04/27/2008 11:00PM

Clocker report 4/28: Denis of Cork looks good


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Another cold morning at Churchill Downs, but fortunately the showers that had been predicted never materialized. That came as a relief to the five trainers who chose to roll the dice and stuck to their original schedules by waiting until Monday to give their Derby horses their final preps.

The most anticipated works of the day came early, with stablemates Z Fortune and Pyro breezing within minutes of one another just before dawn. The final work came late, more than three hours later, when Bob Black Jack had the racetrack nearly all to himself after awaiting the arrival of jockey Richard Migliore, who flew in on the red-eye from California specifically for the assignment.

Work of the day

Denis of Cork (four furlongs in 47.80 seconds) - When Denis of Cork took the track under jockey Calvin Borel immediately after the renovation break, trainer David Carroll was still unsure whether his horse would even make it into the Derby lineup. But Carroll's morning got better in a hurry, beginning with Denis of Cork's impressive half-mile workout and ending a couple of hours later with the news that Behindatthebar was out and Denis of Cork was definitely in the Derby field.

Under Borel's customarily patient handling, Denis of Cork was well reserved leaving the half-mile pole, completing an easy opening eighth- and quarter-mile in 12.92 and 24.97 seconds. Unlike the majority of his fellow Derby workers, who have fanned wide coming off Churchill Downs's tight final turn, Denis of Cork held the inner rail like he was attached to it, changing leads on cue and accelerating suddenly without need of prompting from his rider upon settling into the stretch. Although appearing to be travelling easily and well within himself, Denis of Cork shaded 23 for his final quarter, then galloped out another efficient furlong in 12.40 with Borel doing little but giving his mount a little pat on the neck as if to say "well done" as the pair entered the clubhouse turn.

With a win over the course and such a sharp final prep, Denis of Cork went from being on the outside looking in to a very viable Derby longshot within a matter of hours.

Pyro (four furlongs in 49.76) - Coming off a subpar performance in the Blue Grass, Pyro's connections and supporters had to be pleased to see the Louisiana Derby winner looking like his old self during a relatively slow but obviously orchestrated half-mile work.

Pyro was well held coming away from the half-mile pole while cruising through a leisurely opening furlong in 13.39. He began to accelerate when given a little more rein approaching the quarter pole and continued to quicken noticeably once settling into the stretch. Pyro breezed through a final quarter in 24.08 with exercise rider Dominic Terry sitting quietly to the finish line, after which he reached down and took a little more hold to prevent Pyro from doing too much even during the gallop-out.

Despite rumors to the contrary that surfaced late last week, Pyro appears to be flourishing, and as a result one should probably be willing to put a line through his Blue Grass performance and expect a much-improved showing on Derby Day.

Z Fortune (four furlongs in 51.06) - Coming off a career-best performance in the Arkansas Derby and several consecutive days of very strong gallops, Z Fortune was allowed to do even less than his stablemate in what amounted to not much more than an open gallop. Would have loved to have seen this impressive-looking colt do a little more, if for nothing else than to strengthen the notion that he's coming up to the Derby in terrific form.

Big Truck (five furlongs in 59.36) - Despite working in rings and with a blanket covering his hind quarters, Big Truck was motoring from the moment he broke off at the five-furlong pole, producing a few oohs and aahs from the clocker stand as he ripped off early fractions of 11.62, 23.10, 34.58, and 45.81 while under some mild encouragement around the turn. Big Truck was under no pressure down the stretch but, as might be expected, the early pace took its toll as he began to tire noticeably nearing the wire and while galloping out six furlongs in 1:14.10.

Visionaire (five furlongs in 1:01.33) - Working from the half-mile to the seven-eighths pole, Visionaire broke off approximately four to five lengths behind stablemate Novel Twist and had to cover his opening three furlongs in 35.39 to remain within striking distance of his partner through midstretch. Visionaire finally caught his workmate shortly past the finish line but was under some pressure to complete his final furlong around the turn in 13:04, then failed to sustain any real momentum while galloping around to the six-furlong marker at the top of the backstretch.

Bob Black Jack (four furlongs in 48.58) - Last but not least, Bob Black Jack finally came onto the racetrack at 9:30 a.m. and seemed to struggle at times over a course that had been well used following a busy training session. Not the prettiest mover, Bob Black Jack, working in blinkers, looked a bit awkward changing leads in early stretch and bobbled a couple of times near midstretch over the chewed-up strip. Finished willingly enough considering the prevailing conditions at the time, covering his final quarter in 24.28 before galloping out five furlongs in 1:02.13.