04/23/2012 4:51PM

Kentucky Derby workouts: Daddy Nose Best peaking at right time

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Barbara D. Livingston
Daddy Nose Best, with jockey Garrett Gomez up, works six furlongs in 1:13.70 in company with stablemate Z Dager on Monday at Churchill Downs.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – There was a time, not too long ago, when no trainer would dare start a horse in the Kentucky Derby without giving his 3-year-old plenty of opportunity to get acclimated to and at least one work over the Churchill Downs racetrack. But the times they are a changing, at least since Funny Cide shipped to Louisville from New York less than 72 hours prior to his victory in the 2003 Derby.

Only six of the 20 horses assured of a spot in this year’s Derby field, and eight potential starters overall, are currently stabled and training at Churchill Downs. Of that group, five worked over a fast track here Monday, including Isn’t He Clever and Optimizer, both of whom would need defections from among the top 20 on the graded earnings list to get into the race.

A sixth Derby prospect, Trinniberg, worked Monday at Calder.

Work of the Day

Daddy Nose Best (six furlongs in 1:13.70) – Trainer Steve Asmussen was obviously looking for something serious out of his Sunland Derby winner, stretching him out to six furlongs and putting him in company with no less a workmate than the multiple stakes placed Z Dager. He also had Daddy Nose Best’s new jockey, Garrett Gomez, along for the ride in his penultimate Derby drill.

Daddy Nose Best broke off outside and about a half-length behind his partner and went along in hand while posting relatively leisurely splits of 13.02 seconds, 25.54, and 37.76 for his opening three furlongs. Daddy Nose Best and Z Dager turned for home as a team, and both were put to pressure to finish, with Daddy Nose Best finally edging clear approaching the wire while completing his final three-eighths in a sharp 35.94. Z Dager was pretty much done at that point, but Gomez continued to let Daddy Nose Best run on past the wire, readily pulling away before being forced to throttle down and alter course to get around another horse galloping near the rail approaching the mile pole.

Despite the minor traffic issue, Daddy Nose Best ultimately galloped out seven-eighths in 1:27.10 before pulling up a mile in 1:43.

[KENTUCKY DERBY WORKOUTS: Latest updates, Mike Welsch’s video reports]

Daddy Nose Best is a 3-year-old who seems to be peaking at the right time, and this morning’s drill offered little to indicate otherwise.

“His company ran out of horse at the end, and he [Daddy Nose Best] hesitated to stay with him, so Garrett asked him a little to move away coming by the wire,” Asmussen said.

Sabercat (five furlongs in 1:02.62) – Although the Delta Down Jackpot winner’s breeze was structured similar to Daddy Nose Best’s work – he also broke off outside and about a half-length behind workmate Major Hope – the two moves were a study in contrast. Asmussen was not about to allow Sabercat to do too much, returning just nine days after his third-place finish in the Arkansas Derby. And sure enough, Sabercat just cruised through splits of 13.36, 26.32, and 38.48 for his opening three-eighths before finishing nicely. He completed his final quarter in 24.14 while reserved throughout, arriving at the wire a length in front of his partner before galloping out six furlongs in 1:16.32.

“Sabercat got Kentucky Derby-type experience in the Arkansas Derby,” Asmussen said. “He got in a lot of traffic and took a tremendous amount of kick back over a racetrack very similar to the surface here at Churchill Downs.”

Mark Valeski (five furlongs in 59.63) – With regular rider Rosie Napravnik aboard, Mark Valeski broke off about 1 1/2 lengths behind stablemate Hamiltonian, caught his target after an opening three-eighths in 35.73, and then gradually edged about a half-length in front while not really being asked to the wire. Mark Valeski let up a bit during the gallop out, completing six furlongs in an average 1:14.61.

The Louisiana Derby runner-up seemed to handle the track well while posting yet another in a series of fast works, although it would have been nice to have seen a little more interest during the gallop out.

“He’s the type of horse who just does enough to get the job done, and Rosie said when he moved alongside his workmate he had accomplished all he needed and began to pull himself up,” trainer Larry Jones said. “But he seemed to go well over the track, which is what I was looking for. I haven’t had a Proud Citizen yet who didn’t handle Churchill Downs well.”

Optimizer (four furlongs in 48.82) – Pretty much an average, maintenance-type move whose best feature may have been the fact that the Rebel runner-up finished on his right lead, something he did not do in his final work here last fall prior to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Isn’t He Clever (four furlongs in 51.60, according to track clockers) – He worked amongst the general population after the special Derby-Oaks training session, breezing a very easy half-mile in his first ever trial over this track.

Trinniberg (five furlongs in 1:02.40 at Calder) – According to track clocker Joe Savage, Trinniberg couldn’t have gone any easier, yet he still managed to complete his final quarter in 23.69 before galloping out six furlongs in 1:15.47 over the usually cuppy Calder strip.

Believe You Can works for Oaks

Prior to working Mark Valeski, Napravnik came out astride Jones’s Oaks prospect Believe You Can who arguably turned in the work of the morning, going an easy five furlongs in an eye-catching 58.95. Believe You Can began three lengths behind workmate Young and Lovely and finished two lengths in front, with a final quarter in 23.60 while well in reserve coming down the stretch.

“She’s an overachiever and likes to show how much she can open up on them when she gets to them,” Jones said, alluding to Believe You Can’s workmates. “She really doesn’t play fair.”