05/02/2013 2:28PM

Kentucky Derby final clocker's report: Orb had far and away best work of the week


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Thursday’s Kentucky Derby/Oaks training session featured two blowouts, one planned and the second not so planned, and another good morning from likely favorite Orb.

Thursday at Churchill

62 degrees, clear, fast

Vyjack turned in the morning’s one scheduled breeze, going three furlongs in 37.13 seconds under trainer Rudy Rodriguez, but without much in the way of a gallop-out. He stayed on the proper lead, unlike his gallop Wednesday, but displayed a high action that would seem more befitting of a turf horse.

Normandy Invasion looked very relaxed and was going along nicely when he took a misstep and bobbled briefly right at the wire. He appeared to recover just fine but suddenly began to get away from his rider once reaching the seven-furlong pole, covering his next three furlongs in 38.83, including a 25-second split from the six-furlong pole to the half-mile pole, before finally being reined in approaching the far turn.

Orb passed by the finish line twice in a nice, easy, controlled gallop and seemed none the worse for wear after being spooked and kicking the back wall of his stall repeatedly while being schooled in the paddock the previous afternoon.

Goldencents had the longest session of all the Derby contenders Thursday, visiting the paddock and not completing his regular 1 1/4-mile gallop until the general population had returned to the track. Like Normandy Invasion, he, too, became a little aggressive around the clubhouse turn but came to hand quickly once entering the backstretch.

[2013 KENTUCKY DERBY: Get PPs, contender profiles, live updates]

Kentucky Derby Workouts: Final Report Card

After spending the better part of the last two weeks observing the majority of this year’s Kentucky Derby field during training hours at Churchill Downs, the following are some of the impressions they left behind, all made while watching them train over a fast, not wet racetrack, which is significant to note, considering there is rain in the forecast for Saturday.

Black Onyx is a striking-looking colt who has made great strides since I watched him train regularly this winter at Gulfstream Park. His work last Saturday was well orchestrated in company, and he finished willingly enough under jockey Joe Bravo, although he’s not the smoothest mover in the world on dirt, and it’s difficult to get past the idea that his action suggests his future lies on turf.

Oxbow trained aggressively prior to his Monday work, which was fast but unimpressive in that he fought jockey Gary Stevens, trying to bear out much of the way before leveling off very late. He also has seemed to regress coming out of that drill, looking uncomfortable and not very fluid both in his jogs and gallops over the past several mornings.

Revolutionary turned in two of the top pre-Derby workouts at Churchill Downs, hugging the rail under jockey Calvin Borel while finishing well and galloping out very strongly without urging on both occasions, including a beauty last Saturday, during which he got the better of stablemate and fellow Derby contender Charming Kitten. Revolutionary did take one day longer than Todd Pletcher’s other Saturday workers to return to his normal training regimen this week. He likely would move up if the track comes up wet.

Golden Soul is a nice-looking colt who has done nothing flashy over the past two weeks but has trained forwardly, his average-looking five-furlong drill last Friday and regular gallops giving every indication he handles his home course well.

Normandy Invasion is definitely on the light side and was headstrong early in both of his local works, the second of which was a solid five-eighths in 58.88 on Saturday over a very fast track. As noted above, he did run off unexpectedly for three-eighths of a mile during a routine training session Thursday, and his aggressive nature here over the past two weeks could be cause for concern should he not settle better during the early stages of the Derby.

Mylute turned in his major Derby work prior to my arrival, on April 14, but seems to be maintaining his form nicely, and his 47.80-second maintenance run one week later under jockey Rosie Napravnik definitely was above average. He has done more in training than most in the field, jogging a mile and galloping nearly two more on a regular basis very early each morning.

Giant Finish did not arrive on the grounds until Thursday, so I was unable to watch him train over the track.

Goldencents did all his major preparation in California, where, on tape, it appeared he leveled off nicely and galloped out strongly in what was really a three-furlong blowout at Santa Anita on April 25. He has trained aggressively but has not been asked to do quite as much locally as trainer Doug O’Neill did with I’ll Have Another prior to his Derby victory a year ago. That said, he certainly has made a very favorable impression since his arrival at Churchill Downs, and it wouldn’t be any surprise to see him go right to the lead and try to win this thing on the front end Saturday.

Overanalyze has had a couple of good weeks in Kentucky following his victory in the Arkansas Derby, topped off by a very sharp, faster-than-it-looked but easy-as-can-be half-mile in 46.90 under Stevens in company with Palace Malice last Saturday. That’s a very encouraging sign, considering that the last time I saw him breeze, he was handled rather easily by Revolutionary down at Palm Meadows in March. He gives every indication that he is peaking now and could be sitting on his best yet.

Palace Malice, like all five Pletcher starters in the Derby, has trained forwardly over the past couple of weeks while equipped in blinkers for many of his gallops and in his final work last Saturday, during which he more than held his own while breezing in company inside Overanalyze with Mike Smith aboard. The Blue Grass runner-up could exceed expectations if moving forward with the blinkers on.

Lines of Battle still was quarantined, so I was unable to see him train by press time, although it’s hard to get too enthused, considering all his previous races and his breeding suggest the European invader is best suited to turf or artificial surfaces.

Itsmyluckyday worked three times at Calder prior to shipping locally, the best of which was a sharp mile over the deep track April 18 in 1:43.10, when going out in 53.82 and coming home in 49.28 and shading 25 seconds, under pressure, for his final quarter. Although his latest south Florida breeze, a half in 53, did not go according to plan and may have raised a few red flags, he has made such a terrific appearance every morning while training over the Churchill Downs track that one should probably be willing to forgive that glitch. The distance may be a question mark, but nobody has looked any better training here this week.

Falling Sky has been a handful in the morning on a daily basis, with a steady series of very aggressive gallops. His one local work was fast, five furlongs in 59.62, but average at best, as he struggled a bit to finish in company with regular workmate Balance of Power on April 26. It will be interesting to see if he’s fast enough to keep pace early with the likes of Goldencents on his inside and Verrazano on the outside.

Verrazano worked well April 21 and even better six days later, when able to edge away from regular workmate Authenticity without urging at the end of a 59.95-second, five-furlong drill with Stevens up before galloping out willingly around the turn. He did get a little uncharacteristically warm coming out of that work during routine training sessions Wednesday and Thursday.

Charming Kitten has done little wrong over the past two weeks and seems to be coming into this race in peak form, although he was pressured while attempting to keep pace with Revolutionary when the pair worked a half-mile in company last Saturday.

Orb has seemingly not had a bad day since winning the Florida Derby, both at Payson Park and following his arrival in Louisville. He looked very happy, from what could be seen through the fog, breezing an easy half-mile at Payson on April 14 and has given every indication he’s taken readily to the Churchill Downs surface, with a series of eye-catching gallops.

He then recorded far and away the most impressive Derby workout of the week when just cruising through a super-easy half-mile in 47.89 before galloping out an even better five-eighths in 1:00.89 and pulling up six panels in 1:14.83 in what was designed as simply a maintenance move Monday. It was a trial similar in nature but superior to his final work at Payson Park five days prior to the Florida Derby. Orb does have a tendency to get high strung and hot in the paddock and post parade before his races, although he’s looked calm and cool both in the morning and during schooling sessions here this past week.

Will Take Charge turned in a respectable one-mile work in 1:41 and change, finishing willingly enough when asked late by jockey Jon Court, after tying in with a stablemate April 21. But he was too aggressive early, tired badly under pressure, offered little during the gallop-out, and returned with an unimpressive “backward” work eight days later.

Frac Daddy has been very aggressive in his gallops over the past couple of weeks and did get the best of Java’s War, cruising to the wire about a half-length ahead and galloping out well clear, when the pair breezed five furlongs in company last weekend. He appears to be moving forward following an injury-plagued winter and does like the racetrack. He may just be a bit overmatched by the elite members of this lineup, but he could come running late for a minor share at a major price.

Java’s War has turned in some very energetic and encouraging training sessions, both going into and exiting his work last Saturday, which was disappointing, to say the least, as he struggled during the latter stages to keep pace with Frac Daddy while having little left during the gallop-out.

Vyjack has trained exclusively in a hackamore bit since his arrival from Fair Hill, equipment used to give his exercise rider and trainer, Rudy Rodriguez, a bit more control in the morning. His lone major work April 26 was unimpressive as Rodriguez had to resort to some severe pressure, both physically and verbally, to get the Gotham winner to finish a very average five-eighths in 1:00.36, with his action suggesting he may prove best later this season on turf.