04/20/2009 11:00PM

Baffert out for more glory

Reed Palmer/Churchill Downs
Trainer Bob Baffert's Pioneerof the Nile handles the dirt at Churchill Downs without any problems Tuesday, going six furlongs in 1:13.52 with exercise rider Joe Steiner up.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Bob Baffert spent his first morning at the racetrack as Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert on Tuesday at Churchill Downs, watching with delight as Pioneerof the Nile turned in an impressive-looking workout in preparation for the 135th Kentucky Derby on May 2.

Pioneerof the Nile was one of five potential Kentucky Derby starters to work on a cold, overcast morning at Churchill Downs over a drying-out racetrack that was labeled fast but was on the laboring side following two days of soaking rains.

Joining Pioneerof the Nile on Tuesday's work tab were Wood Memorial winner I Want Revenge, Santa Anita Derby runner-up Chocolate Candy, trainer D. Wayne Lukas's Flying Private, and Flat Out who at the moment does not have enough graded earnings to get into the Derby field.

But it was Baffert, whose election to the Hall of Fame was announced Monday, and Pioneerof the Nile who were the center of attention Tuesday. Although one of the leading candidates in this year's Derby field, Pioneerof the Nile's eight previous starts have come on either turf or synthetic surfaces, and he had never worked on a dirt surface other than the Oklahoma training track at Saratoga prior to Tuesday.

Baffert was convinced that making the switch from synthetics to dirt would not be an issue for Pioneerof the Nile, and that notion was confirmed following Tuesday's workout, which came immediately after the renovation break. With exercise rider Joe Steiner aboard, Pioneerof the Nile broke off at the five-furlong pole and worked to the wire in 1:00.76, according to Daily Racing Form. Track clockers caught him in 1:00.80. The son of Empire Maker then continued out around the turn to complete six furlongs in 1:13.52, according to the Racing Form. Baffert said the colt actually breezed a full seven-eighths of a mile.

"It was a stiff work but wasn't hard on him," Baffert said. "And I loved the way he went. He just skipped over the surface. The track was a little deeper this morning because of the rain we'd had, but he seemed to take to it fine. I haven't seen any difference in him yet between the synthetics and this surface. I just don't think that's going to be an issue. I didn't want to work him in company this morning, because we weren't looking to light up the board. He's already ready, and if I'd have put another horse with him, he'd have gone too fast. He's that competitive."

Baffert has won three Kentucky Derbies, the last in 2002 with War Emblem.

"It takes a combination of many things to win the Derby," Baffert said. "You need a really good horse with the right frame of mind who is on his game, healthy, capable of relaxing, and one that can handle a mile and one-quarter. And right now, I see all of that in this horse. The only question is whether he's fast enough. The rest depends on racing luck."

Baffert also said it may take him some time to get used to being referred to as a Hall of Fame trainer.

"That part really hasn't sunk in yet," Baffert said. "I'm not really comfortable being called a Hall of Famer just yet. But now that I'm in, I really need to win this Derby even more."

In other Derby developments:

* I Want Revenge, who could go postward as the slight favorite on Derby Day coming off his troubled and very impressive triumph in the Wood, broke off in company with stablemate Gato Go Win and worked five furlongs in 1:01.62, according to Daily Racing Form. Regular jockey Joe Talamo was aboard.

"The track was a little heavy, but he handled it good," trainer Jeff Mullins said. "We got done what we needed to do."

* Chocolate Candy worked a mile from the seven-furlong pole in 1:42.06 under his new rider Mike Smith. Like Pioneerof the Nile, Chocolate Candy has never raced on dirt, and Tuesday's workout marked the first time he'd even worked over anything other than a synthetic surface.

"I wanted to see what he could do over this racetrack and I'm very happy," trainer Jerry Hollendorfer said. "He handled the turns and the dirt fine."

* Flying Private will be trainer D. Wayne Lukas's 43rd Derby starter and first since Going Wild in 2005. Flying Private worked five furlongs in 1:01.20 with Robby Albarado aboard. Albarado will ride Flying Private for the first time in the Derby.

"I was real pleased with his work, and the big thing was that Robby was able to test drive him," Lukas said.

* Flat Out, the only potential Derby candidate to work prior to the renovation break on Tuesday, went five furlongs in 1:03.26. Flat Out is currently 27th on the graded earnings list.

* Calvin Borel has picked up the mount on Mine That Bird for trainer Bennie Wooley Jr. Mine That Bird vanned to Churchill Downs from Dallas on Tuesday. Square Eddie also arrived on the grounds late Tuesday afternoon, following his third-place finish in Saturday's Coolmore Lexington Stakes at Keeneland.

* Trainer Todd Pletcher said that Advice, last-to-first winner of the Lexington, would ship to Churchill Downs on Wednesday and work here Monday morning. A decision on whether Advice will run in the Derby will be made following that workout.

* Mr. Hot Stuff, who finished third in the Santa Anita Derby, worked six furlongs in 1:12.20 at Santa Anita on Monday. Trainer Eoin Harty said Mr. Hot Stuff would be flown to Kentucky on Thursday.