Caleb's Posse – Off a pair of Graded stakes wins around one turn at Saratoga, trainer Donnie K. Von Hemel was looking for a bridge race to the Breeders’ Cup.
“Because the Dirt Mile was the more likely spot for us, we decided to use the Indiana Derby as a prep,” Von Hemel said. “We were stabled in Chicago (Arlington Park), so there wasn’t a lot of travel for us. We figured we’d pop over to Indiana and then to Kentucky. We didn’t want to have to make another trip back East.”
Caleb’s Posse finished third in the Indiana Derby, behind fellow Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile contenders Wilburn and Shackleford.
“It’s hard to say why he didn’t run a little better, but it’s not surprising that we ran third in a race like that,” Von Hemel said. “I thought the winner ran a good race, he got through on the rail, but I don’t think anyone was going to beat him (Wilburn) that day. Our horse just kind of ran even. It wasn’t outstanding, but the main thing for us was the timing and straight 3-year-olds. It was a way for us to get here.”
Irrefutable – The 5yo son of Unbridled’s Song galloped 1m under exercise rider Dana Barnes Wednesday morning and will do the same Thursday, according to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.
Wednesday morning was not Irrefutable’s first trip over the Churchill track. He won a 6f allowance race here on May 4 by 2 ½ lengths and earned a 105 Beyer Speed Figure while doing so.
“We put him in and we know he’s a longshot, but he ran well here last spring, and he ran his best race Beyer-wise here as well,” Baffert remarked.
Running second in the Oct. 8 Ancient Title Stakes last time out was enough to punch Irrefutable’s ticket to the Dirt Mile.
“In the Ancient Title we just let him break and come from off the pace and it worked out; he ran a big race,” Baffert said. “He’ll be coming at the end.”
Shackleford – The Preakness winner continues to show signs that he is back to the same form he was in when he finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby after setting the early pace and then two weeks later turned the table on Derby winner Animal Kingdom to win the second jewel of Triple Crown. In his final workout before the Dirt Mile, he worked 58 1/5 on Oct. 29.
“We hadn’t done much with him since the Indiana Derby and wanted to give him a good work,” said trainer Dale Romans. “I’ve never had a horse run bad after working in 58. You just can’t make a horse work like that.”
Shackleford drew post 2, just to the outside of the speedy The Factor.
“I can’t see anything happening other than The Factor going right for the lead and we’ll sit just behind him. And, if Tapizar (from post 3) wants to join him, we’ll be happy to sit third. He’s not a horse that needs the lead. He’ll listen to his rider.”
The Factor – The Bob Baffert-trained gray colt jogged 1m Wednesday morning under Jorge Alvarez after shipping in from Santa Anita Tuesday. He had been considered a potential Kentucky Derby starter but was sidelined with a hairline fracture of a hind ankle in May and did not resume training until late June.
The 3yo son of War Front returned in August to win the Pat O’Brien Stakes, and was fourth in the Oct. 8 Ancient Title at Santa Anita for owners Fog City Stable and George Bolton last time out. He prepped for his start in the Dirt Mile with a bullet 6f in 1:10 1/5 at Santa Anita on Monday. The Factor will gallop 1m Thursday morning, Baffert said.
Trappe Shot – The son of Tapit galloped 1 1/4m under Rob Massey Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs.
Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin is pleased with Trappe Shot’s draw of the outside No. 9 post position for the Dirt Mile. John Velazquez has the mount.
“The Factor, Shackleford and Tapizar are 1, 2 and 3, so they’re going to have to go, so we might get back further stalking them. We might be 10 lengths back if they go a half in 44 (seconds). You never know,” McLaughlin said. “It’s a great post position because we don’t have to be involved in all of that. We’re out in the clear.”
Trappe Shot won a pair of stakes this year before being beaten a nose in the A. G. Vanderbilt at Saratoga and finishing a troubled fourth in the Vosburgh at Belmont.
“We just have to win one of these Grade 1s, because he’s a Grade 1 horse, but he hasn’t won one of those yet,” McLaughlin said.
Wilburn – Stonestreet Stables’ Dirt Mile contender enters Saturday’s event on a three-race win streak, the most recent of which came in the Indiana Derby, a race in which he stalked the early pace before rallying through on the rail.
“Julien (jockey Leparoux) got a dream trip in the Indiana Derby,” trainer Steve Asmussen said. “The door was open for him, but he definitely stormed through it. You can get a good trip, but he looked good with the good trip. I like the acceleration he showed.
“I think the trip is extremely important with him. He’s a great big horse, bit, tall and leggy. His confidence is exactly where you’d want it to be coming into a race like this, so we feel good about it.”