04/25/2008 11:00PM

Clocker's Report 4/26: A muddy morning


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - As predicted all week, the sun and unseasonably warm weather that bathed Churchill Downs for the past several days was gone, replaced by cooler temperatures and light showers that certainly affected training here Saturday morning. The racetrack was officially termed sloppy when Pyro came out in the first set at 6 a.m. but had been upgraded to muddy by the time the day's only local Kentucky Derby worker, Gayego, made his way onto the track following the renovation break nearly three hours later.

Gayego was one of three Derby candidates to work Saturday along with trainer Todd Pletcher's twosome of Cowboy Cal and Monba at Keeneland.

Gayego (five furlongs in 1:00.76) - Trainer Paolo Lobo and jockey Mike Smith had to catch a flight back to Southern California immediately after Gayego's work. And it must have been an early flight, judging from the way Smith wasted little time turning Gayego around and getting right to business after the pair had jogged little more than an eighth of a mile upon entering the racetrack from the six-furlong chute.

Gayego had almost no run-up when breaking off at the five-furlong marker but still managed to complete an opening eighth in 12.13 seconds while settling into a nice smooth stride, with Smith just niggling the Arkansas Derby winner a bit to keep him about his business into the far turn. Gayego went along at a fairly even and relaxed pace thereafter, switching leads on cue and coming home his final quarter in 24.43 with Smith barely moving until raising up in the irons once the pair had crossed the finish line. Gayego galloped out willingly in 1:14.29.

It was not the type of work that would wow anybody a week before the main event, but was certainly more than enough to keep Gayego under consideration as one of the top contenders in this year's Derby.

It's highly unlikely Kentucky Bear will get into the Derby field, but his work should have wowed anybody who had the opportunity to see him breeze five furlongs in 59.51 just a couple of minutes behind Gayego on Saturday.

Under jockey Jamie Theriot, Kentucky Bear went off easily, posting fractions of 24.85 and 36.45 for the opening quarter and three-eighths, then flew home under almost no urging, completing his final quarter in 23:06. He then continued on strongly around the turn, galloping out six furlongs in 1:12.23 and double-galloping out seven-eighths in 1:25.42. The work in many ways resembled Street Sense's final tuneup before the 2007 Derby.

Cowboy Cal and Monba were a contrast in styles, according to the track clockers at Keeneland. Cowboy Cal worked five furlongs over the Polytrack in 1:00, finishing up extremely well and galloping out sharply around the turn, while Monba went his usual easy five-eighths in 1:02.60 while in company with stablemate Ready's Echo.

Trainer Larry Jones had his two Derby/Oaks fillies on the track for the first time since their arrival from Keeneland the previous morning. Both Eight Belles and Proud Spell moved nicely over the wet track in preparation for scheduled works on Sunday, and left railbirds speculating as to the meaning, if any, of Eight Belles training in an Oaks saddle towel and Proud Spell with a Derby towel.

Pyro had another good morning, galloping 1 1/2 miles before dawn. Trainer Bill Mott's Derby duo, Z Humor and Court Vision, also appeared to handle the wet strip nicely, the latter having the opportunity to gallop alongside Curlin for about an eighth of a mile before leaving the reigning Horse of the Year in the rear-view mirror near the half-mile marker.

Trainer David Carroll has also been serving as the exercise rider for Denis of Cork while hoping for enough defections to get his horse into the Derby field.

Prepping for the Oaks, A to the Croft worked five furlongs in 1:00.13 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.36 after the break. Calvin Borel was little more than a passenger on A to the Croft, who completed her final quarter in 23:87 without any urging whatsoever from Borel, the jockey of reigning Derby champion Street Sense.