Updated on 09/16/2011 8:13AM

Cashel Castle cool, calm - and fast


CICERO, Ill. - Cashel Castle cut a lonely gray figure Tuesday morning at Sportsman's Park, where he had his final workout before racing Saturday in the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs. Breezing just before 10 a.m., Cashel Castle had a smoothly groomed Sportsman's surface almost to himself, and he skipped comfortably over it while recording a four-furlong work in 48.20 seconds. Cashel Castle, ridden in the work by jockey Eddie Razo, galloped out five furlongs in about 1:01.60, trainer Chris Block said.

"He galloped out better than usual," Block said. "This horse knows where the wire is. The work was just what I wanted. I told Eddie I wanted a sharp work, but not too fast."

comes off the biggest win of his career, an easy score in the Grade 3 Lafayette Stakes at Keeneland, his fifth win in as many career starts. His unbeaten streak goes on the line Saturday - when he will be ridden by Pat Day - in a field the quality of which Cashel Castle has never seen. But Cashel Castle, owned by the Sandbar Farm of Barry Buchholz, has met every challenge thrown at him so far. The five wins have come at five different tracks, and in the Lafayette, Cashel Castle, a stalker, overcame a speed-biased Keeneland surface and trouble on the turn to win on his own.

The 35-year-old Block, cautious and patient, says he feels the pressure of training an unbeaten 3-year-old. Moreover, it was his call, with the consent of Cashel Castle's owner, to resist the temptation of pushing Cashel Castle onto the Triple Crown trail. Block didn't want to rush his colt, who has not yet convinced Block that he has the stamina for route races. Fortunately, Cashel Castle's demeanor is as laid-back as Block's.

"I do get a little jittery with this horse, wanting him to do well," Block said. "But I take my cue from him. He doesn't care. Nothing bothers him. You come into the barn at 7 a.m. and there's commotion all around, and he's lying down in his stall, sleeping."

Not many to beat

The Louisiana turf treated her well last month. Now let's see how Vitamin Bag likes the Cicero dirt.

Vitamin Bag is part of a short field in Thursday's nominal feature at Sportsman's Park, and though she has faced only Louisiana-bred opponents during her three-race career, Vitamin Bag is the probable favorite in this one-mile, first-level allowance.

This is the last of three Thursday cards added to the Sportsman's schedule after programs were lost to bad weather earlier in the meet.

While Sportsman's was snow-bound, Vitamin Bag was taking advantage of her statebred status to win a one-mile turf maiden race at Fair Grounds by more than 12 lengths. Vitamin Bag, owned by Barbara Serio and trained by Gene Cilio, beat weak opposition that day. She ran a strong race in her career debut, a dirt sprint, and missed by only a neck. Vitamin Bag bled in her second race, which excuses a fifth-place finish.

Vitamin Bag, who will be ridden by Ray Sibille, has worked twice since shipping north, a pair of solid five-furlong breezes at Hawthorne.

Manicured is another contender in the six-horse field. Manicured was second at this level here in her last race, finishing a head in front of return rival Turbo Robo.

Hey Hey Sunny was claimed in her last start by Mike Reavis, who is running away with the Sportsman's trainers' title.

Plans uncertain for Hail the Chief

Hail the Chief, the impressive winner of Saturday's National Jockey Club Handicap, is back at trainer Niall O'Callaghan's Churchill Downs base and has come out of his win in good shape.

"He came back Sunday morning," O'Callaghan said Monday. "He looks pretty good."

O'Callaghan said Hail the Chief would be nominated to several upcoming handicap races, but could not say with certainty where the horse would next race.

"We haven't really geared down with him yet," said O'Callaghan.

Hail the Chief, a European import who made his first U.S. start in December, set a fast pace in the NJC Handicap and won by more than 11 lengths, earning a 110 Beyer. It was Hail the Chief's second win in this country and the first time he had run in a stakes here. In his previous start, Hail the Chief was second behind 2000 2-year-old champion Macho Uno in a Gulfstream allowance.

But O'Callaghan wants more information before deciding just where Hail the Chief fits in the handicap division.

"I certainly felt the horse fit in the race going in, but I was surprised with the performance," he said of the NJC Handicap. "Whatever he does the next race will help tell me what level of ability he has."

- A field of seven is expected in Saturday's $100,000 National Jockey Club Oaks, a race that apparently will lack a standout. The Kentucky shipper First Again could be favored in the Oaks.