04/24/2002 11:00PM

Essence of Dubai solid if not flashy


LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The prospects of having any serious Kentucky Derby works on Thursday morning looked pretty bleak late Wednesday evening after heavy rains pelted the Churchill Downs racetrack. But by dawn's first light the main track was fast, allowing both Essence of Dubai and Request for Parole to get in their scheduled works on a crystal clear

but chilly morning which saw the temperatures dip into the high 40's and the wind gusting out of the northwest at 15-20 miles per hour.

Essence of Dubai (seven furlongs 1:28.91): Entering the track at 6:45 a.m. Essence of Dubai proceeded directly to the mile chute, where he spent several minutes loosening up before returning to the main course.

With regular exercise rider Lee Roebuck aboard and equipped in blinkers, Essence of Dubai broke off at the seven-furlong pole in little more than an open gallop covering the first three furlongs in 39.26 seconds. He began to pick up the pace around the turn and was under little urging while completing his final two furlongs in 24.92 before galloping out a mile in 1:43.50.

Essence of Dubai is a handsome, well-built colt who has already proven his ability to stay the Derby distance of 1 1/4 miles. So while his work was certainly nothing flashy it was exactly the kind of move one would expect from a horse who has blossomed since learning to rate his speed and run from behind as he has done winning each of his two 3-year-old starts.

Request for Parole (six furlongs in 1:13.58): Request for Parole worked immediately after the renovation break over a track that was several ticks faster than earlier in the morning when Essence of Dubai trained.

Working in company with Binyamin and with jockey Robbie Albarado aboard, Request for Parole was a bit headstrong approaching the pole but settled down quickly. He covered the opening three-eighths in 36.12 while going comfortably and racing outside his workmate. Remaining several lengths off the rail leaving the turn, Request for Parole changed leads on cue then began to accelerate near midstretch when given some encouragement from Albarado, readily pulling away from his workmate, who was eased up after five furlongs. Finished his final quarter in 25.10 and galloped out seven furlongs in 1:27.04.

Considering his running style, racing on or close to the pace, the fact Request for Parole rated and finished strong was a positive sign with so many other speed types expected to sign on for this year's Derby.

Skies were cloudy but the temperature was considerably warmer, in the low 60's, and the track faster when Derby favorite Harlan's Holiday and two of his prospective challengers worked on Wednesday.

Harlan's Holiday (five furlongs in :59.20 according to track clockers): Unlike the previous two Derby favorites, Fusaichi Pegasus and Point Given, Harlan's Holiday was far less spectacular in his penultimate Derby work, although he continues to flourish over his home course and his final time was the fastest of 21 on the morning's tab.

Working after the break with Tony D'Amico aboard, Harlan's Holiday was accompanied by a pony until nearly reaching the five-furlong pole. Despite the company, he was eager to begin but still able to finish up well while under little urging down the stretch. Shut down his engines a bit quickly during the gallop-out but that isn't enough to have any of his supporters jumping off the bandwagon at this point.

War Emblem (six furlongs in 1:12.40 according to track clockers): Was a little anxious coming to the pole as might be expected considering his running style. Galloped out strong. Doing well for Bob Baffert and continues to give every indication he will be the one to catch in the Derby.

Perfect Drift (four furlongs in 49.60 according to clockers at Trackside Training Center): Went along easily and finished strong. Galloped out an additional furlong in 12 and change, an impressive feat at the training center where the gallop out comes almost completely around a turn. Training in relative obscurity but in a manner which suggests he is coming up to the Derby in peak form.

Oaks workouts

The most impressive work on Wednesday came from the 3-year-old filly You, who will be among the favorites in the Oaks.

With exercise rider Marco Ramirez sitting high in the saddle and offering absolutely no encouragement, You had her ears pricked and looked like she was doing little more than open-galloping yet covered six furlongs in an effortless 1:13.20. Handles the Churchill downs surface beautifully and if this work was any indication she is the one to beat in the Oaks.

You's work was in sharp contrast to Ms Brookski's somewhat eventful drill which began with her displaying high and awkward action leaving the pole. Ms Brookski was joined around the turn and quickly passed by another worker who had broken off several lengths behind. She then bore out extremely wide into the stretch when coming upon another pair working in company before finally changing leads and leveling off to complete five furlongs in 1:00.60.

Habibti went six furlongs in company with stablemate Danthebluegrassman in 1:13.40 while under quite a bit of urging from exercise rider Dana Barnes to keep up with her mate during the gallop out.

Unless otherwise noted, times for Derby horses clocked by Mike Welsch.