately wants to get in the Derby, feeling the colt is sitting on a huge race. Frammento needs one horse to drop out, and will be placed on the also-eligible list if there are no defections before entries are drawn Wednesday.

The line of the morning goes to jockey Martin Garcia, who was asked on local TV to describe the difference between American Pharoah, who he works, and Dortmund, who he will ride. Garcia responded with the simplest, but most profound reply. "American Pharoah is very fast," he said, much to the amusement of Bob Baffert.

Here are the images from this morning, with some observations. All photos by Steve Haskin, please ask before taking.

Firing Line may be the forgotten horse in the Derby field, but there is no more appealing horse to look at and be around. His presence on the racetrack just grabs you immediately; he just has that look about him. It seems this colt is out of sight, out of mind, not having raced since the Sunland Derby March 22. But there is no questioning his talent and brilliance

Firing Line strikes a magnificent pose following his jog. Gary Stevens believes he's sitting on a huge race, and that's good enough for me

Exercise rider George Alvarez looks admiringly at Dortmund, who drew a crowd this morning following his jog

You don't realize how big Dortmund is until you see him close up. He towers over every other horse, but is not a big, muscular horse; more the tall and rangy type, which allows him to be so quick for a big horse and light on his feet. Here he checks out the crowd, who came armed in full force with cameras of all kind

Bolo is one of those old-fashioned, racy types who exudes class and struts around like an athlete who knows he's good. He could pass as a European stayer, and there is no doubt he will appreciate the mile and a quarter. A vet once said he has a huge heart, which adds to that staying power

Although you can't see them following his bath, Bolo is nicely dappled, for all those who asked, and as you can see, he is a horse who is hard not to fall in love with from a physical sense. Distance will not pose a problem for him. The California trio are all different and all impressive in their own way

If you're looking for strong and handsome, look no further than Materiality, whose coat looks sensational, and you can see the power in his stride. The three career starts make him a relative unknown, as he tries to buck history on two fronts, but we know he's immensely talented, can fight off challenges from classy horses, is bred for the distance, and has two 1 1/8-mile victories under his belt, which will help in overturning history. He might just be special enough

Itsaknockout, with whom I've been impressed since watching him work, was full of energy as he returned at a rapid pace following his gallop and seemed reluctant to come off the track. You can make what you like of his Florida Derby fiasco, but if the Fountain of Youth horse shows up and runs to the way he's been looking and acting he could be a viable longshot to at least make his presence felt

A visit to the Trackside Training Center later in the morning found International Star burrowing a hole and attacking his hay rack. He obviously is a good doer, and gets three different types of hay. He'll be on the track at Churchill Downs tomorrow morning

Danzig Moon has been improving over the past couple of weeks and seems right at home at Churchill following his second, and more impressive, work over the track and a series of strong gallops

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