Tacitus

The Bill Mott-trained Tacitus, winner of the Wood Memorial (on left) takes a look at the sloppy Churchill Downs track before an easy gallop in a light rain on Saturday morning.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) – In an official sign that the Kentucky Derby is only two weeks away, Churchill Downs resumed its practice of shutting down the track for all training except Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks contenders on Saturday. It’s a hospitable move by Churchill, ensuring that these animals have a safe and relatively open race track from 7:30 a.m. to 7:45.

But Churchill can’t do anything about the weather. Steady rains over the preceding 24 hours bumped several expected works to Sunday morning at the latest. A small tour group watched from under a covered viewing stand as a few colts and fillies hit the track at the designated time.

Not far away from them was Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, whose Tacitus, winner of the Wood Memorial, has a real chance in the Derby. Tacitus, like most, just galloped around the sloppy and sealed oval at Churchill Downs, saving the more substantial work for a cleaner day.

Also on the track was Improbable, who remains a top contender for the Derby despite a second-place finish to Omaha Beach over a sloppy track in the Arkansas Derby. He wasn’t asked to do much at all in the rain at Churchill Saturday.

“When you have this kind of weather, and the track is sealed, you want to go out there and take a little jaunt, and not try to do too much,” said Jimmy Barnes, assistant to five-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Bob Baffert. Baffert’s other two possible Derby starters, are still in California.

“He’s basically a lightly-raced horse, so he’s running him into shape,” Barnes said of Improbable. “He raced at Los Alamitos in December, and went from there to the Rebel, so it’ll take him a few races just to get racing fit. He’s done everything we’ve asked of him, and he came out of Arkansas with two second-place finishes. But he could have won the first race easily if he’d had a better trip, and in the second one we were beaten by Omaha Beach, but that’s a very nice horse. I see him improving with each start.”

Steve Asmussen’s Long Range Toddy had a light 1 1/2-mile gallop, as did Country House, a second potential entry for Mott. By My Standards hit the track at 6:30 a.m. Saturday and expects to breeze at about 9 a.m. Sunday.

First onto the track was Plus Que Parfait, who qualified for the Derby by winning the UAE Derby. He’s scheduled to work at 5:30 a.m. Sunday. Others expected to hit the track for serious works on Sunday are likely favorite Omaha Beach, Tacitus and By My Standards.

At Keeneland on Saturday, Shug McGaughey's Code of Honor worked five furlongs in 1:01. He's expected to ship to Churchill Downs on Wednesday.

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