04/15/2011 3:07PM

Gulfstream: Pants On Fire sizzles in work

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Barbara D. Livingston
Pants On Fire, with Rosie Napravnki riding, wins the Louisiana Derby.

HALLANDALE BEACH, Fla. – Pants On Fire worked five furlongs in a blistering 58.60 seconds at Palm Meadows shortly after the renovation break on Friday, his first work since upsetting the Grade 2 Louisiana Derby on March 26.

With exercise rider Juan Pizarro aboard, Pants On Fire completed his final quarter in 24 seconds before galloping out six furlongs in 1:13.80, according to track clocker Bryan Walls.

KENTUCKY DERBY NEWS: Track all the 3-year-olds on the Triple Crown trail

Pants On Fire, who is owned by George and Lori Hall and trained by Kelly Breen, thrust himself squarely into the Kentucky Derby picture after posting a neck victory under jockey Rosie Napravnik in the $1 million Louisiana Derby. The victory, for which Pants On Fire received a career-best Beyer Speed Figure of 94, along with his third-place finish in the Grade 3 Lecomte gives Pants On Fire more than enough graded earnings to make the Derby field.

“Fast horses go fast,” Breen said when asked about the final time of Pants On Fire’s work.

Breen said he plans to work Pants On Fire once more at Palm Meadows before shipping him to Churchill Downs, where he will have one final drill before the Derby.

“Right now the plan is for him to work again next Saturday at Palm Meadows and then van to Louisville,” said Breen. “But it’s only a tentative schedule and depends on the weather in Kentucky. If it gets bad there, we can always stay here a little longer.”

Arias still on the road

Trainer Juan Arias worked three horses at Calder on Friday morning, but he wasn’t on hand to see them go. Arias is already in Louisville, where he continues to prepare his Decisive Moment for the Derby.

Decisive Moment, a son of With Distinction owned by Ruben Sierra’s Just for Fun Stable, also has more than enough graded earnings to make the Derby field, having finished second in the $1 million Delta Jackpot at 2 and more recently second behind Animal Kingdom in a courageous effort in the Grade 3 Spiral at Turfway Park on March 26.

“I decided to ship him right to Churchill from Turfway rather than bring him all the way back to Florida after the Spiral,” said Arias who currently has a dozen horses bedded down at Calder. “I went home for four days myself after the Spiral but have been here ever since and will stay through the Derby now.”

Arias, who has never run a horse in the Derby, said he will work Decisive Moment at Churchill for the first time on Sunday.

“He’s doing great and really likes this track,” said Arias. “He’ll work a half-mile on Sunday with Shaun Bridgmohan aboard and come back and go a strong five eighths maybe eight days out from the race.”

Arias, a former rider in his native Panama, has participated in one Breeders’ Cup, having started Renda in the 2009 Juvenile Fillies Turf. Arias said he has mixed emotions about being in the Derby and having had to be away from his main stable in south Florida so many times while on the Derby trail since the fall.

“Obviously it’s everybody’s dream to be here for the Derby, but we’ve also been on the road since November,” said Arias. “Fortunately I have a great team back at home. I have 12 horses at Calder at the moment and some 2-year-olds ready to come in that I’m holding off bringing to the track until I can get back and be there full time again.”

O’Connell still deliberating

Another Calder-based trainer with a potential Derby starter, Kathleen O’Connell, remains on the fence about whether to run her Tampa Bay Derby winner Watch Me Go in the big dance on May 7. Watch Me Go is coming off a disappointing sixth-place finish as the 2-1 favorite last Saturday at Hawthorne Park in the Illinois Derby.

“I was up at Tampa yesterday, and he came out of the race great and trained like a monster,” O’Connell said Friday. “It’s hard to make an educated decision about him off that last race, although the track had some moisture in it, and he can’t stand up on a wet track. A couple of things I do know is that we have a healthy horse and one who in my heart can get the distance on Derby day.”

O’Connell said she wants to track the progress of Watch Me Go and assess this weekend’s Derby preps before she and owner Gil Campbell sit down and make a final decision about whether to head to Louisville.

“By early next week we’ll have to get on the bus or something,” said O’Connell.

Lopez in the thick of action

Defending riding champ Paco Lopez moved back atop the standings after posting four winners on Thursday. Lopez also lost another apparent victory after being disqualified for his ride aboard Exclusive Strike, who finished first but was placed last for interfering with runner-up Concertos Song and He’s Alright in the ninth race. He’s Alright lost his jockey, Luis Saez, as a result of the incident entering the stretch although both horse and rider escaped the mishap without serious injury.

Lopez’s indiscretion aboard Exclusive Strike made a winner of the 80-1 Concertos Song and set up the possibility the massive 10-cent Rainbow 6 pool, which would have been worth more than $1.2 million to the winner, could be hit if Fly Bye Wildcat won the finale. Fly Bye Wildcat led every step of the low-level maiden claimer on the grass but the final one, when he was caught in the last stride by Lopez and the 6-5 favorite, Four Fires.

Management was unable to locate the origin of the one potential winning ticket or the identity of the unlucky ticket-holder who certainly has the right to claim the “bad beat” of the year award.

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