Kentucky Derby contender Goldencents walks off the van with Jack Sisterson (all photos Claire Novak)
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (April 27, 2013) -- Moving like a tremendous machine, Team O'Neill arrived at Churchill Downs around 1:20 p.m. on Friday afternoon. They were a year older, perhaps a year wiser, and a year removed from the unbelievable triumph they scored with Paul Reddam's Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) winner I'll Have Another in the 2012 edition of the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) en route to victory in the Preakness (gr. I).
The Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) victor of the new season is Goldencents, who followed in the hoofprints of his stablemate by capturing that final prep and thereby earning the right to run for the Roses. The son of Into Mischief flew to Kentucky from trainer Doug O'Neill's California base on the same flight bearing Kentucky Oaks (gr. I) contender Beholder for trainer Richard Mandella, touching down in Lexington around 11:45 p.m. and making the journey to Churchill via horse van. Additional connections, including O'Neill himself, jockey Kevin Krigger, and equine Chiropractor Larry "Thumper" Jones, were traveling via private jet and expected to arrive in Louisville later in the day.
Horse van bearing Goldencents pulls up near Barn 45
No need for O'Neill himself to oversee the minute details of equine arrival -- every member of Team O'Neill knows their job and how to do it well. Assistant trainer Jack Sisterson, already shipped up from the recently-concluded spring meet at Keeneland in Lexington, had Barn 45 ready and waiting for the Kentucky Derby hopeful, and as the horse van pulled through the stable gate, the team members prepared to do the unloading job. Before the Thoroughbreds could be unloaded, a vital element had to be removed from the side door of the horse van. Exercise rider Johnny Garcia put his back into it and helped haul seven bags of Resolve feed -- racehorse rocket fuel.
Exercise rider Johnny Garcia can apparently do more than ride horses
After a few O'Neill trainees slated for upcoming races and stakes during the Churchill meet walked off the van, Sisterson led Goldencents down the ramp. Coach Rick Pitino and partners' athletic bay contender paused at the top and let out a loud whinny, as if to say to the world, "I'm here!"
Goldencents walks to Barn 45
Sisterson tells Goldencents,"Watch your step!"
Goldencents walked onto the grass near the unloading area with an alert and inquisitive expression. Sisterson paused for a handful of video cameras and a few fans who were gathered to take pictures and witness the colt's arrival. Then it was on to Barn 45.
Goldencents checks out his new surroundings
Once the horses were unloaded, the truck was pulled closer to the barn. While Sisterson walked Goldencents around the shedrow, members of Team O'Neill jumped into action.
Goldencents in motion
It is very important to keep horses well-hydrated before, during, and after travel -- especially when flying on long trips across the country or around the world -- so while Goldencents walked the shedrow, water buckets were quickly filled.
Filling water buckets for the newly-arrived Team O'Neill runners
Goldencents was more concerned with moving around and checking out his new surroundings, but he did pause to take a sip before continuing on his way.
Goldencents takes a drink
Next it was time for housekeeping items -- all the tack and equipment required for a big barn when shipping in to a new place, no matter how short the stay. Exhibit 'A,' Team O'Neill barn signs:
Team O'Neill barn signs will be hung on Barn 45 for the duration of their stay
A very important item for Garcia is his "flak jacket,' the protective exercise-riding vest he wears every time he gets aboard Goldencents or any other Thoroughbred headed to the track. These vests are mandatory for exercise riders and offer protection, cushion in the event of a fall.
Johnny Garcia needs his safety vest in order to ride Goldencents
And heaven forbid we forget the western saddle for a trusty track pony, which Tyler Cerin hoisted in a manly display.
You're welcome, ladies.
Owned by W.C. Racing, Dave Kenney and Rick Pitino's RAP Racing, Goldencents worked six furlongs in 1:16.20 on Thursday, April 26, at Santa Anita Park. If he takes the Derby, he'll make O'Neill the first trainer to win the Run
for the Roses in consecutive years since Hall of Famer Bob Baffert did
it in 1997 and 1998 with Silver Charm and Real Quiet.
"He came out of the work in great shape and we are all excited about coming back," O'Neill told the Churchill notes team. We'll have more from him... tomorrow.