04/22/2004 12:00AM

Juvenile champions put on a show

Preachinatthebar, Dana Barnes up, works five furlongs in 1:01.22 at Churchill Downs on Thursday morning.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - It was a match that racing fans only dream about. The reigning Juvenile Eclipse Award winner and reigning Juvenile Filly champion going head to head through the stretch, battling on even terms right down to the wire.

Such a match finally took place at Churchill Downs on Thursday. Unfortunately the only ones able to witness the unique encounter were those in attendance during training hours at Churchill Downs when champion stablemates Action This Day and Halfbridled worked six furlongs in company shortly after the renovation break.

The racetrack was listed as sloppy on the official work tab but actually went through several stages as the morning progressed. The track had some water in it and was noticeably slowest when opening at 5:15 a.m., sped up as it gradually dried out over the course of the next couple of hours before taking on additional moisture as a result of light showers that began just after 7:30.

Track Sloppy Showers Temp. 61

Work of the Day:

Action This Day (six furlongs in 1:12.09 seconds) - Trainer Richard Mandella tipped his hand as to his intentions when pairing the Juvenile champion with such a formidable workmate as Halfbrided and got exactly what he was looking for. A fast, taxing workout that if nothing else should put his colt on his toes heading into the Derby.

Action This Day, with jockey Pat Day aboard, and Halfbrided broke off in company at the six furlong pole over the wet/fast track with Action This Day closest to the rail. After getting the opening quarter mile in a respectable :24.17 the pair ripped off the next quarter split in :23.34 with both horses still well within themselves. The two champs remained as a team through the stretch, completing five furlongs in :59.95 then coming home their last eighth in 12:14 with exercise rider Paul Nilluang giving Halfbridled a slight nudge near midstretch to keep pace with her mate.

Action This Day galloped out around the turn the stronger of the two, getting to the seven-eighths pole in 1:26.11. It should be noted, however, that Halfbridled carried at least an extra 30 pounds during the work with Nilluang in the saddle.

Imperialism (six furlongs in 1:17.40 according to track clockers) - The toughest of the four Derby works to assess. Partly because it came in the middle of the night (at 5:20 a.m. to be precise) which made it nearly impossible to get a good look at both horse and rider (trainer Kristen Mulhall) until they had turned into the stretch. But also since the workout took place, as mentioned, at a time the racetrack was decidedly slower than when the three other Derby hopefuls breezed three hours later.

Imperialism broke off at the six furlong pole and almost immediately had to ease back and off the rail to avoid a potentially disastrous confrontation with none other than former champion Azeri who had angled in front of him to begin her own five furlong drill. Imperialism worked at a fairly even clip, completing his final three furlongs in :38.32 under little urging from Mulhall. He galloped out willingly beyond the five furlong pole although his gallop out splits of :14.98 and :15.51 were relatively slow even considering the nature of the track at that time.

Pro Prado (six furlongs in 1:14:06) - Began his work while Action This Day and Halfbridled were turning into the stretch, breaking off at the five furlong pole and continuing around the turn to the seven-eighths marker. Posted splits of :24.30, :36.41, :48.77 and 1:00.98 and finished with interest without excess urging before galloping out seven-eighths in a respectable 1:27.37.

Preachinthebar (five furlongs in 1:01.22) - The first horse to work following the renovation break. Was surprisingly lackluster during the early stages going an opening quarter in :25.35. Completed his final quarter in :23 and change but was under noticeable urging from exercise rider Dana Barnes to do so. Two hours after the very average work trainer Bob Baffert declared Preachinthebar out of the Derby.

All works timed by Daily Racing Form unless otherwise noted.