04/29/2007 12:00AM

Cowtown Cat works, gallops out well


LEXINGTON, Ky. – Saturday was the calm before the storm, in terms of final Kentucky Derby workouts as only one prospective member of the starting lineup, Cowtown Cat, turned in a recorded work, which came over the Polytrack surface at Keeneland. Things will heat up Sunday and Monday, when more than half the Derby field is scheduled to work at four different venues – Keeneland, Belmont Park, Hollywood Park, and Churchill Downs. The final Derby worker should be the likely favorite, Street Sense, who is currently penciled in to breeze at Churchill Downs on Tuesday morning.

One of the biggest handicapping dilemmas during the recently concluded Keeneland meeting was deciding whether there was a bias against horses racing near the rail over the Polytrack. Those who believe there was, might also ascribe to a similar theory for morning workouts that take place over the same surface.

After timing dozens of horses at Keeneland on Saturday it became obvious that the going was slower near the inside, even over a very fast Polytrack surface. That factor is certainly worth noting in assessing both the Derby and Oaks trials that took place in Lexington that morning.

Cowtown Cat (five furlongs in 58.80 seconds): The lone Derby worker, Cowtown Cat, went in company with his stablemate Magnificent Song, an older Grade 1-winning turf filly who has been training extremely rapidly over the Polytrack. Regular exercise rider Loren Robson was aboard Cowtown Cat for trainer Todd Pletcher.

Cowtown Cat broke off about a half-length behind Magnificent Song, with the pair going away easily down the backstretch and into the turn through fractions of 12.37 and 24.39 seconds. The two were on even terms approaching the stretch, at which point both fanned well out towards the middle of the track, with Cowtown Cat grabbing a short advantage coming out of the turn. With Robson giving him only a couple of nudges nearing the eighth pole and again approaching the wire, Cowtown Cat held his short lead as both gradually angled back down towards the inner and deeper part of the track. The pair covered the final quarter-mile in 23.05 seconds and galloped out extremely well, most notably Cowtown Cat who was up in 1:11.26.

Pletcher’s three other Derby runners – Scat Daddy, Any Given Saturday, and Circular Quay – were all scheduled to work at Keeneland on Sunday. All three were out Saturday morning. Any Given Saturday made a striking appearance galloping in draw reins in an obvious attempt to keep him from doing too much the day before his important final Derby prep.

Cotton Blossom, Octave work for Oaks

Pletcher also sent out two of his three Oaks entrants, Cotton Blossom and Octave, to work at Keeneland on Saturday.

Cotton Blossom was the first of the pair to breeze. She worked five furlongs in 1:00.45 and galloped out six furlongs in 1:13.02 in company with Twilight Meteor, from whom she drew away readily and very easily while staying out near the middle of the racetrack for much of the drill.

Octave, on the other hand, was right along the rail when she went five-eighths in 59.33 in company with Mini Sermon. At first glance, the work seemed a bit disappointing, as Octave had trouble overtaking her workmate, a recent maiden winner, despite being put to slight urging near the end. But taking into consideration that she was down in the deepest part of the track, that the pair got their last quarter mile in 23 seconds flat, and that Octave galloped out another eighth in 12 seconds (1:11.29), there is reason to believe the work was probably a lot better than it looked.

Six Oaks hopefuls also worked at Churchill Downs, led by Eclipse Award winner Dreaming of Anna, who went a bullet five-eighths in 58.60 seconds, but under urging from jockey Jermaine Bridgmohan.

Chelokee looks sharp

For those in the process of tearing up their Kentucky Derby Future Wager tickets on Chelokee, who won’t be running in the Derby, it might be worth noting the lightly raced but promising 3-year-old couldn’t have looked better working a half-mile in 47.48 seconds and galloping out five furlongs in 59.19 at Keeneland on Saturday.