04/29/2007 11:00PM

Curlin looks like Derby favorite should


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - With Keeneland and the Polytrack finally in the rear-view mirror, Churchill Downs had the look and feel of the Kentucky Derby for the first time Monday morning with eight potential starters getting in their final major preps, including the undefeated Curlin, who may vie for favoritism Saturday with Street Sense.

The temperature remained unseasonably warm and the track was on the fast side for a series of works that showed the many different ways trainers choose to prepare their horses for the Kentucky Derby.

Work of the day

Curlin (four furlongs in 48.46 seconds): Anybody looking for a reason to knock the lightly raced Curlin from a physical standpoint will be hard-pressed to find one after watching the inexperienced but imposing colt work on Monday. Making another grand appearance and with his chestnut coat glistening as dawn broke over Churchill Downs, Curlin was a picture of health as he made his way, head bowed, to the half-mile pole under exercise rider Carmen Rosas. Curlin broke off well within himself, getting an opening quarter in 24.58, fanned a bit wide off the turn, then picked up the pace without any urging, coming home his final furlong in 11.97 while straight as a string down the stretch. He galloped out another strong eighth of a mile in 12 and change before continuing on nicely with a double gallop-out time of six furlongs in 1:17.70. Hard to fault him on anything seen this past week.

Zanjero (four furlongs in 48.34): Nearly a carbon copy of Curlin's work from start to finish with Rosas again aboard. Did post a slightly faster three-furlong fraction than Curlin (35.84) and did not finish or gallop out quite as strong (five furlongs in 1:02.02 compared with Curlin's 1:01.43 clocking), although he did it with little or no urging and gives the impression he's coming into the race in top form.

Hard Spun (five furlongs in 57.53): Certainly the most talked about work of the day. With jockey Mario Pino aboard, Hard Spun went in company with Wildcat Bettie B, a Grade 1-winning sprinter who like Hard Spun hails from the barn of trainer Larry Jones. The pair came away from the pole full of run and had the clockers' watches smoking after posting opening fractions of 10.88 and 22.00. Hard Spun had already begun to separate himself from his mate approaching the quarter pole and continued to pour it on despite fanning wide and while under little urging from his rider. By the time Hard Spun reached the eighth pole in 44.52, Wildcat Bettie B had been left in the dust. But the early pace took its toll on Hard Spun and he needed 13.01 to complete his final furlong while under steady urging, then had little left for a gallop out that saw him pull up six furlongs in 1:12.97. As was the case with Liquidity and Cobalt Blue on Friday, fast times don't necessarily make the best works, and while Hard Spun seemed within himself at least for the opening half-mile, it remains to be seen what kind of toll this type of work will take on a young horse who must come back and run 1 1/4 miles five days later.

Storm in May (three furlongs in 35.82): In sharp contrast to Hard Spun's final Derby prep, Storm in May two-minute-licked five furlongs before blowing out a solid three furlongs down the lane under regular rider Juan Leyva. Unlike most of the day's other workers, Storm in May clung tightly to the rail into and through the stretch, galloping out a half in 49.09.

Bwana Bull (six furlongs in 1:14.43): Went along at a fairly even pace, although he did tire slightly despite getting several light taps of encouragement from jockey Javier Castellano through the latter stages of his work.

Sedgefield (four furlongs in 48.46): With Julian Leparoux aboard and blinkers on, Sedgefield broke off two lengths behind stablemate Bacetto, was allowed to slip inside while reaching even terms entering the stretch, but was hard-pressed just to stay on even terms with his partner, who had trainer Darrin Miller in the saddle. Although Sedgefield was under no real urging to finish, neither was Bacetto, a 4-year-old who only recently had won a first-level allowance on the turf.

Imawildandcrazyguy (three furlongs in 36.31): Pretty much a carbon copy of stablemate Storm in May's work, a three-furlong blowout down the stretch after two-minute-licking his opening five furlongs under Leyva. Still a longshot to make the Derby lineup.

Reporting for Duty (five furlongs in 1:01.63): Started fast, weakened some at the end and did not gallop out particularly well. Like Imawildandcrazyguy, not expected to be among the 20 starters on Saturday.

All times clocked by Daily Racing Form unless noted otherwise.