Updated on 09/16/2011 7:01AM

Johannesburg works out on dirt


In a sign that preparations with Johannesburg for a potential start in the Kentucky Derby are moving forward, the colt worked Tuesday on an all-weather surface at Lingfield in Britain.

The development is significant. Johannesburg got a late start in his training this spring because of inclement weather at trainer Aidan O'Brien's Ballydoyle training center is in Ireland, but he has made great progress in recent weeks. He worked a mile Tuesday, with "his last six furlongs in about 1:12 to 1:14," O'Brien said. Lingfield has an all-weather surface, which approximates an American dirt course like Churchill Downs far more than a turf course.

"It's sand with a little bit of rubber. It's artificial," O'Brien said from Ireland.

O'Brien said Johannesburg drilled with two other workmates. "We were happy. He had a nice canter," O'Brien said. "Everything is going well. He flew over and back today. It's only an hour and a half each way."

Johannesburg is expected to make his first start of the year, and his only start before the Derby, in a one-mile race at Lingfield on April 6. He has not raced since he completed an unbeaten season with a victory in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He subsequently was named this country's champion 2-year-old colt for 2001. O'Brien said the Lingfield race was the most likely start, but added, "There are other trials in Ireland." He said Johannesburg would probably breeze "twice a week" between now and race day.

O'Brien also revealed that Castle Gandolfo - a colt who, like Johannesburg, is owned by Michael Tabor and Susan Magnier - is also being strongly considered for the Derby. Castle Gandolfo also traveled with Johannesburg to Lingfield, and worked in another three-horse set. Castle Gandolfo, a Gone West colt, won twice and was second twice in four starts last year. He won the Group 3 Beresford Stakes at the Curragh in Ireland, and was second in two prestigious Group 1 events, the Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster, and the Criterium de Saint-Cloud in France.