Updated on 09/16/2011 7:17AM

Final tune-up less than ideal

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Buddha arrives at Churchill, accompanied by trainer James Bond (right), after arriving from New York.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - For a horse who is supposed to be the favorite for the 128th Kentucky Derby on Saturday, Harlan's Holiday has an odd constituency. For while most people acknowledge that he is the horse to beat, it's rare to find anyone who is actually picking him on top. He's seemingly in everyone's top three, but not first.

Harlan's Holiday has won six times - including the Florida Derby and Blue Grass Stakes - and finished second four times in 10 races. His consistency is his most admirable quality. And that is why concerns were raised on Tuesday at Churchill Downs, when Harlan's Holiday had his final workout for the Derby, and did not look as sharp as in his penultimate drill last week.

With jockey Edgar Prado aboard, Harlan's Holiday was credited by Churchill's clockers with a four-furlong time of 49.60 seconds. Daily Racing Form caught him going five furlongs in 1:02.20. Both times in and of themselves are perfectly adequate. But Harlan's Holiday was timed by Daily Racing Form as galloping out six furlongs in a sluggish 1:18. He also was extremely aggressive before the work began, and did not finish as sharply as last week.

Harlan's Holiday was one of five Derby horses to work on Tuesday, the day before entries were taken and post positions drawn for the Derby. At Churchill Downs, Essence of Dubai, Ocean Sound, and War Emblem all drilled. And at the Trackside training center a few miles from Churchill Downs, Perfect Drift had his final work for the Derby.

In other Derby developments, The Sporting Life reported that jockey Gary Stevens would ride the champion colt Johannesburg in the Derby, replacing the suspended Mick Kinane. Brian Beach, Stevens's agent, could not confirm that, but said he assumed it was correct. Jerry Bailey remains with Castle Gandolfo.

Both Johannesburg and Castle Gandolfo arrived in Lexington on a flight from Ireland on Tuesday night, and they will be stabled in a quarantine barn adjacent to Keeneland until Saturday morning. Their trainer, Aidan O'Brien, said he will not arrive until Friday night.

Buddha, the Wood Memorial winner, arrived by van from New York in the morning, and U S S Tinosa - who is not assured of a starting spot in the field - arrived by air from California in the afternoon.

All eyes, though, were on Harlan's Holiday, who came on the track after the mid-morning renovation break for his workout. It was clear and mild Tuesday morning.

"I don't know if that's exactly like we wanted," trainer Ken McPeek admitted after Harlan's Holiday worked. "He was so aggressive on the turn and down the backside" before the workout. McPeek said the final time was close to what he desired. "I didn't want to let him go all out. I want to save something," McPeek said.

Harlan's Holiday was very aggressive during his routine gallop on Monday. "He's still pretty fresh. I think the cool weather has helped," McPeek said. "I tell you, I'd be more concerned if he was lackadaisical."

McPeek is trying to keep Harlan's Holiday's engine from revving too high too soon. He said he will not send Harlan's Holiday to Churchill's paddock before the Derby for a schooling session, saying, "It might do more harm than good.

"I don't want to get him fired up," McPeek said.

The day's other workouts were not as debatable. Essence of Dubai, the winner of the United Arab Emirates Derby, went a steady five furlongs in 1:01.60 with his regular exercise rider, Lee Roebuck.

Ocean Sound, who finished third in the Blue Grass, looked better than he did last week by working a half-mile in 47.20 seconds with jockey Chris McCarron. Alex Solis rides Ocean Sound in the Derby. McCarron and Solis have the same agent, Scotty McClellan.

War Emblem, the winner of the Illinois Derby, breezed five furlongs in 1:00.20 with exercise rider Dana Barnes.

And Perfect Drift, the Spiral Stakes winner, glided through a five-furlong work in 1:00.80 with jockey Joe Deegan aboard. Eddie Delahoussaye rides Perfect Drift in the Derby.

There were no changes in the expected starting field for the Derby. More than the maximum 20 horses were expected to be entered on Wednesday morning, so the field would be comprised of the 20 horses with the most earnings in graded stakes races. That field would be final. There is no also-eligible list for the Derby. The post positions for the Derby were scheduled to be picked Wednesday evening, in a two-step process in which each horse's representative selects a post position.

The horse currently on the bubble for the Derby is Windward Passage, who finished in a dead heat for third in the Arkansas Derby in his last start. Assuming there are no injuries to the Derby runners on Wednesday morning, Windward Passage's best chance of getting in would be for Mayakovsky to not be entered, and instead be kept in a sprint race.

Barry Irwin, the president of the Team Valor syndicate that owns Windward Passage, said he was "not worried" on Tuesday.

"I'm just taking a relaxed approach," Irwin said. "Whatever happens, happens. I feel like we'll be in the race. If we are, great. If not, such is life. Every horse ahead of us, I can understand why they're being entered. It's out of my hands."

There is one potential jockey change that could take place on Wednesday. If U S S Tinosa, who is currently 22nd on the list of Derby contenders, does not get into the Derby, there is a strong chance his jockey, Kent Desormeaux, will instead pick up the mount on Wild Horses, who most recently finished second in the Arkansas Derby. If U S S Tinosa gets into the race, Rene Douglas is likely to retain the mount on Wild Horses. Sunday Break is farther down on the earnings list among contenders, and has little chance of getting in the Derby, so his jockey, Stevens, became available for Johannesburg.

- additional reporting by Jay Hovdey