04/27/2007 12:00AM

Great Hunter looking good


LEXINGTON, Ky. - The Kentucky Derby will be run at Churchill Downs for the 133rd time on May 5. But nearly all of the important pre-Derby activities this past week took place at Keeneland where the majority of the prospective starters will put in their final major preps through Sunday.

Trainer Doug O'Neill was in the spotlight on Friday morning, working all three of his Derby starters and his Kentucky Oaks hopeful Mistical Plan over Keeneland's fast Polytrack surface. All four worked six furlongs under cloudy skies with exercise rider Tony Romero aboard.

Work of the day

Great Hunter (six furlongs in 1:13.04): Working in blinkers and wearing a tongue tie, Great Hunter was the slowest but visually most impressive of O'Neill's trio of Derby workers. As was the case with each of the others, Romero was very aggressive right from the outset, riding Great Hunter relatively hard even in the run down the backstretch. Under some urging, Great Hunter posted opening fractions of 12.70 seconds, 24.65, and 36.81, at which point Romero reached around and took the whip out of his back pocket. After angling about four wide entering the stretch, Great Hunter switched leads nicely and finished with interest while being shown the stick briefly inside the eighth pole. He galloped out a solid final eighth, finishing up seven furlongs in 1:25.72, and was striding out willingly jogging back home following the end of the drill.

Cobalt Blue (six furlongs in 1:11.69): The final time was fast but perhaps misleading considering the manner in which Cobalt Blue accomplished his work. Romero again had his stick in his back pocket when they broke away from the pole, but wasted little time reaching back and grabbing it and using it several times later in the drill. Cobalt Blue was under strong urging from the outset to post opening fractions of 12.04 and 23.41 in the straight run down the backstretch. Romero gave the horse a couple of whacks with the stick once entering the turn to keep up the hot pace, passing the three-furlong marker in a swift 35.42. Cobalt Blue looked like he was going to have company in the run through the stretch approaching the quarter pole (after a half in 46.88), when a 2-year-old trained by Eric Reed broke off to begin a work. But after fanning about eight paths wide off the turn and despite getting several crisp blows from Romero's stick, Cobalt Blue was unable to make up any ground on his younger rival while tiring noticeably and drifting in slightly through a final furlong in 13.50. He galloped out seven furlongs in a slow 1:26.74.

Liquidity (six furlongs in 1:11.65): After making his last four starts equipped with blinkers, Liquidity worked without them and will run in the Derby without them on Saturday. He, too, was hustled along right from the start before being put to even stronger urging around the turn and into the stretch, where he was ridden as if in the heat of a race. Not surprisingly, his internal fractions were fast, 11.96, 23.86, 35.71, and 47.26 for the opening half-mile. Liquidity came out about four or five paths wide into the stretch, did not switch back to his left lead until inside the three-sixteenths pole, and he completed his final furlong in 13.35 under continued pressure before galloping out seven eighths in 1:25.03.

Aside from O'Neill's three workers several other Derby candidates galloped during a busy morning, the most impressive being Scat Daddy, who was on the track at the same time as stablemates Circular Quay and Cowtown Cat.

Scat Daddy made a strong appearance and seems to be holding his form nicely following a successful winter campaign in south Florida. Circular Quay also looks well and was very aggressive coming down the stretch and into the final turn during the latter stages of a busy morning in which he first jogged a mile before galloping another 1 3/8 miles and visiting the starting gate. Cowtown Cat went along at a smooth, even pace but did show a little neck sweat, which was surprising considering the cool temperatures.

Hard Spun , galloping under trainer Larry Jones, does not have the smoothest way of going, although he did stretch out a little better the farther he went.

Teuflesberg may be the most physically impressive-looking of all the Derby candidates and has held his flesh well despite a grueling campaign. He gave trainer Jamie Sanders all she could handle throughout his 1 1/2-mile gallop. Chelokee will not make the Derby lineup but he is a happy horse nonetheless, full of vigor during a visually impressive training session.

Kentucky Oaks

Mistical Plan (six furlongs in 1:13.49): She went out shortly after dawn and, like her stablemates, was urged along - through fractions of 11.98, 23.74, 36.59, and 1:00.27 before completing her final eighth under pressure in 13.22.

All times clocked by Daily Racing Form unless otherwise noted.