04/29/2011 5:06PM

Kentucky Derby: Arias out to match his namesake

Barbara D. Livingston
Trainer Juan Arias will have his first Kentucky Derby starter with Decisive Moment this year.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Trainer Juan Arias has heard the jokes before, and he’s got a witty reply. Told he looks damn good for a guy who won the Kentucky Derby 40 years ago with Canonero II, Arias said, “I spent all my Canonero money on surgeries.”

Arias is 45. The only connection he has to Canonero is that both were young in 1971. Canonero was 3, Arias 5. But Arias, a former jockey who is from Panama, has the same name as the Venezuelan trainer who engineered Canonero’s improbable Derby victory.

Arias will be trying to pull off a similar surprise this year with his colt Decisive Moment, who was one of three contenders for the May 7 Kentucky Derby who worked Friday morning.

Decisive Moment, second in the Spiral Stakes at Turfway in his last start, and Archarcharch, the Arkansas Derby winner, both worked at Churchill Downs. At the Palm Meadows training center in south Florida, Fountain of Youth Stakes winner Soldat had his final work for the Derby.

Those were the most significant developments Friday, a day that found Garrett Gomez, to no one’s surprise, confirmed as the rider for Master of Hounds, and trainer Todd Pletcher, encouraged by the progress being made by Uncle Mo, moving up that colt’s final work so he can go in company with stablemate Stay Thirsty on Sunday morning.

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Decisive Moment worked just before Archarcharch, immediately after the mid-morning renovation break. He worked alone, while Archarcharch went in company.

Decisive Moment was timed by Daily Racing Form in 1:01.46 for five furlongs.

“I wanted in between 1:01 and 1:02,” Arias said. “He galloped out good, and he’s cooling out good. I’m more than pleased.”

Arias is a graduate of a jockey school in Panama that has been named for Laffit Pincay Jr., and he was part of a graduating class that also included Rene Douglas, Martin Pedroza, and Alex Solis. Arias rode on the East Coast, mostly in Florida and New Jersey, and also ventured toLongacres before that lovely Washington state track closed its doors.

After retiring as a jockey and working as an assistant for trainers such as Richard Root and Happy Alter, Arias went on his own in 2003. Based in Florida, he currently trains 18 horses.

By contrast, trainer Jinks Fires has been plying his trade for 45 years and has been at every Derby since 1961, when he was an exercise rider. But Archarcharch will mark his first starter in the race.

“It’s very exciting,” he said Friday morning. “Between brothers and nieces and nephews, I’m up to 36 tickets so far. And who knows how many more friends are coming. I’m hearing from people I haven’t heard from in years.”

Archarcharch was timed by Daily Racing Form in 59.26 seconds for five furlongs while outworking Supreme Ruler, a Fires-trained 3-year-old who failed to run well enough this spring to merit Derby consideration. Archarcharch was ridden by Jon Court, Fires’s son-in-law, who has the mount in the Derby.

“I’m very happy with the way he worked,” said Fires, the brother of Hall of Fame jockey Earlie Fires. “Jon did just like I asked him to do, and he was really excited afterwards. Everything’s good.”

At Palm Meadows, Soldat was timed going a half-mile by trainer Kiaran McLaughlin in 49 seconds, though he was officially credited with a five-furlong move in 1:01.40. That was what McLaughlin said he had as a gallop-out time for Soldat. McLaughlin said Soldat continued out six furlongs in 1:15.80.

“I was very pleased,” McLaughlin said by phone from Palm Meadows shortly after the work. “He finished well and galloped out in 12 and 2. Last week, he went a little faster than we wanted but he did it properly. Today was perfect. We’re there now and we’re one week away. He’s ready to go. He’s not blowing out a match.”

Soldat was scheduled to fly to Louisville on Saturday on the same plane with Dialed In, the Florida Derby winner who had his final Derby work at Palm Meadows on Thursday.

Once Dialed In and Soldat arrive, nearly every Derby horse will be on the grounds at Churchill Downs. Toby’s Corner is scheduled to arrive here Monday after having his final work Sunday at the Fair Hill training center in Maryland. On Tuesday, Twinspired will van over a few miles from the nearby Trackside training center, Comma to the Top is scheduled from California, and Master of Hounds is set to arrive from Ireland.

Master of Hounds, upon arrival, will immediately have to go into an ontrack quarantine facility, per U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations. He did the same thing last fall, when he came here for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf.

There will be a flurry of critical final works here over the weekend, but none likely to be watched as keenly as that of Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty, whom Pletcher said would work in company, most likely after the renovation break, on Sunday morning.

Uncle Mo has continued to make a favorable impression on the track since his workout Tuesday, his first drill since suffering his first career loss in the Wood Memorial. Uncle Mo was originally scheduled to have his final work Monday. But Pletcher prefers his final works on Sunday for Saturday races, and since Uncle Mo is progressing, and the weather forecast for Sunday and Monday is dicey, Pletcher decided to move the work up a day.

Stay Thirsty’s final work always had been scheduled for Sunday. Both Uncle Mo and Stay Thirsty are owned by Mike Repole.

Entries for the Derby will be taken Wednesday morning, and posts will be drawn Wednesday evening.

– additional reporting by Mike Welsch