(Sierra Leone / Photos by Coady Photography)

From the Keeneland Media Team / Amy Owens:

“FIT AND READY” SIERRA LEONE TUNES UP FOR KENTUCKY DERBY

Peter Brant, Mrs. John Magnier, Michael Tabor, Derrick Smith, Westerberg Limited and Brook Smith’s Toyota Blue Grass (G1) winner Sierra Leone had his penultimate workout for his expected start in the $5 million Kentucky Derby (G1) Presented by Woodford Reserve on May 4 by clocking 4 furlongs in :48.80 on a fast track Friday morning.

In company with recent Keeneland maiden winner White Palomino, Sierra Leone logged splits of :12.40, :24.20 and :36.80 before galloping out in 1:01.20 and 1:15.60 under exercise rider Kriss Bon.

Click here for a video of the work.

“(He) worked super,” trainer Chad Brown said at the barn after watching Sierra Leone cool out. “The horse is really fit and ready. It was just what I wanted.”

Brown said Sierra Leone would ship to Churchill Downs on Sunday and have his final timed workout there Saturday, April 27, depending on the weather. Today’s move was Sierra Leone’s first since his come-from-behind 1½-length score in the Toyota Blue Grass on April 6.

“I’ve always worked him in company in the mornings,” Brown said. “He’s always been a decent workhorse, just needs a little focus. Obviously, we’ve added blinkers this year, which have helped. But a little competition so he just feels a horse next to him just keeps him in the bridle nicely.”

Sierra Leone was reluctant to load into the starting gate prior to the Toyota Blue Grass. While Brown was not overly concerned about the behavior, he said Sierra Leone will receive some extra gate schooling at Churchill. Brown said he would prefer to be one of the later entrants to enter the Kentucky Derby gate in case the colt needs extra time.

“I have a plan set up so he can see the gate a couple of times this week coming up,” he said. “I really don’t anticipate any problems. He’s really never been much of a problem at the gate.”

Brown said if he had a choice for post position, the center slots would give Sierra Leone his best chance.

“I’d be more interested with the post position of where he’s going to be strategically in that first turn more than the loading process,” he said. “Maybe I’ll regret those words, but I feel somewhere in the middle of the field always seems to be the (best). But there’s no telling. You’ve seen horses win from the far outside and some that draw inside and run well. We’ll take what they give us, but somewhere in the middle would be ideal.”

Post positions for the Kentucky Derby (and Kentucky Oaks-G1) will be drawn next Saturday evening.

Brown, who has trained a parade of top-shelf runners in his 18-year career, including Toyota Blue Grass winners Good Magic(2018) and Zandon (2022), said Sierra Leone is exceptional.

“He’s a good-feeling horse – a nice horse to work around,” he said. “He’s a very alpha horse. He’s definitely in charge of what’s going on everywhere, and we give him his space and we let him be him. He’s a very rare horse to have in your shedrow.”

Brown’s other Derby hopeful, Klaravich Stables’ Domestic Product, breezed at Payson Park training center in Florida this morning (4 furlongs in :48.40). Brown said the Lambholm South Tampa Bay Derby (G3) winner is expected to arrive at Churchill on Monday, April 22 with a fleet of other Brown trainees, including Kentucky Oaks contender Ways and Means(who worked 5 furlongs in 1:00.60 this morning at Payson Park).

 

EVERLAND PASSES DIRT TEST FOR KENTUCKY OAKS BID

Foster Family Racing, William Wargel, R. K. Eckrich Racing and Maxis Stable’s Everland, winner of the Bourbonette Oaks (L) at Turfway Park to secure a spot in the starting gate for the $1.5 million Kentucky Oaks (G1) on May 3, worked 5 furlongs in company in 1:03.80 over a fast main track Saturday morning.

The work was the first on dirt for Everland under the care of trainer Eric Foster, who has had the filly for her past three races.

In the work with Cincinnati Trophy Stakes winner Maxisuperfly, Everland started about a length back of her stablemate, reached even terms at the eighth pole and was a length in front at the wire.

“She passed the dirt test 100%,” Foster said. “I am more happier now about the work after talking with (jockey) Abel (Cedillo). The time wasn’t the main concern. The way it went was important.”

Everland made her debut on turf at Kentucky Downs and has had her other six starts on all-weather surfaces. Cedillo has been aboard for her past three races.

“She sat behind the other horse and took some dirt (in her face) like it was nothing,” said Cedillo, who will have the mount in the Oaks. “I was surprised. She didn’t mind it at all.”

Claimed by Foster for $30,000 out of a victory at Turfway on Dec. 30, Everland has won two of three races for him. Most recently, she won the Bourbonette on March 23.

“She has gotten stronger since her last race and she had a strong gallop out this morning,” Foster said. “Abel said she still wanted to go (on the gallop out).”

Foster said Everland would van to Churchill Downs on Friday, April 26. According to the trainer, today’s breeze was probably her final work for the Oaks.

SPRING MEET LEADERS

 

Through April 19 (11 days of 16-day season)

Jockey Starts Wins 2nd 3rd Purses
Tyler Gaffalione 75 15 9 11 $2,160,983
Jose Ortiz 50 13 9 8 $1,251,365
Irad Ortiz Jr. 58 9 13 8 $1,542,916
Luis Saez 64 7 6 14 $1,042,661

Trainer Starts Wins 2nd 3rd Purses
Wesley Ward 25 7 5 2 $572,132
Brad Cox 16 6 2 3 $1,021,170

Chad Brown, Cherie DeVaux and Brendan Walsh have five wins each.

Owner Wins
Godolphin (Mohammed Al Maktoum, et al) 4
Blue Heaven Farm (Adam Corndorf and Bonnie Baskin) 2
Calumet Farm (Brad Kelley) 2
Juddmonte (Fahad bin Khalid) 2
Red, White and Blue Racing (Randy Gullat) 2
Rigney Racing (Richard Rigney) 2
Stonestreet Stables (Barbara Banke) 2
Whisper Hill Farm (Mandy Pope) 2

 

THIRD WEEK SPECIAL EVENTS

Year-round

Official Keeneland Tours. Click here for availability and to purchase.

Through Aug. 16

Keeneland Library is recognizing this year’s historic running of the Toyota Blue Grass at its free exhibit, A Rite of Spring: The 100th Running of the Blue Grass Stakes. The exhibit features photographs that capture race highlights curated from Keeneland Library collections and public submissions from professional and amateur photographers along with memorabilia from noted jockeys Bill Shoemaker, Mike Manganello and Chris Antley and celebrated runners Whirlaway, Riva Ridge, Spectacular Bid and Strike the Gold.

Open Monday through Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., the Library is located on the Keeneland campus. Enter Keeneland at Gate 1 on Keeneland Blvd. and take the first right on Entertainment Ct. The Library is to the left of the Keene Barn and Entertainment Center.

Click here for the virtual companion to the exhibit.

Friday, Saturday, Sunday

The Hill. Keeneland’s popular tailgating area is open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays during the Spring Meet, weather permitting. No ticket or reservation is required for The Hill, located adjacent to the Keene Barn & Entertainment Center and accessible via Gate 1 (at Man o’ War Blvd.) or Gate 4 (off Van Meter Road on the east side of Keeneland).

Fans on The Hill can watch the racing action via a jumbo TV and place their bets in a wagering tent while they enjoy live music presented by The Burl, food trucks and handicapping assistance from BETologists. Complimentary shuttles to the track are offered.

For fans who want to elevate their experience, Keeneland again is partnering with RevelXP to offer tailgate packages for groups of any size. RevelXP will organize tailgates by furnishing a designated tent, catering, amenities and more. Visit Keeneland.com/tailgating for full details.

The Hill is open from 8 a.m. to 60 minutes after the last race. Amenities are available from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Sunday, April 21

 

Keeneland Kids Club Family Day Presented by Kentucky Children’s Hospital. The Keeneland Kids Club is the Official Kids Club for Keeneland fans 12 and younger. Kids Club members and their families are invited to a special day at the races and will receive free general admission and access to reserved Grandstand seating when they present their membership cards at admission entrances. Children’s activities, which will take place in the North Terrace from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m., include face painting and activities with local community partners such as Amplify Horse Racing, Kentucky Children’s Hospital, LexArts, Lexington Ballet and Salvation Army. Sign up for the Kids Club at Keeneland.com/kidsclub.

PDJF Telethon. The fourth annual fundraising event for the Permanently Disabled Jockeys Fund will be based in the Limestone Café in the Keeneland Sales Pavilion. Call 1 (844) 884 7353 between noon and 6 p.m. to participate in the telethon or donate directly at https://pdjf.org/donate/.