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California quartet goes to work
ARCADIA, Calif. - The countdown for the 132nd Kentucky Derby on May 6 began in earnest Monday, three time zones away from Churchill Downs, when four of the race's leading contenders, including probable favorite Brother Derek, turned in seven-furlong workouts at both Santa Anita and Hollywood Park.
Here at Santa Anita, Brother Derek was given an official time of 1:28.40 by track clockers, who mistakenly took Brother Derek from the seven-furlong pole, even though he had just broken away from the pony, did not begin the work in earnest until the 6 1/2-furlong pole, and went out an extra sixteenth past the wire - his usual routine. Dan Hendricks, Brother Derek's trainer, caught the Santa Anita Derby winner in a more realistic 1:27.
A little more than an hour later, Bob and John, the Wood Memorial winner, and Point Determined, the Santa Anita Derby runner-up, both worked for trainer Bob Baffert. Bob and John, working alone, was timed in 1:25. Point Determined, who went in company with stablemate Da Stoops, went slightly faster, 1:24.80.
Across town at Hollywood Park, A. P. Warrior was timed in 1:27.40 for trainer John Shirreffs.
Those works completed a hectic weekend for Derby horses that saw four other prospects work in Kentucky, one colt leap into the Derby field with a victory in the Lexington Stakes, and two contenders drop out, one tragically. The intended field for the Derby is more definitive than it was before last weekend, but there are still more than 20 3-year-olds pointing for the race. If more than the maximum 20 horses are entered on May 3, the field will be determined by earnings in graded stakes.
Because he is the Derby favorite, Brother Derek's work was the most significant of the past 48 hours. After breaking off by himself and slowly cruising through the first quarter-mile with jockey Alex Solis, he was joined by stablemate Littlebitofzip, who was awaiting his arrival at the 4 1/2-furlong mark. That gave Brother Derek a target, and a chance to have him get used to having dirt kicked in his face. Brother Derek went through the drill in workmanlike fashion, and while he did not get too aggressive with Solis, he didn't bear down and catch Littlebitofzip, either. Clockers rightly termed the work handily. Brother Derek had been given breezing designations in his drills the past two months.
"I think we put him to sleep a little," Hendricks said.
"Mission accomplished," said Solis, who was covered in dirt when he got off Brother Derek. "I need to take myself to a car wash now.
"He was real quiet the first part of the work," Solis added. "He got a lot of sand in his face. He grabbed the bit a little at the 4 1/2, but then he went nice and easy. I wanted to keep him relaxed. We don't need fast works now. We want to be fast on Saturday the sixth."
Hendricks said he would not decide until late Monday whether to ship Brother Derek to Kentucky on Tuesday, or wait until Thursday. Regardless, he will work once next week at Churchill Downs, probably on Monday.
Bob and John was impressive in his work. He quickly disposed of a worker who cut in on him midway through his drill, then cruised home with jockey Garrett Gomez.
"He loves a target," Baffert said.
Point Determined broke off behind Da Stoops and was under heavy pressure from jockey Victor Espinoza to pass him in the final furlong.
Although Espinoza was on Point Determined on Monday morning, Rafael Bejarano has the mount in the Derby. Espinoza will ride Sinister Minister, the Blue Grass Stakes winner, who traveled Monday by van from Keeneland to Churchill Downs.
Baffert, like Hendricks, was mulling when to travel. He could go with Brother Derek on Tuesday or Thursday, or wait until next Tuesday and join A. P. Warrior.
"I've always wanted to go in on top of the race, but I've never had the guts," Baffert said. "They've already shipped and won."
A. P. Warrior had Corey Nakatani aboard for his work. According to Shirreffs, A. P. Warrior broke off about eight lengths behind a stablemate and finished a length in front.
"He worked very well," Shirreffs said from Hollywood Park. "He's always trained well. I think he's a pretty fit horse. I'm just trying to keep him there."
Shirreffs said A. P. Warrior would work again on Sunday at Hollywood Park, then fly to Kentucky two days later.
At Churchill Downs on Monday, trainer Steve Asmussen's pair of Private Vow and Storm Treasure breezed five furlongs in company in 1:00.20, the best time at the distance. Shaun Bridgmohan will ride Private Vow. Asmussen said he will "let myself start thinking about" a jockey for Storm Treasure.
On Sunday, Barbaro breezed five furlongs in 1:01.40 at Keeneland for trainer Michael Matz, and Flashy Bull breezed a half-mile in 50.40 seconds on Keeneland's Polytrack training track for trainer Kiaran McLaughlin. Also on Sunday, the Todd Pletcher pair of Keyed Entry (five furlongs, 1:00.80) and Sunriver (six furlongs, 1:14.20) breezed at Churchill Downs. Pletcher announced that Patrick Valenzuela would ride Keyed Entry. Ramon Dominguez is expected to get the mount on Bluegrass Cat.
On Saturday at Keeneland, Showing Up earned a Derby berth with a victory in the Lexington, in which he earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 99. He arrived at trainer Barclay Tagg's Belmont Park barn at 3:30 Monday morning following a 13 1/2-hour van ride from Lexington. Tagg said he shipped Showing Up back to New York because he wanted the colt with him - all his horses are in New York - and Showing Up came out of the race with a small puncture wound on his right leg. Tagg suspects it may have happened when Showing Up was bumped at the start of the Lexington.
"You're concerned about it because it's a hole in the hollow part of their leg and debris can go down in there and you don't know what's down in there," Tagg said. "We flushed it out as good as we could and right after the race we dressed it pretty good and we dressed it first thing the next morning, put sterile bandages on it and all that kind of stuff. But all of a sudden that thing can get infected and take off on you and then you're in big trouble."
Tagg said he would need five days to make a definite decision, but would run Showing Up in the Derby "if he's acting real good, and he's eating real good, and if he comes out of it quickly."
If Showing Up runs in the Derby, he will not return to Kentucky until May 4.
Showing Up has won all three of his starts. He is owned by Roy and Gretchen Jackson, who also own Barbaro.
Like Now, who finished second in the Lexington, was taken out of consideration for the Derby by McLaughlin, his trainer, who said Like Now would be pointed for the Preakness on May 20. In addition, the prospective Derby field lost Lane's End Stakes winner With a City, who died over the weekend.
That left Mister Triester as the 20th horse on the graded earnings list. Mister Triester is scheduled to run Saturday in the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs. The colt's owner,
B. Wayne Hughes, did not discount a possible Kentucky Derby run when informed on Monday that Mister Triester was now in the top 20.
"We're going to run in the Derby Trial, and then see after that," Hughes said.
Seaside Retreat, currently 19th, will have his status determined after a workout on Thursday at Churchill Downs, trainer Mark Casse said.
- additional reporting by David Grening and Marty McGee