04/29/2008 12:00AM

Clocker report 4/29: Big Brown glides over track


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - With the majority of the final Derby prep works in the books, Tuesday's appearance of the undefeated Big Brown took center stage during training hours at Churchill Downs. And what an appearance the probable Derby favorite made when he set foot over the Churchill Downs surface for the first time immediately after the renovation break.

Aside from Big Brown, much of the attention on a cold, crisp morning revolved around Tale of Ekati's final Derby workout as dawn broke over the twin spires and Colonel John's return to the racetrack 48 hours after Sunday's eye-catching, five-furlong drill.

Work of the day

Tale of Ekati (four furlongs in 49.45 seconds) - Like his stablemate Big Truck the previous morning, Tale of Ekati came out on the track equipped with rings and wearing a blanket to keep his hindquarters protected from the biting cold.

After loosening up with an easy jog back past the finish line, Tale of Ekati reversed direction and took a good run up to the half-mile pole, giving the impression he was going to waste little time setting right off into the work. But exercise rider Kristen Troxell quickly settled Tale of Ekati into a smooth, rhythmic stride, slowing him down to an opening furlong in 12.64 seconds.

The Wood Memorial winner gradually began to pick up the pace while still hard held around the turn, changed leads willingly, and appeared visually to have come down the stretch a lot quicker than his 24.89-second split from the quarter pole to the wire, which was accomplished without any urging from Troxell. He continued on strongly around the clubhouse turn, galloping out five furlongs in 1:02.82.

Halo Najib (five furlongs on the turf in 1:05.08) - Now first on the waiting list to get into the Derby field, Halo Najib continues to prep on the grass for a more likely appearance in Friday's Crown Royal American Turf. With jockey Kent Desormeaux aboard, Halo Najib breezed an easy opening three furlongs around the dogs in 41.06 seconds before completing his final quarter-mile under some moderate pressure in 24.02 while switching back to his left lead approaching the wire.

Anybody with a pre-conceived notion of trying to beat Big Brown on Saturday might want to reconsider after watching the gorgeous colt train over this racetrack for the first time Tuesday. In what could be called nothing short of a perfect morning, Big Brown looked awesome as he broke off under exercise rider Michelle Nevin near the six-furlong pole and simply glided over the racetrack while full of energy and seemingly oblivious to his new surroundings. Changing leads right on cue on every turn and moving fluidly for a horse of his stature, Big Brown was the picture of class while exuding the same type of confidence trainer Rick Dutrow has displayed since his horse won his 3-year-old debut earlier this winter at Gulfstream Park.

After working five furlongs in 57.61 seconds Sunday, Colonel John's next several mornings need to be monitored closely to see if the impressive but extremely fast work took any toll on the one horse many experts believe could give Big Brown his sternest test on Derby Day. But there was little to learn in that regard Tuesday, with "The Colonel" merely jogging once around the racetrack alongside a pony.

Like Colonel John, trainer Bill Mott's Derby duo of Court Vision and Z Humor went back to the track for the first time since working Sunday, although, unlike Colonel John, both put in vigorous gallops, giving their riders all they could handle to keep from doing too much. No doubt these two have bounced out of their works in splendid fashion.

Gayego also continues to make a favorable impression, galloping Tuesday morning for the first time since working five furlongs over a wet track Saturday.