04/20/2012 3:20PM

Kentucky Derby 2012: Threat of rain moves works up

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Keeneland/Coady Photography
Union Rags works a half-mile in 47.40 at Keeneland on Friday under exercise rider Peter Brette.

Those pesky April showers predicted for the weekend moved up workouts for horses seeking May flowers, specifically roses. With inclement weather looming in both Kentucky and Florida, the trainers of Union Rags, Gemologist, and El Padrino both decided to work their horses on Friday as final preparations grew ever closer for the Kentucky Derby on May 5 at Churchill Downs.

At Keeneland, Union Rags went a half-mile in 47.40 seconds with exercise rider Peter Brette for trainer Michael Matz. The time equaled the third-best of 42 at the distance on Friday at Keeneland. And at the Palm Meadows training center in Florida, Gemologist and El Padrino both worked five furlongs for trainer Todd Pletcher.

“We’re one step closer,” Matz said via telephone from Kentucky. “He two-minute-licked from the mile pole, then broke off at the half-mile pole. He’ll have another half-mile work next weekend at Churchill Downs.”

Matz said that Julien Leparoux would work Union Rags next weekend at Churchill Downs. He said Union Rags would move over to Churchill Downs on “Wednesday or Thursday.”

The itinerary for Union Rags mirrors that of Barbaro, with whom Matz won the Derby in 2006. Barbaro had his next-to-last drill at Keeneland, then moved over to Churchill Downs for his final workout. Union Rags arrived in Kentucky last Sunday from Florida.

“He was in the hot weather long enough,” Matz said. “The track was great this year at Palm Meadows, but we got up here and everything is so green. He’s really eating like a son of a gun. The grass is unbelievable. He can’t wait to get out and graze.”

Gemologist and El Padrino both worked in company, but not with one another. According to Daily Racing Form, Gemologist traveled five furlongs in 1:00.84, while El Padrino was clocked in 1:00.48.

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“I thought both went well,” Pletcher said. “It wasn’t ideal. It was a calculated risk going today, but with the forecast there was a good chance we could have a muddy track [Saturday], and it might potentially be Tuesday until the track would be fast again and I didn’t want to get that far out.

“Right now, they’re both scheduled to still work next Sunday, but this gives us a little more flexibility if I want to move it up a day. They won’t do quite as much next time, an easier half or five-eighths.”

Pletcher’s horses are scheduled to travel from Florida to Kentucky on May 1, two days after the scheduled date for their final works. Also on that flight will be Take Charge Indy, the Florida Derby winner, who is scheduled to have his final Derby workout Thursday at Palm Meadows.

This year’s Derby runners are still scattered across the country. I’ll Have Another and Creative Cause, the one-two finishers from the Santa Anita Derby, are both at Hollywood Park, where they are scheduled to work next week before traveling to Kentucky on April 28. Creative Cause is scheduled to work on Tuesday at Hollywood Park, and will work one last time Derby week at Churchill Downs.

Rousing Sermon is also at Hollywood Park. He is in need of a Derby rider, since Mike Smith, who rode him to a third-place finish in the Louisiana Derby, is on Arkansas Derby winner Bodemeister.

Alpha remains in New York, where his jockey situation remains unresolved. Ramon Dominguez has been riding both Alpha and Hansen, and is expected to make a decision by the end of the weekend.

Hansen is at the Churchill Downs Trackside training center, a few miles from Churchill Downs.

Daddy Nose Best, the Sunland Derby winner, is at Churchill Downs and is scheduled to work there on Monday. Bodemeister is also at Churchill Downs.

Went the Day Well, the Spiral Stakes winner, is at Keeneland, where he was scheduled to work this weekend.

Illinois Derby winner Done Talking is at Laurel, where he will remain through a scheduled final workout on April 28.

And, of course, Daddy Long Legs, who won the UAE Derby, is preparing for the Derby at Ballydoyle in Ireland.

– additional reporting by David Grening and Mike Welsch