05/03/2012 2:15PM

Kentucky Derby workouts: Hansen appears rank during final appearance before Derby

Barbara D. Livingston
Hansen gave his exercise rider a difficult time when he went to the track Thursday morning and needed an outrider's assistance to come under control.

Churchill Downs Cloudy Track Fast Temp 73

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The post positions were drawn and all 21 Derby entrants, including the also eligible My Adonis, were on the grounds by the time the racetrack opened for training on Thursday although Daddy Long Legs remained confined to the quarantine barn until Friday morning.

Hansen stepped on the Churchill Downs track for the first time since winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and after looking a bit stiff jogging over to visit the starting gate, proved a real handful for his rider once being turned loose by the pony to gallop. Unlike his energetic but controlled and eye-catching gallops in the days leading up to the Breeders’ Cup, Hansen was overly aggressive this morning, rank to the point he needed the outrider’s assistance to be pulled up.

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

Creative Cause finally returned to the track after spending a couple of days walking the shed following Monday’s half-mile breeze. He also appeared a little stiff jogging alongside the pony but did level out and went smoother the further he progressed into his routine gallop.

Union Rags trained without a tongue tie again today and looked very sharp for the second consecutive morning as did Gemologist, Take Charge Indy, Alpha, and I’ll Have Another.

Sabercat and Daddy Nose Best went out later than usual to visit the starting gate, both equipped in draw reins to prevent them from doing too much just 48 hours before the main event. Daddy Nose Best was eye- catching once again, pulling hard and feeling good.

The following, in post position order, are my final impressions of all 21 potential Derby starters from observations made over the past several weeks both at Churchill Downs and in south Florida.

Daddy Long Legs didn’t ship in until mid-week and won’t even train over the track until Friday. He finished far back in his only previous start on dirt here in the BC Juvenile, and faces a tough task, especially drawn on the rail.

Optimizer went okay in his final Derby breeze over a muddy strip on Sunday and has trained willingly enough on a regular basis although he seems a notch or two below the best in this field.

Take Charge Indy has trained far better coming out of his Florida Derby victory than going in, his easy April 19 drill at Palm Meadows was far superior than his similarly timed final Florida Derby prep three weeks earlier. Bred to handle the distance, he made a great impression in his first two days back at Churchill Downs. Add Calvin Borel to the equation and he is a major contender.

Union Rags looked the part of a Derby winner all winter at Palm Meadows and has continued to make a great appearance since shipping in to Churchill Downs last week. He turned in one of the better pre-Derby works seen here in years, a 59 seconds and change beauty with a superior gallop out on April 28. He bounced back from a failed tongue tie experiment earlier this week with a pair of strong looking gallops on Wednesday and Thursday and willing to forgive his hiccup in the Florida Derby. The one to beat if he gets any kind of a trip.

Dullahan has improved in steady fashion over the past six months, culminating with a superior effort in the Blue Grass, although his form and his high action suggest he’s a better horse on grass and synthetics than dirt. His final Derby prep was also indicative of that fact, more like his works this winter at Gulfstream than his sensational Polytrack drill six days out from the Blue Grass. He possesses the running style that could make him dangerous in this spot if he’s able to repeat his last.

[KENTUCKY DERBY: Get PPs, watch analysis video, read latest updates]

Bodemeister is clearly the fastest horse in this field if able to duplicate his performance in the Arkansas Derby and another lightly raced 3-year-old whose form is heading in the right direction. He’s not a pretty mover, to say the least, jogging or galloping but it’s a different story when at full speed, his final Derby prep equal to if not superior to Union Rags’s eye-catching work the previous morning complete with an awesome gallop out. I was looking to side against him when arriving here but cannot eliminate him off that last move alone.

Rousing Sermon appeared a little stiff in his first visit to the track upon arriving from California but came back the next morning with a decent enough five-eighths drill although he has done nothing to indicate he’s ready to take the leap forward necessary to make him anything other than a minor player in this lineup.

Creative Cause has not had the best week of the Derby contenders after coming up with a minor foot issue on the flight east. He does not seem real comfortable at a jog and like several others in this field has shown a tendency to get hot in the morning. He does look better once allowed to stretch his legs and did finish willingly enough in his one local breeze only to take two days off before returning to the track with just an average training session on Thursday. Getting mixed signals from one of the major players.

Trinniberg has looked uncomfortable, for the most part, over this track just as he had prior to the Breeders’ Cup during the fall. He did have one very good morning when given the opportunity to really pick up the pace on Wednesday. Seems to be facing an uphill task trying to carry his speed 1 1/4 miles.

Daddy Nose Best has made the best appearance, on a regular basis, of any member of this field over the past two weeks and gives every indication he’s sitting on yet another big performance. He finished strong, galloped out very willingly drilling six furlongs on April 23 and hasn’t missed a beat ever since. Stretch runner should also benefit from what figures to be a very honest pace scenario in this year’s Derby. My choice at a square price.

Alpha did all his major preparations in New York, where he appeared to finish willingly enough under pressure from the tape I saw of his final Derby trial. He is one of several who have caught my eye in the morning since arriving in town earlier this week and from what I see obviously none the worse for wear from the minor injury he sustained in the Wood. The lone caveat, for me, being the fact he was forced to miss a key workout for a race that usually requires no blips in the training regime in the weeks leading up to the event.

Prospective disappointed in the Blue Grass but appears to have bounced out of the race nicely with a steady series of impressive looking gallops, punctuated by an easy, well-orchestrated five-furlong work last weekend. Stretch runner may prove a live longshot, capable of grabbing at least a share of the gimmicks, returning to dirt.

Went the Day Well has big shoes to fill trying to duplicate stablemate Animal Kingdom’s performance in the 2011 Derby. He did show some improvement working with blinkers for the first time here last weekend, pulling away late from a stablemate he had trouble passing one week earlier without the shades at Keeneland. Relatively inexperienced colt still seems a little on the green side, not expecting lightning to strike again for last year’s Derby-winning team.

Hansen did all his training in the relative anonymity of the Trackside Training Center, as he did before his victory in the BC Juvenile. But unlike his energetic yet well controlled gallops prior to that race, his first visit to the strip here Thursday was anything but that as he proved rank, aggressive, and hard to handle during just a routine gallop. That type of behavior would certainly not enhance whatever chance he might have of staying 1 1/4 miles.

Gemologist did all his final major preparations at Palm Meadows, where he turned in a very solid work on April 20 prior to my departure for Louisville. He has also made an incredible appearance since arriving locally earlier this week and has already proven his fondness for the Churchill Downs strip. Well-drawn in first stall of the auxiliary gate, there is lots to like here.

El Padrino was one of my early Derby prospects after watching him breeze a couple of times this winter at Palm Meadows when he gave every indication he would run all day. But he has seemed to have tailed off in subsequent workouts since his grueling victory in the Risen Star while also having no visible excuse in the Florida Derby. He did look well in his first two local gallops but expectations are not as high now as they had been several months ago.

Done Talking has looked good in all local training sessions since arriving from Maryland earlier this week and obviously is an improving sort but seems to be a little overmatched in this field.

Sabercat, like stablemate Daddy Nose Best, has had two very good weeks over his home course while not missing a beat before or after either of his last couple of local drills, both of which were very good. He’s another late-running sort capable of picking up some pieces at a big price.

I’ll Have Another is yet one more member of this field who, unfortunately, did all his major work prior to shipping to town. Has put in a series of very energetic looking gallops since his arrival and there is little not to like from what I have seen of him this week. At his best when forwardly placed but could wind up a bit out of his comfort zone from tough outside post.

Liaison has been a disappointment thus far at 3 and although he has shown some signs of life in his two Churchill Down works, it’s not enough to suggest the type of forward move necessary to make him competitive with this group.

My Adonis has looked fine his first two local gallops but is another who would appear to be biting off far too much if he does happen to draw into the field.