04/28/2004 12:00AM

Clocker report - Most Derby work now done


Track: Fast
Weather: Sunny
Temp: 54

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Most of the important work for Saturday's Run for the Roses has been done. Over the next 72 hours the major focus for the majority of the 20 Derby starters is to keep them happy, keep them healthy, and perhaps hone a few of the rough edges with schooling sessions at the starting gate and in the paddock.

Three trainers chose to put their Derby runners a little more on edge with short, quick works Wednesday. Action This Day and Song of the Sword breezed three furlongs apiece, and Imperialism blew out a quarter-mile through the stretch.

Among the gate schoolers were Smarty Jones and Friends Lake, both of whom must gain final approval from starter Roger Nagle or face the consequences of being the first to load regardless of post position in the Derby.

Work of the day

Action This Day (three furlongs in 35.28 seconds) - Began with a couple of 12-second eighths, then finished strong, getting his final furlong in 11.20 while under little pressure. Liked the good finish, but a bit concerned by the way he drifted out into the five or six path coming off the turn.

Song of the Sword (three furlongs in 35.77) - Made his first appearance over the track after shipping from Keeneland the previous afternoon. He did not look real smooth as he galloped around to the pole, but leveled off nicely once set down on the turn, going in fractions of 11.52, and 23.87 while under a tight hold by exercise rider Kevin Grau. Galloped out a half-mile in 49.52.

Imperialism warmed up briefly in the mile chute, galloped around to the quarter pole, drifted wide while beginning to pick up the pace leaving the turn, then stretched his legs a bit from the top of the lane to the wire under the guidance of trainer and exercise rider Kristin Mulhall. He strode out well once he angled back to the rail in early stretch.

Morning line Derby favorites The Cliff's Edge and Smarty Jones were out on the track at the same time Wednesday, and proved a contrast in styles.

The Cliff's Edge couldn't have been more relaxed and in rhythm as he galloped once around the mile oval, head down, under exercise rider Maxine Correa.

Smarty Jones, on the other hand, was once again very aggressive during his gallop, although not quite as over the top as the previous morning. He also was on his toes and a bit of a handful at the starting gate.

Last week Wimbledon appeared somewhat uncomfortable during his morning gallops. But after a very sharp work over a sloppy track Sunday and a couple of easy days jogging and walking the shed, he looked like a different horse, with a brilliant 1 1/2-mile gallop immediately after the renovation break.

Friends Lake returned to the starting gate for the second day in a row and was vastly improved over the previous morning, loading three separate times without a hint of an incident.