Updated on 09/16/2011 7:14AM

Harlan's Holiday maintaining

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In his second-to-last work for the Derby, Harlan's Holiday drills five furlongs in a bullet 59.20 under Tony D'Amico Wednesday at Churchill. "He was very aggressive today," said his trainer, Ken McPeek.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - It would be folly to equate fast works preceding the Kentucky Derby with fast races on Derby Day. It is the way a horse works here that is important, not necessarily the time, and workouts are only a piece of the handicapping puzzle.

That said, it is still preferable to see a horse working well as he nears the Derby. And it seems as though Harlan's Holiday, the expected favorite for the 128th Kentucky Derby on May 4, is training as well as ever.

On Wednesday morning at Churchill Downs, Harlan's Holiday had his penultimate work for the Derby. He is coming off consecutive victories in the Florida Derby and Blue Grass Stakes, and merely needs to retain his fitness for another week and a half. He will have one more work next week, and then his connections will hope he is outfitted with a blanket of roses.

Harlan's Holiday worked five furlongs in 59.20 seconds with jockey Tony D'Amico aboard. The work was the fastest of 21 at the distance. He was one of three horses who worked Wednesday for the Derby. Both War Emblem, who is stabled at Churchill Downs, and Perfect Drift, who is at the nearby Trackside training center, also turned in encouraging workouts.

On Tuesday, Santa Anita Derby winner Came Home looked sharp in his workout, Wood Memorial runner-up Medaglia d'Oro appeared just fine, but Ocean Sound, the third-place finisher in the Blue Grass Stakes, struggled and was under urging.

The fast work seemed to take little out of Harlan's Holiday. At the barn following the workout, he cooled out quickly, and disdainfully refused his handlers' attempts to get him to drink some water.

"He's very sharp right now," said Ken McPeek, the trainer of Harlan's Holiday. "He went off fast the first eighth of a mile, then he settled down. He was very aggressive today. But that's okay. You don't want him lackadaisical at all."

McPeek said Harlan's Holiday would have his final workout on Tuesday, and that Derby jockey Edgar Prado would be aboard.

Harlan's Holiday was accompanied before the work by a pony. McPeek said Harlan's Holiday is usually more relaxed prior to a workout without a pony, but D'Amico requested the pony to make sure Harlan's Holiday would "not get away," McPeek said.

Harlan's Holiday is in much better shape than McPeek. The trainer is hobbling around the stable area on crutches after breaking a foot in a pick-up basketball game last week. Over his foot he has a soft cast, which he said he has to wear for six weeks.

War Emblem also was eager to work. Dana Barnes, his exercise rider, was nearly standing straight up in the saddle early. War Emblem flew through six furlongs in 1:12.40. It was his second work since being transferred to trainer Bob Baffert.

Baffert has been through the Derby enough times that he laughed when someone asked how War Emblem worked. Before answering, Baffert wondered aloud if any trainer had ever admitted that his horse looked bad. War Emblem, Baffert said, "is pretty aggressive."

"He wants to get it on," Baffert said. "He's tough. Not mean, but tough. He was a little wild when Dana first turned him loose. We put a good, stiff work into him."

War Emblem is a near-black colt, rather lean, with a narrow blaze down his face, and small feet. He looks like he could pass for a younger version of Sunday Silence. Whether he has the talent of the 1989 Derby winner is another matter.

"He's got a big, long stride on him," Baffert said.

Not as big, though, as Perfect Drift. The Spiral Stakes winner has a long, loping stride that was just getting warmed up when he finished his half-mile breeze in 49 seconds at Trackside, a six-furlong training track about five minutes from Churchill Downs.

Few stakes-class horses are based at Trackside, so the sight of several reporters and cameramen piqued the interest of the locals Wednesday morning. Perfect Drift was distracted, too. During a pre-race jog, he gawked at a handful of reporters standing along the outer rail near the furlong pole.

Once he worked, though, Perfect Drift settled into a rhythmic stride. His ears were straight up, as though he was going along easily. "He finished up well. That's the main thing," trainer Murray Johnson said.

Both War Emblem and Perfect Drift are scheduled to have their final Derby works on Tuesday.

- Because there is a chance that Sunday Break will not get into the Derby field because he may not have enough earnings in graded stakes, jockey Gary Stevens is making contingency plans. Stevens could end up on Wild Horses or Windward Passage if Sunday Break is excluded, jockey agent Brian Beach said.