Updated on 09/16/2011 7:14AM

Came Home wows McCarron


Chris McCarron was sitting on an airplane in Louisville late Tuesday morning, a plane that would take him to Cincinnati where he would then catch a connecting flight to his home in Southern California.

Judging by the enthusiasm in his voice over the phone, McCarron could have gotten home without the aid of a jet airliner.

McCarron had flown to Louisville to get on Santa Anita Derby winner Came Home, who Tuesday morning worked for the May 4 Kentucky Derby. After guiding him six furlongs in 1:12.60 around the Churchill Downs oval, McCarron was ecstatic with the way his horse is coming up to the race and is looking forward to try to win his third Kentucky Derby.

"He got across the ground beautifully," said McCarron, who barely moved a muscle on Came Home while keeping him in the three or four path down the lane. "He was very efficient. I was impressed with his work. I liked it very much."

Came Home was one of three Derby hopefuls to work at Churchill Downs on a crisp, sunny morning in Louisville. Wood Memorial runner-up and Blue Grass third-place finisher Ocean Sound also breezed.

In Ireland, the Aidan O'Brien-trained duo of Johannesburg and Castle Gandolfo put in five-furlong workouts over the turf at Ballydoyle. They are scheduled to have one more breeze in Ireland before shipping to Kentucky on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the list of Derby hopefuls was at 25 Tuesday, as trainer Nick Zito has not totally ruled out Lexington runner-up Crimson Hero should the opportunity present itself. "Right now, it's 75-25 heading to the Preakness, 25-75 heading to the Derby," said Zito, noting that Crimson Hero's late-running style would suit a Derby with plenty of speed.

Crimson Hero would rank 22nd on the graded stakes earnings list - the determining factor in narrowing the Derby field to its maximum of 20. Windward Passage (21), U S S Tinosa, Sunday Break, and Red Masque, in order, also remain on the outside looking in.

has won five graded stakes, the most of any Derby contender. His victory in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby on April 6 looked like a rigorous effort. But what pleased McCarron most on Tuesday was the way Came Home felt underneath him.

"The good news is his work last Tuesday at Santa Anita and again this morning have shown me the Santa Anita Derby did not strip him," said McCarron. "There was some concern in the back of my mind - because he was a little short in the Santa Anita Derby - that that race may have taken its toll; rather than tighten the screws, it might have made him peak that day. All indications I'm getting are giving me a lot of confidence."

The knock on Came Home is that his pedigree suggests he will not be able to handle the 10 furlongs of the Derby. When it was suggested that Came Home might have the heart and courage to overcome a sprint-oriented pedigree, McCarron said, "You left out one important thing - talent. Heart, courage, and determination are all terrific. When you combine that with raw talent, it's lethal."

McCarron said trainer Paco Gonzalez would like him to return Monday to work Came Home.

About 20 minutes after he worked Came Home, McCarron climbed aboard Ocean Sound for trainer James Cassidy. McCarron guided Ocean Sound through a seven-furlong move in 1:28.20, a move that McCarron felt was lacking.

"He went okay, it wasn't a real stellar work," McCarron said. "He didn't feel like he handled the track as well as Came Home did. He worked 20 minutes later, and the track was pretty cut up by the time he got out there. From my vantage point, he was at a disadvantage because of the condition of the track. The track was in good shape immediately after the break. Later on, there was a lot of traffic out there. It was pretty cut up. The chances of him getting a fast work over the track were compromised."

Cassidy said he wasn't worried so much about the time, adding, "it was a good stamina work for him." Cassidy said Ocean Sound would likely blow out three furlongs next Wednesday or Thursday.

Medaglia d'Oro, who was beaten a head by Buddha in the Wood Memorial, went an easy five furlongs in 1:01.40 under exercise rider Marco Ramirez. Trainer Bobby Frankel said he was pleased with the move, adding, "I didn't want to do too much. He had a hard race the other day."

O'Brien runners may stay at Keeneland

In Ireland, Johannesburg, the Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner and Eclipse Award winning 2-year-old, went five furlongs in 1:02 on the turf, according to O'Brien. Johannesburg followed a lead horse around the course, passing him in the stretch.

Castle Gandolfo, a group stakes winner on turf who is 1 for 1 on dirt, worked five furlongs in 1:04, according to O'Brien.

"We're very happy with the way they're working and training at the minute," O'Brien said.

With no quarantine facilities established at Churchill Downs, Johannesburg and Castle Gandolfo will have to do their quarantine time at Keeneland in Lexington, Ky. O'Brien said "it's possible" both horses would remain at Keeneland until the day before or morning of the Derby. Unlike the Breeders' Cup, which stipulates horses be on the grounds of the host track 24 hours out, Derby horses don't have to be at Churchill until 10 a.m. Derby morning.

"We don't want to be shifting too much," O'Brien said. "They have a long flight on Tuesday."

O'Brien said both horses would put in their final workouts on Saturday.

* U S S Tinosa is scheduled to arrive from California on Wednesday or Thursday. Saarland and Blue Burner, who both came out of their Belmont Park works Monday in good order, are also due to arrive at Churchill on Thursday.

- additional reporting by Marty McGee