Graham Motion shrugs his shoulders when asked, then offers, as usual, a dirt-honest appraisal of his horse, Went the Day Well.

"He's a good horse, deserves to be here," the trainer of last year's Kentucky Derby winner, Animal Kingdom, said about his entrant in the 138th running of the Triple Crown's first leg. "We'll find out if he's good enough to win it."

It takes a few seconds, but Motion then realizes it: he didn't feel much differently about Animal Kingdom, who was 20-1, prior to last year's race. Animal Kingdom surprised even Motion with his late speed and competitiveness, and Went the Day Well — along with about 12 other horses — could blossom the same way Saturday.




Motion, who lives and trains in Fair Hill, is clearly enjoying his return to Churchill Downs. He tweeted a picture of the track upon his arrival Wednesday morning, and has been sought out by reporters and fans.

What has changed most for him is just how many people stop to ask him what has changed. But he admits that winning the Derby seems less improbable but no less daunting now, equating it to a climber who has surmounted Mt. Everest. He knows he can do it. And he knows exactly how hard it will be to do again.

"It doesn't seem quite so lofty," he said. "I think I was quoted last year as saying I didn't even think it was reasonable to make it a goal. … But now we've done it. Certainly in that respect it makes it a little more realistic, if you like. But I also realize that the challenge of doing it again, so many things have to go right."

Went the Day Well followed a similar path to Animal Kingdom, breaking his maiden just a few weeks before winning the Turfway Spiral and proving to Motion and the ownership group, Team Valor International, that he was worthy of a Derby trip. His development was slowed earlier this year when, upon being shipped to Florida after being purchased in Europe, Went the Day Well was quarantined for two weeks. That put Motion's training behind, and he's taking the unusual step of having the colt race with blinkers on for the first time Saturday.

"He's still a little immature," he said. "He's been so green in his last couple of races. It goes against what I would normally do, to put blinkers on a horse for the first time in the biggest race of his life. I really believe we're going to do it down the road. It'd be a shame — we'd kick ourselves — if we hadn't done it Saturday."

John Velazquez will have the ride, as he did with Animal Kingdom, and the trio of jockey, trainer and ownership group is trying to become the first to win the Derby in consecutive years since 1972-73, when Ron Turcotte, Lucien Laurin and Meadow Farm did it with Riva Ridge and Secretariat.

Napravnik out

A year after finishing ninth aboard Pants on Fire, the best finish ever by a female jockey in the Kentucky Derby, Rosie Napravnik does not have a ride. She was supposed to ride Mark Valeski, but the colt was pulled from the race because trainer Larry Jones did not think he could compete.

"This is a very deep field," he said. "We feel like we belong with them, but there's going to be a horse that runs 15th that's a very good horse. It's not like you just go out there and hope that if Union Rags gets a bad trip, then we win."

It does not appear that Mark Valeski will be a candidate for the Preakness at Pimlico. He's being pointed to Grade II Peter Pan Stakes at Belmont on May 12, setting him up for a possible run at the Belmont.

Napravnik, who went to high school at Hereford and began her career in Maryland, is scheduled to ride a Jones-trained filly, Believe You Can, in the Oaks on Friday. She finished second in that race last year.

Galloping out

Rachel Alexandra, the 2009 Preakness winner, is a mother. Her yet-to-be-named colt — he goes by "Taco" at Stonestreet Farm in Lexington — was sired by Curlin, the two-time horse of the year. He'd be eligible to chase the 2015 Triple Crown. … Optimizer took the spot vacated by Mark Valeski, giving trainer D. Wayne Lukas a chance for his fifth Kentucky Derby win. … Churchill Downs has, for the first time, an also-eligible list for the Kentucky Derby. My Adonis has officially entered, but would only run if another horse was scratched.

ckorman@baltsun.com

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