04/21/2010 12:00AM

Don't let Wood flop fool you

Barbara D. Livingston
Awesome Act (left) and jockey Julien Leparoux prepare to train at Churchill Downs on Tuesday along with stablemate Peace Town.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The excuses that some trainers and jockeys give their horses for disappointing races can be rather flimsy, with traffic and track surface ranking among the most popular culprits.

But when Awesome Act regressed from a visually sensational win in the Gotham Stakes to finish a distant third behind Eskendereya in the April 3 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct, there may have been a reasonable explanation for the subpar effort: The colt lost a shoe at the break and never seemed completely comfortable to jockey Julien Leparoux.

"Have you ever had a flat tire on your car?" Leparoux asked Tuesday morning at Churchill Downs after breezing Awesome Act. "It's about the same. Your car doesn't run as good."

As one of the more highly regarded fringe contenders behind favorites Eskendereya and Lookin At Lucky for the 136th Kentucky Derby on May 1, Awesome Act and his Wood performance are coming under close scrutiny from horsemen and fans. Sent away the 5-2 second choice, Awesome Act stumbled at the break, with a rear hoof striking the right front hoof at such an angle that the shoe came off. A vivid photograph of the shoe falling off can be seen on various websites.

"I didn't really notice it happening at the time," said Leparoux. But when his mount failed to settle behind the pace as well as he had in the March 6 Gotham, which Awesome Act won with a flourish, Leparoux now believes in hindsight that running with only three shoes may have bothered Awesome Act.

"He was pulling," said Leparoux. "That hadn't been a problem before. He has always been very relaxed behind horses. He lets the dirt hit him and just waits to make his run."

Awesome Act is a Kentucky-bred by Awesome Again who began his career with five races in Britain, where his trainer, Jeremy Noseda, is based. Awesome Act was fourth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf in his American debut and has since had two races at 3, winning the Gotham by 1 1/4 lengths before finishing 9 3/4 lengths behind Eskendereya in the Wood.

Noseda had intended to be here Tuesday for the breeze but has been detained by the suspension of European air travel caused by the Icelandic volcano. Shortly after Awesome Act went six furlongs in company in 1:12.60, according to track clockers, Leparoux spoke with Noseda by cell phone.

"It was a good work for him," said Leparoux, who kept Awesome Act behind a 4-year-old named Peace Town before taking charge down the stretch. "He finished up well. I would like to see him run in the Derby the way he ran in the Gotham. He had never taken any dirt in his face before, and he impressed everybody with how he did things that day."

Bejarano will ride Line of David

Line of David was out for his first workout since posting his 17-1 upset in the April 10 Arkansas Derby when he breezed five furlongs in 1:02 Tuesday, but most of the buzz about the John Sadler-trained colt concerned his jockey situation.

Sadler said Tuesday that Rafael Bejarano will ride Line of David in the Derby, replacing Jon Court, who picked up the Arkansas Derby ride on short notice. Bejarano, who leads all North American jockeys in earnings in 2010 with more than $4.2 million, teams up often with Sadler on the Southern California circuit.

"We felt for this race we would go with our home-team player," said Sadler.

Exercise rider Lupillo Alferez was aboard Line of David for the Tuesday work, which came without company. Sadler said he was pleased with the move and added Line of David will have a more serious work early next week.

Noble's Promise recuperating

Noble's Promise, working alongside stablemate Beautician, pulled away down the stretch when getting five furlongs in 59.80 seconds, convincing trainer Ken McPeek to keep the colt under serious consideration for the Derby. Willie Martinez, aboard for the Tuesday breeze, would ride the colt in the Derby, said McPeek.

A minor lung infection diagnosed after Noble's Promise finished a troubled fifth as the favorite in the Arkansas Derby is the main hurdle to still get past, said McPeek.

"That was an awesome work today," he said, "but we're still not completely committed to run. We still have some work to do on the lung issue, but he's definitely going in the right direction. If he keeps moving forward like he has, I'd say we'll be running."

Eskendereya arrives from Florida

Eskendereya was among the Tuesday arrivals at Churchill, coming through the stable gate at about 1 p.m. Eastern following a morning flight from south Florida. Eskendereya was accompanied on the trip by three other Todd Pletcher-trained Derby prospects: Rule, Mission Impazible, and Discreetly Mine.

Among the other horses making the trip were the filly Devil May Care, who may run in either the Derby or Kentucky Oaks, and Oaks candidate Ailalea. The Pletcher contingent was scheduled to go to the track Wednesday, said assistant Michael McCarthy.

American Lion works five furlongs

Over at Keeneland, American Lion, the Illinois Derby winner, worked five furlongs in 1:01.80 for trainer Eoin Harty. Jockey James Graham was aboard for the work, but David Flores has the mount in the Derby.

"Everything went well," said Harty, who said American Lion worked by himself. "I'm very happy with him. He's doing as well as I could hope for. He's always done well. The only thing he wasn't doing well before was winning."

Harty said American Lion would be sent by van to Churchill Downs on Wednesday and would have his final work for the Derby at Churchill Downs early next week.

* Saturday and Tuesday charter flights from Ontario International Airport will be transporting the rest of the Southern California horses that will compete here Derby week.

- additional reporting by Jay Privman and Mike Welsch